Bitcoin has been crashing like a Bad Santa all week long—it had surged up to $19,856 last Monday and had plunged as low as $11,590 by Friday, bouncing back up to $14k and change. So anyone who bought bitcoin last Monday is still smarting, and those who bought below $12k yesterday are feeling just plain smart.
Either way, this column will tell you how to join the fun.
In search of a Christmas miracle, we’re going to map out the ten steps for setting up your own bitcoin trading account. It is so fast and simple that in 15 minutes or so, you will be linked-up, “appified” and able to invest in bitcoin and other digital currencies from your smartphone. Once you are set up, you can make each crypto purchase in seconds.
If you dare. Lately it has been a pretty scary videogame.
Millions of people seem undaunted; convinced this bubble still has plenty of room to grow. Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, now is said to have 13.3 million accounts—more than Charles Schwab & Co. (10.6 million) and, maybe, sign of just how much this Bitcoin Bubble is inflating.
This, at a time when stocks are especially hot since the Trump election that has so many of my liberal pals in New York apoplectic and foaming at the mouth. (Then again, they never have felt so outraged and alive—they love it.)
It took a full year for stocks to go up 30%, yet you can lose 20% on bitcoin in just two days. Example: if you bought into bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin this past Wednesday evening (12/20), by Friday afternoon you were down a sickening 20% in bitcoin and almost as much in ETH and LTC. Don’t ride this wild rollercoaster if you can’t stomach that kind of a setback.
For those of you who can, and for those of you who believe you are ready to get started on this tumultuous investing journey, here’s an easy guide, step by step, to setting up a cryptocurrency trading account. We did it the other day at Coinbase. When in doubt, go with the biggest, it may be the biggest for a good reason.
Step 1: Go to app store, download Coinbase app. In a minute or two it’s ready to go.
Step 2: Before you open up the app for the first time, make sure you know, ahead of time, the online password to your checking account, if that is the account you will link up to Coinbase to transfer real U.S. dollars into purchases of tiny increments of untraceable bits. Same goes for the credit card you might link to your new Coinbase account (which triggers a 4% fee rather than the 1.5% fee charged for linking to your bank account).
Step 3: Open the app. Give fingerprint, and the opening screen shows the Bitcoin price at the moment, and a year-long fever chart that starts at $800 in January 2017 and soars to $19,205 by December 2017. It is exhilarating. Two buttons beckon: Sign Up or Log In. Touch on Sign Up.
Step 4: A few screens in, the app has you use your phone-cam to snap a picture of your driver’s license, front and back, and then it has you take a selfie of your face. It tells you it must verify the photos and will get back to you in five to 10 minutes.
Step 5:Five minutes or so later, you are verified, and a fast questionnaire pops up: fill in your occupation and “employed by,” and a message flashes: “You’re almost ready to invest.” Click the green box labeled, “Complete account setup.”
Step 6: The app teases you with the current flashing prices of the coins you anxiously are waiting to buy (BTC, ETH, LTC), as it sends a verification number to your phone. You enter that number into a box on-screen, and the next message says: “You’re almost ready to buy.” (Italics added). Note the change in verbiage from “ready to invest.”
Step 7: “Please complete your account,” the app instructs. You add a payment source (your banking account is recommended), a user name and a password (write it down on a slip of paper and slide the paper into your wallet; security pros might preach against it, but they preach against most everything, and hacks keep happening anyway.)
Step 8: Now take a deep breath and psyche up. For some people wary of how bubbly bitcoin is, talking yourself into making the first bet is like a testosterone-soaked trader trying to talk himself into getting married. You never will be truly ready, so just take the leap. Do it in a small way, and don’t flinch when what you bought suddenly slides in value.
Step 9: Commence buying. Touch the teensy “Prices” icon in the bottom left of your phone to see the latest coin bids, then touch “Accounts” and you get a screen of “wallets,” one for each coin type. Touch the bitcoin (BTC) wallet and a new screen pops with two buttons: Buy. Sell. Can’t sell what you don’t yet own, so you click Buy.
Step 10: Instantly a new screen shows up, with the numbers pad helpfully displayed near the bottom so you can enter in the dollar amount you are about to spend. You tap in the dollar figure into a box marked USD, the app calculates the microscopic portion of coin that sum will fetch, you tap on “Buy” at the top of the screen, confirm the buy on the next screen and BAM!
A new screen shows, against a field of royal blue, a checkmark in a circle at the top, and below it a headline declaring: “Your buy was successful!” And below that, the exact portion you just bought, starting with a zero and carried out to eight decimal places. Or in the case of this purchase (of bitcoin cash, BCH, a new offshoot that we bought at 11:19 p.m. on Friday night):
At the bottom of the screen a bar instructs: Go to Accounts. When you press it, up comes the listing of the asset you just bought, with the Buy and Sell buttons at the ready. One back-arrow press and you are back to the full Accounts page listing five “wallets” for buying five separate currencies (BCH, BTC, ETC, LTC and the good ol’ USD).
From there you can get fancier, setting price alerts to learn when a currency has fallen to the price you were waiting to see. “Never miss an opportunity,” the Coinbase app advises. This can get obsessive pretty quickly (and drain your time away from Facebook, Instagram and Snap). The app also can alert you when your bitcoin crashes down through a floor you specified, in case you want to sell.
Although, selling isn’t really the point here, is it? If you are bold enough (or unwise enough) to bet on this ethereal thing everyone is talking about, then maybe it is best to put up your money and leave it there for a while, electing patience over panic. You are a rough rider trying to stay on top of this giant, swelling bubble and hold on long enough to reap returns from those who jump on after you. With easy apps like Coinbase, millions more investors may be aiming to do just that. Giddyap!