1. Introduction
  2. Bitcoins, What Are They?
  3. Bitcoin vs other means of exchange
  4. How to use Bitcoin
  5. Buying Bitcoins
  6. Selling Bitcoins
  7. Bitcoins ATMs & Debit Cards
  8. Appx. 1 – A History of Cryptocurrency
  9. Appx. 2 – Bitcoin Legality & Regulations
  10. Glossary

Introduction

Surrounded by controversy and a fair bit of confusion, Bitcoin remains the name of a virtual currency many of us have heard of but know little about. With the proliferation of businesses, from retailers to online casinos, accepting Bitcoin, we set out to explain what, exactly, Bitcoin is, how it works and how you can use it.

In this guide, we explain the basics of Bitcoin, compare it to other forms of currency used as a means of exchange, show you how to buy and sell Bitcoin and offer descriptions of the leading blockchain technologies. While no means comprehensive, we have made every effort to provide you with a through overview of the world of cryptocurrencies, i.e. Bitcoin as of the date of publication. We have also included a glossary of key names and terms mentioned in the guide for quick reference.

For those interested in the Bitcoin backstory, you might want to start at the end, with APPENDIX 1 – A HISTORY OF CRYPTOCURRENCY, to get the big picture before delving into the how-to details.

As Bitcoin is a rapidly evolving new technology and means of exchange, please keep in mind that many of the companies we highlighted in this article, their fees and offers, are subject to change as the market develops, so it’s important to do your own homework. We will do our best to keep you updated on all significant changes as they arise.

Editor’s note

Since we first wrote the Super easy COMPLETE GUIDE TO BITCOIN in 2017 a lot has changed. Bitcoin reached new heights at the end of that year, peaking at nearly $20,000 in December. 2017 Then the markets corrected and it’s price plummeted to below $10,000. That’s some extreme price volatility.

Everyone and their brother has weighed in on the phenomena, from legendary investor Warren Buffet to Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive at JP Morgan Chase, who called the whole thing a “fraud” and told Reuters “The currency isn’t going to work. You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think that people who are buying it are really smart.” Admittedly an ironic statement, given that the central banks have been doing just that since President Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971. Dimon later said he regretted making these comments, acknowledging that “blockchain is real.”

It seems, in many ways, the decentralized nature of Bitcoin that effectively cuts out the middle man has both governments and the big banks seriously worried. Regulators around the world are now looking into the issue and governments are taking sides. The Chinese shut down Bitcoin exchanges last year and the head of Russia’s Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, has come out strongly against the cryptocurrency.

On the other side of the spectrum, The Bank of Canada has said the underlying technology poses significant upsides for financial markets, Venezuela is set to launch its own cryptocurrency, Finland has recently launched a payment card for refugees based on the blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin and Benoit Coeure, Executive Board member of the European Central Bank has called Bitcoin a good development for financial inclusion.

The genie is, in fact, out of the bottle and the blockchain technology that underlies Bitcoin is very real. So real in fact that both Dimon’s JP Morgan and Bank of America have issued warnings in their annual reposts that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may have a negative effect on their earnings in 2018.

At the end of the day, no one really has a crystal ball to say what the future holds. In this guide we have tried to explain what Bitcoin is, how it works, how you use it and the history behind it. The fact remains, however, that Bitcoin is now part of the world in which we live.

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Bitcoins are the world’s most popular crypto or digital currency. They don’t actually exist, like paper money and coins. You can’t hold them in your hands. So, what are they really? Why have they emerged from the geeky world of cryptopunks and the dark corners of the internet to be a main stream currency allowing you to buy everything from coffee, beer and subway sandwiches to real estate, cars and yachts, to pay for air tickets online, taxi rides, play in online bitcoin casinos and buy Powerball lottery tickets in New York? Settle in, get out some popcorn or crack a beer and let’s find out…

Frank West is a bit of an itinerant gambler. An avid traveler and freelance writer with a penchant for games of chance, Frank has hit the tables in casinos the world over and picked up a copious volume of knowledge along the way. Frank enjoys passing on what he’s learned in blog and magazine articles about gambling and teaching people how to beat the house. He also covets his privacy, authoring his articles only under the pen name Frank West.