For most regular Joe’s just finding out about Bitcoin, getting your hands on some of that fancy electronic currency can be a challenge. Finding an exchange to buy bitcoins at is not the hard part, getting USD into the exchange so that you can purchase some bitcoin is the real challenge. None of the major bitcoin exchanges that use the global trading bot offer credit card or debit card deposits. They don’t offer Paypal deposits or even bank checks or money orders. They do offer bank wire transfers though but the cost of doing such a transfer makes a small transfer unfeasible. So the regular Joe with regular pockets is likely to opt-out of the wire transfer option. The best option for a small investor would be to find a direct seller online or local and purchase their bitcoin that way. The risk goes up anytime your buying or selling goods or in this case currency via an independent direct seller or buyer. Obviously, a little bit of due diligence can go a long way. References are a must with any transaction similar to this one. You can find direct sellers via message boards, Craig’s List, and a unique site called Localbitcoins.com that list local Bitcoin sellers in your area.
The first bitcoins I ever purchased were via eBay. I purchased a small fractional bitcoin (.01 I think) via eBay and paid with Paypal. The transaction when flawlessly and I have found that eBay is a fairly safe place to purchase bitcoin and it is by far the easiest way to purchase bitcoin especially for those of us who reside in the United States. One thing to remember when purchasing bitcoin via eBay and more importantly selling Bitcoin via eBay and accepting Paypal as payment is that thieves can use Paypal as a tool to steal your cash away. I have read stories of bitcoin sellers transferring bitcoins to a buyer after the Paypal payment has been sent only to have the buyer go back later and file a Paypal reversal stating they never received said goods. Paypal typically sides with the buyer and refunds payment and the seller is out of his bitcoin and Paypal payment. The same risk exists for the buyer of bitcoin but like I pointed out above, Paypal typically sides with the buyer so if you find yourself on the short end of a Bitcoin transaction, simply file a Paypal complaint.
Of course in the scenario above, most of the risk is on the seller which makes buying bitcoin via eBay and PayPal fairly carefree. Just make sure you purchase from a reputable eBay seller with plenty of feedback and make some of that recent feedback is from selling bitcoin. Also, I would advise against buying large amounts of Bitcoin in one single eBay auction. Large amounts would be anything over 1 BTC. I like to stick with smaller amounts or satoshi’s if you will (.1, .01, etc) because if you get screwed you only out a few bucks vs the $100 plus you would out of you were paying for a whole Bitcoin.
Another thing to point out is that Bitcoin sales on eBay are typically higher than the current bitcoin exchange price. I suppose that is the cost of convenience. Sometimes that cost is close to double what you would pay at an exchange but if your patient you can find fractional bitcoins closer to exchange value, just don’t jump on the first $10 (.01) bitcoin you see. Not to mention all the bitcoin mining rig GPUs you can find on eBay.