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Bitcoin Newcomers FAQ - Please read!

Bitcoin Newcomers FAQ - Please read!

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Welcome to the /r/Bitcoin Sticky FAQ

You've probably been hearing a lot about Bitcoin recently and are wondering what's the big deal? Most of your questions should be answered by the resources below but if you have additional questions feel free to ask them in the comments.

It all started with the release of the release of Satoshi Nakamoto's whitepaper however that will probably go over the head of most readers so we recommend the following videos for a good starting point for understanding how bitcoin works and a little about its long term potential:

Some other great resources include Lopp.net, the Princeton crypto series and James D'Angelo's Bitcoin 101 Blackboard series.

Some excellent writing on Bitcoin's value proposition and future can be found at the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute.

Some Bitcoin statistics can be found here and here. Developer resources can be found here. Peer-reviewed research papers can be found here.

Potential upcoming protocol improvements and scaling resources here and here.

The number of times Bitcoin was declared dead by the media can be found here (LOL!)

Key properties of Bitcoin

  • Limited Supply - There will only ever be 21,000,000 bitcoins created and they are issued in a predictable fashion, you can view the inflation schedule here. Once they are all issued Bitcoin will be truly deflationary. The halving countdown can be found here.
  • Open source - Bitcoin code is fully auditable. You can read the source code yourself here.
  • Accountable - The public ledger is transparent, all transactions are seen by everyone.
  • Decentralized - Bitcoin is globally distributed across thousands of nodes with no single point of failure and as such can't be shut down similar to how Bittorrent works. You can even run a node on a Raspberry Pi.
  • Censorship resistant - No one can prevent you from interacting with the bitcoin network and no one can censor, alter or block transactions that they disagree with, see Operation Chokepoint.
  • Push system - There are no chargebacks in bitcoin because only the person who owns the address where the bitcoins reside has the authority to move them.
  • Low fee scaling - On chain transaction fees depend on network demand and how much priority you wish to assign to the transaction. Most wallets calculate on chain fees automatically but you can view current fees here and mempool activity here. On chain fees may rise occasionally due to network demand, however instant micropayments that do not require confirmations are happening via the Lightning Network, a second layer scaling solution currently rolling out on the Bitcoin mainnet.
  • Borderless - No country can stop it from going in/out, even in areas currently unserved by traditional banking as the ledger is globally distributed.
  • Trustless - Bitcoin solved the Byzantine's Generals Problem which means nobody needs to trust anybody for it to work.
  • Pseudonymous - No need to expose personal information when purchasing with cash or transacting.
  • Secure - Encrypted cryptographically and can’t be brute forced or confiscated with proper key management such as hardware wallets.
  • Programmable - Individual units of bitcoin can be programmed to transfer based on certain criteria being met
  • Nearly instant - From a few seconds to a few minutes depending on need for confirmations. Transactions are irreversible after one or more confirmations.
  • Peer-to-peer - No intermediaries with a cut, no need for trusted third parties.
  • Portable - Bitcoins are digital so they are easier to move than cash or gold. They can even be transported by simply memorizing a string of words for wallet recovery (while cool this method is generally not recommended due to potential for insecure key generation by inexperienced users. Hardware wallets are the preferred method for new users due to ease of use and additional security).
  • Scalable - While the protocol is still being optimized for increased transaction capacity, blockchains do not scale very well, so most transaction volume is expected to occur on Layer 2 networks built on top of Bitcoin.
  • Divisible - Each bitcoin can be divided down to 8 decimals, which means you don't have to worry about buying an entire bitcoin.
  • Designed Money - Bitcoin was created to fit all the fundamental properties of money better than gold or fiat

Where can I buy bitcoins?

Bitcoin.org and BuyBitcoinWorldwide.com are helpful sites for beginners. You can buy or sell any amount of bitcoin (even just a few dollars worth) and there are several easy methods to purchase bitcoin with cash, credit card or bank transfer. Some of the more popular resources are below, also check out the bitcoinity exchange resources for a larger list of options for purchases.

Here is a listing of local ATMs. If you would like your paycheck automatically converted to bitcoin use Bitwage.

Note: Bitcoins are valued at whatever market price people are willing to pay for them in balancing act of supply vs demand. Unlike traditional markets, bitcoin markets operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Preev is a useful site that that shows how much various denominations of bitcoin are worth in different currencies. Alternatively you can just Google "1 bitcoin in (your local currency)".

Securing your bitcoins

With bitcoin you can "Be your own bank" and personally secure your bitcoins OR you can use third party companies aka "Bitcoin banks" which will hold the bitcoins for you.

  • If you prefer to "Be your own bank" and have direct control over your coins without having to use a trusted third party, then you will need to create your own wallet and keep it secure. If you want easy and secure storage without having to learn computer security best practices, then a hardware wallet such as the Trezor, Ledger or ColdCard is recommended. Alternatively there are many software wallet options to choose from here depending on your use case.

  • If you prefer to let third party "Bitcoin banks" manage your coins, try Gemini but be aware you may not be in control of your private keys in which case you would have to ask permission to access your funds and be exposed to third party risk.

Note: For increased security, use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) everywhere it is offered, including email!

2FA requires a second confirmation code to access your account making it much harder for thieves to gain access. Google Authenticator and Authy are the two most popular 2FA services, download links are below. Make sure you create backups of your 2FA codes.

Google Auth Authy OTP Auth
Android Android N/A
iOS iOS iOS

Watch out for scams

As mentioned above, Bitcoin is decentralized, which by definition means there is no official website or Twitter handle or spokesperson or CEO. However, all money attracts thieves. This combination unfortunately results in scammers running official sounding names or pretending to be an authority on YouTube or social media. Many scammers throughout the years have claimed to be the inventor of Bitcoin. Websites like bitcoin(dot)com and the btc subreddit are active scams. Almost all altcoins (shitcoins) are marketed heavily with big promises but are really just designed to separate you from your bitcoin. So be careful: any resource, including all linked in this document, may in the future turn evil. Don't trust, verify. Also as they say in our community "Not your keys, not your coins".

Where can I spend bitcoins?

Check out spendabit or bitcoin directory for millions of merchant options. Also you can spend bitcoin anywhere visa is accepted with bitcoin debit cards such as the CashApp card. Some other useful site are listed below.

Store Product
Gyft Gift cards for hundreds of retailers including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Whole Foods, CVS, Lowes, Home Depot, iTunes, Best Buy, Sears, Kohls, eBay, GameStop, etc.
Spendabit, Overstock and The Bitcoin Directory Retail shopping with millions of results
ShakePay Generate one time use Visa cards in seconds
NewEgg and Dell For all your electronics needs
Bitwa.la, Coinbills, Piixpay, Bitbill.eu, Bylls, Coins.ph, Bitrefill, LivingRoomofSatoshi, Coinsfer, and more Bill payment
Menufy, Takeaway and Thuisbezorgd NL Takeout delivered to your door
Expedia, Cheapair, Destinia, Abitsky, SkyTours, the Travel category on Gyft and 9flats For when you need to get away
Cryptostorm, Mullvad, and PIA VPN services
Namecheap, Porkbun Domain name registration
Stampnik Discounted USPS Priority, Express, First-Class mail postage

Coinmap and AirBitz are helpful to find local businesses accepting bitcoins. A good resource for UK residents is at wheretospendbitcoins.co.uk.

There are also lots of charities which accept bitcoin donations.

Merchant Resources

There are several benefits to accepting bitcoin as a payment option if you are a merchant;

  • 1-3% savings over credit cards or PayPal.
  • No chargebacks (final settlement in 10 minutes as opposed to 3+ months).
  • Accept business from a global customer base.
  • Increased privacy.
  • Convert 100% of the sale to the currency of your choice for deposit to your account, or choose to keep a percentage of the sale in bitcoin if you wish to begin accumulating it.

If you are interested in accepting bitcoin as a payment method, there are several options available;

Can I mine bitcoin?

Mining bitcoins can be a fun learning experience, but be aware that you will most likely operate at a loss. Newcomers are often advised to stay away from mining unless they are only interested in it as a hobby similar to folding at home. If you want to learn more about mining you can read more here. Still have mining questions? The crew at /r/BitcoinMining would be happy to help you out.

If you want to contribute to the bitcoin network by hosting the blockchain and propagating transactions you can run a full node using this setup guide. If you would prefer to keep it simple there are several good options. You can view the global node distribution here.

Earning bitcoins

Just like any other form of money, you can also earn bitcoins by being paid to do a job.

Site Description
WorkingForBitcoins, Bitwage, Cryptogrind, Coinality, Bitgigs, /r/Jobs4Bitcoins, BitforTip, Rein Project Freelancing
Lolli Earn bitcoin when you shop online!
OpenBazaar, Purse.io, Bitify, /r/Bitmarket, 21 Market Marketplaces
/r/GirlsGoneBitcoin NSFW Adult services
A-ads, Coinzilla.io Advertising

You can also earn bitcoins by participating as a market maker on JoinMarket by allowing users to perform CoinJoin transactions with your bitcoins for a small fee (requires you to already have some bitcoins.

Bitcoin-Related Projects

The following is a short list of ongoing projects that might be worth taking a look at if you are interested in current development in the bitcoin space.

Project Description
Lightning Network Second layer scaling
Blockstream, Rootstock and Drivechain Sidechains
Hivemind and Augur Prediction markets
Tierion and Factom Records & Titles on the blockchain
BitMarkets, DropZone, Beaver and Open Bazaar Decentralized markets
JoinMarket and Wasabi Wallet CoinJoin implementation
Coinffeine and Bisq Decentralized bitcoin exchanges
Keybase Identity & Reputation management
Abra Global P2P money transmitter network
Bitcore Open source Bitcoin javascript library

Bitcoin Units

One Bitcoin is quite large (hundreds of £/$/€) so people often deal in smaller units. The most common subunits are listed below:

Unit Symbol Value Info
bitcoin BTC 1 bitcoin one bitcoin is equal to 100 million satoshis
millibitcoin mBTC 1,000 per bitcoin used as default unit in recent Electrum wallet releases
bit bit 1,000,000 per bitcoin colloquial "slang" term for microbitcoin (μBTC)
satoshi sat 100,000,000 per bitcoin smallest unit in bitcoin, named after the inventor

For example, assuming an arbitrary exchange rate of $10000 for one Bitcoin, a $10 meal would equal:

  • 0.001 BTC
  • 1 mBTC
  • 1,000 bits
  • 100k sats

For more information check out the Bitcoin units wiki.


Still have questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below or stick around for our weekly Mentor Monday thread. If you decide to post a question in /r/Bitcoin, please use the search bar to see if it has been answered before, and remember to follow the community rules outlined on the sidebar to receive a better response. The mods are busy helping manage our community so please do not message them unless you notice problems with the functionality of the subreddit.

Note: This is a community created FAQ. If you notice anything missing from the FAQ or that requires clarification you can edit it here and it will be included in the next revision pending approval.

Welcome to the Bitcoin community and the new decentralized economy!

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