When talking to people about Bitcoin, after explaining to them the benefits the technology brings, as I did at my job, the next question is always “How can I get Bitcoins?”
It is a question that doesn't have an obvious answer. The fiat world and the digital money world are separated by barriers and technology. It is simple to send Bitcoin across the world, but the process of simply turning greenbacks into Bitcoin can be frustratingly difficult.
The good news: it is getting easier everyday. Credit card companies and Paypal tend to favor the customer over the merchant, so many services are hesitant to offer methods when the customer cannot always issue a charge back. And so far, those services have been ruling against Bitcoin companies in disputes. So services that take Paypal and Credit Cards are rare (but they do exist, and we will talk about them) but there are a few other ways to turn your fiat currency into Bitcoin.
Purchasing Bitcoin with fiat online through your bank is possible, you just have to find the appropriate Online wallet for your area. Coinbase is the most popular web wallet that works directly with United States bank accounts, and will allow you to exchange fiat for Bitcoin (and the reverse) for a fee. You can either set up a connection with your checking account or connect a credit card for faster purchases.
Bittylicicous is a good alternative for the U.K. but it isn't effective elsewhere. Bitstamp works perfectly with any nation that supports the SEPA money transfer system (most European Union countries and a few others). However, you will need to verify your identity using a photo ID and proof-of-residence. The service also works internationally. but withdrawing and purchasing Bitcoin costs a substantial fee.
CoinJar is a reputable exchange for Australians that seems to follow the same business strategy of Coinbase, a highly stylized and simplified process.
Finally, for any Bitcoin enthusiasts living in New Zealand, there is BitNZ. It is a little bare bones at this point, but it does seem to be the most legit fiat to bitcoin and bitcoin to fiat exchange out there that works with New Zealand bank accounts.
A viable alternative that works nearly anywhere is LocalBitcoins.com. There, you can find a potential Bitcoin seller can come to whatever terms you prefer. Cash, Credit Card, Wire transfer, Paypal, it is all fair game on LocalBitcoins and it is only limited by how much you trust the person on the other end. These are called OTC (over-the-counter) trades and they can be risky, but LocalBitcoins does offer an escrow service that will mitigate some of the risk.
There aren't many OTC options out there, but finding a local Bitcoin meet up can be another way to find people willing to sell bitcoins for cash or maybe even a service. Mowing someone's lawn for Bitcoin is possible.
If you have obtained an alternative cryptocurrency (altcoin) either through a sale or mining, you could always trade it on a Cryptocurrency exchange like Cryptsy, BitTrex, and MintPal. However, if you have obtained a substantial amount of altcoins, you probably know how and where to buy Bitcoins already.
The best thing about Cash is that you can get it practically anywhere. Most convenient of all is the ATM. Put card in, get cash out. Easy as could be, although often with a nominal fee.
But why can't Bitcoin be that simple? The truth is, it could. The technology already exists to make it that simple. In many places, it is just regulation holding companies back, in others, adoption numbers. Bitcoinatmmap.com will help you find one from any brand.
The Canadian Government has gone back and forth on bitcoin, but there is no doubt Canadians love the cryptocurrency. The country has a huge number of Bitcoin ATMs relative to the rest of the world. The nation has 15 total Bitcoin ATMs, one more than the entire United States, including four in Vancouver alone.
The West Coast of the United States has a decent number of Bitcoin ATMs. Austin, TX is often known as a tech hub and it keeps up that reputation by having two Bitcoin ATMs in the downtown area. You'll also find some ATMs in the suburbs of Kansas City and four in or near Boston (where the MIT project is taking place). Any of those ATMs will let you spend cash on Bitcoins, and many of them will also let you sell your Bitcoins for cash.
You may have heard of Bitcoin Mining, which is how new Bitcoins are made as well as how the blockchain is confirmed. It is technically possible to get “free” bitcoins through this method, but at this point the electricity costs will offset any gains made except through the most expensive equipment. There are a few options out there however, and mining certain altcoins can still be profitable.
Free Bitcoins are still a possibility however, you may just have to do a little hustling. The Bitcoin community is friendly, and it isn't impossible to find someone who will give you a few fractions of a bitcoin in order to teach you about the community. A few faucets, services that provide an insignificant amount of bitcoin in exchange for clicking ads, still exist; although the amount they dispense is really low, you can't ask for much for free.
Bitcoin is the world's newest and most democratized currency. Once you are in the ecosystem, it is nearly frictionless to move around in it. With this guide, you should be able to find an entry point or two.