How to use Bitcoin

3 min read

Back in 2013, a bitcoin enthusiast named Laszlo Hanyecz created a message-board post offering 10,000 BTC – which then was worth around $25 – to anyone who would deliver two pizzas to his Jacksonville, Florida, home. As the legend goes, those two pizzas, which another bitcoin early-adopter bought from a local Papa John’s, marked the first successful purchase of non-virtual goods using bitcoin. Thankfully it’s a lot easier to use bitcoin these days!

  • It’s simple: Transactions using BTC aren’t that different from those using a credit or debit card, but instead of being asked to enter card info, you’ll simply be entering the payment amount and the vendor’s public key (similar to an email address) via a wallet app. (When transacting in person using smartphones or tablets, often a QR code will pop up to simplify the process – when you scan the code, your wallet app will automatically enter the pertinent information.)

  • It’s private: One of the benefits of paying with bitcoin is that doing so limits the amount of personal information you need to provide. The only time you need to share your name and address is if you’re purchasing physical goods that need to be shipped.

  • It’s flexible: As to what you should do with your bitcoin, that depends completely on your personal interests. Here are some ideas:

    • You can sell it for cash using an exchange or a Bitcoin ATM.

    • You can spend it online or in brick-and-mortar retailers as you would any other currency by using a Bitcoin debit card.

    • You can hold on to some or all of it as part of your investment and savings strategy.

    • You might choose to that is close to donate to a nonprofit cause your heart (check out GiveCrypto.org).

    • And if you have a serious budget and unfulfilled astronaut dreams? Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic happily accepts BTC in exchange for the opportunity to blast off on one of its forthcoming space-tourism missions.

Due to the cryptographic nature of the Bitcoin network, bitcoin payments are fundamentally more secure than standard debit/credit card transactions.

Start with as little as $25

Buy your first Bitcoin

What makes bitcoin a new kind of money?

Bitcoin is global. You can send it across the planet as easily as you can pay with cash in the physical world. It isn't closed on weekends, doesn’t charge you a fee to access your money, and doesn't impose any arbitrary limits.

Bitcoin is irreversible. Bitcoin is like cash, in the sense that transactions cannot be reversed by the sender. In comparison, credit cards, conventional online payment systems, and banking transactions can be reversed after the payment has been made—sometimes months after the initial transaction—due to the centralized intermediaries that complete the transactions. This creates higher fraud risk for merchants, which can lead to higher fees for using credit cards.

Bitcoin is private. When paying with bitcoin, there are no bank statements, or any need to provide unnecessary personal information to the merchant. Bitcoin transactions don’t contain any identifying information other than the bitcoin addresses and amounts involved.

Bitcoin is secure. Due to the cryptographic nature of the Bitcoin network, bitcoin payments are fundamentally more secure than standard debit/credit card transactions. When making a bitcoin payment, no sensitive information is required to be sent over the internet. There is a very low risk of your financial information being compromised, or having your identity stolen.

Bitcoin is open. Every transaction on the Bitcoin network is published publicly, without exception. This means there's no room for manipulation of transactions (save for a highly unlikely 51% attack scenario) or changing the supply of bitcoin. The software that constitutes the core of Bitcoin is free and open-source so anyone can review the code.

Bitcoin is safe. In more than ten years of existence, the bitcoin network has never been successfully hacked. And because the system is permissionless and open-sourced, countless computer scientists and cryptographers have been able to examine all aspects of the network and its security.

Where does Bitcoin come from?

Bitcoin is virtually ‘mined’ by a vast, decentralized (also referred to as ‘peer-to-peer’) network of computers that are constantly verifying and securing the accuracy of the blockchain. Every single bitcoin transaction is reflected on that ledger, with new information periodically gathered together in a “block,” which is added to all the blocks that came before.

Buy your first Bitcoin

Start with as little as $25