How to Get Bitcoins
Welcome to the world of Bitcoin. This page will help you quickly get started with bitcoins.
- First you need a place to store your bitcoins. Bitcoins are stored in accounts called bitcoin addresses. A bitcoin address is a long sequence of characters like: 17Pq86zoeRcfPRquajapThJ9VnM1q8Jj8t. Every bitcoin address has a private key that goes with it which is needed to move bitcoins from that address to another address. The key is also a long sequence of characters. If you lose the key then you won't be able to spend the bitcoins stored in the address which goes with that key. You also should not share the key with anyone else and keep it secret. Fortunately there are programs to help you with this. All the keys are stored in file called a bitcoin wallet. The wallet file is encrypted with a password so that only you can access it. There are program which allow you to manage your wallet file and spend the bitcoins stored in them. Use one of these programs to store your bitcoin wallet.
- Download and run the official bitcoin wallet program. However with this program you have to let it run for several hours when you first start it so that it syncs with the network. In the future the download and sync will not be required by using a browser based thin client currently being developed.
- Another program to use especially if you don't want to wait for transaction history to download, is Electrum.
- If you don't want to download and install anything and want to use your bitcoin from anywhere you can use the following online wallet services:
Note that there are two types of online wallet services. Those that handle the wallet on the server and those that handle the wallet on the client. Never use a site which handles the wallet on the server. Both of the sites mentioned here handle the wallet on the client.
- Collect some free bitcoins from the Bitcoin Faucet.
- Login with a Google account. You will have to create one, if you don't have one already.
- Solve the captcha.
- Copy and paste your bitcoin address to the faucet page.
- Select the 'Receive coins' tab in your bitcoin wallet program.
- Click on one of the addresses and then click the 'Copy to clipboard' button.
- Paste it into the faucet page and click the 'Get Some' button.
- In a few minutes you should see some bitcoins in your wallet program. If your program is not yet 100% syncronized with the network, you will see it after the sync completes.
- Don't bother trying to generate bitcoins; it takes too long and you need special hardware these days to make it worthwhile. Of course you can always do it to add more nodes to the network and streangthen it.
- Buy some bitcoins.
- First you need to know what the current price is in your currency. Check www.bitcoincharts.com/charts. Change the 'Symbol' drop down list to select your currency. If the price is not available in your currency check the USD price and convert to your currency.
- Buy using PayPal from eBay. Expect to pay at least a 20% premium over the current price. A bit expensive, but OK if you just need a few for testing.
- Buy using cash, debit card, check, money order or wire transfer from Get-Bitcoin.com. They guarantee a 24 hour turnaround time, but usually is done within an hour of receiving funds. The fee is about 5% to 10% depending on the method of payment you use. This is a good option if you don't want to open an account at a bitcoin exchange.
- Buy using an exchange. After creating an account at an exchange, you will fund the account usually with a wire transfer and then buy or sell bitcoins at the current market rate plus about 0.6% transaction fee. A list of exchanges can be found here. The exchanges with the most volume are MtGox.com, and CryptoExchange.com. The exchanges which support the most currencies are CryptoXchange.com and BitMarket.eu. Note that your bank and the exchange will have a fee for the wire transfer. For example MtGox has a fee of 1000 Yen (about 12 USD).
- Local exchange. Find someone local and exchange at the current market rate. This avoids bank and exchange fees. Search on craigslist for 'bitcoin' or post your own ad.
- Spend some bitcoins. Now that you have some bitcoins, see how easy it is to send them.
- Send to a friend to settle an IOU. Just ask your friend to email you their bitcoin address. Select the 'Send coins' tab and enter the bitcoin address along with the amount to send. That's it. Your friend will see the coins in theirwallet within a few minutes.
- Donate some bitcoins to an organization.
- Buy some product or service.