Depending on what you mean by "trade," there are plenty of tempting reasons to break into the world of bitcoin trading. Having done your research on bitcoin, you may think it has peaked and that if you sell your coins now you'll make the best profit you can. Maybe you're intrigued by a new cryptocurrency on the rise and want to trade some of your bitcoins for it, diversifying your portfolio of cryptocurrencies. Or you could just want out of the bitcoin game and have decided it's time to sell it all.
Whatever your reason, there are ways to sell and trade bitcoin to fit your need. That is what makes it so interesting to people in the bitcoin world: If you're not content to mine bitcoin, spend it or passively hold onto it in hopes that the price rises, you can treat it like it's a stock. If you're trading bitcoin futures, you can even incorporate bitcoin into the literal stock market!
Of course, it can be a nuisance, too. Selling bitcoins can require being more involved than simply buying them on your phone. And if you thought other stocks were volatile, risky and unpredictable, just wait until you spend an hour tracking bitcoin's rises and falls. Finding the perfect time to sell is hard enough with a dependable stock, no less one that goes from about $1,000 at the beginning of the year to more than $19,000 toward the end of the same year.
The world of cryptocurrency trading is still pretty new. This article is not a recommendation to begin trading bitcoins. However, if it's something you have already decided you're interested in, it's important to know what you're getting into and how to go about bitcoin trading.
What Are Bitcoin CFDs?
When discussing ways to invest in bitcoin, I mentioned bitcoin futures contracts. With these, you could essentially bet on the market and what the price of bitcoin will be in the future. These contracts are cash settled, and are certainly one way to trade bitcoin. There is also a different type of derivative that some prefer to use when trading: A bitcoin contract for difference, more commonly known as a CFD.
With a CFD, you once again invest in where the price of bitcoin is going, without ever needing to download a bitcoin wallet or deal with a bitcoin exchange and potentially fraudulent sellers. You trade instead in the value of bitcoin, going short (betting the price will go down) or going long (betting the price will rise).
People who have succeeded using CFDs have often done so because they traded on the margin, paying a small margin requirement for full value. Should your instinct pay off and bitcoin's price goes the way you thought it would, that could mean a hefty return from that initial investment. But you'd better be right; the increased leverage of a small margin means that losses can become far more than that first investment.
Another important aspect of CFDs: They are done through brokers. You'll need to make sure you're working with a respected and trustworthy broker - one that can actually pay you should you be owed money.
Trading bitcoin via CFDs is incredibly risky - even by bitcoin's usual standards of risk. The wrong move can turn into a crushing loss very quickly.
Exchanging Bitcoin for Other Cryptocurrencies
With CFDs posing such a risk, some may just decide it's better to own your own bitcoins. And those looking to trade it like stocks still have plenty of options.
Bitcoin is nearly a decade old now, and in its wake are hundreds, if not thousands of other cryptocurrencies that have sprung up in an attempt to compete with it. Some competitors have become mainstays in cryptocurrency news, but none have yet matched bitcoin's value.
If you think cryptocurrencies are the future, or are even just fascinated by one or two particular ones, there are ways to trade in some of your bitcoins for them. You'll need to make sure you have the right bitcoin wallets and use the right bitcoin exchanges, depending on which cryptocurrencies you're choosing; they're not all as universal across exchanges as bitcoin.
In previous bitcoin articles, we've discussed other popular cryptocurrencies that one might look to invest in as well, such as Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin. There are other highly valued cryptos out there, like Bitcoin Cash and Dash (each of which boast a much faster transaction time than bitcoin), that can be considered.
Bitcoin owners who use Coinbase as their wallet use Coinbase's own exchange, GDAX, to buy and sell their cryptocurrencies. If you have bitcoins in your Coinbase wallet, GDAX also exchanges Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Go to GDAX and login with your information. At the top of the page click "Select Product" and pick which crypto you want to buy with bitcoin by either choosing BCH/BTC, ETH/BTC, or LTC/BTC. On the left side of the page are the options for Market, Limit, and Stop. Entering the amount of BTC you want to spend for Market and pressing Buy allows for an immediate purchase at current market prices. Limit tries to order at the specified price or better. A Stop order becomes active after a specified price is reached, and you have the option for it to be a market order or limit order.
Popular exchange Bitfinex has similar instructions and lets you trade BTC for Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash. It actually offers far more cryptocurrencies to trade for - dozens of them, in fact. Bitfinex also offers several more options for your orders, such as OCO, aka One Cancels Other - placing a pair of orders with the understanding that if one order is completed the other is immediately canceled. Gemini and Poloniex are two other fairly prominent bitcoin exchanges that let you trade for ethereum, while Kraken also offers Dash and Ripple. Trade fees vary from exchange to exchange.
As always, none of these are recommendations for bitcoin exchanges to use, merely lists of known ones. Research the success and security of any exchange you're interested in; many have been hacked before.
Transferring Bitcoins From Wallet to Wallet
Depending on which wallet you have and which currency you want to trade, you may need to first move your bitcoins to a different wallet. It's a little annoying, but not as inconvenient as you might assume. Coinbase allows for transfers both on desktop and via your phone.
After you've set up a new wallet elsewhere, pick the Coinbase wallet you want to send from, click the Send button (found by clicking the paper airplane on the iOS app or the "+" on Android), enter the amount of bitcoins to send and the email or wallet address to send to, and then confirm your details before sending. On mobile, you can also use your other wallet's QR code to send bitcoins.
How to Sell Bitcoins
Maybe when you mean you want to trade bitcoins, you just want to trade them away. You think it has peaked and you're never going to get a better investment, or you think you may as well pull out now before the losses get worse. Or maybe it's just stressful to watch bitcoin shoot up and crash down constantly and just want to use money again.
Whatever the reason may be, selling bitcoins isn't difficult. Many of the ways you bought bitcoin double as a place where you can sell it. All the exchanges mentioned above will let you sell bitcoin as well. Some minor details may vary, but a general list of instructions on these exchanges for selling BTC for USD are:
- Click "Sell" on the exchange.
- Specify the wallet you want to sell bitcoins from and the amount you wish to put up for sale.
- Select where you want your money deposited to; often this is a bank account you already linked to the wallet when you first signed up.
- Confirm your information before placing the sell order.
The time it will take for the funds to find their way to your bank account will depend on how long it takes for a sale to go through and how busy the exchange is when processing.
Direct trading websites like LocalBitcoins and Paxful connect buyer and seller directly without any additional third parties. The buyer deposits money into the seller's bank account and, upon showing proof, the seller can send the bitcoins from their wallet to the buyer's. Some direct trading sites offer other methods of paying or accepting money, including gift cards and gift card codes, PayPal and Venmo.
The idea of not needing a third-party exchange can admittedly be a tempting one, especially if you're worried about how secure they are. But direct trades come with plenty of risks, too. By putting you directly in contact with the buyer, they leave the method of trading up to you, including potential in-person exchanges, which are incredibly risky to do with a stranger. Some of these methods can also be annoying, frustrating and more time-consuming than preferred, and if a buyer is unreliable, it can take even longer should you end up successfully selling them at all.
Depending on your preferences on different factors when it comes to selling, you'll likely find a way that suits what you want. Just make sure to check how bitcoin is doing before you make the sale. You never quite know where it'll be any given day. Or hour. Or minute.