Over the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of hype about Bitcoin in New Zealand. At the start of 2020, just before the pandemic, the price of Bitcoin started to soar. Over the first months of 2021, it almost doubled in price – from around US$32,0000 to over US$61,000 – before losing all those gains by the end of the year.
And again, this year, it’s followed the same trajectory. After rocketing to an all-time high of US$68,789 last November, it slumped to a low of US$17,708 in June. However, since then, Bitcoin’s price has recovered, and at time of writing is hovering around US$24,000. That’s a return of over 34% for those investors with an appetite for risk who jumped in when it was under US$18,000.
When Bitcoin was created, the idea was to create a digital currency free of regulation and government intervention. And while, yes, you can use Bitcoin like a regular fiat currency to buy things, instead Bitcoin has become just another asset class, traded like regular stocks and shares. Albeit one subject to wild speculation – hence its roller-coaster-like price volatility.
But that doesn’t mean its popularity is diminishing. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, and the blockchain technology behind them, are here to stay. And the total market cap of all crypto currencies is now worth around US$1.4 trillion.
So what is a digital currency? What is Bitcoin? And how do you buy Bitcoin in New Zealand? To help you decipher the world of cryptocurrency, here is Canstar’s step-by-step guide to buying, selling and using Bitcoin:
How to Buy Bitcoin in NZ. In this guide we cover:
- What is Bitcoin?
- How to buy Bitcoin in New Zealand
- Where to store your Bitcoin
- What can I buy with Bitcoin in NZ?
- Tax implications of buying Bitcoin
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin technology was first outlined in a scholarly article entitled: Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, authored by a Japanese man called Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. However the name is considered to be a pseudonym, and the true identity of the creator or team behind Bitcoin remains a mystery.
Bitcoin is a decentralised digital cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is basically a foolproof digital ledger system that records information across many computers. Each entry, or block, has a coded timestamp that means records can’t be changed or tampered with. On an open peer-to-peer system, everybody has access to the records.
Bitcoin was born as an example of the application of blockchain technology. It was created to show how electronic transactions can be simple and secure outside of traditional global banking institutions.
Ultimately, each Bitcoin, or part of a Bitcoin, is just a digital code held on a central blockchain ledger. If you hold the key to that code, you “own” that Bitcoin. If you trade or spend your Bitcoin, that keycode will pass to somebody else, just like traditional currency.
Those who download the Bitcoin software and use their computers to timestamp, process and validate transactions are rewarded with Bitcoins. This process is called mining.
Because each Bitcoin transaction is made online over the peer-to-peer network, transfers of Bitcoins can be made instantly, and at a lower cost than traditional methods. Currently, international money transfers come with relatively high fees and currency exchange rates, to cover the costs of the individual banks involved.
But unlike traditional currencies that are controlled by central banks, Bitcoin is not regulated. Because of this, buying and selling Bitcoin online comes with inherent risks. Speculation is rife and its value can fluctuate wildly.
How to buy Bitcoin in New Zealand
When considering whether to invest in Bitcoin, know that you don’t have to buy a whole one! Bitcoins are divisible by up to eight decimal points, meaning you have the option to buy only a fraction of a Bitcoin.
Some big investment firms also offer cryptocurrency index trading, where you can invest in an index across a range of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin. However, if you want to invest in just Bitcoin, there are a few ways you can buy Bitcoin in New Zealand. Here are some of the main ones:
1. Buy Bitcoins in New Zealand from a Bitcoin exchange
There are hundreds of Bitcoin exchanges on the internet, based all over the world. However, while Bitcoin exchanges and the trade in Bitcoins are not regulated, the Kiwi dollars you must spend to purchase Bitcoin are.
For example, there are many big exchanges over the ditch in Australia, and in the US, but to use them you’ll need a bank account in those countries. But there are some Kiwi operators, and a few big players have sites here that accept Kiwi dollars.
Where to buy Crypto in NZ
The display order does not reflect any ranking or rating by Canstar. The table does not include all providers in the market.
|Provider||Fiat Currencies||Bitcoin||Other Currencies||Est.|
|Easy Crypto||NZD, AUD||Yes||100+||2018|
|Independent Reserve||NZD, AUD, USA||Yes||24||2013|
This information is not an endorsement by Canstar of cryptocurrency or any specific provider. Canstar is providing factual information supplied by providers. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks. Canstar is not providing a recommendation for your individual circumstances or in relation to any particular product or provider.
There are two benefits of using Kiwi dollars to buy your Bitcoin:
- You know exactly how much you’re spending
- You’ll not be hit with excessive foreign exchange fees and credit card processing fees
Beware credit card fees
On some exchanges, it’s possible to use a credit card to purchase Bitcoin. However, you can expect to get hit with extra charges. As a rule, the fees charged by exchanges are small, starting from as low as .005%. Usually, the bigger the trade, the larger their cut.
But expect an exchange to add extra credit card transaction fees on top: approx 2.5% to 3%. Plus, your credit card provider will take their cut in the form of a foreign exchange fee. In all, transaction fees can easily add up to 10% or more.
However, if you’re still interested in using your plastic to purchase Bitcoin, these big players accept Visa and Mastercard:
And so do these giant exchanges, that top the world rankings for Bitcoin trades:
- Coinbase Pro
- Huobi Global
2. Receive Bitcoins for goods and services
Any business or individual can choose to accept Bitcoins as payment if they have a Bitcoin digital wallet to store the currency. A Bitcoin wallet can be downloaded from the Apple or Google Play stores. You’ll need to decide how to accept the payment, methods include:
- QR codes, which can be scanned using a smart phone and generated in a Bitcoin digital wallet app
- Online payment processing systems that can automatically convert digital currency, like Bitcoin, into a traditional currency, such as NZ dollars
- Instore custom point-of-sale terminals that integrate with your existing sales register
3. Mine your own Bitcoins
As we mention above, mining Bitcoin is the process of being rewarded to use your computer (and electricity) to timestamp, process and validate Bitcoin transactions.
In the early days of Bitcoin, it was possible to download the Bitcoin software, link up your PC and start mining. However, as the number of Bitcoins and transactions have increased, so too has the complexity of the mathematical calculations that support the system.
Nowadays, mining requires a huge investment in computer processing and electricity. So the option of mining is limited to big players who treat it as a serious business.
Source: BitcoinMiningCom (YouTube)
Where to store your Bitcoin
If you want to invest in Bitcoin, you need a secure way of storing your assets. As Bitcoin isn’t regulated, it’s not a good idea to store your Bitcoin at an exchange if you are heavily invested. There have been many recorded cases of people losing their money to cyber crime and hacking. Here in NZ, over $23m of investors’ money was lost when the Cryptopia exchange was hacked.
So, generally, it’s recommended you store your Bitcoin in a digital wallet. There are a few options available on app stores for phones, as well as wallets for desk and laptop computers. They usually come with the added benefit of scannable QR codes, which save time on entering long Bitcoin addresses with each transaction.
For an added layer of security, you could invest in a hardware wallet. These are storage devices, rather like a USB stick, that you can unplug from the internet and store in a safe place. As they are offline, they can’t be hacked and your valuable Bitcoin stolen.
→ Related article: Bitcoin & Crypto Wallets: Everything You Need to Know
Where can I spend my Bitcoin in New Zealand?
Online, there are plenty of retailers that accept Bitcoin. In Aotearoa, not so much. Coinmap features an interactive world map with a few Bitcoin-friendly NZ business.
However, really, as we’ve touched on above, Bitcoin has become all about investing and speculating. Like stocks and shares, they are bought, held, and sold as investments, not used as a currency to buy a coffee or pay for petrol.
Which brings us neatly to what our Financial Markets Authority has to say on the subject of cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. For although the FMA doesn’t regulate crypto exchanges, it does offer some sage advice. Before you buy, make sure any New Zealand exchange you use is:
And there are also tax implications…
Tax implications of buying Bitcoin in New Zealand
If you buy and sell cryptocurrency, regardless of whether you make a profit or a loss, there are important tax implications to consider.
In short, pretty much everybody who buys and sells cypto in NZ has to pay tax on any money they make. The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) breaks it down into three groups:
- People buying crypto with the intention to sell it
- Those buying crypto for a profit-making scheme
- Crypto traders
So, unless you’re buying crypto to actually use it as a currency and buy something (and, really, who does that, apart from people who need to pay some hacker’s ransom, or criminals on the dark web?), you must pay tax on any profits you make selling crypto.
Tax laws are not simple, but they are strict. If at the time of purchasing your crypto you have the intention of selling it at some point in the future, you need to include any profits you make at that point on your tax return.
So beware, it’s up to you to prove you never purchased the crypto as a speculative investment. As the IRD stipulates: “If you sell or exchange your cryptoassets for a profit and claim that you did not acquire them for the purpose of selling or exchanging them, you will need clear and compelling evidence to support your claim.”
→ Learn more: Cryptocurrencies: How are Crypto Assets Taxed in NZ?
Ultimately, the choice to buy Bitcoin is like any other investment: it pays to do your homework. And as a very volatile investment, and one that’s prone to hype and market bubbles, Bitcoin is never going to be a risk-free choice. But at least if you go in with your eyes open, you can choose to invest with a reputable exchange and keep your investment safe from fraud or cyber crime.
How to buy Bitcoin in Australia
For more information on how to buy Bitcoin across the ditch in Oz, check out the story How to Buy Bitcoin in Australia on our Aussie website.
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar’s Editor, Bruce Pitchers. Bruce began his career writing about pop culture, and spent a decade in sports journalism. More recently, he’s applied his editing and writing skills to the world of finance and property. Prior to Canstar, he worked as a freelancer, including for The Australian Financial Review, the NZ Financial Markets Authority, and for real estate companies on both sides of the Tasman.
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