Once you have a bitcoin wallet, you can use a traditional payment method such as a credit card, bank transfer (ACH), or debit card to buy bitcoins on a bitcoin exchange. The bitcoins are then transferred to your wallet. The availability of the above payment methods is subject to the area of jurisdiction and exchange chosen. Below is a screenshot of the bitcoin interface on Coinbase showing how to buy and sell bitcoin and also Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin​, which are other popular virtual currencies. The user clicks the "Buy" tab to buy digital currency and the "Sell" tab to sell digital currency. You select which currency you are buying/selling and which payment method (your bank account or credit card) you want to use.
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Remember that the bitcoin exchange and the bitcoin wallet are not the same things. Bitcoin exchanges are similar to foreign exchange markets. The exchanges are digital platforms where Bitcoin is exchanged for fiat currency—for example, bitcoin (BTC) for U.S. dollars (USD). While exchanges offer wallet capabilities to users, it is not their primary business. Since wallets must be secure, exchanges do not encourage storing large amounts of bitcoin or for long periods. Therefore, it is advisable to transfer your bitcoins to a secure wallet. Because security must be your top priority when choosing a bitcoin wallet, opt for one with a multi-signature facility.
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
Our platform works on the principle of peer-to-peer finance, which enables you to buy bitcoins, stablecoins and other cryptocurrencies directly from other users like yourself, without involving banks or corporations. You’ll become part of a community made up of over three million users, who have all come to us with the goal of gaining control over their finances.
P2P Exchanges: Unlike decentralized exchanges, which match up buyers and sellers anonymously and facilitate all aspects of the transaction, there are some peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange services which provide a more direct connection between users. Local Bitcoins is an example of such an exchange. After creating an account, users can post requests to buy or sell bitcoin, including information about payment methods and price. Users then browse through listings of buy and sell offers, choosing those trade partners with whom they wish to transact. Local Bitcoins facilitates some of the aspects of the trade. While P2P exchanges do not offer the same anonymity as decentralized exchanges, they allow users the opportunity to shop around for the best deal. Many of these exchanges also provide ratings systems so that users have a way to evaluate potential trade partners before transacting.
In order to conduct transactions on the bitcoin network, participants need to run a program called a “wallet.” Bitcoin is not technically “coins,” so it only seems right that a bitcoin wallet would not actually be a wallet. Bitcoin balances are maintained using public and private “keys,” which are long strings of numbers and letters linked through the mathematical encryption algorithm used to create them.
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