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What is Bitcoin? Why is it so expensive?

Updated Wednesday 10 February 2021 19:51
What is Bitcoin? Why is it so expensive?
Bitcoin price has hit record highs after Elon Musk's car company Tesla said it had bought about £1.1bn of the cryptocurrency.

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Mr Musk has previously heralded the potential of Bitcoin in social media posts and claimed last week it was “on the verge” of being more widely accepted among investors.

Monday’s announcement prompted a surge in the value of Bitcoin as traders rushed to buy it.

But what is Bitcoin? And how can you buy it?

Bitcoin, often described as a cryptocurrency, a virtual currency or a digital currency - is a type of money that is completely virtual.

It's like an online version of cash.

You can use it to buy products and services, but not many shops accept Bitcoin yet and some countries have banned it altogether.

The physical Bitcoins you see in photos are a novelty.

They would be worthless without the private codes printed inside them.

Each Bitcoin is basically a computer file which is stored in a "digital wallet" app on a smartphone or computer.

People can send Bitcoins (or part of one) to your digital wallet, and you can send Bitcoins to other people.

Every single transaction is recorded in a public list called the blockchain.

This makes it possible to trace the history of Bitcoins to stop people from spending coins they do not own, making copies or undo-ing transactions.

News Shopper: Bitcoin, often described as a cryptocurrency, is a virtual currency or a digital currency

What is the current Bitcoin price?

Tesla’s revelation caused the price of Bitcoin to jump 17 per cent to a record high of £32,210 by Monday afternoon, according to trading platform Coindesk.

There are three main ways people get Bitcoins:  

  • You can buy Bitcoins using "real" money
  • You can sell things and let people pay you with Bitcoins
  • Or they can be created using a computer
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