If you want to begin accumulating Bitcoin, and who doesn’t, you’ll need a place to buy it. If you’re really concerned about privacy you may want to look into LocalBitcoins, but if you’re ok giving contact information, and personal information to an exchange (similar to what you would provide when opening a bank account, credit/debit card, stock account or any other financial account) you really want to look into Coinbase.
Coinbase is a Bitcoin exchange, allowing you to buy and sell your Bitcoins for fiat currencies. In addition to Bitcoin they also currently have support for Ethereum and Litecoin. EDIT: As of December 19, 2017 they also have full support for Bitcoin Cash
And in addition to U.S. dollars they have support for Euros. U.S. customers can deposit via bank transfers and wires, credit cards and debit cards. Note that bank transfers take roughly 1 week to clear, but credit card payments are instantaneous. Withdrawals can be made with all the above methods, as well as through Paypal.
You will initially be able to purchase up to $1,000 per week of Bitcoin using a linked bank account, and $500 using a credit card, but those limits are increased based on your purchase history. The same is true for withdrawals, with limits increasing the more you use the Coinbase service.
Coinbase has worked hard to make their user interface simple and easy to understand, and they have been successful. This is the easiest and best place for newcomers to Bitcoin to buy their first coins. In fact, if you never plan on buying anything other than Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum you may never have to leave Coinbase. Their rates are excellent, and while their customer service has received bad reviews in the past, they have worked very hard to rectify that.
Not only is Coinbase the largest exchange, it is also arguably the most trustworthy, reliable, and secure exchange. This is especially true for U.S. Bitcoin investors, as the options are more limited in the U.S., especially since Bitfinex recently closed its doors to U.S. citizens. It is estimated that Coinbase currently has over 12.8 million customers, and that number will likely explode as Bitcoin gains additional mainstream adoption.
Some users are put off by the personal information requirements at Coinbase, but these are exactly what have made the exchange as trustworthy and reliable as it is. Coinbase was the first exchange to receive US regulatory approval in 2012. As a result, Coinbase has AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) practices much like any bank. Coinbase is proud of its regulatory standing, and you can bet they will continue to cooperate with U.S. regulators so that they can continue their U.S. business. But make no mistake, you’ll have to provide a lot of personally-identifying information if you wish to avail yourself of Coinbase’s service. Some might have a problem with this, but I’m guessing most won’t.
If you’re looking for an easy way to buy Bitcoin, Coinbase is probably your best bet. They make it quite easy to buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash, and as their user base grows they have been adding additional features. We imagine support for Paypal purchases will be coming, and they are working hard to enable purchases and sales in currencies other than USD and EUR. With the Bitcoin landscape changing so rapidly, and regulation from most countries likely coming in the near future, Coinbase will have a definite advantage as a leading cryptocurrency exchange thanks to their long history, and commitment to adhering to U.S. regulations.
Note that Coinbase also has a referral program that pays you $10 for every friend you refer who opens an account, verifies the account, and deposits $100. The friend also receives a $10 bonus for opening their account, making it a win-win deal. This means if you sign up for Coinbase and deposit $100 through the CoinBeginners link you will get an additional $10 in Bitcoin credited to your account. It’s a nice little gift to you for signing up.
Also note that even if you’re planning on trading altcoins such as Bitcoin Cash, NEO, DASH, IOTA and others you need to start with Bitcoin. Many of the exchanges that offer altcoins don’t deal in fiat currencies, so you’ll need to buy your Bitcoin first – likely from Coinbase – and then transfer the Bitcoin to the other exchange where you plan on trading.