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Bitcoin for beginnersBitcoin is the currency the Internet lacked until recently. It enables anonymouspayments without exorbitant transaction costs and exchange rate charges, avoids therisks associated with credit card payments, and lets users transfer even very smallamounts of money with minimal additional costs. Bitcoin quickly went from being aninsider tip to fairly mainstream, and stories about the new currency abound in themedia. For beginners, it’s a classic case of TMI — too much information. We presenta simple guide here to what Bitcoin is and isn’t.

01Bitcoin for beginnersWhat is Bitcoin?Don’t worry. You don’t have to understand the technicaldetails to use Bitcoin. What you need to know is that Bitcoin isthe currency of the Internet. It’s similar to fiat money, like theSwiss franc, the euro or the US dollar. That is, it has no hard,inner worth, only the worth assigned to it by the issuer. Unlikenational currencies, however, Bitcoin is issued by privateentities. For the franc and co., the respective country’snational bank stands behind the currency. This is not the casewith Bitcoin. And another big difference betweenconventional currencies and Bitcoin: you can’t hold a Bitcoinin your hand. It’s purely digital, not physical.

02Bitcoin for beginnersHow do I get hold of some Bitcoin?In the meantime, you can acquire Bitcoin at selected cashmachines (ATMs) in many cities. In Zurich there’s one at theCafé Schoffel in the Niederdorf neighborhood.Otherwise,you buy Bitcoin offline for cash or on an online exchange. Foroffline purchases, look for a trustworthy dealer To find a good selection of onlineexchanges, take a look at And, of course,you can sell your products or services for Bitcoin in order toacquire the currency. Or, you can generate Bitcoin yourself.We’ll tell you more about that in our Advanced Bitcoin tour.

03Bitcoin for beginnersHow can I create a Bitcoin wallet?They may be virtual but you still need a wallet for yourBitcoins and your wallet has to have two "sides" a public sidefor receiving Bitcoin payments and a private one for you tostore or move your Bitcoin.For your Bitcoin wallet one optionis to install a software package on you computer. or might be a good place to start.You can also create an online Web wallet and for beginners, is a good address. It offers a sensiblecompromise between security and user-friendliness. Theyalso offer a trial wallet without having to register, so you candecide if the service suits you or not.

04Bitcoin for beginnersHow can I transfer Bitcoin?Once you have set up your wallet, you receive a key to thepublic pocket of your wallet. It’s a string of letters andnumbers 34 characters long, for example,17fPhbmXDpye94FrNu9fnE9DztMKCxES47. That basically isyour account number and you can freely give it out to receivepayments in Bitcoin.The key to your private pocket, whereyou hold or move your Bitcoin holdings, is 51 characters longand this number should be carefully guarded. Do not store itunencrypted on your computer! But don’t worry: You don’tneed to memorize either key. They are translated into QRcodes and can be securely stored on your smartphone.

05Bitcoin for beginnersWhat can I use Bitcoin for?In the meantime, not only online shops and services acceptBitcoin. Bricks-and-mortar shops and even hotels are takingpayment in the currency. At present in Switzerland someseventy business accept payment in Bitcoin. A good overviewof this growing list can be found at Of course,it’s easier to spend Bitcoin online. At the moment, is the flagship of the Bitcoin retailmovement, trying to establish the currency’s functionality.Prices are often lower than Amazon’s although high shippingcosts erase much of that advantage, at least to Switzerland.You can cash in your Bitcoin holdings in exchange forprecious metals at And the currency is alsoaccepted at the MoneyMusuem in Zurich, the first andperhaps still the only museum in Europe to honor Bitcoin.

06Bitcoin for beginnersCan I use Bitcoin when I travel?Yes, you can spend and acquire Bitcoin when you’re traveling,using your smartphone. In Bitcoin hotspots in Vancouver, SanFrancisco or Berlin, you can bypass the local currency and payBitcoin for your coffee directly from your phone. The retaileris spared credit card expenses and you avoid exchange ratefees. Everybody wins. And you don’t even have to be onlineto get or spend Bitcoin: The transaction will be completedthe next time you log onto the Internet.

07Bitcoin for beginnersHow much is a Bitcoin worth?Like any market, the exchange rate for Bitcoin responds tochanges in supply and demand. At the moment Bitcoin’s valueis rising as its spreads globally as the number of users grows.The first Bitcoin transaction was only in January 2009, whenBitcoin had no fixed value versus another currency. The firstreal business was done with Bitcoin a good year later, inFlorida, when two pizzas were purchased for BTC 10,000. InFebruary 2011 a Bitcoin exchange rate of one-to-one wasfixed for the US dollar and about a year later it reached aboutfifteen dollars per Bitcoin. The upward trend continued,recently rising to several hundred US dollars per Bitcoin. Thatsaid, the exchange rate has seen large swings, with gains orlosses of as much as 20% in a day not uncommon. This makesBitcoin an interesting addition to a diversified portfolio ofinvestments, but less well suited for retirement savings. As

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