How to Open a Coinbase Account to Buy Bitcoin

(Author’s Note: It’s been a few years since I created my account and wrote this post. I have recently updated the main screenshots – November 2020 – and the general procedure should still be similar)

This is an introduction to buying Bitcoin for those new to cryptocurrencies in general and to Bitcoin in particular. The first step is to open a ‘wallet’ – a software app or website – to hold your cryptocurrency.

Here I’ll show you how to do this in Coinbase. This claims to be “the world’s most popular Bitcoin wallet” and is certainly very well known. As well as being popular it is also very easy to use. It is not the cheapest nor the most fully featured wallet and so we’ll look at other wallets later for those more experienced with cryptocurrencies. It is, however, perfect for newcomers.

Go to the following website:

Note this is an referral link – this means you’ll get about £7 ($10) of free bitcoin when you buy your first bitcoin and so will I. Your first purchase needs to be worth at least $100 (about £75) so I suggest you buy £80-£100 to be sure you get the free money.

When you follow that link you’ll see a webpage like the following:

Opening a Coinbase account (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)
Opening a Coinbase account (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)

Complete the form (First Name, Last Name, Email and Password), and confirm your age and acknowledge the User Agreement and Privacy Policy. Click Create Account. A good place to get a password is PasswordsGenerator – choose a length of 16 characters and include symbols, numbers and upper and lowercase characters. Make sure at this point that you have record the password somewhere, e.g. a new document. You will need a lot of passwords when dealing with cryptocurrency and the general rule is that if you lose the password you can lose the money! Get into careful organisation now.

A Coinbase account will be created for you and you’ll see a screen that says ‘Verify Your Email: We sent a verification email to <your email address>. Click the link in the email to get started!’

Go to your email inbox, find the Coinbase email and click on the Verify Email Address button/link. Return to Coinbase and you’ll see a new Coinbase screen with a popup message that says ‘Your email has now been verified. Thank you!‘ Close the old Coinbase screen.

The new Coinbase screen will say ‘Welcome <first name> – Let’s get started > Complete the following steps to get your first bitcoin or ethereum!‘ Select the Individual button unless you’re working on behalf of a business. Press Next.

On the next screen choose your country (if it’s not already set) and enter your mobile phone number. The number is required for security – Coinbase will text you a ‘2 Step Verification’ security code to login with. Press Next.

Enter the code Coinbase sent to your phone on the form on the next page.  Press Verify Phone Number.

Once that’s passed you come to a payment method screen. You can return to this later – for now Press Skip, I’ll do this later. You’re now into Coinbase.

You’ll see the main Dashboard, as show below.

Coinbase Dashboard (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)
Coinbase Dashboard (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)

This shows a chart of your portfolio balance, i.e. a total of all your cryptocurrencies in £ Sterling (zero at this point). You can change the timescale to 1 hour, day, week, month, year, or All time. There are also rows below where you can get more detailed information on Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies offered by Coinbase.

Below left you’ll see your account status, with the value of all non-zero currencies (again, zero if you’ve just created your account). Below right you will later see a list of your recent transactions.

Before you’re ready to buy your first Bitcoin you need to Verify your identity. To move to this step you can click on ‘Complete your account‘ bottom left, or just attempt to Buy (on the top menu) or add a payment method.

The screen will show ‘Select ID type‘, choose whatever you want (e.g. Driver’s License).

Choose your ID type (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)
Choose your ID type (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)

You will need to take a live photo of your ID so you are asked to choose to do this with either your mobile phone’s camera or your PC’s webcam, it’s up to you. I found it easiest to use the phone – once you select this you get messages on your phone to take you through the process.

I chose to photograph my driver’s licence – I did this with care in good lighting on a plain surface (white paper on a kitchen worktop) otherwise it can fail. Once you’ve taken front and back pictures on your phone control goes back to the PC. You get a message confirming that the ID is being verified:

ID is being verified (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)
ID is being verified (Image: Bitcoin Investors UK)

Once it’s complete you’re back at the Coinbase Dashboard and ready to buy your first Bitcoin.

Next: How to Buy Your First Bitcoin