How do you obtain bitcoins?

127

46

This is a question many people ask when they're introduced to Bitcoin.

Bitcoin sounds interesting, but if I want to use this system I will need to get some coins, otherwise, there's no way I can spend them! How can I start?

David Ammouial

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 1 590

12I don't agree that answers will change over time: exchange, selling good/services, mining. As for the level, I didn't know that this website shouldn't address basic questions. Is this an elite resource? – David Ammouial – 2011-09-19T21:18:38.883

4It's not even dynamic: you can obtain bitcoins by charging, changing (just like any currency) or mining. This may sound obvious but everybody I've presented Bitcoin to has asked about it. – David Ammouial – 2011-11-15T17:46:49.993

4

Reopened after this meta discussion.

– D.H. - bitcoin.se – 2012-01-04T22:41:05.143

related: What's a good resource explaining the best ways to buy Bitcoin (noob friendly)?

– Stephen Gornick – 2012-11-07T03:26:42.250

Answers

69

Exchanges

You can use an online exchange such as BitStamp for US dollars, as well as many others for dollars, and other currencies.

See the wiki for a full list of ways to buy bitcoins.

Brokerage Services

Brokerage services allow you to buy or sell directly from them instead of relying on a third party to offer the trade with the exchange just taking a cut. One such service is Coinbase.

Local / In Person

You can use tools such as localbitcoins.com to find people near you who will trade cash for bitcoins. (Note, however, that localbitcoins strongly encourages you to use their service despite the fact bitcoin does not require using a 3rd party to do in person transactions)

IRC and Remote Trades

You can use bitcoin-otc's web of trust system to improve the likelihood of a successful long distance trade. This could help you do trades with people you find on IRC channels or Bitcoin Forum.

Hardware Mining

Mining bitcoins is very technical, and not for many people. Unless you already have the hardware and technical skill to set it up I would not recommend mining as a way to get bitcoins.

Accept Bitcoin

I believe by far the best way to get bitcoins is to provide goods and services for bitcoin. This stimulates the bitcoin economy which in turn makes the bitcoins you receive more valuable.

Joshua Kolden

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 3 936

2What's wrong with the poster saying "I believe by far the best way..."? This is clearly stated as his opinion and lists another way to get BTC. – D. A. – 2013-06-10T20:17:37.290

2if "trading goods or services for bitcoins", is the best way, then why don't any of the answers on this page link to where we can do this effectively? – Brad Parks – 2013-06-22T00:41:02.740

I think it is time to remove the Mt. Gox link from this answer :) – DJG – 2014-04-11T16:22:20.000

@dg123 updated. – Joshua Kolden – 2014-04-12T02:02:05.643

4"By far the best way ... to provide goods and service" - best for whom? For the newcomer to bitcoin, IMO the best way for himself is to buy some. Can you edit your answer to reflect this? – ripper234 – 2011-08-30T22:45:03.497

It looks like CampBX is effectively defunct. Their current order book has a bid/ask spread of about USD 750 per bitcoin as of this writing. Even if they are operating, it's clear there is no liquidity there.

– Nate Eldredge – 2016-11-18T16:19:16.303

1I think by mentioning the exchanges first that is clear. I still believe that providing goods and services is the "best way." Thanks for the edits. – Joshua Kolden – 2011-08-30T22:58:41.603

1I still think that "best" is not well defined in your answer. You can use the term, but I think it deserves a little refinement, that's all. – ripper234 – 2011-08-30T23:04:05.137

2You could say I recommend you to..., in order to reflect the fact that it's a personal opinion. – David Ammouial – 2011-08-30T23:06:35.740

29

Basically there are five main ways of getting bitcoins:

  1. Mining
  2. Buying
  3. Offering goods and services for Bitcoin
  4. Obtaining for free through micro payment
  5. Asking a friend who already has them to give a tiny fraction for free

Let's start with mining:

first of all I have to warn that currently there is almost impossible to mine by your own. You need to have a dedicated hardware (you can see hashrate comparison here) which is really costly. Even with this dedicated software it is really a small chance (current total hashrate is > 850 Thash/s) that you will create a block.

So most probably you have to mine as a part of the pool. There are quite a lot of mining pools available, but mostly you would like to join some big pool to have a high percentage of guaranteed small payoff. Pools hashrate distribution you can find here. I by myself have tried to mine on two different mining pools : BTC Guild and bitMinter. Just my own opinion, that it is easier to start with bitminter, because they provide you with easy to use software for mining and detailed instruction.

One last word of warning: most probably if you will start mining right now with your GPU, you will spend more money on electricity than you will gain from mining. But if you are going to do this just for curiosity, it might give you some micro part of a bitcoin.

The second option is to buy bitcoins

As with mining, you have plenty of options as well. The only problem is that right now you are dealing with your own real money. So you have to be careful what to select. At some period of time there were a lot of fake bitcoins selling sites, so if I were you, I would rather go with bullet proof places:

It is also possible to find local trading partners through services such as localbitcoins.com or at Bitcoin meetups.

Offering goods and services for Bitcoin

If you already have a shop or are planning to start selling something in the near future, it is pretty easy to accept Bitcoin as payment, in fact easier than to accept Credit Cards for example. If you are worried about Bitcoin's volatility, there are different payment processors, which will convert your Bitcoin payments into your national fiat currency for a fee, usually lower than Credit Card Companies. – You can opt to keep a percentage in Bitcoin.

Obtaining for free through micro payment

Not surprisingly, but there is a lot of web-sites, where you can get bitcoins for free. Do not be overexcited by this - you can not make a fortune out of this :-). Most probably they will give you 0.000001 bitcoin for free. On most of such websites you have to watch some stuff or to other useless things. So you are exchanging your time for micro payment. In my own question on bitcoin beta, there is a list of many of such places. If you know any other place - feel free to add it.

And the last thing is to ask a friend.

Try to ask your high tech friend. There is a high chance that he already knows about bitcoin and may be have a couple of coins. He might give you a small micropayment just to try. But do not try to abuse this: there is no point of asking people in places like this to give you 0.00001 bitcoin.

Salvador Dali

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 3 160

Thanks, this is close to what I imagined! Perhaps you could add something about offering services or goods for bitcoin, and about buying locally. Another sentence about what to look for when evaluating an exchange (e.g. differences in payments, fees and prices) would be great, too. – Murch – 2013-09-18T14:20:37.623

Surely I will add it. – Salvador Dali – 2013-09-18T15:10:46.727

Since you picked up the gauntlet I threw and wrote the most generic answer on this question I am awarding the bounty to you. Would be grand if you took another look at it though, otherwise I might manage to do so in the next few days. :) – Murch – 2013-09-20T14:52:39.637

Regarding the last point about begging, you could just give your friend cash or buy him a beer. Make sure you sweep his key instead of only importing it though. – jiggunjer – 2017-09-23T07:05:45.050

nice answer, though "in fact easier than to accept Credit Cards for example" - if it is so easy, how about a link to an example and/or details. – Apps-n-Add-Ons – 2018-01-17T14:46:32.523

@CFPSupport it is so obvious that I didn't see a reason to write about it. Just generate your BTC address, send it to people and you can accept payments from them. – Salvador Dali – 2018-01-17T17:35:52.733

Well, "obvious" is obviously in the eye of the beholder - I've been reading tons of data on bitcoin over the last couple days and have found various info on running full nodes, wallets and such, but nothing (so far) on how to "generate your BTC address", etc. - certainly not in a fashion as to be 'easier than Credit Cards' (guess I'm just spoiled with using Paypal {with buttons, IPNs and my internal fulfillment} for the last 20 years :) I did find a 'we accept Bitcoin' icon, but no SDKs, etc. to work with it (yet). I'll keep looking and learning..... – Apps-n-Add-Ons – 2018-01-17T19:20:06.740

@CFPSupport By obviously, I meant obviously for a person who has at least installed bitcoin. If you installed a wallet, you already have an address, just typing "generate bitcoin address" in a browser will get you tons of information. By easier I mean that if you ask a person with internet from Uganda to generate bitcoin address, he can do this in 30 minutes. Ask him to obtain a credit card, and it might take a few month. – Salvador Dali – 2018-01-17T19:25:43.123

9

This is from my answer on Money.SE:

You can set up your computer to mine for Bitcoins, you can exchange goods and services for Bitcoins, or you can purchase Bitcoins on an exchange. Some people will trade their programming or web design services for Bitcoins; others sell goods like alpaca socks in exchange for Bitcoins. The exchanges operate similarly to forex in that someone can trade say USD for Bitcoins (instead of trading USD for Euros or British pounds). According to Bitcoin Charts, the Mt. Gox exchange has by far the highest volume, but in recent months Trade Hill has gained some ground.

As for mining, computer performance matters as well as the "difficulty." The difficulty in mining fluctuates so that it becomes harder as the collective mining power increases. Mining is set up so that someone earns a block of 50 Bitcoins on average several times an hour (but this reward will decrease with time such that only 21 million are ever created). You can't ever make progress towards mining a block of 50; mining is an inherently random process. It's possible to successfully mine two blocks in short succession only to have a huge gap before successfully mining another block.

I should note that CPU mining is essentially pointless right now. On average it would take several years even for top-end CPUs to successfully mine a block. GPU mining (where the processor built into graphics cards is used) is what is popular now. Even so, it would take on average a long time to generate a block even with several GPUs. As such, many miners join mining pools where everyone shares credit when anyone successfully mines a block. This serves to decrease the variance and is will lead to a more regular flow of Bitcoins instead of long gaps followed by blocks of 50.

Michael McGowan

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 3 354

3Would the downvoter care to explain what was wrong with this answer? – Michael McGowan – 2011-09-14T16:03:59.710

1@RobKohr I think that, if there were proper tutorials, mining would actually be a great way to get started with Bitcoin. You don't have to worry about being ripped off on the Internet trying to get your first Bitcoins, and it's also quite motivating for a beginner to be able to generate money with his own computer. It may not be the best way to get Bitcoins, but, as a learning experience, it's a fantastic idea. – JamesTheAwesomeDude – 2013-04-01T14:25:36.127

I agree completely that mining is the way to get started. It will give an introduction to cryptography, software & networking if you are not the CS type, and cryptographic currencies in general. It may not be possible to be profitable without ASICS or high-end GPUs, but it will give soem insights to the miners role in the ecosystem, which is not what many believe to create more bitcoins – Filip – 2013-09-13T17:37:22.733

1Tradehill was closed for a period in Feb 2012 and temporary closed again on Aug 30, 21013. – Filip – 2013-09-13T17:55:12.100

4I don't think it is reasonable to suggest new users get into mining. It is not a cost effective way to obtain bitcoins, and it is also technically challenging. – RobKohr – 2013-01-12T15:26:10.247

1

You can buy or sell bitcoins by connecting any U.S. bank account on Coinbase.com

Brian Armstrong

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 745

0

  1. Mining Bitcoin : You can mine bitcoins with your PC. (GPU Required)
  2. Localbitcoins.com : Here you can find buyers / seller nearby your location.
  3. Mtgox.com : World's biggest bitcoin exchange.
  4. Virwox : Another bitcoin exchange, they also accept Paypal and Credit Cards.
  5. Bitstamp.net : Second biggest exchange after MtGox.

BTCPedia

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 120

0

EDIT:

All of the below is now obsolete. I keep this answer in place to show the ongoing changing nature of "Bitcoinland".


In the UK I used Britcoin.co.uk

It's run by an established member of the Bitcoin forums (genjix). Trading is very light in comparison to the other exchanges, but it does accept GBP via direct bank transfer.

Of course the best way to obtain Bitcoins is to earn them in exchange for goods and services. Perhaps by offering your skills on forbitcoin.com

Gary Rowe

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 7 383

0

Mining

Miners are the main source of Bitcoins and if you are looking for high amounts you should definitely contact them, but in most cases, they have exchangers they are working with.

Exchangers

They are getting bitcoins from miners or people and offering it to traders. I'm using coinify which is easy, and you can pay using your credit card (Europe) and localbitcoins.com is also good for trading bitcoins regardless the high fees.

Adam

Posted 2011-08-30T22:20:32.367

Reputation: 3 369

Answers that are about specific products are not recommended, as they can become obsolete easily. Also, in this specific case the question is about generic ways to get bitcoins, not about commercial solutions. Your answer falls into the "exchange" category (i.e. as opposed to e.g. mining). – David Ammouial – 2018-04-03T05:08:55.553

The question is How do you obtain bitcoins? and that how do I obtain it. – Adam – 2018-04-03T06:56:20.423

According to the Help section, "Bitcoin Stack Exchange is not about [...] a site or software recommendation". Asking for recommendations about a good exchange site would be off-topic. In fact, the question was initially closed because of that risk, and was only reopened because it calls for generic answers as opposed to specific sites. See related meta-discussion.

– David Ammouial – 2018-04-03T15:59:13.200

Sorry, I didn't read that question before I answer that question. I've improved my answer a bit, hope its really improved. – Adam – 2018-04-03T19:28:11.413

Great! To be honest I think previous answers already cover what you're saying in your answer, but it's not off-topic anymore so I've removed my downvote. :) – David Ammouial – 2018-04-04T02:27:21.127

Well, it's good to have a fingerprint everywhere :) – Adam – 2018-04-04T13:57:18.103