Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are for the unbanked – and those who'd like to become unbanked.
Some say getting your hands on the bits is hard. That may be true, but it's getting easier all the time. About nine times easier as of today:
1. Wall of Coins – Set your zipcode, indicate how much you want to buy, and provide your cell phone number. Wall of Coins then texts you a password. You enter the password on their website, which confirms you order. You then have three hours to deposit your cash into the bank account of the seller.
Text a confirmation code back to Wall of Coins once you've made your deposit and your coins will be released to you from their escrow.
2. Local Bitcoins – If it's a payment method, you'll find it on Local Bitcoins: PayPal, SEPA transfer, Western Union, meet-in-person, cash in the mail, wire transfer, even trade-for-bus-pass. Be sure to check the reputation rating of a seller before agreeing on a transaction. Local Bitcoins acts as an escrow agent.
3. LibertyX – Reportedly available at 2,500+ convenience stores in North America, LibertyX will sell you your first US$1,000 in Bitcoin without any fees. After that, it's only a 1 % markup from spot price.
The downside is that they won't sell to you without your name, address, and birthday, which they “check against public records.” If you check out, you receive a PIN number which you show the c-store cashier upon handing over your cash. The cashier marks your PIN as “paid” with LibertyX, and you can then retrieve your bitcoins from the company's website.
4. Paxful – Coordinating buyers and sellers all over the world, Paxful prides itself on being deposit-less and without wait times. Buyers and sellers are connected to one another via live chat, where they coordinate the digital exchange of bitcoins for many things: gift cards, WebMoney, bank transfers, Walmart2Walmart, Reloadit, PayPal, and cash bank deposits.
5. Mycelium Local Trader – The Mycelium wallet now contains a section called Local Trader where you can view the buy and sell orders of Mycelium users near you. Users can then rate one another after transactions to build a reputation system to protect future users of the marketplace.
6. Your Local Bitcoin Meetup – Most (if not all) major North American cities feature at least one Bitcoin meetup. They're often weekly, held somewhere informal like a pub, and are a prime spot to buy bitcoins. Check Meetup.com for up-to-date listings in your area.
7. Bitcoin ATM – Though waning in popularity due to pervasive requirements of government ID scans, facial photos, and even hand prints, you can still find “non-compliant” Bitcoins ATMs in some places. These machines do what they were designed to do: give you bitcoins for your cash. Ask around at a Bitcoin meetup to see if any such machines exist where you live.
8. Bitcoin-OTC – This site works on Freenode Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Bitcoin-OTC stands for “over the counter,” and the chat room allows buyers and sellers to view one another's orders and reputations. Because it requires the use of an IRC client – or at least the know-how to interact with the browser-based version – the site's not for beginners.
9. BitQuick – This service is pretty simple to use – view the list of available orders, and deposit your cash at the seller's bank. Many sellers also accept the use of any credit union, while those in Europe can alternatively make a SEPA transfer. BitQuick acts as an escrow agent and even offers a Proof of Reserve.
Remember to do your due diligence – trading with strangers can be risky, but not nearly as risky as keeping your money in a bank.
Know of another way to get a hold of cryptocurrency without using a bank account? Share in the comments below.