Choose A Wallet
You’re about to make your first steps into the Bitcoin ecosystem. Many out there will tell you that the first thing you need to do is understand Bitcoin. They say that education is the most important thing you can do to get started. I politely disagree. For many, myself included, the most important thing you can do is get started. I find that I learn better if I’m actually doing, not simply reading about it. So, if you’re like me, you’re ready to dig right in and start learning!
I think the most important first step is to choose a wallet. There are several types of wallets out there and all of them have their pros and cons:
- Mobile – An app on your mobile phone.
- Desktop – A program on your computer.
- Hardware – A dedicated piece of hardware.
- Web – A service on a website.
Mobile wallets are convenient, meant for people on the go, kind of like the wallet you carry in your pocket or purse. They are meant to be used from day to day, but not really optimal for storing large amounts. Desktop wallets are more secure in that they reside on the computer in your home and have a more limited exposure to the world. But what they gain in security they lose in convenience. Hardware wallets are the most secure, meant to store larger amounts and long term kind of like a vault. You can buy these dedicated pieces of hardware, load them up with Bitcoin, and then store them in a safe or deposit box. Again, highly secure, but not really convenient.
The last category, Web wallets, are the least secure, but not because they are at risk of theft or loss. Web wallets put someone else in charge of your money, sort of like a bank. But what they lack in control, they make up for in simplicity. It is for this reason alone I’m going to recommend you start with a web wallet until you gain that always important education I mentioned in the first paragraph. Further down the road, once you’re more comfortable in the Bitcoin ecosystem, I highly recommend you move to a more advanced wallet offering. Web wallets have their place and I continue to use them to this day. But using several types of wallet, using them to their strengths, will help you secure your Bitcoin to a much higher level. I will explain all of this and why in future Tutorials.
In the Web wallet category, again, there are several offerings out there. I typically introduce people to one of these main offerings to get started quickly and easily:
Either one of these is a good on-ramp to the Bitcoin ecosystem. They both strive to make Bitcoin more accessible for new users, taking much of the uncertainty out of getting started. You don’t need to worry about much of what goes on behind the scenes, such as public addresses or private keys, or worry about making mistakes. They also sell Bitcoin directly, so you don’t have to go hunting for it. They are absolutely free to sign up and nearly free to use. Feel free to sign up at whichever one appeals to you. Once you’ve done so, come back here and we’ll get to the next step.
Once you’ve signed up for service you need either link your bank account or a debit/credit card. Coinbase prefers to use bank accounts and reserves credit cards for backup only. From what I’ve been reading, Uphold doesn’t seem to have a preference. Either way, I’ve linked both to all three services. They all work very well.
There are certain restrictions on which banks they will work with and which credit/debit cards they will allow. I know for certain that users are having a hard time with certain banks freezing their accounts for Bitcoin activity. Many users have found issues linking reloadable debit cards as well. Some credit cards have been known to also freeze accounts for Bitcoin activity. In general, users are finding it much easier to work with Credit Unions for bank account and debit/credit links. Some banks like Simple are outright Bitcoin friendly. Please refer to the service you chose for guidance and possibly contact your bank or credit card company first to ensure you don’t get your account frozen. In this arena it’s becoming better to ask permission than forgiveness, at least in the US.
In Coinbase go to Settings and then Payment Methods to link your bank account. Choose +Add A Payment Method and select either Bank Account (US) or Backup Credit Card.
In Uphold, click on your name in the top right and click on Settings. Choose Funding Methods. Then choose to add a Bank account or Credit/Debit card. The same applies here. If you link your bank account you’ll need to verify the two small deposits. This is not required for credit/debit card.
Once you get your account linked you’re all set to go. Now you simply need to buy some Bitcoin. In my next tutorial, I’ll cover how to do that in Coinbase, and Uphold.