Step 1 - Get a wallet
There are many wallets to choose from and here are our recommendations:
Web Wallets - Web wallets are the easiest & most convenient to use, but are potentially less secure than wallet software run on your own computer.
Software Wallets - Software wallets are downloaded and run from your computer. They're considered more secure because the user has more control and doesn't depend on a 3rd party service. Most software wallets require nearly a full day constructing a local copy of the blockchain before use.
- BitcoinQT - The original Satoshi wallet from bitcoin.org
- Armory - (Recommended) Armory is the most mature full featured wallet.
- Multibit - This is the easiest to use because it doesn't require a full download of the blockchain.
Mobile Phone Wallets - iphone & Android apps are available.
Hardware Wallets - Hardware wallets are the most secure because they don't expose your private keys to the network.
Step 2 - Get Bitcoins
Purchasing Bitcoins - Although it's not yet easy to buy bitcoins, it's getting simpler every day. Here are our recommendations:
- LocalBitcoins.com - This fantastic service allows you to search for people in your community willing to sell bitcoins to you directly.
- How To Buy Bitcoins - An international directory of bitcoin exchanges.
- Cash Into Coins - Recommended for fast, simple service.
- Coinbase - Bitcoin exchange based in the United States. (Highly rated).
- BitStamp - A multi currency bitcoin exchange based in Slovenia. (Highly rated).
- CoinJar - CoinJar allows direct bitcoin purchases on their site. They're based in Australia but serve an international clientele.
Earn Bitcoins - Many people find that the best way to get bitcoins is to accept them as payment for the products or services they already sell. Just give your customers the option to pay in bitcoin.
To make it easy, you may want to sign up for a bitcoin merchant account which allows you to send invoices and integrate bitcoin payments into your online order pages for most of the popular shopping cart systems.
- BitPay - (Highly Recommended) - Merchant account services
- CoinBase - Merchant account services
- Coinkite - Merchant Terminal / POS system
Mining Bitcoins - Mining bitcoins requires an investment in specialized bitcoin mining hardware designed to process double round sha256 hash verifications at high speed. Many excellent systems are available.
It's important to point out that bitcoin mining is highly competitive and risky for would be participants. Please see our bitcoin mining page for more detail.
The manufacturers who have successfuly shipped bitcoin mining hardware in volume are:
- Butterfly Labs
Step 3 - What can I do with my bitcoins?
Bitcoins can be used to purchase just about anything you want. Dental services, a brand new car, travel and even luxury real estate.
We recommend searching the merchant directories below to locate the merchants you're interested in. You can buy gift cards with bitcoin and spend them in most of the stores you already use.
- coinmap - Find bitcoin friendly merchants near you
- bitpay merchant directory - Over 12,000 businesses and charities.
Gift Cards - Available from Gyft.com and spendable at:
Bitcoin Store - Electronics & everything else for Bitcoin
- Bitcoin Foundation - The Bitcoin Foundation standardizes, protects and promotes the use of Bitcoin cryptographic money for the benefit of users worldwide.
- BitGive - BitGive is a non-profit foundation that is accepting donations from the Bitcoin community and providing charitable gifts to environmental and public health causes worldwide.
- Bitcoin Development Fund - A charity devoted to helping further the development of bitcoin, the open source community and causes of humanity.
Step 4 - Keeping up to date with bitcoin
Here are some good places to keep up with bitcoin news and discussion:
- r/bitcoin - Bitcoin links and discussion by the Reddit community
- Coindesk - An excellent source of bitcoin news
- Bitcoin Magazine - Insightful articles with deep technical credentials
- BitcoinX - Bitcoin headlines, market rates & charting resources
- The Video - An excellent primer for anyone curious to understand the bitcoin phenomenon