Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
A week ago I bought €10 worth of Bitcoins, giving me a whopping 0.0047 BTC. It might not sound like much but it’s my first foray into the fantastic world of cryptocurrencies so I’m quite excited about it. Even though my bitcoins might sit in my wallet and never go anywhere, the experience and the education required to get there more than make up for the miserable amount that I’ve got.
But this isn’t about me. You searched “How to buy bitcoins” and by some freaky search engine fuck up, you landed on this blog post, so I’m going to teach you how to buy bitcoins, dammit! And in just 3 simple steps.
I’m not going to go over all the possible options. There’s a thousand and one ways to get started with bitcoin. What I will do is offer you a step-by-step program to get you to where I am now, taking all the options and all the guess work out so you can follow a straight process. When I was trying to figure it out I just couldn’t find a simple tutorial on how to get going.
I’m here to fix that.
Also, I’m going to keep it as simple as possible. If you’d like to educate yourself there are countless sources for that, some of which I’ll list at the bottom of this post.
So here we go. Ready, set… wait!
STEP 0: GET A DROPBOX ACCOUNT
It’s not cheating if you start from zero. I didn’t include this as part of the three-step program because it’s not technically a part of the process. It’s entirely optional but highly suggested because getting a Dropbox account will make backing up your wallet in the cloud (to protect you in case of catastrophic hardware failure) a much, much easier process. So get a Dropbox account, download the application on your OS of choice, and set up a folder that will automatically get synced to your cloud storage.
Once you’ve got that done, or if you think taking offline backups of your wallet yourself is a better solution, then proceed to Step 1.
STEP 1: GET A WALLET
A wallet is a piece of software (either on your computer or the cloud) that contains your bitcoins. Understand that it’s imperative that you choose a good, secure wallet. If you think you might have to use your wallet from various machines, a cloud wallet could be ideal, but cloud wallets also tend to be less secure (as you are putting your trust in a third party to keep your money safe). Instead, I went for a local wallet, specifically MultiBitHD which is available on Windows, Linux and Mac.
Why MultiBitHD? Mostly because I heard a lot of good things about it, and because I like the way it handles resetting your wallet in case of emergency.
So download the software and install it on your OS of choice. Once you’re done, run it. The following video will guide you through the process. If you’ve got the Dropbox application installed on your computer, enter the Dropbox folder path when prompted on the “Select backup location” screen of the wizard.
STEP 2: BUY BITCOIN WITH FIAT MONEY
This is the part that had me the most confused but I’ll make it real simple for you. In order to buy some bitcoins, you need to find a bitcoin exchange website and send them some FIAT money (say, €10). They will then deposit those €10 into your online wallet (unrelated to your bitcoin wallet), in the same way PayPal can hold your money. Once the transfer goes through, you can convert those €10 into bitcoins. Those bitcoins will also remain in your online wallet, until you transfer them to your actual wallet in Step 3.
My service of choice was Coinbase, an online bitcoin exchange that also provides merchant services (basically a bitcoin payment gateway for website developers, but that’s outside the scope of this tutorial). When you get to Coinbase, you will be asked to create an account. It is important to keep in mind that your interaction with Coinbase will never be related to your actual bitcoin wallet until the very last step, so feel free to use different passwords, etc.
Just follow the three step wizard until you are asked to do a money transfer (in my case it was a SEPA transfer). Don’t do that! Instead, exit the wizard and proceed to your dashboard. Here you will be given the option to directly buy bitcoins with your VISA, Credit Card, what have you. The reason you should avoid a bank transfer is that it takes anywhere between 24-48 hours to process, whereas a card transfer is almost instantaneous. It will also cost you more (in my case, transferring €10 cost me an extra €1). And finally, it also creates an extra step where, after making the transfer, you would still need to buy bitcoins via the screen below.
So yeah, just skip the transfer wizard and use the “Buy/Sell Bitcoin” option on your dashboard, as shown below:
STEP 3: TRANSFER BITCOIN FROM COINBASE TO YOUR WALLET
For this last step, you’ll learn how to request money from your MultiBitHD wallet, and how to transfer bitcoins from your online Coinbase account to your wallet.
First, create a request for payment from MultiBitHD. To do that, open MultiBitHD, log into your wallet, and click on the big Request arrow on your dashboard. Do not enter any data in the screen that pops up, but do make sure that you copy the bitcoin address you’re provided with. In MultiBitHD, every transaction is given a specific address (for security reasons), so make sure you copy this address as you will use it in Coinbase for the second part of this step. A bitcoin address looks like this:
Now armed with a bitcoin address, head back to Coinbase where you should have a certain amount of bitcoins deposited from Step 2. Once you’re on your dashboard, open the “Send/Request” screen and enter the required information. In the Recipient textbox, enter the bitcoin address provided by MultiBitHD, and in the amount enter what amount of bitcoins you’d like to transfer from your Coinbase wallet to MultiBitHD. Ideally you should transfer everything you have, as anything you leave online is at greater risk of being stolen or, god forbid, frozen as part of an investigation.
Once you click the Send Funds button you’re done.
Re-opening MultiBitHD should show you an unconfirmed amount of BTC on its way to your wallet. Verification of transactions is handled by peers, and takes a while to get through (mine took almost an hour).
ENJOY YOUR BITCOIN
That’s it. Now you’ve got some bitcoins in your wallet for you to play around with. Enjoy it! Go buy something with it.
Me? I’m still trying to figure out what I should spend my 0.0047 BTC on. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know!
Want to learn more?
- Bitcoin Wiki – The official bitcoin wiki, for all things bitcoin
- Bitcoin.org: Inform Yourself – Some basic need-to-know stuff on how to use and secure your wallet
- Bitcoin.org: Securing Your Wallet – An in-detail look into securing your wallet
- /r/bitcoin – Subreddit dedicated to bitcoin discussions
- Common Myths – A list of common myths about bitcoin, debunked