Fascination and enthusiasm for Bitcoin is running red-hot. And it's not hard to see why.
On the pretext of pandemic panic, the U.S. Federal Reserve is printing and spending $41 billion a day. Altogether, the Fed and other central banks will create more than $6 trillion in new money in 2020.
This is industrial-scale corruption of currency, and it is releasing elemental forces — that will not be denied.
Bitcoin (BTC, Tech/Adoption Grade “A”) was invented during the 2008 financial crisis as an exit-ramp from a currency system on the eve of extinction.
Like gold, it gives you a safe place to store your wealth, and the wherewithal to ride out the monetary apocalypse that's bearing down on us.
But it has not always been easy for average investors to buy. Not long ago, opening an account at a cryptocurrency exchange (a crypto broker) was a tedious, frustrating process, taking five or six weeks to complete.
Happily, much has improved since. Not only have cryptocurrency exchanges become less intimidating, but often you may not need them at all.
Here are the three easiest ways to buy Bitcoin without a crypto exchange account:
1. Choose a Do-It-All Digital Wallet
A digital wallet is a secure, encrypted location where you store your cryptocurrencies. A do-it-all wallet not only safely stores Bitcoin (as well as dozens of other cryptos). It also lets you purchase the Bitcoin to put in it — usually with a charge-card.
(Plus, if you get the itch to trade, you can swap your Bitcoin for any other cryptos it accommodates at prevailing market prices — all inside the wallet.)
Best of all, you can download the following do-it-all wallets for free.
Atomic Wallet (https://atomicwallet.io/)
Atomic is a popular laptop/desktop wallet that accommodates Bitcoin (and about 300 other cryptos). It's very secure, because you — and you alone — hold the private keys that control access to it.
You can buy Bitcoin with your VISA or Mastercard — for which Atomic charges a 5% fee per transaction. (And you can trade your Bitcoin among any of the other coins the wallet supports — at market rates.)
There's also an Atomic app (for Apple and Android smartphones), which syncs with your desktop installation. With it, you can check prices (or trade) anywhere you have an internet connection.
Exodus is another laptop/desktop digital wallet for storing Bitcoin and several dozen other cryptos. Because you are in sole possession of the private keys, security is very strong.
(As with Atomic, Exodus allows you to trade among any of its supported cryptos inside the wallet.)
There's also an Exodus app for Apple smartphones, which syncs with the desktop installation. Plus, you can use Apple Pay to buy Bitcoin.
This service is presently available in 43 U.S. states. (It's still awaiting approval in Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.)
2. Visit One of America's 5,840 Bitcoin ATMs
In recent years, Bitcoin ATMs have been popping up like mushrooms after a summer rain. Just about every medium-sized city in some 76 countries now has at least one. (Chicago, for example, has 293.)
And finding one has never been easier. A free app (BTC CoinATMRadar) downloadable to your smart phone identifies the ones nearest to you and displays their precise location on Google maps.
BTC CoinATMRadar is also available as a website (https://coinatmradar.com/)
CoinFlip (https://www.coinflip.tech/bitcoin-atm/) is another website that helps you locate the nearest Bitcoin ATM on their network.
Bitcoin ATMs work much like regular ATMs. Only instead of moving dollars out of or in to a bank account, they redeem Bitcoin in your digital wallet for dollars. Or, convert the dollars you insert into Bitcoin in your wallet.
Any crypto wallet will suffice. However, the smartphone versions of Atomic and Exodus are especially convenient in this regard. That's because they both can convert your wallet address (which looks like a long string of garbage characters) to a bar code on your smartphone screen.
Just hold it up in front the scanning window on the ATM, and you're done. That sure beats having to type in a long character string to communicate your wallet address.
Not surprisingly, Bitcoin ATMs charge for the convenience they provide. Fees vary according the type of machine and location.
But generally, the fee for using a Bitcoin ATM to convert your crypto to cash runs about 4% or 5%. The opposite transaction (feeding paper dollars into the ATM to convert to Bitcoin in your digital wallet) ... typically comes with a fee of 7% or 8%.
3. Buy Bitcoin Using Your Regular Stockbroker
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), a publicly-listed, closed-end fund that holds Bitcoin.
Anyone can buy and sell it through their regular stockbroker without restriction.
Plus, its price movements follow Bitcoin very closely.
During 2017 — as the wild and woolly crypto bull market sent Bitcoin blasting up to all-time highs — GBTC shot up more than 1,300%.
So you see, GBTC is virtually the equivalent of investing in Bitcoin itself. And that can be quite a good thing — especially if you're a newcomer to crypto, with little time to spend familiarizing yourself with this quirky new class of investment assets.
So far, so good. But we live in a world of trade-offs. And as you saw with Bitcoin ATMS, convenience always comes with some kind of cost.
Here, the major drawback is that GBTC shares consistently trade at prices well above (often 20% to 35%) what the underlying Bitcoin is actually worth.
One Way or Another, Be Sure To Buy Some Bitcoin
As we go to press, Argentina is teetering on the brink of its ninth sovereign default. And the ruing mullahs in Teheran are getting ready to knock three zeros off the Iranian currency (US$1 = 42,105 rials), and re-issue it.
As hard-money historian, Dr. Franz Pick, observed: "In the end, all paper currencies go to zero." You wake up one morning to find your greenbacks no longer worth the paper they're printed on.
So don't be caught holding the bag. Move at least part of your savings to Bitcoin. But don't go whole hog and invest every last dime. It's still a high-risk asset.
And don't expect instant gratification. It may still take some time (not much, but some) for Bitcoin to truly take off.
Bruce Ng and Juan Villaverde
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