(Author’s Note: It’s been a few years since I wrote this post. I have recently updated the main screenshots – November 2020 – and the general procedure should still be similar)
Here I’ll describe the buying process for when you are ready to buy your first Bitcoin. Don’t forget, by following the referral link above you’ll get about £7 ($10) of Bitcoin for free so long as you buy at least £80 worth.
Login and click on the Buy/Sell tab – you will then be asked to ‘complete your account’:
Click on the Add a Payment Method button. Next you will have to choose between adding a Bank Account or a Credit/Debit Card.
Choose Credit/Debit Card for now as it’s fast and easy. Later, if you want to buy larger amounts of cryptocurrency, you may want to add your bank account.
Fill in your debit card details as usual. Press Next.
Once you have a payment method set up, when you click on Trade you will see this screen:
Check that Buy and Bitcoin are selected (you can also buy other cryptocurrencies here – but they’re for another day). Your debit card or bank account should be showing as Payment Method.
On to the amount. This is up to you but I suggest £100 for your first purchase so you get the free £7 from Coinbase. Obviously if you’re keen you could buy a lot more, but as ever you shouldn’t risk more than you can afford to lose – bitcoin pricing is volatile.
Enter the amount you want to spend in the £ box, alternatively click the up/down arrow symbol to the right – that swaps over so you can now enter how much Bitcoin (symbol BTC) you want to buy. Leave the buying option set to One time purchase for now. Press the Preview Buy button to see more details on the transaction:
[A quick detour into fees for those interested. The most obvious fee is that Coinbase charges about a fee on your purchase if you buy £100 you get £96 worth of Bitcoin – more details here. However, like at a foreign exchange desk you are also having to accept Coinbase’s view on what Bitcoin is actually worth at the moment you buy it which can be higher than the market rate. If you look closely in the screenshot you can see Coinbase is quoting a slightly higher BTC price in the Price row compared to the live value visible in the main dashboard, the background.]
Check you’re happy with the summary and press the Buy now button.
Coinbase may ask you to confirm and authorise the transaction.
A short time later the Bitcoin will appear in your account. The subject of how Bitcoin is transferred and how long it will take is a big topic in its own right (essentially the speed depends on how large the fee is that Coinbase spends on the transaction). Suffice to say it should arrive within 10 minutes but may be much faster. Conversely, if there’s a lot happening in the Bitcoin market (e.g. the price is changing fast and lots of people are buying and selling) then it could take longer.
Anyway, go to the Portfolio tab and which will update to show that the transaction was successful and you now own some bitcoin:
The percentage figure just tells you how much of your ‘portfolio’ is in Bitcoin. Since you haven’t yet bought any other currency in Coinbase it will say 100%.
If you want to review a transaction in detail, such as your first purchase, you can click on it in the right hand column, for example:
It shows how much BTC you got (note, all cryptocurrencies are recorded to 8 decimal places, though not all decimal places are always shown), how you paid, the fee, etc. The Completed status shows that the transaction is confirmed, initially this may show Pending until it has fully gone through.
That’s it – you are now the proud owner of some Bitcoin! There will only ever be 21 million Bitcoin in existence so you own something that no-one else can own (that’s part of the reason why its value is trending upwards).
Further blog posts will cover how to securely store, lend and trade Bitcoin. Welcome to the crypto community!