Whether you’ve been gifted some bitcoin or trying to recover a bitcoin wallet, you’ll probably be wondering where to start and how to go about doing this.
In order to recover your bitcoin, you’ll need your passphrase. This set of 12 or 24 words are like a password which encrypts your private key. The same passphrase will always generate the same set of keys and addresses- it’s an open-source standard called BIP-39 that is supported by most bitcoin wallets to make bitcoin backups easier and safer to use.
You should only ever write your passphrase on paper- don’t save it in a file on your computer or take a picture of it. Anyone who knows the passphrase can access the bitcoin it controls, which is why you need to keep it safe and private.
Bitcoin is open-source, neutral money that lives on a decentralized network. There is no government or corporation in control of Bitcoin and no one can create bitcoin for free. Anyone can use it without permission, send it to anyone, or keep it as savings. 1 bitcoin can be divided into 100 million satoshis (sats). Bitcoin is scarce: there will only ever be 21 million bitcoin.
Check out the FAQ to learn more about Bitcoin.
So how do I access my coins?
First of all, you’ll need to download a wallet. Wallets allow you to see your balance and send and receive bitcoin. There are two types of Bitcoin wallets: software wallets and hardware wallets.
Software wallets, also called hot wallets, are easy to use, free, and best suited to small amounts of money, like the cash you would carry around in your pocket. For securing larger amounts of bitcoin, you should consider getting a hardware wallet. You can read more about hardware wallets later on in this article.
There are many free and open-source mobile wallets for Android/iOS. They shouldn’t require you to create an account or enter any personal information. Blue wallet is the quickest and simplest to set up and it is the one we’ll be walking you through in this article.
Blue wallet is available for free to Android and iOS users. Once you’ve downloaded it, just launch the app, tap Add now, then choose Import wallet. You can then type your seed phrase into the box and click Import. You should be able to see your wallet after a few seconds.
When you tap Receive, Blue wallet will generate a new address that you can safely send to anyone to receive bitcoin. You can share the address in text form or use the corresponding QR code.
To send satoshis out of your wallet, just tap Send and enter the amount you wish to send either in bitcoin or in your local currency (Blue Wallet will automatically convert based on current exchange rates). Then, paste the address you wish to send bitcoin to and click Next or tap Scan to use a QR code.
All transactions broadcasted on the Bitcoin network are irreversible so make sure you always remember to double-check that the amount, the fee, and the address that you are sending to are correct.
How can I use my bitcoin?
You can send it to anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world. You just need an internet connection.
You can send it between wallets that you own- from one mobile wallet to another for example, or from a mobile wallet to a hardware wallet for long term storage. You can create as many wallets as you want so don’t be afraid to play around especially when the fees are low!
You can keep it locked away and check back on it in a decade.
You can exchange it for government currencies using a Bitcoin ATM.
You can buy fudge with it, or pizza, or a hat that says “end the FED”.
You could spend it at an online store which accepts payments in Bitcoin! There’s a website that tracks online merchants that accept bitcoin called Lightning Network Stores.
You can check out BTC Map to find a map of local merchants who accept Bitcoin, it’s a community project which means you too can contribute.
Interested and want to learn more?
That’s great! A lot of people feel that way. The Bitcoin community is always growing, and everyone is welcome. You can check out our FAQ for answers to common questions about Bitcoin or sign up to our newsletter to get notified when we post new articles on our blog.
How to buy more bitcoin
If you’re interested in buying more bitcoin, there are a few different options available:
- Hodl Hodl is a platform that allows buyers to be connected to sellers in a peer-to-peer fashion. You only need to provide an email address and a nickname- they do not request any personal information. It is open to anyone in the world and relies for safety on an escrow system instead of holding users’ funds into custody.
- Exchanges legally require government ID to verify your identity when creating an account. If that’s not a problem for you, they can be an easy way of acquiring some bitcoin. Top up your account with money, exchange it for some bitcoin and withdraw it to your own wallet as soon as possible! Kraken is a good option- they have low withdrawal fees, supported in most countries in the world, and I’ve used it in the past without any issues.
- Swan Bitcoin is a bitcoin-only exchange which also requires customer verification with a government ID. Swan stores your bank information and the bitcoin itself with a licensed and regulated trust company. As well as being an exchange, Swan is also an educational resource on bitcoin and encourages its customers to withdraw their bitcoin into their own custody. Unfortunately, if you live outside of the US their services might not be available to you or may require expensive money wire transfers.
- You can buy them from someone in person. Find someone who owns some bitcoin and ask them to sell you some amount of bitcoin. If you don’t know anyone you can check your local area for bitcoin meetups to find fellow bitcoiners.
- Bisq is another completely peer-to-peer decentralized platform where you can exchange fiat currencies for bitcoin. It requires the user to download the open-source software on their computer but serves as another great way of getting bitcoin without sharing personal information.
Design a savings plan that fits your financial situation. The price of bitcoin still has some volatility, and it would be unwise to invest money that you might need in the near future.
If you buy bitcoin on an exchange, remember to withdraw it to your hardware wallet as soon as possible after your purchase. Plenty of exchanges have gone bankrupt after being caught selling more bitcoin than they actually had. One of the great things about Bitcoin is that you can take custody of your own money, and you should.
Not your keys, not your bitcoins.
Hardware wallets provide state of the art security by allowing you to create a passphrase and authorize transactions completely offline. This means your bitcoin will be safe even if your computer is compromised.
Hardware wallets can be expensive but well worth the price if you need to secure a significant amount of bitcoin. Here are just a few examples you can check out if you’re interested:
Welcome to your bitcoin journey!
Bitcoin can be complicated at first, but it is one of the most fascinating rabbit holes that you can fall into. Adopting Bitcoin as an individual can truly change your life – not just financially but in how you view the world and interact with others. The separation of money and state could be the most important change of our lifetimes, and everyone can be a part of it.
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