There’s no such thing as a legal age to buy bitcoin. If you’re old enough to appreciate it, you should be old enough to buy it. In practice though, most exchanges mandate a minimum age of 18, in keeping with KYC requirements. It doesn’t matter how clearly you’ve scanned your documents and signed your name: if you’re underage, you’re not getting in. How, then, can minors buy bitcoin without breaking the law?
New Kids on the Blockchain
A recent survey found millennials to have a greater interest in cryptocurrency than any other age group. If 18-year-olds are big on bitcoin, it stands to reason that their younger tech-savvy siblings will be just as curious. Many well-known bitcoiners got into cryptocurrencies at 16 or younger and have been hooked ever since. Some of bitcoin’s earliest miners were quite literally minors. Coinbase used to permit under-18s to buy bitcoin in fact but have since debarred them from signing up. In bitcoin’s nascent years, regulation was laxer and, with the aid of an accommodating relative, getting money into an exchange was relatively easy.
That option still exists in some places today, but what about teens who are old enough to live alone but not old enough to buy bitcoin? Or minors whose family unit is incapable or unwilling to facilitate their request? That’s when underagers who are intent on buying cryptocurrency are forced to take matters into their own hands.
Underage and Overeducated
Teenagers eager to buy bitcoin have a number of options at their disposal. The ‘legality’ of each method is subject to interpretation, but from a technical perspective, the following are at least viable:
eBay: It’s not just sneakers and bumper stickers that can be picked up on eBay – sellers will also furnish you with bitcoin. Using eBay and/or Paypal to buy small amounts of bitcoin is easily done but you will pay dearly for the privilege and are urged to check seller ratings before parting with cash.
Bitcoin listings on eBay.
Bitcoin ATM: In theory, ATMs are the perfect way for under-18s to buy cryptocurrency. In practice, they’re few and far between in most countries. Unless you happen to live in the heart of Tokyo, brace yourself for an epic trek.
Localbitcoins: Technically, the same rules that govern cryptocurrency exchanges also apply to sites like Localbitcoins.com. Basic verification is easily achievable however, and once complete you’re free to buy and sell P2P, transferring funds directly from your bank account. It’s also possible to meet local sellers in person and buy bitcoin with cash, but caution is advised, especially when purchasing for the first time. Buyers should be accompanied by an adult.
P2P exchanges: Aside from Localbitcoins, there are sites such as Solidi in the UK whose terms and conditions advise that “Persons under the age of 18 wishing to trade must contact us first”. Under 16s in particular will only be granted low purchase limits, though the exchange has suggested that minors get a parent or guardian to set up an account in their name. Bitcoinprijzen in the Netherlands is another site where under 18s seem able to purchase cryptocurrency using iDEAL.
Local cryptocurrency groups: Look on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll probably find crypto meetups in your area. The organizers of these groups are keen to encourage bitcoin adoption and may be happy to help. As always, exercise caution when meeting and trading with someone for the first time and don’t hand over a penny until you can see the transaction on the blockchain.
Some teens determined to get their hands on bitcoin have gotten creative, purchasing Amazon gift cards and swapping them on sites such as Paxful. Other options include earning bitcoin online and asking for it as a gift from friends and relatives.
Should Minors Be Buying Bitcoin?
Adults with a keen interest in bitcoin need little encouragement to preach the decentralized gospel to their kids. The chances of growing up in a cryptocurrency “house-hodl” and not being exposed to bitcoin are slim to non-existent. Teaching the next generation about cryptocurrency’s potential, though, should also include a word of warning about its risks, both in terms of volatility and security.
Regardless of what the law says, under-18s who are determined to buy cryptocurrency will find a way. Compared to some of the vices that teens could be spending their money on, bitcoin seems utterly benign.