Mar 012015
 

How to Buy Fractions of Bitcoin
This is a guide on how to buy fractions of Bitcoin. If you’re new to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, you might look at the headline price of around $15,000 and think Bitcoin is too expensive. Is Bitcoin too expensive to afford? Actually no, because it is trivial to buy fractions of a Bitcoin. Each Bitcoin is divided into 100 million units, each called a ‘satoshi’. If you’re looking how to buy fractions of Bitcoin, the process is similar to buying a full Bitcoin. However, when you only want to buy smaller amounts of Bitcoin, there are some additional ways you can do so, which don’t scale up if you’re looking to invest tens of thousands of dollars. You don’t need to buy a full Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Conversion Guide

Before we proceed, here is a quick Bitcoin conversion guide to keep things straight.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that can be divided up to 8 decimal places. That means you can easily buy fractions of a Bitcoin, even if you can only afford one cent! Just to get you familiar with the terminology, here are the conversions:

  • 1 mBTC (milli-Bitcoin) = 0.001 Bitcoin or 1/1000 of Bitcoin (a thousandth of a Bitcoin)
  • 1 uBTC (micro-Bitcoin) or 1 bit = 0.0000001 Bitcoin, or 0.001 mBTC (a millionth of a Bitcoin)
  • 1 satoshi = 0.000000001 Bitcoin or 0.01 uBTC (a satoshi is the smallest unit of Bitcoin)

Note: bits is becoming more and more popular method of denoting the number of Bitcoin, and you generally don’t have to deal with pesky decimal places. This has the added advantage of seeming similar to 2 decimal places that people are used to for money (e.g. dollars and cents). Others say we should just skip the intermediate bits and just move to satoshi.

Easy (Retail) Ways to Buy Fractions of a Bitcoin

If you’re new to Bitcoin or don’t know much about the technical aspects of it, you can still buy fractions of Bitcoin without too much hassle. However, be careful to only use trusted companies in the space, because there are a fair number of scams out there. Don’t chase a quick, slightly cheaper exchange rate if you’re not sure about the company and whether they are trustworthy.

Here are some options for you as a retail investor just getting into cryptocurrencies.

Coinbase

If you’re living in the United States or most of Europe, the easiest and most trusted way, especially for retail investors, is to buy Bitcoins at Coinbase. Coinbase stands out as a venture capital backed company that is geared towards the retail investors. This is a company that has raised $100 million in its last funding round and is valued at a cool $1.6 billion (Update: it is not valued at around $8 billion and is the largest Bitcoin company in the US). You can easily buy fractions of Bitcoin – e.g. $100 worth of Bitcoin or $500 worth of Bitcoin. If you use this link, you’ll get $10 of Bitcoin free when you purchase $100 worth of Bitcoin.

This is a full list of countries served by Coinbase: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

Update: Coinbase currently operates in over 100 countries, so chances are, this is the simplest way for most of you reading this. Here is a list of countries supported by Coinbase.

The signup process at Coinbase is somewhat similar to what a brokerage firm needs, only everything is online and the verification process can be more straightforward. They will ask for an identity document, and if your identity matches, you can start buying your Bitcoin almost instantaneously, i.e. within 10-15 minutes. However, sometimes the automated identity verification fails, which means you’ll need to wait to be manually approved. In those cases, you might need to wait a few days, depending on the traffic. You buy Bitcoin by linking your bank account or debit card. Coinbase also provides a handy online Bitcoin wallet, although it is advised not to hold too much money in any Bitcoin custodial wallet.

This is a company that has raised $100 million in its last funding round and is valued at a cool $1.6 billion. It is a trusted player in the space. You can buy Bitcoin by linking your bank account, and you can buy even small fractions of Bitcoins. When you initially login, the funds might take up to 3 days to appear in your account, after which you can purchase Bitcoins. You can also sell Bitcoins via Coinbase, and you can use it as a convenient online Bitcoin wallet. In addition, they offer multi-signature wallets too, which means Coinbase will no longer have any custody of Bitcoins.

Another good thing with Coinbase is that you can also buy fractions of Ether here, not just Bitcoin. Ether is the next most popular cryptocurrency after Bitcoin and has a vibrant developer community that not only advances Ethereum as a protocol but also builds applications using Ethereum protocol, thus providing value for the underlying Ether.

Binance

Binance is fast emerging as the most credible competitor to Coinbase especially in non-US countries. If you are interested to not only buy some satoshis (fractions of Bitcoin) but also to spend them on other tokens and cryptocurrencies, then Binance is the right place for you.

Binance tends to list the best tokens way before Coinbase does and is built for traders. If you are a trader or looking to trade crypto after you buy Bitcoin, then Binance is the place to go. You can also withdraw up to 2 BTC from Binance without going through strict ID checks and KYC, which is a much more liberal policy than Coinbase.

Square’s Cash App

If you use Square’s cash app to send money to friends in your local currency, you might be lucky and have the feature enabled that also lets you buy fractions of Bitcoin. However, please note that this isn’t universally available, and seems to be limited to the United States (and not to everyone). You can check out square’s cash app here. Note that it is being rolled out slowly so you may not be able to buy Bitcoin using the Cash App at all.

Circle

This method isn’t active anymore, as Circle removed support for retail Bitcoin buying, instead focusing on institutions. However, they appear to be getting back into the game.

In recent months, a formidable challenger to Coinbase has emerged: Circle. Circle doesn’t charge you any fees (although its prices to buy Bitcoin tend to be a little higher than Coinbase), and the best thing is, you can buy Bitcoin through credit cards. This is not possible at Coinbase. However, you have to pay the credit card processing fees in that case. You can avoid this fees by linking your bank account, just like with Coinbase. How to buy fractions of Bitcoin with Circle? Just enter the dollar amount, even as small as $10 and Circle will buy it for you. Note that Circle has currently stopped selling Bitcoin. However, Cash App from Square is an alternative.

Coinbase and Circle are the best ways, but if you’re looking for options, you can try Expresscoin or BitcoinInsanity. Both these places allow you to buy fractions of Bitcoin through credit card. BitcoinInsanity also allows you to buy through PayPal. However, the prices are higher.

For peer-to-peer trading, LocalBitcoins is a nice option. Use this if you’re outside the United States (or really want privacy with your Bitcoin purchase) and it’s hard to buy on online exchanges in your area.

Country Guide

Here are some other trusted places you can buy Bitcoins online in various countries:

US: Coinbase or Circle

UK: Coinbase, or check out this guide written by Coindesk. Be aware of the fees, which seems to be the norm for UK exchanges

Europe: Coinbase operates in these European countries, and should be the best option: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

India: Unocoin, Zebpay, or Coinsecure.

Philippines: Coins.ph or Rebit.ph

Finally, if you just want a small fraction of a Bitcoin and willing to work online for them, there are a few options that you can explore (the payout is usually much lower than having a full-time job, so take that into consideration) in my Earn Bitcoin Guide.

Photo Credit: Chris Devers