So you have heard about Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum and maybe even my favorite, Smileycoin. How do you actually get your hands one them?
If you just use Google ("How to buy Bitcoin") then you may get some 16 million hits. The problem is that to most people outside the US these are not very useful. Most of these links are to "exchanges" which only allow you to buy cryptocurrency if you have a US bank account. Others ask you to go downtown and exchange valuables with a stranger. Well, so much for that. There are a few fundamental problems involved in this process and most of them really seem to stem from financial institutions not wanting to lose their grip on us regular users. For example, VISA and PayPal do not allow you to buy cryptocurrencies directly and Safaricom has shown its teeth when someone tried to set up a company to trade Mpesa for Bitcoin. You will often hear the claim that the reasons for the reluctance is money laundering but that does not seem to hold up to scrutiny: Those of us who have followed up on these claims have not been able to get any substantiated replies so the real reason seems to be plain and simple self-interest.
So allow me to show you how this can be done for users outside the US. This demonstration involves VirWox, which I am not affiliated with but have a lot of respect for.
- You need a credit card or a PayPal account. Either one will do.
- Next, head over to virwox.com and set up an account with them.
- On the left you'll then see a box labelled "My Account:" and in it a "Deposit" button.
- Click Deposit and select a credit card or PayPal. Use small amounts while you're testing this.
- Now you have a deposit in your VirWox account. It is time to buy some SLL (Silver Linden).
- On the left you'll see an "Exchange:" box. Click on "USD/SLL" or "EUR/SLL" as appropriate
- Now look at where you can exchange your deposit, under "Exchange EUR to SLL" (or USD, GBP etc)
- VirWox will fill in, e.g. "I want to sell 25 EUR" (for SLL) so you just need to click "Next"
- Next you need to confirm this order and you have become the owner of some SLL.
- Now that you own some SLL you can click on the "BTC/SLL" market and exchange your SLL for Bitcoin.
- You are now the proud owner of some Bitcoin.
- You can transfer these BTC into a wallet on your phone or to an exchange where you can change these to ETH or any other cryptocurrency of your liking.
- VirWox may set a time delay on your first transfers. They don't want you to cancel your VISA transactions and run away with the Bitcoin.
If you want to buy SMLY then you would next head over to an exchange which sells SMLY. At the time of this writing the natural choice would be novaexchange. But if you are mainly interested in Smileycoins there are simpler ways.
You'll notice how the folks at VirWox got around the PayPal and VISA reluctance by having you buy the gaming currency SLL first, before buying Bitcoin. Smart move.
BTW I have no affiliation whatsoever with VirWox, but I am heavily involved in the Smileycoin project and I recommend you follow SMLY on Twitter as well as Education in a Suitcase on Facebook or Twitter.