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How to buy cryptocurrency in Australia (three steps to get started)

How to buy cryptocurrency in Australia (three steps to get started)

Thinking of getting your hands dirty and trying out the crypto-craze? Whether you're looking to buy bitcoin or try out another currency, here are three steps to help you get started.

There aren't a whole lot of ways to get your money making money these days. Back before interest rates dropped to a just shy of zero percent, you had the option of a high interest savings account to work in the background and make your savings work for you, and if you were dedicated enough, you could split off some of those savings for a term deposit, delivering small dividends at the end. 

These days, however, not so much. There's slim pickings out there when it comes to finding a savings account worth something more than zero, and term deposits aren't much better, either. 

One of the few places you might consider making money on is in housing, which seemingly rises and rises in the right places. It's a big spend, of course, and may see you paying off a home loan you didn't need, but real estate appears to be one of the places you mightn't mind seeing your cash go. 

And yet there may also be one other place your money can go: crypto.

How crypto can be an investment

You've probably been told that you have to spend money to make money, and you might have heard that in regards to the stock market. Investing in crypto isn't far from that logic, only you're investing in digital currencies and potential products. 

Bitcoin (shortened to "BTC") is the one everyone has heard of, and it's one of the few forms that has its value sitting in the tens of thousands of dollars at the moment, making it a form of digital currency easily regarded as "successful". However there are others, with thousands of choices for you to consider, and prices all over shop. 

Some cryptocurrencies will rise and others will fall, but if you're not quite sure how to start in cryptocurrency, and if you're thinking of dabbling in the digital currency craze, there are some steps you can take.

1. Set a limit

Converting your hard-earned dollars into digital currency of wavering amounts isn't a decision you'll necessarily regret, but it's also one you might not want to take lightly. 

Tell a friend about your plans, and you might be met with a slap on the back saying "good work, you're finally joining", or a slap on the wrist telling you your money is better spent somewhere tangible. 

That might be true, but it also might not. Cryptocurrency changes in value every day, all 24 hours of it, and so while you mightn't make much money to begin with, it's also entirely possible that you'll buy at the right time, and then you might. 

However before you get to that step, you may want to set yourself an amount to make the investment worthwhile. Give yourself a hard limit to start with, rather than investing your entire life savings. You're dabbling after all, and that gives you the room to say "it's ok" if your crypto investment doesn't deliver returns. 

If you set yourself a number per investment you don't mind writing off, that'll give you the confidence to say "if it succeeds, great, but if not, it's not a huge loss". That's not to say you shouldn't invest huge quantities of money to create a killer crypto portfolio, but that if you're dabbling, starting small can give you more confidence to see where you go from there.

Keep in mind that many trading platforms work in US dollars, and that may mean you're not just accounting for the hard limit you plan to spend, but also how much you'll get out of a currency conversion. As such, you may want to factor in just a little more just in case the USD bilk you out of a little from your hard limit in the exchange. 

Alternatively, consider finding an Australian crypto exchange that can bypass the US dollar conversion process in the first place, such as Swyftx, CoinJar, and Digital Surge.

Tip

Crypto exchanges typically don't let you trade in very small amounts of money. You'll probably see a minimum of $25 per investment, as cryptocurrency exchanges make money from the transaction fees, so if you've decided on $100 to test the waters, consider splitting it up between several investments, or go the full hog.

You can typically transfer from a bank account via a bank transfer, debit card, or a credit card, but your payment method will let you transfer what's known as fiat currencies -- the money you normally trade in, such as Australian dollars -- over to digital assets in a specialised online wallet.

2. Do your research

Next up, you'll want to do your research on just what crypto you want to try out. You might be all in for Bitcoin or Ethereum (shortened to "ETH") because the returns seem the clearest, but you might also want to read through the list of what's available on an exchange you want to use, and find something you believe in.

There plenty of others making headlines that may grab you, including:

  • Binance Coin
  • Bitcoin Cash
  • Cardano
  • Dogecoin
  • Litecoin
  • Solana
  • XRP, and many more

Buying cryptocurrency can lead you down a long list of things to research, because ultimately changing money over to an experimental form of currency is a financial decision you're not likely to take lightly. 

There are over 9,000 forms of cryptocurrency, and they range from the big ones everyone knows to the small ones that haven't gained a whole lot of momentum yet. In crypto circles, the aim is often to find the next big thing and invest in that. If you buy crypto you think will make it big at a low rate and then sell it when it gets high, the theory is that you can make a profit. 

However, working out which form of crypto has the potential to go high isn't easy; all you can do is make a guess and hope it pays off. 

While we might wish for a DeLorean and a copy of Grays Almanac to take us back in time for the best opportunities, the reality is a crypto investment may well be based on what you can learn, what you like, and what the market does next. 

One place to start is with the currency exchange you plan to use, and its asset list. Sort the list by order of what has gained results in the past 24 hours or past seven days, and work out which are the forms of cryptocurrency you feel safe investing money in. Check the charts of gains and losses, and work out which are the likely forms of crypto that make sense for you. 

Crypto-exchange-swyftx-may-2021

From there, explore the information about the cryptocurrencies and digital assets you're considering. Read up on how they work and what they represent to discover whether you'd be happy converting your Aussie coin to their digital equivalent.

There's a lot of jargon and terminology in the crypto world, and it's very easy to get confused. You can make an investment into an altcoin -- any coin that isn't Bitcoin -- and might even play with Non-Fungible Tokens, the "NFT" that's hitting the headlines and basically provides a digital equivalent of a collectible represented by cryptocurrency in some form. Owning an NFT is like owning a one-of-a-kind rarity that happens to represent a transaction of some kind. 

You might even find yourself reading about the complex world of decentralised somethings, coming in the form of decentralised apps "dApps" and decentralised finance "DeFi". Each is a little different, with the former -- dApps -- being an app built on the blockchain concept bitcoin is known for, while DeFi is a term that represents a modern approach to financial products by decentralising the technology.

If you have time and dedication, you might decide to look at the difference between a hot wallet and a cold wallet, boiling down to whether you want the online one that comes with your account, or one that's offline and less at risk from security issues. You can use a mobile app to buy and even store coins, but an offline bitcoin wallet might be safer from potential scams, and there are plenty of those happening in the crypto world, as well.

And that's just a sample of some of the jargon and terms that permeate this area. It can be dizzying, and lead you down a black hole where you can feel out of your depth all too quickly. 

However one way that you can help get your head across this is to explore the places you trust. Take everything with a grain of salt, but read up on the headlines, check out Reddit, and ask any investors you might trust. Do your research by reading up on the forms of crypto you're interested in, and if you're ready to make a punt, consider doing it. Waiting can see the price of crypto rise, though it can also see the price of crypto fall depending on what the market dictates next. 

Remember, though, that crypto currency can see tumultuous changes in its value and that can affect the overall worth of what you spend. An obvious disclaimer for dabbling here is that crypto assets are known to suffer from regular bouts of volatility, so even if you think you're investing in a sure thing, be aware that there may not be such a thing at all. 

3. Wait (but check often)

Once you've taken a chance on crypto, there's a good chance you're going to be waiting some time before it pays off, if it even does at all. All those digital assets are likely going to need to sit in your crypto wallet before you make any money, if you do at all.

For instance, if you buy $25 worth of an altcoin at $0.0015 today, you're essentially buying around 16,666 altcoins of that currency. At the rate you bought them at, they're worth a fraction of a cent, but if you wait long enough and they grow in demand long enough to hit 50 cents -- not even a full dollar -- your 16,666 altcoins will grow from being worth $25 to $8,333. 

That might take time, and a cryptocurrency investment might even go the opposite way, with the price of a coin dropping, diminishing the value of what you paid for.

It's why investing in crypto in Australia can be easily compared to playing the stock market, and is rather a lot like buying wine for later in life: even with the right storage, it's possible for a good drop of wine to end up being vinegar with so many factors, and yet it's also possible for it to turn out to be the best drop you've ever tasted. 

However you'll want to wait, but also check often. Watch the charts for the cryptocoin you've spent on, and decide whether or not the investment is still worthwhile. In the end, hopefully you'll have something to show, whether it's a few extra bucks for something nice, or a whole lot more for something even nicer. 

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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