BitcoinThe value and utility of Bitcoin have been hotly disputed ever since the digital currency first got on the map back in 2009. For a couple years it was largely discounted as an ambitious technological initiative with little actual use.

Then, in late 2013, its value spiked to over $1,100 per Bitcoin, lending a new validity to the currency as something that could still have a major impact on world financial markets.

But in the years since, everything has calmed down somewhat; Bitcoin has remained almost entirely in the range of $200-$350 in value throughout 2015, demonstrating a fair deal of volatility, but nothing close to the sort of swings we were seeing in 2013.

But even if the value of Bitcoin seems to have fallen into a relatively stable range, most are still uncertain as to how it should be handled. There’s debate over how and why to obtain it, where to put it to use, and even how to store it. A lot of these questions don’t yet have clear or concrete answers, and decisions regarding Bitcoin also depend on personal financial situations and goals. But for some general information about handling what’s become the world’s leading cryptocurrency, and what to know before buying any of it, these tips should be of some help.

1. There’s No Guarantee Bitcoin’s Value Goes Up

I mentioned before that Bitcoin has remained largely in a range between $200 and $350 this year, but lately the price has actually spent some time flirting with the $400 mark. This has led to some bullish predictions looking ahead, with renewed optimism about the digital currency’s prospects heading into 2016. It may well be that Bitcoin is more stable now than when it peaked in 2013, and as more people realize its potential value, its price could get reliably higher. But we’ve also heard that narrative before, and the fact remains that Bitcoin is still very new and unfamiliar to a huge portion of the world. There could be more ups and downs in its near future.

2. Bitcoin Is Not Official Currency

This may not matter for most individuals in terms of how they plan on putting Bitcoin to use, but it’s nevertheless important to understand given the label of Bitcoin as the leading digital currency. The truth in terms of Bitcoin recognition and acceptance is that governments do not accept Bitcoin as a transactional currency between an individual and the state, and thus it is considered unofficial. Bitcoin is an unregulated peer-to-peer currency, which basically means it functions as a sort of token system (for the time being). To be clear there are hundreds of merchants (and more every month) that accept Bitcoin, and it’s perfectly useful as a means of payment. But it’s not officially recognized or government-backed like, say, the dollar and the euro.

3. Bitcoin Is As Much Commodity As Currency

Along with the debate over Bitcoin’s future, many have argued for two different sides of its utility: is Bitcoin a currency to be acquired and used in everyday life? Or is it a commodity to be purchased as a means of investment, the same way one might buy up a given amount of gold? There’s no absolutely correct answer to these questions, but it’s worth noting that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently ruled that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are properly defined as commodities. The point of this ruling was for the CFTC to be able to oversee trading of Bitcoin futures, but it also serves to cast the digital currency in a new light for potential buyers. It’s as much a source of investment as one of wealth.

4. Storage Depends On Need

Most people considering purchasing Bitcoin worry not just about its applications or purpose, but also how to store and save it. And here as in other categories of this discussion there’s no absolutely correct answer. There are numerous ways to store Bitcoin, and different methods work better for different people. Some methods are better for convenient access, which is useful for those who want to pay for goods and services with Bitcoin when possible. Other methods are arguably more secure, which could appeal to those who want to save Bitcoin as a long-term investment. Ultimately the best approach is to do the research and choose a storage method that best suits you.

Hopefully that helps to paint a picture of what you’re getting into if you’re looking into Bitcoin. The currency remains a bit mysterious to most of us, so don’t be too discouraged if there’s a something of a learning curve involved. Just make sure you don’t rush into the market blindly!

Advertisements