Canada had the tenth highest bitcoin trading volume in 2020. Even if you aren’t one of the many Canadians who invested in bitcoin yet, you may be considering dipping your feet in this particular asset pool.
Bitcoin is exciting, energetic, and highly profitable if you invest in it the right way. But for people unfamiliar with cryptocurrency trading, it can be a daunting prospect.
I created this guide to help you learn how to buy bitcoin in Canada. I hope it will have answers to most—if not all—of the questions you have regarding how to buy bitcoin in Canada.
What Do You Need to Buy Bitcoin in Canada?
Apart from the requisite funds, you will need a few things when you buy bitcoin in Canada. Also, there are a few terms that you should know about because I will be using them throughout this guide, and you will often encounter them in your bitcoin investments journey.
Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, but it’s not the only one. They got their name because cryptography is used to secure these digital currencies’ existence, records, and transactions.
Exchange: A bitcoin exchange enables you to buy and sell bitcoin, i.e., a bitcoin marketplace. The bitcoin available for buying in these exchanges comes from bitcoin sellers and miners.
Spread: Spread is the difference between the best bid (what people want to buy it for) and the asking price (what sellers want to sell it for). If a transaction happens between two people directly, where one wants to buy a bitcoin fraction for $1,000, and the seller wants $1,100, the spread would simply be $100. But in a crypto exchange, which is the culmination of all the bids and asking prices, the spread is usually much lower than that.
When you are buying bitcoin, the spread might not have a heavy impact on you if there is enough liquidity, i.e., enough bitcoin in the market for you to buy. Hence you will buy at the best available price.
On the other hand, when you sell, you will probably sell at the best price if there is enough demand. The spread will impact you in day trading but might be inconsequential when you are holding bitcoin long-term.
Wallet: Bitcoin wallets are where you place your digital assets. It can be both hardware and software.
A few things you will need before you buy bitcoin are:
- Enough funds in CAD or USD (there are other ways to fund your bitcoin investing, but the easiest way to buy would be the fiat currency);
- A bank account to execute the transfer;
- A credit card (optional);
- An account in a crypto exchange or trading platform;
- A device to execute your purchase; and
- A wallet to keep your bitcoin. It’s not always necessary, though, since you might be able to keep the bitcoin in your exchange account.
How to Buy Bitcoin in Canada (Step-by-Step Instructions)
How to buy bitcoin in Canada? You have to:
1) Decide how much you want to buy.
2) Choose the source of the purchase (e.g., exchange, ATM, etc.).
3) Choose the optimal payment method.
4) Find the right exchange.
5) Determine where you want to keep your bitcoin.
It may be an oversimplified gist, but that’s essentially how you buy bitcoin in Canada.
Now let’s take a deeper look:
- Decide Whether You Are Trading or Investing
Trading bitcoin is about selling and buying bitcoin within the same day, usually multiple times within the day.
If you are buying bitcoin for trading, your whole approach from selecting an exchange to storage might change. On the other hand, if you are buying bitcoin from an investment perspective, the chances are that you might hold on to it for a few weeks, months, or even years.
One difference between the two would be the influence of fees and spread associated with the crypto exchange.
2. Decide How Many Bitcoins You Are Going to Buy
At the time of writing this, bitcoin is trading for about $72,500, so relatively few investors would be buying a whole bitcoin or multiple units. More affordable investments would likely include buying smaller denominations like a “Satoshi.”
Many exchanges would allow you to buy and sell fractions of a bitcoin, usually in increments of dollar amounts. The amount is essential for more than a few reasons, and the cost of investing is chief among them.
If you are using an exchange with a substantial monthly or yearly fee but are only using it twice a year, the cost of investing will eat into your profits. This effect is more pronounced for small investments than it is for larger, more substantial investments.
You should invest in bitcoin with the money you aren’t afraid to lose. It’s riskier than many conventional investments, although the risk comes with the promise of substantial reward.
3. Determine Where You Will Buy It From (Source)
You can buy bitcoin from several different places:
From an Individual or Peer-to-Peer Trading:
You might want to play it smart and cut the middle entity, i.e., the exchange from the interaction, for maximum profitability and fewer costs. However, it comes with considerable risks.
If you are buying bitcoin directly from an individual, the first thing you should ask is, “Why is that person not selling it to the marketplace?”
Many people have been burned because they paid the bitcoin but got less for their money than they would have gained from an exchange, fees included.
However, in peer-to-peer models and platforms, you might be able to buy bitcoin using unconventional payment methods, e.g., gift cards, Paypal, etc.
These methods are usually not recommended but are often used by experienced bitcoin traders to exchange different cryptos rather than buy one for cash.
A bitcoin exchange is where you directly buy bitcoin from the marketplace. It acts as an intermediary between all the buyers and the sellers who are using this exchange to buy and sell bitcoin, so you won’t be buying directly from a buyer but probably a pool of buyers.
It is the most common and efficient way of purchasing a bitcoin, and you might be able to get the best possible rate on an exchange with higher liquidity (i.e., more people buying and selling) and lower fees.
Bitcoin Trading Platform
Bitcoin trading platforms allow you to buy bitcoin like any other investment asset. But they aren’t crypto exchanges themselves, which can be both a positive feature and a con.
It might come with relatively higher fees than a crypto exchange, but it can also help you get the best rate by comparing multiple exchange rates.
While most exchanges allow you to trade on their trading platform, it’s different from trading platforms that enable you to buy and/or sell bitcoin. Trading platforms can’t directly sell you a bitcoin since they have to buy it from an exchange themselves. Simply put, a trading platform can be an extra layer between you and an exchange.
Bitcoin ATMs or Tellers
There are roughly 1,300 bitcoin ATMs or tellers in Canada that allow you to buy bitcoin using your debit card or cash. But beware of these kiosks. They usually offer a price that’s higher than the market price.
4. Choose a Payment Method
There are multiple payment methods for buying bitcoin, and they will mostly depend upon your exchange or brokerage. These methods include:
- Credit card or debit card
- Wire transfer
- Interac e-Transfers
- Online transfer
- Other cryptocurrencies
There are a few essential things you need to know about when it comes to different payment methods:
1. When you are buying cryptocurrency using an exchange, you need to look into the different payment methods and how much time each will take.
If it takes you 24 hours to fund your bitcoin account, the price can easily change by about $3,000 – $4,000 or even more by the time you decide to buy. It may also affect the time when you can make the trade. So, keep the time lag in mind when choosing a payment method.
2. Card declines are widespread when you are trying to fund your online brokerage or exchange account with your credit card. This is true even though it is being offered as an option by your exchange broker.
3. In some cases, depending upon your bank and your bitcoin exchange, your account can get flagged and suspended for a while.
For online transfers and credit cards, the Big Five banks are known to flag down bank accounts for suspicious activities when you buy bitcoin, and it might take you a few days (or weeks) to get the suspension lifted. Similarly, some exchanges or brokerages might suspend your account even if you use e-transfers.
However, you can get ahead of this problem by mentioning the reason for the wire transfer or online transaction and using a reputable and regulated exchange.
5. Choose Your Exchange or Trading Platform
A comprehensive list of some of the most reputable bitcoin exchanges in Canada will follow this section, but for now, let’s look at the factors and features you should look into when buying your bitcoin.
Again, this might vary drastically based on whether you are buying bitcoin for trading or investing. For this article, we are focusing on purchasing bitcoin for investing, i.e., long-term.
Fees: You need to ask plenty of fee-related questions regarding a bitcoin exchange, such as: Is it going to be monthly or yearly? Do you need to pay a fee every time you buy or sell bitcoin? How does the cost vary for fractional purchases? Are there any hidden fees? What does the combination of fees and spread look like?
Cryptocurrencies Available: It may be irrelevant when you are only buying bitcoin, but if you pay a decent amount in fees, you might want to keep your other options open. More crypto options mean more investment opportunities for you.
Safety: Until you take your crypto out from your exchange or trading account, the responsibility of keeping it safe lies with the exchange. Look into its encryption. Is it keeping them in a cold or hot wallet? Exchange or bitcoin storages that are insured for a decent amount or endorsed by regulatory bodies are typically better.
Funding Options: More funding options are usually better, but even if an exchange has one or two funding options, make sure they coincide with your choice of funding options.
Performance: For traders, performance refers to the speed and accuracy of the exchange platform and the tools that come with it. As an investor, there is one crucial thing you have to look into: How does the exchange perform when bitcoin spikes or craters?
If it stays up and doesn’t lag, you should go for it. Still, you should be wary since the exchange has an unfortunate history of shutting down whenever it’s overwhelmed by the number of trades. This might mean you won’t be able to buy and sell at the best moments.
Mobile Application: A mobile app that allows you to set alarms on price points can be very helpful when you buy bitcoin. The mobile should be seamless and full of features like the desktop version of the exchange or trading platform.
Promotions: Promotions can be a lucrative incentive, especially if you buy a small amount of bitcoin for the first time. It can boost your investment.
Transfer Options: A suitable exchange or trading platform would allow you to transfer out your bitcoin to your own wallet with relative ease. Some might hold your crypto for you, which can be good or bad, depending upon the company’s long-term prospects going under or blocking your account.
These are a few factors you might consider looking into when you are choosing your exchange or trading platform to buy bitcoin.
6. Transfer Your Bitcoin
Choosing where to put your bitcoin is essential, especially if you are keeping them long-term. Most people have potentially millions of dollars locked away in bitcoin, in accounts they have forgotten the password to. If you are transferring your bitcoin out from an exchange or trading platform, you usually have two options:
Cold Wallets: A cold wallet is usually a hardware wallet that generally comes in the form of a USB drive and is air-gapped, i.e., not connected to the internet. This makes it significantly safer than online accounts or computer wallets that are always vulnerable to attacks. These cold wallets come with solid encryption and safety protocols like multi-factor authentication (MFA), thumbprint unlocking, and even specialized metal casings that prevent them from being damaged or cleaned by strong electromagnetic signals.
Hot Wallets: Hot wallets are online or computer-based crypto wallets that rely on your hardware memory or cloud to store your bitcoin. They are hot because they are “live,” i.e., connected to the internet. They are usually much more affordable compared to cold wallets.
Best Bitcoin Exchanges or Trading Platforms in Canada
There are several bitcoin exchanges and trading platforms that you can choose from to find your perfect fit.
1. Wealthsimple Crypto
Wealthsimple Crypto comes as a part of Wealthsimple’s free, no-commission trading platform, which is why there is no monthly or yearly fee for buying bitcoin using Wealthsimple Crypto. However, there is a 1.5% to 2% transaction fee every time you buy or sell bitcoin. Notable features of Wealthsimple Crypto are:
- Two cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and Ethereum
- Is easy to use
- Can be funded through bank transfer
- Available on Android and iOS
- Coins are held primarily in cold storage by a regulated custodian, Gemini
Like any other service or product, Wealthsimple has both pros and cons.
- A $10 signing bonus (after you deposit $100)
- An easy-to-use platform
- The trading account can be set up in minutes
- No account minimums
- No fees for deposits or withdrawals
- You can’t transfer your bitcoin out to a wallet
- High transaction fees
- Limited crypto assets and funding options
- The account can only be funded through CAD
2. National Digital Asset Exchange (NDAX)
NDAX is a cryptocurrency exchange that’s native to Canada. It allows you to trade ten different cryptocurrencies, most of them in any Canadian exchange.
The platform claims the lowest possible bitcoin investment fees of 0.2% on buying and selling. You can fund your NDAX account using an Interac e-transfer, wire transfer, or a bank draft, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
There are two withdrawal options: wire transfer and bank draft. Both come with a flat fee of $25. For funds under $1,666, NDAX might be costlier than Bitbuy. However, if you are withdrawing higher amounts, NDAX would be a more cost-effective option. NDAX keeps most of the crypto assets in its possession in cold storage, so it gets a check from a safety perspective as well.
- Ten cryptocurrencies
- Three CAD funding options
- Meagre trading fees
- No funding and fixed withdrawal fees
- Quick ID verification
- No minimum or maximum cap on funding and withdrawals
- Instantaneous bitcoin transfer to another NDAX user
- Withdrawal fees are expensive for lower amounts
- It can only be funded through CAD (not USD)
Shakepay is a bitcoin/ethereum trading platform native to Canada and has been used by over 300,000 Canadians. Both beginner and seasoned investors like it for multiple reasons, but the top reason is the speed at which it can get funded.
You can add funds to your Shakepay account via Interac e-Transfer, ETFs, wire transfers, or using bitcoin/ethereum. The account is usually funded under ten minutes, which means you can buy bitcoin right away. A significant chink in Shakepay’s armour, however, is its very high spread, which is over 2.5%.
Important things to consider:
- Four funding options
- Two cryptocurrencies
- Regulated by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC)
- The majority of the bitcoin are stored in cold storage and insured
- bitcoin can be transferred out to a wallet
Shakepay also has its own strengths and weaknesses:
- Four funding options
- Fast funding
- A user-friendly platform
- Offers OTC trading for transactions involving over $200,000
- Has no transfer fees
- Caps on Interact e-transfers ($10,000 funding, $5,000 withdrawal)
- Has a very high transaction or spread fee
- Supports just two crypto assets
Bitbuy is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange based in Toronto. It has been around since 2016 and allows you to trade seven different cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin. You can fund it fast through Interac e-Transfers or wire transfers, but not a credit card. Since it focuses on Canadian traders, you might find more liquidity for BTC/CAD pair. It’s regulated, safe, fast, and trusted.
Since it’s an exchange, it offers a lower spread than most trading platforms. However, it has a relatively expensive yet transparent fee structure for funding the Bitbuy account.
You have to pay 1.5% for Interact e-Transfer, withdrawal, and wire-transfer withdrawal. On the other hand, the wire-transfer funding fee is 0.5%. Meanwhile, the express trade fees amount to about 0.5%, whereas Pro-traders pay 0.1% if they are a miner and 0.2% if they are a buyer.
- A wider variety of crypto assets
- Canadian-focused trading
- A transparent fee structure
- No account minimum
- A relatively low spread
- High transfer or withdrawal fees
- It doesn’t support credit card funding
Netcoins is a Canadian cryptocurrency company that allows you to trade seven different crypto assets, including bitcoin. Its main attraction is its no-fee structure for both funding and withdrawals. However, it does charge a 5% trading fee every time you execute a trade. If you are taking your bitcoin out as bitcoin, you will have to pay a withdrawal fee.
It operates under a publicly traded company, which means it offers more transparency than several other trading or exchange platforms. You can fund your Netcoins account using Interac e-Transfer, online bill payment, or a wire transfer.
- No funding and withdrawal fees
- Supports seven cryptocurrencies
- Is registered with FINTRAC
- Is easy to use
- Bitcoin withdrawal fees
- No mobile app
Coinsmart is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange that supports nine currencies and focuses on intelligent trading. This platform is created with traders in mind and offers several features that they—and even investors—might find very helpful. The platform boasts features like instant verification and same-day payments and has five funding and three withdrawal options.
It also allows you to transfer funds instantly through a Visa credit or debit card, which can cost you up to 6% in fees. There are both minimum and maximum caps on transfer limits, and some funding and withdrawal options have hefty fees. Only transfers involving the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) are entirely fee-free.
For bitcoin, the trading fee is 0.2%. There are also withdrawal fees associated with crypto assets if you withdraw them as crypto and not in CAD.
- Low transaction fee
- Five funding and three withdrawal options
- Powerful trading features
- Most assets are held in cold storage
- Minimum and maximum caps on both funding and withdrawals
- Hefty funding and withdrawal fees
Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange, especially if you consider the trading volume. It supports over 1.4 million transactions per second and has an average trading volume of two billion. Even though it’s a globally focused crypto exchange, it offers three funding options to Canadians, including credit card and third-party payments like Simplex.
Binance supports over 230 cryptocurrencies and numerous crypto or fiat pairs. It has been hacked once in the past, but that hasn’t tarnished its reputation as one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.
- Supports credit card funding
- Low trading fees of 0.1%
- No deposit and withdrawal fees
- No Interac e-Transfer or wire-transfer funding
- Created with a global audience in mind, not just Canadians
Now that you know how to buy Bitcoin in Canada and even have some information regarding the different exchange options, there are only a few common questions left to be answered.
Should You Buy Bitcoin?
Yes, and no.
You should buy bitcoin if you are a high-risk, high-reward investor and don’t mind the volatility associated with bitcoin. Right now, it’s on a tear, and everyone is talking about it, which has spiked interest in it and, consequently, its value.
But, remember that bitcoin is an intangible asset. It may be propped up on positive vibes and an optimistic market right now, but as a speculative market and investment, it can just as quickly go the other way. When that happens, bitcoin might even lose all its value, theoretically speaking.
Nonetheless, it can prove to be a precious asset, especially if you buy it when the hype has died down and it is trading at a relatively more affordable rate. Another point in favour of bitcoin as an investment asset is its limited supply. Only a specific number of bitcoin will ever be mined, so the asset won’t lose its value because of a surplus of the supply.
Is Bitcoin Legal?
Yes. Even though it hasn’t been accepted as an alternative to fiat currency, it’s legal to buy, sell, and trade bitcoin in Canada. You can’t use it as a currency everywhere, but if a vendor or an individual is willing to accept bitcoin as payment for services or goods provided, there is no law against it.
But since it’s not a “legal tender” like currency notes and coins, bitcoin assets are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It’s usually a non-issue, though, because most bitcoin custodians are insured under terms that treat bitcoin as an asset.
Can Bitcoin Be Used for Transactions?
Bitcoin can be used for transactions in Canada, with any vendors, service providers, e-Commerce companies, and businesses that accept payments in this medium. For tax purposes, the transaction’s value would be calculated based on the market value of bitcoin at the time or day of the transaction and not the perceived value of the transaction.
This means that if you paid for a $1,000 product with $2,000 worth of bitcoin (why would you, though?), the value of the transaction would be $2,000 in the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) eyes.
Is Bitcoin Taxed in Canada?
Yes. For tax purposes, bitcoin is considered a commodity by the CRA. Hence, whether you treat or use bitcoin as an investment asset or use it for transactions, you will need to pay taxes. Every “disposition” of bitcoin is taxable, as shown below:
- Selling it for CAD
- Giving it to someone as a gift
- Trading it for another crypto or CAD
- Using it to buy goods and services
However, bitcoin might be taxed as per capital gains or business income based on the frequency of usage. If you are mining bitcoin or trading it frequently, you might need to pay taxes on it as if it’s business income. But, if you’ve been holding bitcoin for a long time and are selling it for a capital gain or loss, you will be taxed as such.
I hope this guide on how to buy bitcoin in Canada will help you get started on the right foot. Your choice of exchange and your bitcoin buying approach will be heavily determined by the amount of capital you have and your investment goals.
If you simply want to dip your toes in this lucrative market and give it a try, you might want to consider the exchange with the lowest fees, even if it has slow funding processes and maximum caps. On the other hand, if you’re going to buy right away, you might need to find an exchange that can help you get started as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, this guide has answered most of the questions you might have had regarding bitcoin buying. If you have any more questions, feel free to share them with me in the comments.