If you don’t mind waiting a couple of days, the easiest and cheapest way to get your hands on some bitcoins is to sign up with Coinbase and link your bank account. Coinbase charges a low 1% fee and you receive your bitcoins as soon as the transfer from your bank account clears. Coinbase doubles as a web wallet with a mobile Android app. This allows you to easily purchase and sell bitcoins from your office, on the go, or from the comfort of your own home.
Another great way to get bitcoins today is LocalBitcoins.com. It operates like a craigslist for bitcoins allowing buyers and sellers in the same geographical areas to find each other and trade bitcoins for cash. While this can be very simple and quick, we recommend taking the same precautions you should take whenever meeting a stranger from the internet. LocalBitcoins.com has a rating system that should help you find a trustworthy buyer or seller, but maybe don’t meet them in a dark alley or under a bridge.
Online Bitcoin Exchanges
Bitcoin exchanges enable you to store both dollars and bitcoins in your account and then buy and sell bitcoins instantly at the market rate. This enables you to trade bitcoins the way you might trade a stock. The main downside of exchanges is that it can be difficult to fund your account with dollars in the first place or transfer your dollars out after selling coins.
Mt.Gox was the largest Bitcoin exchange and now all their old users are in a class action lawsuit against them. Coinbase is a much better option.
As Bitcoin is a currency without borders, there are many other exchanges that can be used internationally. We have had some success with Russia-based BTC-e despite their clunky interface. European Union-based Bitstamp is well regarded.
Now that you have some bitcoins, it’s time to learn how to use them.