Over the last several years, Bitcoin has become increasingly popular amongst today’s investors. During that same time, there’s been a lot of debate about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies—Its proponents argue that it’s the future of currency and investing, while its detractors argue that it’s a risky investment option that may not generate big returns.
To better understand its true value in the marketplace, we must look to its latest movements. Most recently, Bitcoin’s valuation has increased more than 763% in just one year, easily outpacing traditional gains in the stock market. More people are buying into Bitcoin becoming a decentralized, global currency. One tailwind, in particular, is the acceptance of Bitcoin by several high-profile individuals and businesses.
Elon Musk, the mind behind both Tesla and SpaceX, recently announced his automotive empire would not only purchase $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, but it also intends to accept the cryptocurrency as payment in the future. Several popular FinTech (financial technology) companies like Square and PayPal also announced their intentions to support cryptocurrencies moving forward. Despite all of that, however, the most important development for Bitcoin may be the recent IPO (initial public offering) of Coinbase Global, Inc. (NASDAQ: COIN), today’s leading cryptocurrency exchange platform.
There’s no doubt about it: momentum in Bitcoin is certainly building. Recent developments have contributed to Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in value, and proponents of the asset are convinced this is just the beginning.
So, what exactly is Bitcoin, and how can you determine whether it’s the right investment for you? Read our beginner’s guide on how to invest in Bitcoin.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin was created by a programmer or group of programmers using the name “Satoshi Nakamoto.” But the real creator(s) of Bitcoin is still unknown to the public.
Bitcoin is one of the most widely used types of cryptocurrency. Virtual “coins” or “tokens” are used in a cryptocurrency system instead of physical cash. Coins have no intrinsic value, and they aren’t backed up by gold or silver.
Bitcoin was created to solve a couple of big cryptocurrency flaws. First, it was designed to prevent crypto coins from being fraudulently duplicated. Think about how easy it is to make copies of your computer’s data—documents, photos, files, etc. Cryptocurrency wouldn’t be possible if anybody could duplicate a coin and create an unlimited amount of currency for oneself. You can’t just make copies of a $20 bill, right? Likewise, there’s a need to prevent people from reproducing crypto coins.
Understanding Blockchain Technology
Bitcoin uses a digital technology called “blockchain,” an advanced coding mechanism that disperses a single code over thousands of different computers. For example, let’s say that your coin is built from the code “XDA146DDS.” Blockchain segments the code into smaller pieces and stores the pieces of code across many computers. If a hacker wanted to access the code, they’d have to hack various computers to access the entire code.
Blockchain also employs a “public ledger,” which uses thousands of computers (referred to as “nodes”) to keep track of coins and their owners. If a coin’s data is changed, the nodes will cross-reference their records to verify whether the change is accurate and that the coin’s owner initiated it.
What is Bitcoin used for?
Once you purchase coins, you can use them in online transactions wherever they’re accepted. Remember, when you make a transaction with a coin, there’s no actual money being pulled from your bank account. Money only leaves your bank account when you purchase the coin itself—not when you make purchases with a coin.
Like cash currency, the value of a coin may fluctuate. That’s why some investors are getting excited about Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency. Investors speculate that Bitcoin’s value may rise significantly if there’s a surge in the market. I’ll explain the arguments for and against cryptocurrency investment later on.
For now, investors should pay special considerations to the rate by which Bitcoin and other relevant cryptocurrencies are being adopted. Not unlike traditional equities, Bitcoin increases in value when more people are interested, and more people are interested in buying Bitcoin today than ever before. Whether it is pure conviction or an inherent fear of missing out on what many predict to be the greatest transfer of wealth in American history, trading volume continues to increase exponentially. For the better part of a year, in fact, Bitcoin trading volume has steadily increased. As a result, Bitcoin is regularly testing new highs.
What Do You Need to Invest in Bitcoin?
You don’t need very much to invest in Bitcoin! You only need the following:
- Personal identification documents
- Bank account information
- A secure internet connection
Keep in mind—if you’re going to be purchasing coins through a stockbroker, you may not need to supply your personal information or financial information because your stockbroker will likely have all that on record.
How to Invest in Bitcoin in 5 Steps
Are you ready to dive into cryptocurrency? You’re in luck, as buying Bitcoin is simpler than you might think. Here’s how to invest in Bitcoin, in 5 easy steps:
1. Join a Bitcoin Exchange
2. Get a Bitcoin Wallet
3. Connect Your Wallet to a Bank Account
4. Place Your Bitcoin Order
5. Manage Your Bitcoin Investments
1. Join a Bitcoin Exchange
First, you’ll need to determine where you want to make a Bitcoin purchase. Most Bitcoin investors use cryptocurrency exchanges. There’s no official “Bitcoin” company because it’s an open-source technology, but there are several different exchanges that facilitate Bitcoin transactions. These exchanges are the middlemen of cryptocurrency investing, like a stock brokerage.
If you decide to purchase from an exchange, you’ll have to decide which exchange you want to buy from. Here are a few of the most popular options:
- Coinbase: A very popular crypto exchange that insures losses in the event of a security breach or fraudulent transfers
- Binance: Founded in 2017, Binance is a crypto exchange with a strong focus on altcoins
- Kraken: This San Francisco-based exchange allows you to invest in Bitcoin using various currencies from around the world
- Gemini: Launched in 2015 by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Gemini offers services for casual and veteran Bitcoin investors with different user interfaces and fee structures for both
- Bitfinex : The longest-running cryptocurrency exchange that’s optimized for advanced traders and lenders (unfortunately, Bitfinex doesn’t currently accept US customers)
As you might have guessed, choosing a Bitcoin exchange is becoming more difficult for investors as more options begin to popularize. Find everything you need to know about Binance vs. Coinbase and start investing, today.
2. Get a Bitcoin Wallet
When you purchase a coin, it’s stored in a “wallet,” which is where all your cryptocurrency is stored. There are two types of wallets you can get: a “hot wallet” or a “cold wallet.”
A hot wallet is a wallet that’s operated by either your cryptocurrency exchange or by a provider. Some exchanges will automatically provide you with a hot wallet when you open your account. In any case, hot wallets are convenient because you’ll be able to access your coins through the internet or a software program.
Some notable hot wallets are:
- Electrum: Software that enables you to store your coins on your computer
- Mycelium: A mobile-only app for Android and iPhone users
However, hot wallets are not the most secure form of coin storage. If the hot wallet provider is hacked, then your coin information may be at risk.
A cold wallet is the safest storage method for your coins. A cold wallet is an actual piece of hardware that stores your coins, usually, a portable device that’s similar to a flash drive. Most cold wallets cost between $60 to $100. Some popular cold wallets are:
- Ledger Nano
If you’re only going to purchase small amounts of coin, then you might be fine using a hot wallet with an insured crypto exchange. But if you’re going to be trading large amounts of coin, then a cold wallet would be well worth your investment.
Need help deciding which wallet is right for you? Take a look at our picks of the best bitcoin wallets.
3. Connect Your Wallet to a Bank Account
When you’ve obtained your wallet, you’ll need to link it to your bank account. This enables you to purchase coins and sell coins. Alternatively, your bank account may be linked to your cryptocurrency exchange account.
4. Place Your Bitcoin Order
Now you’re ready to purchase Bitcoin. Your cryptocurrency exchange will have everything you need to buy. The big question is, how much Bitcoin should you purchase?
Some coins cost thousands of dollars, but exchanges often allow you to buy fractions of a single coin—your initial investment could be as low as $25.
Investing in Bitcoin is very risky, and it’s important that you carefully determine your risk tolerance and review your investment strategy before you purchase any Bitcoin. We’ll go over this in the next section.
5. Manage Your Bitcoin Investments
After you’ve purchased bitcoin, you can:
- Use your coins to make online transactions
- Hold your coins for a long period in the hopes it’ll appreciate in value
- Perform day trading with your coins—that is, buying and selling coins with other Bitcoin owners, which can be facilitated on the cryptocurrency exchange
Your cryptocurrency exchange will provide you with everything you need to buy and sell coins.
Is Bitcoin a Good Investment?
Here’s one of the most commonly asked questions about Bitcoin: is Bitcoin a good investment?
Well, the real answer is no investment is inherently “good” or “bad.” It depends entirely on your risk tolerance, your investment strategy, and your financial goals. Before you consider Bitcoin as an investment, you should carefully consider your own goals and determine what you want to accomplish in your investment activities. Do you want to develop a passive income? Become a full-time investor? Save for retirement? Answering these questions will help you figure out whether Bitcoin is the right investment option for you.
Bitcoin is a very high-risk investment because it’s a volatile asset. That means that Bitcoin values may rise or fall dramatically in value over a very short period—even as quickly as a few hours or days.
Like all cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has no intrinsic value. It’s not backed by any physical asset, like gold or silver, and there’s no central regulator to ensure that the value remains stable. Furthermore, Bitcoin value isn’t linked to the profits of any one corporation. The value of Bitcoin is dependent on market demand. When there are more people buying Bitcoin, the value will increase. When there are fewer people buying Bitcoin, the value will decrease.
To make a significant profit on Bitcoin, you may need to rely on “timing the market,” which is a difficult and generally ill-advised investment strategy. Nonetheless, there’s a potential for profit.
Bitcoin vs. Other Investments
Choosing which investments to jump on and which to avoid can be a very confusing decision. Your choice will decide whether you enjoy great returns for years to come or you lose it all. It is impossible to turn on the TV or read an investment blog without hearing about Bitcoin. It is one of the hottest topics in the world right now, but it’s not the only way to invest your money, which begs the question: How does Bitcoin stack up against other wealth-building vehicles?
While Bitcoin is its own investment vehicle, it’s important to note that it can actually transcend investing borders. In fact, Bitcoin can be used concurrently with some of today’s greatest assets. Real estate, in particular, could benefit immensely from what’s known as “tokenization.” According to Tom Winter, CRO & co-founder of DevSkiller, “tokenization is the process of creating a virtual token representing ownership of an interest in real estate that exists on a blockchain (The core technology behind Bitcoin).” Winter suggests “tokenization has the potential of revolutionizing the global real estate market. It offers investors many advantages over existing investment options.”
The unique convergence of real estate and Bitcoin may award investors with attractive profits, but how do the two investment vehicles compare to each other by themselves?
- Many experts believe that Bitcoin is a bubble, meaning it is overvalued and could crash at any moment.
- Bitcoin’s value is volatile; it is equally prone to massive spikes and drops in price.
- Bitcoin is entirely digital, meaning it is more vulnerable to security breaches than a tangible asset.
- Real estate is an investment that is backed by a strong historical record and the security of a tangible asset.
- Rising home values and rents are an excellent hedge against inflation.
- Depreciation, utilities, insurance, and repairs all allow real estate investors to qualify for valuable tax benefits.
- Rental properties provide consistent monthly cash flow you can rely on.
The Pros of Bitcoin Investing
The main benefit to Bitcoin investing is that you may be able to generate a huge return on profit, perhaps as high as 200% or more. Of course, that’s a challenging thing to accomplish, but it’s possible.
If you purchase a large amount of Bitcoin, you may be able to capitalize on a market surge and sell your coins for a much higher value when there are lots of buyers. There’s also a slight possibility that Bitcoin will truly become the currency of the future or a more popularly traded asset, and you could hopefully generate returns from long-term holdings. It should be noted, however, that Bitcoin values are generally decreasing every year.
Your success may depend on properly “timing the market.” In other words, you’ll buy coins when they’re at a low price and sell them when they’re at the highest possible price. High-risk investors who pay close attention to the market may be able to generate massive returns when employing that strategy. They might even generate returns that are highly improbable in the world of corporate stocks or government bonds. To that end, Bitcoin is incredibly liquid. According to Shaun Heng, VP of growth and operations at CoinMarketCap, “Bitcoin is one of the most liquid investment assets you can have and is more liquid than any other cryptocurrency.” As a result, any realized can actually be realized almost immediately.
The Cons of Bitcoin Investing
Unfortunately, the high volatility of Bitcoin makes it a hazardous investment, and you could lose money if you’re not careful.
“Depending on how much you’ve seen in recent months about Bitcoin, it may seem like one of the best investments to make,” says Jim Pendergast, SVP of altLine, “but the crackdown of governmental policies is making Bitcoin decrease in value, especially now.”
Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency are also at high risk of “pump-and-dump” schemes. Predatory investors will reach out to amateur or unassuming investors and convince them to pour a lot of money into Bitcoin. The resulting surge causes Bitcoin prices to increase rapidly.
The predatory investors are smart, and they sell all of their holdings before the buying surge ends, making a huge profit. But when investors stop buying, the value of the coins falls to extremely low prices. A coin bought for $200 could wind up having a valuation of just $30. The unknowing investors would be throwing their money away.
You could always make a profit by selling your coins before the price collapses, but it’s impossible to predict when the buying surge is going to stop—prices could fall 50% in only a matter of hours. That’s why any volatile asset, like cryptocurrency and penny stocks, are considered high-risk investments.
You should also know that pump-and-dump schemes and pyramid schemes are illegal. While it’s not necessarily illegal to capitalize on a market surge—whether it’s natural or artificially created—you might not want to be associated with such practices. You could be the target of an IRS audit or a criminal investigation, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
How to Invest in Bitcoin: Different Methods
There are several different ways to invest in Bitcoin, both directly and indirectly.
First, you can invest in a company that utilizes Bitcoin technology. Although Bitcoin is a risky investment, plenty of companies sell successful products that incorporate Bitcoin and blockchain technologies. You can find several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that include shares from various blockchain-related companies, like the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK). You’re not directly investing in cryptocurrency but in corporate stocks of companies that utilize Bitcoin. It’s safer, and most ETFs in this category outperform the market.
Second, you can participate in Bitcoin mining. Bitcoin mining is simply allowing your computer to be used as a node for the public ledger. It’s a topic worthy of its own blog post, but you should know that Bitcoin miners are rewarded with actual Bitcoin for their contributions. You could receive free Bitcoin without actually ever purchasing it.
Outside of what was just discussed, let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways people are investing in Bitcoin today and what they mean for investors.
Purchasing Standalone Bitcoin
The most obvious Bitcoin investment strategy is purchasing standalone Bitcoin. Buying Bitcoin directly from an app like Coinbase allows investors to take “physical” ownership of the asset. That’s an important distinction to make, as Coinbase allows investors to actually buy Bitcoin and store it in their own encrypted wallets. In doing so, investors will simultaneously gain access to the asset’s price performance and use it as a currency to make subsequent transactions. Owning standalone Bitcoin isn’t all that different from owning any other currency, less the incredibly volatile swings in value.
It is important to note that not every online platform or application allows investors to own standalone Bitcoin. Online trading platforms like Robinhood, for example, allow people to invest in Bitcoin, but they do not go as far as to let investors own Bitcoin (or its respective keys). Whereas Coinbase grants investors the “keys” to their own Bitcoin holdings so that they may transfer the assets to their own wallets, Robinhood does not. As a result, investing in Bitcoin on Coinbase will allow investors to own the asset and treat it like a currency. On the other hand, Robinhood investors can only take advantage of the price movements in their accounts and can’t transfer holdings to an encrypted wallet. Investors who intend to purchase standalone Bitcoin need to know their trading platforms’ limitations before committing capital to any cryptocurrency.
Greyscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC)
Founded in 2013, Greyscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust has become a leader in the cryptocurrency industry. In becoming a trusted name in a rapidly growing sector, Greyscale emphasized democratizing Bitcoin for the masses. While Bitcoin is already decentralized, Greyscale gives more people more access to the up-and-coming digital currency. More specifically, Greyscale is an investment platform on the capital market that builds transparent, familiar investment vehicles for a growing asset class with unlimited upside.
Greyscale owes its current success to making Bitcoin more accessible to everyone. In fact, Greyscale helped bridge the gap between the informed and the uninformed. To do so, Greyscale made it easier than ever to invest in Bitcoin. For example, Greyscale allows investors to hold Bitcoin in certain IRA, Roth IRA, and other brokerage and investor accounts.
Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK)
As its name suggests, the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF is an exchange-traded fund traded on the stock market. Investors may purchase shares of BLOK on the secondary market and increase their exposure to Bitcoin. More specifically, however, BLOK is an actively managed ETF that specializes in blockchain technology. That means fund managers constantly seek out businesses that focus on blockchain technology and investing in them. Therefore, anyone investing in BLOK is invested in a basket of blockchain technology companies. While BLOK may not give investors access to standalone Bitcoin, it does give them access to the companies which use blockchain and its transformational data-sharing technologies.
Bitwise 10 Private Index Fund (BITW)
An investment in the Bitwise 10 Private Index Fund is an investment in the Bitwise 10 Large Cap Crypto Index. For those unfamiliar with the Bitwise 10 Large Cap Crypto Index, it tracks the return of the 10 largest cryptocurrency assets on the market. Therefore, investors who buy shares in this particular fund will be investing in the 10 largest “crypto-assets,” as measured and weighted by free-float market capitalization. When the assets perform well, investors will realize gains proportionate to the shares they own.
Tips For Investing In Bitcoin
If you do decide that you want to try Bitcoin investing, be sure to heed the following tips:
- Understand your risk tolerance: As mentioned before, Bitcoin is a high-risk investment, and you should carefully review your risk tolerance before you invest. If you don’t feel comfortable investing in volatile assets or only have a small sum of money to invest, you may want to consider other investment options.
- Diversify Your Portfolio: The best way to protect yourself from investment losses is to diversify your investment portfolio. Your primary investments should be low-risk, like government bonds or index funds. Next, you should go for medium-risk investments, like real estate or corporate stocks. High-risk investments, like penny stocks or Bitcoin, should be your smallest and least-prioritized investments. Bitcoin is essentially the “icing on the cake:” the investment that could yield substantial profit but which you could still do fine without.
- Start Small: If you’re on the fence, start small. Cliff Auerswald, President of All Reverse Mortgage, recommends investing $10 per week. “Many people still are unsure about whether or not crypto-currencies will pan out. With all the buzz surrounding crypto, though, many are still interested and don’t want to miss out,” he says. “One of the most effective ways to invest in BTC is to just put $10 a week into it. That way, it’s not a risk if it doesn’t end up panning out – but over time, you’ll have a healthy investment.”
Strategies For Investing In Bitcoin
Despite the many differences between buying Bitcoin and buying other equities like stocks, there are inherent similarities that must be addressed. In fact, the actual strategies for investing in Bitcoin aren’t all that different from their stock counterparts. That said, many of the strategies for buying Bitcoin have to do more with investment timeframes. In particular, investors may exercise one of the three most popular Bitcoin investment strategies:
- Buy and ‘Hodl’ Bitcoin
- Hold Bitcoin Long Term
- Trade Bitcoin On Short-Term Volatility
Buy and ‘Hodl’ Bitcoin
Those familiar with Bitcoin are probably already aware of the concept between Buy and ‘Hodl.’ Those who aren’t, however, can get caught up quickly. ‘Hodl’ (an intentional misspelling of hold) is merely an investment philosophy. Short for “hold on for dear life,” ‘hodl’ suggests the best Bitcoin investment strategy is to hold it forever. Those who subscribe to this strategy are more than aware of the asset’s volatility but strongly believe in its prospects. Therefore, this strategy will require investors to weather the many ups and downs of Bitcoin price fluctuations without selling.
Hold Bitcoin Long Term
Not all that different from the first strategy, investors who want to hold onto Bitcoin for the long term are convinced it will appreciate over long periods of time. However, unlike the ‘hodl’ strategy, long-term holders may be inclined to sell once they are satisfied with returns. These investors are convinced Bitcoin will increase in value, perhaps as serving as a new store of value (like gold), but aren’t against selling for a profit when the time is right.
Trade Bitcoin On Short-Term Volatility
One of the most popular strategies for investing in Bitcoin relies on the asset’s volatility. If for nothing else, Bitcoin has become synonymous with violent swings in valuation. Simply looking at a one-year chart will identify just how volatile Bitcoin can be, which bodes well for short-term traders. Not surprisingly, this strategy will have investors ride the ups and downs, selling at the peaks and buying on the dips. This is definitely the hardest of the strategies discussed and exposes investors to the most risk; however, it may also compound gains faster than those previously mentioned.
Bitcoin is a popular type of cryptocurrency that utilizes a large chain of interconnected computers to store and protect your digital assets. Bitcoin is a highly volatile asset that’s prone to large and fast swings in value, which presents an opportunity for large returns but also poses a tremendous risk. It is critical that you learn how to invest in Bitcoin responsibly before making any decisions. Be sure to diversify your investment portfolio to protect yourself from marketplace volatility.