Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are a form of money that was created relatively recently, and can be spent peer to peer, either in person or on the internet. They are purely digital. Despite the name (Bitcoin), there is no physical manifestation of these various currencies. Its HIGHLY recommended that you read the Bitcoin Whitepaper (which we have hosted here for your convenience), and at the very least read the abstract.
There are many ways to acquire cryptocurrencies, but I’ll name a few.
You can purchase them for cash from either an exchange, a Bitcoin ATM or peer to peer. Each exchange is different, and has different markets for the various cryptos it has listed. In order to participate on an exchange you have to register for an account and in most cases present identification pieces such as your ID and/or social security number, similar to setting up a brokerage or bank account. This is done so that the exchanges are in compliance with KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) laws.
A Bitcoin ATM may be a more feasible ask for the first time buyer, as you don’t have to submit your ID for small amounts of crypto. This is a nice way to get your feet wet and can be a good jumping off point to show you how practical cryptocurrency is as a technology.
Peer to peer is probably the best mix of the two. Let’s say you have a friend who holds cryptocurrency already, and you decide you want to buy some. Obviously he/she knows who you are, so no need to present ID. Also you are only limited to how much they’re willing to sell you, so there are no arbitrary limits such as the ones Bitcoin ATM’s place on you.
I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t mention you can EARN cryptocurrency as well. If you have a product or service that you sell, you should certainly consider it. Feel free to reach out if your interested in accepting Bitcoin.
In a wallet of course! Crypto wallets work a bit different from a traditional wallet though, however. At a high level, when you create your wallet you’ll have a public key and a private key. Lets consider a metaphor: your public key is kind of like your phone number or e-mail address. You can share this with people you want to contact you or in this case receive payment from. Your private key is more like your social security number. You should NEVER share this number with anybody, and where this metaphor breaks down a bit is that you use your private key to unlock any funds in your wallet that have been sent to your public key by your or payers of your goods/services.
There are paper wallets, app based wallets (mobile and computer), and hardware wallets.
Paper wallets are the most primitive for of a cryptocurrency wallet, and typically are just your public and private key printed on a sheet of paper, as well as a QR code representation of your public key.
A significant step up from a paper wallet would be a mobile or desktop app based wallet. Most people have a smartphone at least, and they bring that smartphone wherever they go. Logistically speaking, it makes sending and receiving easier when you have a digital interface from which to do it with. Take that QR Code printed on the paper wallet I mentioned earlier. Rather than manually typing out an entire public address, which can be an intricate process prone to human error, I could simply address a payment by scanning a QR code in my wallet app. It makes it just as easy as scanning the barcode on a product in self checkout at the store.
Hardware wallets are probably the most secure way to store cryptocurrencies. These are generally small devices that are not connected to the internet, which significantly reduces the risk of someone stealing your hard earned cryptocurrency. When you want to move your crypto off of them, you can plug the wallet into your computer to use the respective desktop app they come with and authorize transactions. The most ideal use case for hardware wallets is for longer term storage of your cryptocurrency.
A lot of newbies don’t realize this, but cryptocurrencies are divisible! So while you may not be able to purchase a whole Bitcoin, you could certainly buy a percentage of a Bitcoin. Here’s an example of my pal bitcoinzay purchasing $1 worth of Bitcoin on Cash App.
Back to cryptocurrency denominations – a satoshi is the lowest denomination of Bitcoin. In practice this looks like ₿.00000001. If you still don’t understand, lets paint a picture. Imagine you have $1. I have a candy store where I sell chocolate bars for 99₵. You come in one day and decide to buy one chocolate bar, and in exchange for your dollar I give you a chocolate bar, and 1 penny of change. Imagine that satoshis are pennies of Bitcoin. The difference being you actually want as many of these “pennies” as you can get. Stack up 100 pennies and you have one dollar. Stack up 100,000,000 satoshis, and you have one Bitcoin.