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Bitcoin is a digital currency. Bitcoins can be used to transfer value over the internet in matter of seconds just like you would send an email. The value of bitcoin and its transactions are stored in the blockchain. Everyone can run the open source Bitcoin software on his PC, laptop or smartphone to store, receive or send bitcoins.
Bitcoin is not controlled by any bank, government or company, it is a decentralized peer-to-peer network and is managed by millions of computer worldwide running the Bitcoin software. Bitcoins have value because there only a limited number of bitcoins and people value the decentralized, anonymous and virtual characteristics.
Bitcoin is often called a virtual currency, which is a somewhat misleading as most currencies we use today are mainly virtually stored as 1 and 0 in a bank computer. The main difference is fiat currencies are backed by governments and digital currencies are backed by mathematics and computer power.
Related reading: A short introduction to bitcoin from CoinDesk. A major bitcoin news site.
A short (1:36min) video introduction to Bitcoin from WeUseCoins
To use bitcoin you need a wallet, this can either be a piece of software or an account with one of the wallet providers. Both have advantages and disadvantages, below are some examples.
|Coinbase||Online||Just like your normal bank account, your bitcoins are safely stored in the Coinbase vault. No need to install software or worry about backups.||Your bitcoins are controlled by a 3rd party. It's a bank account so you need to verify it with your phone, email and identity card.|
|Mycelium||Mobile Wallet (Android)||Fast and easy to use. Bitcoins stored on your phone, you are in control of your bitcoins.||If you have no backup and you lose your phone, the bitcoins are gone.|
|Multibit HD||Desktop||Simple, fast but with lot of functionality. Allows you to set up multiple Bitcoin accounts. Bitcoins stored on your PC, you are in control of your bitcoins.||If you have no backup and your computer dies for whatever reason, the bitcoins are gone. So always make a backup to an USB, paper, etc!|
|GreenAddress||Software & Online||Quick set-up and a wide range of functionality. Available for desktop, mobile and online.||Control over bitcoins is shared between GreenAddress and your software.|
Once you have set up a wallet you are ready to buy some bitcoins. There many places you can do this and buy bitcoins with a (SEPA) Bank Transfer, iDeal, Sofort, Paypal, Cash or any payment method available actually. We will mention just a few below, but you find a more complete list here.
|Buy bitcoins||Payment Methods||Description|
|HappyCoins||Sofort, Mister Cash, iDEAL, Giropay, MyBank, Sepa Transfer||Pay with any of the above payment methods and receive your bitcoins within a couple of minutes. Only email and bitcoin address needed.|
|Kraken||Deposit with international Wire or SEPA Transfer. SEPA takes just one business day.||Buy bitcoins on the market a this exchange. Works as a bank account so an extended identity verification is needed.|
|LocalBitcoins||All payment methods you can think off...||A marketplace for trading bitcoins. Buy bitcoins from another person locally for cash or with an online payments method. LocalBitcoins works as an escrow so you have no risk of loosing money.|
|Coinbase||Buy bitcoins with a SEPA or international wire transfer||Once you have verified your identity and created an account it is easy to buy bitcoins with a bank transfer.|
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