The process of selling bitcoins a lot like buying bitcoins, only in the opposite direction. When it comes to selling, though, it becomes a bit riskier – Bitcoin is not reversible, and that opens the doors for a lot of scams. Understanding the methods of selling as well as what to look for when it comes to buyers is important to help cut down the chances of losing money.
Selling bitcoins online through peer-to-peer trades is one of the most risky ways to handle it. The methods used include:
- PayPal sales
- Other web wallets (including Payza and Skrill)
- Bank deposits
- Cash in the mail
- Gift cards
- Credit cards
The thing to consider here is the reversibility of transactions. Whereas Bitcoin cannot be reversed (and once the funds have been sent to a buyer, they know for a fact that they simply cannot be taken back), the same is not true with any of the methods above other than cash (which has its own risks). For example:
- PayPal can be reversed through a dispute process. If the payments are gifted (meaning not reversible), people can claim that their account was fraudulently accessed and still be able to reverse them.
- Other web wallets are in the same boat as PayPal
- Bank deposits can be flagged (the money being deposited can actually be deemed as high-risk or illegal, getting your account frozen)
- Cash in the mail may never actually be sent, or may be stolen on the way to your home
- Gift cards can be wiped of their value (or not even have any value) as soon as you get the card, nullifying their benefit
- Credit cards can be disputed
In all of the above cases, there are repercussions to doing the transactions only online. To help combat this, there are rating systems on sites that allow people to deal with one another using cryptocurrencies. For BitcoinTalk, this is the trust system. For Localbitcoins, this is the reputation system. Paying close attention to the problems people have with one another is important to minimise their effects on you. Dealing with a person with a great track record can lead to a good experience, while dealing with someone who has been actively scamming is obviously not a good idea.
Exchanges are a very popular way to sell bitcoins online because it is just as simple as buying. The only real difference is that instead of bitcoins, you are getting fiat currency back. It is worth noting, however, that while the process is pretty much the same, withdrawals in fiat come with a lot more regulation surrounding the transfers. These require paperwork to satisfy the AML and KYC laws. As a result, this is sometimes more off-putting, but at the same time it can be considered a provably legal route to cashing out. Coinbase, for example, is constantly evaluating the laws and regulations so that every withdrawal occurs in accordance with the law. This helps ensure that your bank account is not frozen after the sale, and that you receive the money.
Fees for making withdrawals from exchanges are generally around 1% as a variable rate. Some will also include a flat-rate fee as well as tack on other fees depending on the withdrawal method used. As an example, withdrawing via bank wire will cost the exchange money, which they will usually pass on to you in the form of a fee. It is also worth noting that banks may charge fees depending on the method being used for the transfer.
In-person transactions are usually the safest route for making a sale since one is able to verify the funds before finalising the transaction. For example, if someone is giving cash, it can be verified at a bank before sending over the bitcoins. A lot of people like to use in-person transactions because they can also get a slightly higher rate. Not to mention the anonymity that just isn’t available when using the other methods listed above.
In-person transactions do have their own problems, though. Dealing with large amounts of money (carried in cash) can bring about dangerous situations. There is also the fact that the bills can be counterfeit. It is therefore extremely important to be in a place where you can check the money being passed over – such as a bank. This helps ensure that you identify any potential problems before handing the bitcoins over to the other party.
A Note on Sending First
Who should send first in a transaction is always a hot topic. Some people stand by the idea that the seller should show the goods (and hand them to the buyer) prior to receiving any money. Others believe it’s the other way round. With Bitcoin things get even more complicated owing to its irreversible nature. Different people are going to have contrasting opinions on this, but the rules of safety some believe should be followed are:
- If the buying party has a lot of all-positive feedback (with no small amounts being traded), they are likely going to be a trustworthy party. During your due diligence and information gathering on a person you plan to deal with, always ensure the data is recent. Positive feedback received many months ago with nothing more recent to back it up may indicate someone you should exercise caution with.
- If the buying party does not have a well-known and trusted reputation, make sure they send first. This ensures that you are not caught in a sticky situation should something happen on their end. It just really is not worth the risk doing it otherwise.
- Use trusted escrow services. If you cannot agree on who sends first, find a neutral third-party escrow service and split the fees between you. There are several such services which offer nothing short of a positive experience.
It is worth keeping in mind that the entire scenario is situational, and something that’s definitely not going to be the same in every case. Just be aware of who you are dealing with and how you feel about it. If you feel that it is worth pursuing the deal with that person, go for it. If for any reason you feel you shouldn’t, then be sure to go with your gut instinct!