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You'll need a Bitcoin wallet before you buy since some exchanges require one.
Don't have a wallet? Read our guide on the best Bitcoin & cryptocurrency wallets.
eToro is a trading platform and crypto exchange with support for California customers. It supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and many other coins.
Deposits can be made quickly via:
This ad promotes virtual cryptocurrency investing within the EU (by eToro Europe Ltd. and eToro UK Ltd.) & USA (by eToro USA LLC); which is highly volatile, unregulated in most EU countries, no EU protections & not supervised by the EU regulatory framework. Investments are subject to market risk, including the loss of principal.
Coinbase is the largest Bitcoin (BTC) and cryptocurrency broker in California. They represent an easy and fast way for new users to purchase crypto. Coinbase charges 3.99% fees for debit card purchases but you can get your coins instantly.
Another payment option for US customers is using a connected bank account. The fees are less for this method--1.49%--but your coins are only delivered after five days.
Coinmama allows customers in California to buy Bitcoins, Litecoins, Ethereum and many other coins with a credit or debit card or bank transfer.
They charge a 4.9%-5.9% (depends on volume) fee on credit card purchases.
Customers in California can pay a lower fee when purchasing crypto with bank transfer.
Cex.io lets California residents buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other prominenet cryptocurencies quickly and easily. Cex allows Californians to fund their accounts using both bank transfers as well as card payments. Best of all, you can get verified in a little as 30 minutes.
Coinbase's exchange, Coinbase Pro, is one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the United States. Users can fund their accounts via bank transfer, SEPA, or bank wire. Coinbase Pro offers good prices and low fees, but their confusing user interface may initially prove difficult to navigate.
Bitcoin IRA offers a tax-advantaged way for California residents to invest in Bitcoin and Ethereum using their 401k or other retirement savings.
Bitcoin IRA is a California licensed IRA custodian, so you know your crypto or Bitcoin IRA is in full compliance with the Federal Government.
Gemini is one of the most trusted exchanges operating in California. Californians can fund their Gemini account using both ACH or Bank Wire transfer. Best of all, verification is fast and if you run into any trouble, Gemini is known for fantastic customer service.
Founded mid-2011, Kraken is the one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, and the largest in Europe based on daily average trading volume. It is available in almost all countries. Deposits can be made via bank wire, SEPA, ACH and SWIFT.
Swan Bitcoin is a dollar cost averaging Bitcoin exchange, where users can set up recurring Bitcoin purchases to be drafted from their bank account or credit card every month or week.
LocalBitcoins is an escrow service which also helps to match bitcoin buyers and sellers. Users may advertise trades for whichever payment method they prefer.
Buying bitcoins via an in-person meeting, secured and facilitated by LocalBitcoins, may be one of the fastest and most private ways to buy bitcoins in any country, including the United States, Europe (besides Germany), UK, Singapore, Canada, Australia and many more.
You can use our Bitcoin ATM map to buy bitcoins with cash. Bitcoin ATMs can be a quick and easy way to buy bitcoins and they're also private. That convenience and privacy, however, comes with a price; most ATMs have fees of 5-10%.
California, home to Silicon Valley and a large chunk of the U.S. tech industry, is unsurprisingly at the forefront of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency development. In addition to the startup culture and deep talent pool, California also has the most venture capital funding of any state in the U.S., making it easy (or easier) for good ideas to get the support they need.
Regulation has so far been very minimal, which has allowed exchanges to flourish. This stands in comparison to states like New York, whose restrictive BitLicense has led to an exodus of exchanges from the state.
Two of the largest and most trusted cryptocurrency exchanges - Coinbase and Kraken - are both headquartered in San Francisco. Kraken ceased its operations in New York after the introduction of the BitLicense, though both exchanges have been active participants in the drafting of California state law pertaining to cryptocurrencies. This will hopefully usher in a clear framework that supports individuals and exchanges engaging in crypto-related activities.
Exchanges are the safest and easiest way to get your hands on crypto, whether you're looking to buy Bitcoin or an always-expanding range of altcoins.
But if you'd prefer to buy Bitcoin with cash, you're in luck. Our Bitcoin ATM locator lists over 1,000 locations in California where you can buy Bitcoin in as little as 15 minutes. See below for more on Bitcoin ATMs.
According to CoinTracker, California is home to 6 out of the top 10 cities in the United States with the most crypto users per capita. San Francisco, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, and San Mateo sweep spots 3 through 8.
One of the more bizarre chapters of Bitcoin history also took place in California, when a media circus descended upon a retired physicist's house in Temple City, half an hour east of Los Angeles.
It kicked off when an article published in Newsweek claimed that Dorian Nakamoto, who was born Satoshi Nakamoto in Japan, was the creator of Bitcoin. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Nakamoto had worked on classified defense projects and as a computer systems engineer for IT and financial services companies.
When asked by Newsweek if he had been involved with Bitcoin, Nakamoto replied: "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Following the publication of the article and the subsequent media attention it drew, Dorian Nakamoto firmly denied that he had ever been involved with or even heard of Bitcoin. He also clarified his previous remarks, where he claimed "I am no longer involved with it" - the only non-circumstantial piece of evidence in the case that he was Satoshi. He had interpreted the question as referring to his work on classified government and private industry projects, rather than the peer-to-peer cryptocurrency.
Whether this episode was the closest we have ever got to unmasking the real Satoshi Nakamoto or just another example of our eager wish to put a face to the name is up to you to decide.
One of the easiest ways to buy Bitcoin in California is through the cryptocurrency exchanges outlined above. There are several exchanges offering Bitcoin in California, and you can easily select one based on your requirements and preferences using our guide. Different exchanges have different transaction fees, withdrawal limits, payment modes, and verification processes that need to be kept in mind before users select one.
Additionally, Bitcoin buyers need to keep in mind the fact that certain exchanges might require them to get a wallet of their own before they are able to buy the digital currency. Also, it is recommended to have a wallet of your own for security reasons, preferably a hardware wallet. If you don’t have a wallet, refer to our guide on the Best Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Wallets to choose one.
Another way to buy Bitcoins in California is through automated teller machines (ATMs). These ATMs allow users to instantly purchase the cryptocurrency using cash, and most of them only require a telephone number for verification, so long as you aren’t buying a lot of Bitcoin. This makes them more private than exchanges.
Local Bitcoins is another option. Here, you can buy and sell Bitcoin for a wide range of payment methods, from gift cards to bank transfers. Local Bitcoins is a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange, where you buy and sell with another individual. This does introduce a degree of risk, though by ensuring that you conduct all business on the platform, make use of its escrow services, and only trade with users who have a good reputation, you'll minimize any potential problems.
California has access to many large Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges.
Take a look at our favorites below:
There are three main types of Bitcoin wallet and all of them are supported in California:
The Ledger Nano X is the newest crypto hardware wallet, and is very easy to use. It connects to iOS, Android & desktop computers.
Atomic wallet is a multicurrency mobile wallet with a beautiful interface and easy to use features.
In good news for Californian Bitcoiners, neither Coinbase nor Kraken - the state's two largest exchanges - have been compromised to date. Kraken has played an important role in the investigation and distribution of reclaimed funds from the Mt Gox hack, one of the largest exchange hacks so far.
While there may have been no exchange hacks, there have definitely been individuals caught using crypto for illegal purposes, whether it's scamming investors or laundering money.
One Southern Californian man, who went by the username of Superman29, pled guilty to laundering somewhere between $15 and $20 million over a period of five years, from December 2014 to his arrest in November 2019. Kais Mohammad accepted cash from customers and laundered it through a network of Bitcoin ATMs that he owned, located in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernadino counties.
Undercover agents processed multiple transactions on Mohammed's ATMs, all of which should have been reported to FinCEN - the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. An agent also met with Mohammed in person and gave him $16,000 which he said had been obtained by illicit means. He received in return 1.58592 BTC, without the transaction being flagged. Mohammed pleaded guilty and now faces up to 30 years in federal prison.
Another case that occurred in California highlights the importance of app-based or hardware two-factor authentication in securing your account. A group of hackers, many of them just teenagers, stole more than $35 million worth of crypto from 50 victims by SIM swapping their phone numbers and gaining access to exchange accounts.
SIM swapping involves using social engineering to convince a telephone provider like AT&T or Verizon to port a particular phone number over to a new SIM card, one in the control of the scammer. Once complete, the scammer can receive all SMS verification codes, which can be used to change account passwords and authorize withdrawals.
While the blame rests squarely on the fraudsters, this kind of attack wouldn't be possible if the victims had kept their funds in a secure wallet rather than a web-based exchange. Hackers will never be able to access your Bitcoin wallet via SIM swapping if you keep your private key to yourself.
In this case, some of the attackers were brought to justice and punished to the full extent of the law. Joel Ortiz, 21, was sentenced in a Santa Clara court to 10 years in prison for what was the first prosecuted case of SIM swapping in the U.S.
The takeway for crypto users is simple: Use a secure form of two-factor authentication (2FA), and keep any funds you're not willing to lose in a secure wallet, with hardware wallets being among the safest.
Coinbase has its headquarters in downtown San Francisco, and as you'd expect its full suite of services is available to California residents.
Coinbase notes that its USD wallet is only available in states "where Coinbase is either licensed to engage in money transmission, where it has determined that no such license is currently required, or where licenses are not yet being issued with respect to Coinbase's business." California falls into the second camp: there is no requirement for any crypto exchange to register as a money transmitter in the state of California. This means that Coinbase can operate without restriction. You can bet that the exchange will be the first to apply for a license if (or more likely when) California introduces this requirement for virtual currency service providers.
Gemini is based out of New York City, from where it has established a reputation as a regulation and institution-friendly exchange. It offers a range of services to individual investors, from advanced trading interfaces to fee-free wire transfers, both for deposits and withdrawals.
Gemini is available in California, as well as every other U.S. state.
Coinmama does work in California, with no restrictions. This means that all Californian residents are able to buy and sell any of Coinmama's 10 supported digital assets.
Kraken, like Coinbase, is located in San Francisco and provides full service to California residents.
The only two U.S. states not supported by Kraken are New York (due to the BitLicense) and Washington state.
California is exceptionally well served with Bitcoin ATMs. There are hundreds in the state, meaning you should never be too far from an ATM if you need to buy or sell Bitcoin in person. Many machines also support a handful of the next largest digital assets, such as Ethereum (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC).
It has not always been easy to find retailers willing to accept Bitcoin outside of some niche industries, and of course the numerous darknet markets that began with the Silk Road and have proliferated since then.
In the last few years, however, more and more stores have been offering payment with crypto. The Microsoft Store supports payment with Bitcoin, and Overstock.com's partnership with Coinbase allows you to pay for any of their products with crypto.
Coinmap has a list of brick and mortar retailers that accept Bitcoin for payment.
A number of charities accept Bitcoin for donations. Wikileaks and Wikipedia are two of the biggest and best known. The Tor Project accepts Bitcoin donations, and in addition to BTC the Electronic Frontier Foundation also takes DAI, Dash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and Zcash.
Some big news recently has massively expanded the number of businesses where you will be soon able to spend your Bitcoin. PayPal - a California company headquartered in San Jose - announced in October 2020 that customers will be able to buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash within their platform. Additionally, you will be able to spend your crypto at all of the 26 million sellers around the world, whether it's paying for your monthly Netflix subscription or shopping on eBay. This feature - which is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in early 2021 - is a giant leap toward mainstream Bitcoin usage and adoption.
Bitcoinmining is the process of using a computer to perform the difficult calculations that secure the network and make Bitcoin a proof of work cryptocurrency.
While in the early days of Bitcoin you could earn sizable amounts of Bitcoin (and many people did) with just a desktop computer, these days the emergence of commercial mining farms with specialized hardware has made that all but impossible. Still, there are software programs you can run on any computer if you wish to see how it works just for curiosity's sake.
If you're looking to start a profitable mining operation, it's essential to calculate your profit factor using the amount of hash rate available to you, the current price of Bitcoin, the power consumption of your operation, and the cost of your electricity.
Note: Some of these are Ethereum miners, see the Algo column
With more and more institutions getting into crypto - and especially Bitcoin - you might be wondering if you can custody your own BTC with a bank. It's easy to imagine a future where you can log in to your online banking and simultaneously see that your paycheck has come through while watching the value of your crypto portfolio.
That future, however, is not a reality just yet. Banks do not currently offer cryptocurrency wallets to retail investors. You'll need to secure your holdings with one of the many great wallets outlined above.
There has definitely been a large amount of progress in that direction, though. Every year it gets easier to invest in Bitcoin, and crypto services become more and more beginner friendly. JPMorgan's recent announcement that it will be providing banking services for Coinbase and Gemini is a sign that big things may be just around the corner.
Bitcoin ATMs vary widely in price depending on the features you need.
Let's take for an example General Bytes' BATMThree. The base model starts at $5999, without delivery.
Adding an internal safe to the machine which secures cash with a code lock will add $1270.
A maximum input capacity of 600 banknotes is standard. Room for 1200 notes will cost an extra $313, and 2200 notes $600. Output volume (for cryptocurrency sale transactions) begins at 0 and goes up to 3100 banknotes, which will add $3150 to the model's price. A banknote recycler allows the machine to output banknotes inputted by customers and costs $958.
NFC-equipped card output ($300) allows the machine to dispense NFC cards which store private keys. This is like a paper wallet, but more durable.
Finally, you can also opt for a GSM alarm ($199), which includes a siren, SMS notifications, and a GPS tracker.
A fully specced-out BATMThree will cost $11,518. You may not require any or all of these optional extras, depending on the purpose you've got in mind for your Bitcoin ATM.
There are plenty of models on the market, some intended to sit on a countertop while others take up as much room as a traditional ATM.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges in California are regulated on the state level by the State Assembly, which has passed a number of bills relating to cryptocurrencies and digital assets.
First, in 2014, was Assembly Bill 129, which removed an obsolete ban on Bitcoin and allowed it to be used for purchasing goods and transmitting payments.
In 2015, AB 1326 was approved 55-32. This legislation called for digital currency companies (exchanges being the largest in this category) to be regulated similarly to banks. The bill enacts the Digital Currency Business Enrollment Program, which is administered by the Commissioner of Business Oversight who is in charge of defining rules and regulations relating to cryptocurrency companies. Crypto firms were mostly happy with this legislation, as it provided a wide range of exemptions and only applied to businesses that maintained full custody of client funds or operated as exchanges. Additionally, it did not lay out any specific restrictions or requirements, but rather opened up a pathway for stakeholders to consult with the Commissioner of Business Oversight.
Cryptocurrency operations in California are also subject to federal law, such as the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 and various other anti-money laundering statutes.