Updated: Apr 8, 2018
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In order to begin buying or trading cryptocurrency, you will need to open an account at an exchange and deposit money. Although there are many exchanges, only certain ones accept US dollars (fiat) to fund your initial account. The three most common (easiest to use) are listed above. (A more comprehensive list of all exchanges can be found in Resources/Links). You may find some exchanges that offer to take credit cards, but I would recommend sticking with the three above initially. Most exchanges will require you to deposit funds using your checking account but in the case of Coinbase, you can use your debit card (credit cards no longer allowed). Some exchanges will also allow you wire funds, although you will need to check each site for its individual funding policies. Be aware, there will be a time period for funds to clear before your Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash or Litecoin purchases can be transferred to other exchanges for use. Coinbase does have higher fees than some exchanges, so be aware of that.
1. Not all exchanges have a mobile app. If they do, it will be listed on their website. NEVER follow a link from a third party directing you to a mobile app. NEVER go into your app. store and download an app. that looks like an exchange. Fraud occurs this way.
2. Always access your exchange's website by initially typing the website address yourself in the address bar. Never do a Google search and follow a link. Fraud can occur this way. Once you have accessed your account for the first time via the web address, bookmark that site and always use your bookmark to access the website from that point forward. This will reduce the chances of being directed to a third party site that may look EXACTLY like the exchange. When you access the website, you should see the word "SECURE" before the web address.
3. Take the time to go through each exchange's website so that you are familiar with their fees, rules and contact information, should you need it. Often they will have frequently asked questions which can be helpful.
4. Each exchange has their own policy on whether or not your money/crypto is insured. Check each website for their policies.
SECURITY PRECAUTIONS FOR YOUR NEW ACCOUNT
When you sign up with an exchange, it is critical that you keep your account safe. You will be asked if you want to activate 2FA on your account, and it is highly recommended that you do so. Two-factor authentication (2FA), often referred to as two-step verification, is a security process in which users verify they are who they say they are. You will not only need your password, but then an additional step to verify your identity. Be aware, 2FA does not ensure complete safety on your account but it is an extra layer to help keep your account from being compromised. (You can avoid having your Bitcoin or other coins stolen by storing them off of the exchanges, but will be covered in another blog.) Click here for an explanation of what 2FA is and here for instructions on setting up using Google Authenticator and make sure you back up your information. Click here for a helpful video.
So that's it. Once you are funded, you can make your first cryptocurrency purchase. Congratulations. You have started your crypto journey. Now we can talk about wallets and how to transfer your crypto from one place to another. Look to my Study Resources section for links, including some video tutorials.