Most cryptocurrencies are designed to gradually decrease production of that currency, placing a cap on the total amount of that currency that will ever be in circulation. Compared with ordinary currencies held by financial institutions or kept as cash on hand, cryptocurrencies can be more difficult for seizure by law enforcement. This difficulty is derived from leveraging cryptographic technologies.
Nor was it simply the deep pockets. At these prices, even smaller operators have been able to make real money running a few machines in home-based, under-the-radar mines. Take the 20-something Wenatchee man we’ll call “Benny”—he didn’t want to be identified—who last July bought three mining servers, set them up in his house (one in the master bedroom and two in the living room)—and began mining Ethereum, bitcoin’s closest cryptocurrency rival. As Ethereum climbed from $165 in July to nearly $1,200 in January, Benny had not only repaid his $7,000 investment but was making enough to pay his mortgage. As a side benefit, this winter, Benny’s power bill went down: The waste heat from the three churning servers kept the house at a toasty 78 degrees. “We actually have to open the windows,” he told me in January. His servers, meanwhile, pretty much run themselves—although, when he’s at work, clerking at a grocery, he monitors the machines, and the Ethereum price, on his phone. “It’s just basically free money,” Benny says. “All I have to do is wake up in the morning and make sure nothing crashed during the night.”
Bitcoin offers benefits to merchants as well, as transactions that involve the digital currency are secure and irreversible. Without the risk of fraud or fraudulent chargebacks, merchants can offer their products at a discount thereby generating more sales or pocket the difference themselves. In addition, with card processors out of the picture, merchants can save on the percentage cut taken by Visa / MasterCard.
Coinbase is probably the easiest and safest way to purchase bitcoins in the U.S. Unlike BitStamp, Coinbase is not an exchange. They act as a counter-party to all customer trades, you buy or sell your bitcoins directly to Coinbase. The buy/sell fee is 1% on top of the buy/sell spread. The bid/ask is usually close to BitStamp where the firm gets its liquidity from. For example, the current bid is at $635.48 and the current ask is $638.07. In addition to this, the firm has daily limits on the amount of bitcoins bought/sold. These limits are not applied on the individual level. Basically Coinbase has a set amount of bitcoins that it is willing to buy or sell every day. During times or high volatility, users may not be able to buy/sell bitcoins until Coinbase decides to ‘’refill’’ their stock. Here’s a good explanation on this issue from their Customer Support:
The user acknowledges and agrees that, to the fullest extent permitted by any applicable law, the disclaimers of liability contained herein apply to any and all damages or injury whatsoever caused by or related to risks of, use of, or inability to use, ethereum or the Ethereum platform under any cause or action whatsoever of any kind in any jurisdiction, including, without limitation, actions for breach of warranty, breach of contract or tort (including negligence) and that neither Stiftung Ethereum (i.e. Ethereum Foundation) nor Ethereum team shall be liable for any indirect, incidental, special, exemplary or consequential damages, including for loss of profits, goodwill or data that occurs as a result.