How to Invest in Bitcoin in 4 Steps

The easiest way for most people to buy Bitcoin is through a brokerage account or cryptocurrency exchange account. You can buy Bitcoin using most digital wallets as well, but in this section we will focus on the easiest way to buy:

  1. Choose the Right Bitcoin Exchange or Brokerage

    Start your Bitcoin purchase by choosing the best place to buy and store your digital currency. Popular places to buy Bitcoin include Coinbase, Robinhood, eToro, FTX, Gemini, and BlockFi, among many others. Take note of fees and the reputation of the exchange when picking where to buy Bitcoin. Also, if you plan to transfer your Bitcoin out of the brokerage account, make sure that feature is supported, as not all brokerages give you that option.

  2. Open an Account With Bitcoin Support

    Once you’ve picked your ideal account, it’s time to open your brokerage or cryptocurrency account. For those in the United States, plan on sharing your basic contact information and valid identification to meet the exchange’s know your customer (KYC) requirements.

  3. Fund Your Account With Fiat (Government-Backed) Currency

    Once your account is open, it’s time to add funds. The fastest and cheapest way is typically with an online funds transfer from a connected bank account. Depending on your exchange, you may also be able to use payment apps like PayPal. Some cryptocurrency exchanges give you instant access to trade, while others may require you to wait for funds to clear before buying. If you can buy cryptocurrency immediately, you may have to wait until the deposit clears before you can withdraw funds from the account.

  4. Enter a Purchase Order

    When you think the moment is right, click the buy button to enter an order. The exchange will turn your dollars into Bitcoin, stored in the same cryptocurrency account, similar to holding stocks in a brokerage account. Once your trade executes, you are officially a Bitcoin owner.

Advanced Strategies for Investing in Bitcoin

If you enjoy the Bitcoin marketplace, you can advance your strategy to include Bitcoin futures, decentralized exchanges, and automated trading strategies.

Bitcoin futures, like futures of other commodities, are derivative products with Bitcoin as their underlying securities. Derivatives are typically riskier than investing directly in the underlying security, and that means Bitcoin futures carry an even greater risk than directly buying Bitcoin.

Although it may be riskier and involve a better understanding of cryptocurrencies, another way to buy Bitcoin is through a decentralized exchange. Unlike Kraken or Gemini, which are centralized exchanges, platforms such as Exodus and Bisq allow you to connect with third-party buyers or sellers directly. Exodus does this through its app, whereas Bisq has software that you can run on your computer to give you access to a peer-to-peer network.

While using decentralized exchanges gives you more control over your Bitcoin and trading, it does have a few drawbacks.

Fees may be higher or lower than centralized exchanges depending on the currency you purchase, market rates, and how you enter the trade. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to spend a lot more on network fees when using a decentralized exchange. There is also more opportunity for you to make a mistake or send to the wrong wallet address, as centralized exchanges take care of much of this for you. Decentralized exchanges may also have a limited selection of cryptocurrencies and might not allow the trade of cryptocurrency options.

Another advanced strategy to buy Bitcoin that may not be suitable for beginner investors is using automated trading. There are many applications or trading bots, such as Cryptohopper, that have algorithms that make trades based on market conditions. Signing up for something like that will let the bot make trades on your behalf to take advantage of small price fluctuations, but it can be risky.

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Things to consider before investing in bitcoin

Like any investment, cryptocurrency comes with risks and potential rewards. Compared to traditional types of investments, cryptocurrency is particularly risky.

Here are some things to think about before you invest:

  1. We definitely don’t recommend investing all your life savings on cryptocurrency markets
  2. It’s best to see it a bit like gambling so only invest small amount of your disposable income and be prepared to lose the lot
  3. Never invest more than you can afford to lose
  4. If you haven’t got much money left at the end of each month, it’s best to steer clear of crypto and focus on saving your money instead
  5. Like traditional assets, it’s best to treat cryptocurrency as a long-term investment to give you the best chance of making money
  6. Cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile, subject to bull runs and market crashes

How to pick a cryptocurrency to invest in

Before you go ahead and buy some coins or tokens just because somebody says it’s a good investment, it will pay to do some research.

First of all, it’s important to understand that picking a good cryptocurrency is not like picking a good stock. A stock represents ownership in a company that creates profits for its shareholders, or at least has the potential to do so. Owning a cryptocurrency represents ownership in a digital asset with zero intrinsic value.

What makes a cryptocurrency increase or decrease in price is simple supply and demand. If there’s increased demand and a limited supply increase, the price goes up. If supply becomes constrained, price goes up, and vice versa. So, when evaluating a cryptocurrency, the most important questions to answer are how the supply increases, and what will drive demand for the coin higher.

You can answer those questions by reading the white paper that a cryptocurrency team publishes to attract interest in their project. Look at the roadmap for a project and see if anything could spark an increase in demand. Research the team behind a project and see if they have the skills to execute their vision. Try to find a community of people already investing in the cryptocurrency and gauge their sentiment.

It’s also important to consider how much money has already flowed into a cryptocurrency. If the market cap is already very high, there may not be much potential growth left. A high price will curb demand and increase supply as early investors look to take money off the table.

Image source: Getty Images.

Image source: Getty Images.

How to Invest in Bitcoin: Different Methods

There are several different ways to invest in Bitcoin, both directly and indirectly.

First, you can invest in a company that utilizes Bitcoin technology. Although Bitcoin is a risky investment, plenty of companies sell successful products that incorporate Bitcoin and blockchain technologies. You can find several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that include shares from various blockchain-related companies, like the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK). You’re not directly investing in cryptocurrency but in corporate stocks of companies that utilize Bitcoin. It’s safer, and most ETFs in this category outperform the market.

Second, you can participate in Bitcoin mining. Bitcoin mining is simply allowing your computer to be used as a node for the public ledger. It’s a topic worthy of its own blog post, but you should know that Bitcoin miners are rewarded with actual Bitcoin for their contributions. You could receive free Bitcoin without actually ever purchasing it.

Outside of what was just discussed, let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways people are investing in Bitcoin today and what they mean for investors.

Purchasing Standalone Bitcoin

The most obvious Bitcoin investment strategy is purchasing standalone Bitcoin. Buying Bitcoin directly from an app like Coinbase allows investors to take “physical” ownership of the asset. That’s an important distinction to make, as Coinbase allows investors to actually buy Bitcoin and store it in their own encrypted wallets. In doing so, investors will simultaneously gain access to the asset’s price performance and use it as a currency to make subsequent transactions. Owning standalone Bitcoin isn’t all that different from owning any other currency, less the incredibly volatile swings in value.

It is important to note that not every online platform or application allows investors to own standalone Bitcoin. Online trading platforms like Robinhood, for example, allow people to invest in Bitcoin, but they do not go as far as to let investors own Bitcoin (or its respective keys). Whereas Coinbase grants investors the “keys” to their own Bitcoin holdings so that they may transfer the assets to their own wallets, Robinhood does not. As a result, investing in Bitcoin on Coinbase will allow investors to own the asset and treat it like a currency. On the other hand, Robinhood investors can only take advantage of the price movements in their accounts and can’t transfer holdings to an encrypted wallet. Investors who intend to purchase standalone Bitcoin need to know their trading platforms’ limitations before committing capital to any cryptocurrency.

Greyscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC)

Founded in 2013, Greyscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust has become a leader in the cryptocurrency industry. In becoming a trusted name in a rapidly growing sector, Greyscale emphasized democratizing Bitcoin for the masses. While Bitcoin is already decentralized, Greyscale gives more people more access to the up-and-coming digital currency. More specifically, Greyscale is an investment platform on the capital market that builds transparent, familiar investment vehicles for a growing asset class with unlimited upside.

Greyscale owes its current success to making Bitcoin more accessible to everyone. In fact, Greyscale helped bridge the gap between the informed and the uninformed. To do so, Greyscale made it easier than ever to invest in Bitcoin. For example, Greyscale allows investors to hold Bitcoin in certain IRA, Roth IRA, and other brokerage and investor accounts.

Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK)

As its name suggests, the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF is an exchange-traded fund traded on the stock market. Investors may purchase shares of BLOK on the secondary market and increase their exposure to Bitcoin. More specifically, however, BLOK is an actively managed ETF that specializes in blockchain technology. That means fund managers constantly seek out businesses that focus on blockchain technology and investing in them. Therefore, anyone investing in BLOK is invested in a basket of blockchain technology companies. While BLOK may not give investors access to standalone Bitcoin, it does give them access to the companies which use blockchain and its transformational data-sharing technologies.

Bitwise 10 Private Index Fund (BITW)

An investment in the Bitwise 10 Private Index Fund is an investment in the Bitwise 10 Large Cap Crypto Index. For those unfamiliar with the Bitwise 10 Large Cap Crypto Index, it tracks the return of the 10 largest cryptocurrency assets on the market. Therefore, investors who buy shares in this particular fund will be investing in the 10 largest “crypto-assets,” as measured and weighted by free-float market capitalization. When the assets perform well, investors will realize gains proportionate to the shares they own.

Can you lose all your money in bitcoin?

Yes you certainly can. Crypto is very risky and not like conventional investing in the stock market.

Bitcoin’s value is based purely on speculation. This is different to company stocks where the share price will move depending on how the business is performing.

Important: cryptocurrencies are unregulated by the UK watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority. Crypto platforms are only regulated for anti-money laundering purposes.

There are three main ways to lose all you money with bitcoin:

  • The value plummets and you sell: crypto is volatile with its price determined by sentiment. Though technically you only lose money if you sell an investment for less than you bought it for. This is known as “crystallising your losses”.
  • Your memory: experts estimate 20 per cent of all cryptocurrency has either been forgotten about or lost with a current value of around $140billion, according to Crypto data firm Chainalysis
  • Cyber crime: hackers and scammers are thought to steal around $10million worth of cryptocurrency every day, according to Atlas VPN

Some people choose to take their holdings offline and store it in a physical device called a cold wallet, otherwise known as a hardware wallet or cold storage that is similar to a USB stick. While this protects from online attacks you risk losing your holdings.

As with any investment, do your due diligence and don’t pin all your hopes on one company or one cryptocurrency.

Spread your money around so you spread the risk and only invest what you can afford to lose.

If you invest in bitcoin, be prepared for a roller
If you invest in bitcoin, be prepared for a rollercoaster ride

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2. Figure Out How To Store Bitcoin

You can store Bitcoin in a hot or cold wallet. Hot wallet transactions are quicker, while those in cold wallets have extra steps to maintain security. The latter takes longer but is more secure.

Hot Wallet

Storing your cryptocurrency in a hot wallet means the assets are stored by a provider or trusted exchange in the cloud. You can access your Bitcoins through a computer browser or an app.

All trading exchanges come with complimentary hot wallets where all your Bitcoins are automatically stored. If you want to store your Bitcoin in a third-party hot wallet, you can download a free app and use it to keep your assets safe.

Some hot wallet providers include Coinbase, Blockchain, Electrum, and Mycelium.

Some pros of a hot wallet include:

  • Quick to access
  • Easy to use
  • Usually free

However, hot wallets are connected to the Internet, making them susceptible to hacking and presenting other, more technical vulnerabilities.

Cold Wallet

A cold wallet is an offline encryptable device where Bitcoins can be downloaded. You can carry the device around. It’s considered safer than a hot wallet and costs around $100.

For example, two cold wallet providers are:

  • Ledger: Their cold wallets cost $60 to $120
  • Trezor: Their cold wallets range from $80 to $170

Learn More

When you’re creating digital wallet accounts, make sure the passwords are strong. Here are some pros of cold wallets:

  • More secure than hot wallets
  • Completely offline

On the flip side, cold wallets are expensive and require you to carry the device with you if you want to make regular transactions.

Does Bitcoin Make Sense for You to Invest In?

As with any investment, it’s important to do your research first and understand what you’re getting into. Make sure any crypto investments you make do not get in the way of other goals like funding your retirement accounts and paying off high interest debt. Experts recommend keeping your cryptocurrency investments to less than 5% of your portfolio. 

Bitcoin is a good place for beginner crypto investors to start, according to the experts we’ve talked to. As the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has the longest record for investors to consider. Since its creation in 2009, Bitcoin has exponentially risen in value over the past decade. Many experts liken it to “digital gold” as a long-term store of value. 

While Bitcoin’s recent massive price swings highlight its volatility, many experts say a small holding of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin can be a healthy (if speculative) diversifier in your overall investment strategy.

(Read More: What is Bitcoin – The First Cryptocurrency

Making money by investing in cryptocurrencies

Investing in crypto requires you to do your research and be confident enough in your investment to hang on during what’s sure to be a wild ride. If you can do that, the payoff could be worth it as the expected returns are higher than most other asset classes.

What Do You Need to Invest in Bitcoin?

You don’t need very much to invest in Bitcoin! You only need the following:

  • Personal identification documents

  • Bank account information

  • A secure internet connection

Keep in mind—if you’re going to be purchasing coins through a stockbroker, you may not need to supply your personal information or financial information because your stockbroker will likely have all that on record.

Should You Invest in Cryptocurrency?

The cryptocurrency fervor soared after the value of Bitcoin rose above $30,000 in January 2021. And within three months, it more than doubled to $64,642.40. This is almost 19 times higher than its valuation in early 2019 ($3,500) and almost four times as high as its previous 2017 peak ($17,000). At the close of trading on April 22, 2022, Bitcoin was valued at $39,508.61.

So like any other investment, you should weigh the potential gains against your own risk tolerance. If you tend to be more risk-averse with your investments and you’re looking to build wealth over decades, cryptocurrencies probably aren’t for you. No one can accurately predict what will happen to the market for cryptocurrencies. Yes, that’s technically true for all investments. But other markets — say, the stock market — grow much more consistently, with significantly less volatility. Indeed, it may be misleading to even call it “investing” to buy Bitcoin. It would be more accurate to refer to it as speculation.

Still, if you’re willing to take a risk and you believe the current Bitcoin price is poised for a rally then by all means give it a try. Bitcoin has now been around for 10 years — longer than many expected it would last. A future with Bitcoin as some sort of worldwide reserve currency seems increasingly unlikely day by day. But it’s reasonable to expect that it will retain some value for the foreseeable future. The same can’t be said for some of the more obscure altcoins, though.

The most important thing, as with any potential investment, is to have a clear idea of the risks you’re taking. You shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where your financial health is dependent on the success of cryptocurrencies. However, if you’re well aware of the risks and you want to give it a shot anyway, you may get lucky.

Methodology

The College Investor is dedicated to helping you make informed decisions around complex financial topics like figuring out the best cryptocurrency exchange. We do this by providing unbiased reviews of the top bitcoin and crypto platforms for our readers, and then we aggregate those choices into this list.

We have chosen crypto exchanges based on our opinions of how easy they are to use, the availability of tokens and coins on their platform, their costs and fees, their trustworthiness and security, and a variety of other factors. We believe that our list accurately reflects the best cryptocurrency exchanges in the marketplace for investors.

About the Author

Scott Jeffries is a seasoned technology professional based in Florida. He writes on the topics of business, technology, digital marketing and personal finance. After earning his bachelor’s in Management Information Systems with a minor in Business, Scott spent 15 years working in technology. He’s helped startups to Fortune 100 companies bring software products to life. When he’s not writing or building software, Scott can be found reading or spending time outside with his kids.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay to Purchase Bitcoin?

Typically, the price for purchasing bitcoin consists of a fee per trade plus the cost to convert a fiat currency (generally dollars) to bitcoin. (Cryptocurrency exchanges and payment services make money off of this conversion spread.) The fee per trade is a function of the dollar amount of the trade. A higher trade amount will carry higher fees. The overall purchase cost also depends on features offered by the venue. For example, Robinhood does not currently offer an online wallet for storing bitcoin. Therefore, you will need to budget for online wallet costs for your purchase.  

Is My Bitcoin Purchase Protected by SIPC?

No, your bitcoin purchase is not protected by SIPC. At certain exchanges, like Coinbase, fiat balances in individual accounts may be FDIC-insured to the tune of $250,000 per account.

Direct Deposit Of BTC

In the case that the exchange doesn’t allow purchasing BTC by transferring funds or using a credit card, you can deposit BTC from another exchange.

This is done by getting your wallet address from the target exchange. Then enter it on the source exchange along with the amount of BTC to transfer to the new exchange.

The transaction takes a few minutes for the exchanged BTC to appear in the target wallet.

Cryptocurrency investing FAQs

How much money do I need to start investing in cryptocurrency?

In theory it takes only a few dollars to invest in cryptocurrency. Most crypto exchanges, for example, have a minimum trade that might be $5 or $10. Other crypto trading apps might have a minimum that’s even lower.

However, it’s important to understand that some trading platforms will take a huge chunk of your investment as a fee if you’re trading small amounts of cryptocurrency. So it’s important to look for a broker or exchange that minimizes your fees. In fact, many so-called “free” brokers embed fees – called spread mark-ups – in the price you pay for your cryptocurrency.

How does a blockchain work?

Cryptocurrency is based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is a kind of database that records and timestamps every entry into it. The best way to think of a blockchain is like a running receipt of transactions. When a blockchain database powers cryptocurrency, it records and verifies transactions in the currency, verifying the currency’s movements and who owns it.

Many crypto blockchain databases are run with decentralized computer networks. That is, many redundant computers operate the database, checking and rechecking the transactions to ensure that they’re accurate. If there’s a discrepancy, the networked computers have to resolve it.

How do you mine cryptocurrency?

Some cryptocurrencies reward those who verify the transactions on the blockchain database in a process called mining. For example, these miners involved with Bitcoin solve very complex mathematical problems as part of the verification process. If they’re successful, miners receive a predetermined award of bitcoins.

To mine bitcoins, miners need powerful processing units that consume huge amounts of energy. Many miners operate huge rooms full of such mining rigs in order to extract these rewards. As of early 2022, running the Bitcoin system burned as much energy as a medium-sized country.

What are altcoins?

An altcoin is an alternative to Bitcoin. Many years ago, traders would use the term pejoratively. Since Bitcoin was the largest and most popular cryptocurrency, everything else was defined in relation to it. So, whatever was not Bitcoin was lumped into a derisive category called altcoins.

While Bitcoin is still the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, it’s no longer as dominant as it was in the very early days of cryptocurrency. Other altcoins such as Ethereum and Solana have grown in popularity, making the term altcoin somewhat outmoded. Now with a reported 15,000 or more cryptocurrencies in existence, it makes less sense than ever to define the industry as “Bitcoin and then everything else.”

Advanced Features

Build your portfolio and track how it performs

01

Invest on auto-pilot with recurring buys

Buy a little at a time on a regular basis so you can gradually increase the amount of stocks and bitcoin you own.

02

Make informed decisions with metrics and insights

Now you can access earnings data, news, key stats and much more to help you decide on what’s worth buying or holding.

03

Set your target price with custom orders

You decide how much you want to buy or sell for. Then set custom orders that only go through if stocks or bitcoin reach those price ranges.

04              Stay up to date with investing not

04 Stay up to date with investing notifications Get notified when bitcoin or the stocks you’re interested in experience price surges or dips.

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