BRITCOIN: Where and how do you buy bitcoin in the UK?
Wednesday 29 January 2014
When looking at global bitcoin adoption, the UK might well lag behind the USA and, more recently, China, but according to this article, still shows itself to be one of the main players in many areas: bitcoin software downloads, bitcoin meetups, and individual node connections to name a few. The British pound is also one of the currencies with the highest bitcoin exchange volumes. So, if you want bitcoin and live in the UK, how do you get it and how easy is it? Brandon Hurst takes look at the options and the pros and cons of each.
It’s easy enough to buy bitcoins in the UK, though the process isn’t as straightforward as it might be. (It’s certainly easier than selling them, but that’s a topic for another post.) If you live in the UK you have a number of options. None are perfect by any means, but one or two stand out above the others.
Aside from having a great name, this site makes it relatively simple to buy bitcoins for GBP. You don’t have to sign up, though this will increase your limits later on if you do. You simply enter your email and bitcoin address, and the site sends you to a trading page with details of how to pay. You’ll need online banking to carry out a purchase, along with all the hoops they make you jump through to add new payees, or the Barclays Pingit app (which tends to be a little more expensive). Once you’ve sent the required funds to the recipient’s account and they have verified receipt, they send the bitcoins to you. Both have to occur within a certain window of time. You’ll pay a premium, typically 5-6 percent above Bitstamp, but it’s generally the cheapest and certainly the most convenient in the UK at the time of writing. It’s a well-established and slick site, and it does the job.
Bitbargain takes a similar approach to Bittylicious, but the process is slightly more complicated and the prices are, on average, a little higher. You’ll need to sign up to buy, and carrying out the transaction is a little more involved. As a plus, the site offers Litecoins as well as Bitcoins, and a greater range of payment options.
A similar set-up to the previous two options, but a smaller-scale site. Prices are, again, a touch higher than Bitbargain, and they occasionally run out of bitcoins to sell. Otherwise, it’s much the same and with plenty of excellent feedback from happy buyers.
This site matches individual buyers and sellers around the country. There are a variety of ways to pay, including in person in cash (buyer beware). I’ve not used this site myself, though plenty of others have had no issues. The main problem that I see with it is that the typical spread between buyers and sellers makes it uneconomical to buy bitcoins here. It’s far simpler, cheaper and safer to go for one of the first three options.
With the demise of Britcoin/Intersango (issues with their banking partner...) there are few viable bitcoin exchanges in the UK. Bit121 steps into that gap and is a welcome addition to the market. It’s still in its relative infancy, and as such there are some problems with it. For starters, transferring money in and out of your account will cost you £10 a time. Bitcoin transfers are free, which means it’s usually far cheaper to buy your coins elsewhere and send them to Bit121: a flaw they will need to address one way or another if the site is to take off. The other issue is that, at the time of writing, there are comparatively few users. That means it’s hard to match buyers and sellers at a competitive price. My hope is that in the future interest will pick up and we’ll finally have a viable bitcoin exchange in the UK, but they’re not quite there yet.
There are a handful of others around or on the way (the Coinfloor exchange is currently in Beta), but none are particularly convenient or economical at the present time. The position of the banks in the UK means that new players can appear and disappear at short notice, or be severely hamstrung when their banking facilities are withdrawn, as in the case of ibwt.co.uk – which for a while had to rely on postal orders, of all things (they currently use OKPAY and have a bank option for withdrawal). More options for buying bitcoins in the UK are coming onto the market all the time, though. If you know of any we’ve missed – or details that need updating as the situation changes – do let us know. Likewise, if you’ve had good or bad experiences with any of them, we’d welcome your feedback.
By Brandon Hurst
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