More and more people are switching to Bitcoin payments. For example, CoinsPaid processed 2.3 billion euro’s worth of crypto transfers in 2021 by August – twice more than in all of 2020. Knowing how to transfer Bitcoin is a valuable skill – and in this concise guide we’ll explain all the basics.
Before you make a Bitcoin transfer: get a wallet or an exchange account
Before you can send BTC to someone, you need to get some bitcoins – and for that, you’ll need a blockchain address. There are two main options: a standalone wallet or an account on a crypto exchange.
Option 1: exchange
When you register on an exchange like Binance, KuCoin, or FTX, you’ll be automatically assigned blockchain addresses for all the cryptos supported by the exchange – including BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH, XRP. Essentially you get a wallet within the exchange, and you can use it to make a Bitcoin money transfer to any other address.
However, it’s a good idea not to keep too much crypto on an exchange, because trading platforms get hacked and exploited quite often. An exchange account is a good starting point if you just want to learn how to pay using Bitcoin, but if you get serious about crypto, make sure to store most of your funds off exchanges.
Registering an exchange account is easy: usually you need to provide an email and set a password. Next, you’ll be asked to set up 2FA verification – usually using Google Authenticator. This is a crucial step, because even if someone gets hold of your exchange password, they won’t be able to withdraw the funds without entering a 2FA code.
If you don’t have any BTC yet, choose an exchange that lets you buy crypto with a credit card: OKex, Binance, CEX.io, FTX, Poloniex, etc.
Option 2: standalone wallet
There are many good wallets on the market, and they fall into three main types: software-based, mobile, and web-based. A software or desktop wallet is a program that you install on a computer, while a mobile wallet is a regular smartphone app. A web wallet can be the most convenient choice for a beginner, since you don’t have to install anything: simply visit the wallet’s web page from any device and log in to get access to your funds.
Here are a few quality examples from each category – note that some wallets have several interfaces, such as software and mobile.
- Web-based: Blockchain, CoinsPaid Wallet, FreeWallet
- Desktop: Mycelium, Exodus, Electrum, Atomic
- Mobile: Exodus, Mycelium, BRD, Blockchain
We should also mention hardware wallets, such as Ledger Nano X. They are not connected to the internet, which is why they are called cold wallets. These devices are very safe and virtually immune to hackers, but they are designed for long-term crypto storage, not for everyday use. So if your objective is to understand how to pay using Bitcoin and practice this skill, it’s better to go with a regular ‘hot’ wallet.
Adding BTC to a wallet
Beginners often ask how to add money to Bitcoin. The answer is that you can’t, not directly – but you can convert some fiat money into BTC and send it to your blockchain address.
If you choose to register an exchange account, then you’ll need to pass a KYC (identity verification) before linking a credit card to the account. A KYC implies uploading a picture of an ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) and taking a selfie with that ID. Don’t be worried or annoyed about the KYD: it’s required by law.
Once the KYC is complete, buying BTC with a credit card should be quick and easy. A few minutes after the purchase, Bitcoin will be added to your exchange balance. Make sure to check the fees, however: sometimes they exceed 4%.
BTC purchase interface on KuCoin
If you chose to register a standalone wallet, you have several ways to top it up with crypto:
- Use an app like Coinbase or Crypto.com (require a KYC; can be used as a blockchain wallet);
- Buy on LocalBitcoins (a P2P platform where you can find sellers in your country and choose among many payment methods);
- Buy on a crypto exchange (but in that case you’ll need to register an account anyway, as described above).
Hopefully after all these steps you’ll have some BTC in your blockchain address. Now it’s time to discuss how to send Bitcoin to someone – which is actually the easy part.
How to send bitcoin to an address: 4 steps
Imagine that you owe your friend Bob $100, and he asks if you can repay in BTC. You already have a wallet or an exchange account with some crypto in it, so how do you pay someone with bitcoin? It’s actually very easy:
- Ask Bob to send you his BTC address;
- Go to the wallet’s Send or Withdraw page/tab and choose Bitcoin among the supported cryptos;
- Paste Bob’s address into the Recipient field;
- Confirm – either using 2FA for an exchange account or your password if it’s a wallet. Sometimes a simple click on the Confirm button is enough.
For a while, the payment will be listed as Processing or something similar. Once it actually reaches the blockchain, you’ll receive a transaction ID number (txid), which lets you track the status of the payment on a block explorer site like Blockchain.com or Blockstream. You should also send the TXID to Bob for reference.
Sample transaction page on Blockstream
A transaction needs several confirmations to be completed. On the Bitcoin blockchain, it takes around an hour for a payment to get fully confirmed, sometimes more, depending on the network load. Don’t worry and have some patience.
A note on fees. Exchanges have fixed fees on withdrawing BTC, but wallets often let you choose a value in sat/kb (satoshis per kilobyte). The lower the fee, the longer the transaction will take; and if you set it too low, it can get stuck for days and eventually get cancelled. The default fee is usually your best bet.
How to receive Bitcoin
What if the roles are reversed and you want Bob to pay you in BTC? Well, receiving crypto is even easier than sending it:
1) Send Bob your blockchain address (only the address – not your private keys or password!);
2) Wait till Bob sends you back a TXID;
3) Copy and paste the TXID on a block explorer site to track the transaction’s status;
4) Wait patiently for confirmation (around an hour with average fees).
How to pay with Bitcoin on e-Commerce sites
Now that we’ve looked at simple BTC transfers between individuals, let’s answer another question: how do you pay with Bitcoin in online stores, casinos, etc.?
E-Commerce sites and other online merchants accept crypto payments though processors like CoinsPaid. The process is automated and often much smoother than sending BTC manually to another person. It’s faster, too: CoinsPaid even supports instant Bitcoin transactions thanks to a special off-chain processing system. You won’t have to wait for an hour for blockchain confirmations: the Bitcoin transfer will go through just as quickly as a credit card payment.
When you choose ‘Pay with Bitcoin’ upon checkout, you’ll be presented with several options:
- a BTC address that you can manually copy and paste into your wallet’s Send form;
- a payment link that will open your crypto wallet when you click on it, with the amount due and the merchant’s address already filled in;
- a QR code – very convenient if you have a mobile wallet and are shopping on a desktop computer. Open the wallet on the phone, scan the QR code on the computer screen – and then hit Pay.
That’s it – now you know how to use BTC for money transfers and to pay for purchases. The next step is to get some practice. Even if it seems a bit daunting and complex the first time around, persevere – and soon you’ll wonder why you didn’t learn this useful skill earlier.
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