using bitcoins

Using Bitcoins Is Easy: Here’s How, And What You Can Buy (You Might Be Surprised)

Bitcoin is an all-digital, alternative way to make payments that’s rapidly growing in popularity. It’s a convenient way of making quick, anonymous payments, both on- and offline. Here’s a guide to how you can start using the coins too.

This article is part of the Bitcoin bundle. Read how Bitcoins work here.

Update 11/22/2013: Buy a space trip with Bitcoins

Billionaire Richard Branson announced that his company Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company, will accept Bitcoin payments for trips into space.

The trip costs $250,000, about 350BTC at the time writing, although that’s guaranteed to change. Once the sum is paid, the money is converted into dollars in case the customer wants a refund.

Read more about space tourism here:

The Final Frontier Of Tourism: Space

1. Get a Bitcoin wallet

Much like regular cash, you need a place to store your coins. Conveniently, this is called a Bitcoin wallet. The original site for the currency has a guide to these wallets, presenting you with three choices:

  • Bitcoin clients, which are very secure but can be complicated for non-technical people, as it requires a software install. These include Bitcoin-QT, MultiBit, Armory, and Bitcoin Wallet for Android.

  • Centralized services, which require you to trust the provider with a username and password. The services can’t access your wallet, however. They include Mycelium Wallet and Blockchain.info.

  • Web wallets that host your bitcoins. They make it easy to store and use Bitcoins but are susceptible to attacks, which means you could potentially lose your Bitcoins if something happens to their site. These services include BIPS and Coinbase

2. Get your Bitcoin address

Once you have created your wallet, it will provide you with a Bitcoin address. This is a string of numbers 27 to 34 character long, starting with a 1 or a 3.

You’ll use this address to receive payments; however, it’s recommended for privacy purposes that you get a new address for each transaction, since every Bitcoin spent is tracked and can be viewed on websites such as Blockchain.

3. Get Bitcoins

Now that you have your first Bitcoin address, you can buy coins. This is done through exchanges such as Bit Brothers. Once you have wired them money, you can withdraw it to your address.

There are also services that allow you to buy Bitcoins with cash deposits at local banks, see a full guide here. After you acquire coins, you can exchange them for other currencies at a variety of services, which you can then exchange for cash at a regular bank.

Finally, you can get a tiny amount Bitcoins by participating in the lottery on dailybitcoins.org.

Now what?

Once you have your coins, the question is where to spend it. But there are a lot more options than you thought! The Bitcoin wiki has an extensive list of services, ranging from gourmet food and used books to vehicles and construction services.  Here are a few choice examples:

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Ole Skaar