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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?

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Exchanges

These are platforms that match buyers with sellers. They allow you to deposit fiat currency (like USD, EUR, etc.) and use it to buy Bitcoin. There are both centralized platforms and decentralized exchanges (often referred to as DEXs).

Brokerage Services

Unlike exchanges, where you're trading with other users, brokerage services sell you Bitcoin directly. This method might be more user-friendly for those new to Bitcoin.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Platforms

Here, you'll buy directly from another person. These platforms may offer escrow services to ensure safety and trustworthiness in transactions.

Bitcoin ATMs

These physical machines can be found in many cities and allow for the purchase (and sometimes sale) of Bitcoin. The process typically involves inserting cash and receiving Bitcoin in return.

Mining

In the early days, Bitcoin mining was accessible to many, but it's now more industrialized. If interested, consider the concept of joining a mining pool.

Accept Bitcoin

Offering goods or services in exchange for Bitcoin is a direct way to acquire it. As the ecosystem grows, more merchants are accepting Bitcoin.

Earning Platforms

There are platforms and websites where you can earn Bitcoin as rewards for tasks, shopping, or other services. Always research any platform you consider.

Lending or Staking

If you already own Bitcoin, there are mechanisms to earn more by lending or staking your holdings, depending on the platform's offerings.

Final Thoughts

Always do your research and prioritize security. The world of cryptocurrency is dynamic, so staying updated and cautious is key.


I've updated this answer from my original to remove links to specific platforms. I don't want to recommend specific platforms that may not be the best option for you, or even exist in the future. However, you may find these resources helpful:

  • Bitcoin.org - The official Bitcoin website often has information about exchanges and other services.
  • The Bitcoin Wiki - This is a community-run resource that has a lot of information about Bitcoin, including exchanges and other services.
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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.

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  • 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
    Sep 18, 2013 at 14:20
  • Surely I will add it. Sep 18, 2013 at 15:10
  • 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
    Sep 20, 2013 at 14:52
  • 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
    Sep 23, 2017 at 7:05
  • 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. Jan 17, 2018 at 14:46
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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.

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    Would the downvoter care to explain what was wrong with this answer? Sep 14, 2011 at 16:03
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    I 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
    Jan 12, 2013 at 15:26
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    @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. Apr 1, 2013 at 14:25
  • 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
    Sep 13, 2013 at 17:37
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    Tradehill was closed for a period in Feb 2012 and temporary closed again on Aug 30, 21013.
    – Filip
    Sep 13, 2013 at 17:55
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You can buy or sell bitcoins by connecting any U.S. bank account on Coinbase.com

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  • Actually no you can't because coinbase goes down often.
    – Efe
    Mar 19, 2021 at 1:51
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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

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  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.
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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.

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  • 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). Apr 3, 2018 at 5:08
  • The question is How do you obtain bitcoins? and that how do I obtain it.
    – Tailer
    Apr 3, 2018 at 6:56
  • 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. Apr 3, 2018 at 15:59
  • Sorry, I didn't read that question before I answer that question. I've improved my answer a bit, hope its really improved.
    – Tailer
    Apr 3, 2018 at 19:28
  • 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. :) Apr 4, 2018 at 2:27

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