However, the process isn’t always entirely straightforward. Legal bitcoin services are heavily regulated, given the currency’s association with online black markets, and its cryptographic nature means security protocols can be complicated.
Step 1 – Set up a bitcoin wallet
A bitcoin wallet is where you hold your bitcoins. Alternatively you can download the entire bitcoin program (around 150GB), but you’re probably not going to go to those lengths, and there’s no reason why your computer is more secure than a popular website, so the best option is to use an online wallet, which is sort of like a digital bank account.
There is no shortage of wallets, but one of the biggest and most popular is Blockchain.info, which is backed by millions in venture capital funding and has an easy to use website and mobile app. It also takes security steps to make sure your bitcoins are as safe as they can be.
Go to Blockchain.info/wallet to sign up, or download the mobile app. The sign up process is as easy as doing so for an email or social media account.
Step 2 – Secure your account
Blockchain.info has a series of security measures that you should take to make sure your bitcoins are safe once you do get your hands on them. Other wallets are likely to have the same protocols.
Note down your Wallet ID, found in Settings (you’ll need it again to log in in future), and use the security centre to verify your email, set up two-factor authentication and so on. After that, you’re ready to buy.
Step 3 – Find a broker
Once you’ve got your wallet, you’re ready to add some bitcoins to it. As of the time of writing, one bitcoin is worth over £1,500, but fear not – they are infinitely divisible, so you can buy £10 worth (about 0.005 bitcoins) if you want.
To do this, you have to find a broker. If you’re getting confused, think of it like buying a foreign currency from the Bureau de Change: the wallet is your bank account and the broker is the Bureau de Change.
Brokers are the ones handling your real money – you send them cash via a credit card, bank transfer or some other method, and they send bitcoins to your account. Because of this, they often have strict “Know Your Customer” requirements that include identity verification.