Buying bitcoins for the first time can seem like a complicated process, but it doesn't have to be.
The first problem most people encounter is that they can't use their credit card like they are used to. Depending on the amount of bitcoins you want to buy, you may even have to prove your identity before you can pay by bank transfer.
This is because bitcoins are irreversible, when someone sends you bitcoins the only way the transaction can ever be reversed is if you voluntarily create a new transaction to send them back. Credit card transactions can easily be reversed with no good reason up to six months after the transaction and contrary to popular belief, bank transfers will also be reversed in the event of fraud, normally resulting in the recipient bank freezing the seller's account.
If you want to buy a very small amount of bitcoins, say less than £100 worth, I would recommend BitBargain.co.uk. The process is usually incredibly smooth because the website will only match you up with sellers who are online and ready to trade. You can always be confident of receiving your bitcoins because the seller has to keep the bitcoins in the BitBargain escrow account.
LocalBitcoins.com is great for both small and medium sized purchases. Simply enter your location and choose whether you want to pay by bank transfer or cash in person (there are a few variations on these) and the website will match you with relevant sellers.
For transactions using bank transfers the process is very similar to BitBargain.co.uk. Always use the local bitcoins escrow service for obvious reasons. For added security you can always check the seller's feedback from previous transactions, but once again, if you use the escrow service the risk is more on the seller.
For face to face transactions take a little bit more care, check the sellers feedback and make sure you are comfortable with how the communication feels. Most people recommend meeting only in a public place. If you are new to buying bitcoins then you might want to insist on using the LocalBitcoins.com transaction service. This puts the bitcoins in a special account, you will receive a secret code which the seller will only be told when he has transfered the bitcoins to your LocalBitcoins.com account. When you hand over the cash the seller can release the coins and LocalBitcoins.com gives them the secret code, so when the seller tells you what the code is, you can be sure that the transaction is complete.
This is particulary good because you don't even need an internet connection to complete the trade and you don't need to wait for a bitcoin transaction to be confirmed in the blockchain.
If you want to buy between £500 and £3,000 worth of bitcoins and you can get to Chiswick, West London, on a weekday morning, then why not buy your bitcoins directly from Bitcoins UK?
For larger transactions we recommend that you get in touch so we can talk about your specific requirements. If we can't help personally, we can probably put you in touch with reliable people who can. For very large orders or regular buyers, we can often match you with similar sellers, allowing you to both get the right deal, without worrying about the liquidity on the public exchanges.
Unfortunately, due to the incredibly uncompetitive nature of the UK banking market, there is no Bitcoin exchange which will allow you to deposit into a UK bank account. If you do decide that you want to deal directly with an exchange, Bitcoins UK recommends Bitstamp.
Register an account and upload your identification documents, once verified, you will be able to deposit money via either SEPA or international bank transfer. It is a bit of a convoluted process, but it works; your GBP will first need to be transferred into Euros (which will incur a cost), but as Bitstamp's trades are all done in USD, the Euros will then be converted to USD at the exchange (Bitstamp does this automatically free of charge). You can now use the exchange to place an order for bitcoins.