Tech Guide

How to give bitcoin as a gift this holiday season

Key Points
  • Bitcoin is bound to be the topic of holiday parties this year, so why not gift some?
  • CNBC walks you through how to buy bitcoin and then how to send it to someone as a gift
  • It's pretty easy, just beware that it's a very volatile currency!
Here's how to give bitcoin as a gift
Here's how to give bitcoin as a gift

The crazy rise of is certainly going to be the topic at holiday dinners this season. Forget giving out lotto ticket scratch-offs. This season you should be giving the gift of bitcoin.

No -- you don't need to buy an entire bitcoin, the price of which has fluctuated rapidly over the past several days from around $13,000 to $19,000 (it may even be way higher or lower by the time you read this!)

Instead, you can gift part -- a tiny fraction -- of a bitcoin. It can still be used where the currency is accepted, or your loved one can hang on to it just in case Bitcoin's rapid ascension continues.

Here's how to give the gift of bitcoin.

Download the Coinbase app

  • Download Coinbase from the iTunes App Store for your iPhone or from the Google Play Store for an Android smartphone.
  • Make a note that whoever you're sending Bitcoin to should also have a Bitcoin wallet, like Coinbase, if they don't already. After all, they'll need somewhere to store their new currency.
  • Coinbase is the go-to app right now for folks looking to acquire a bit of bitcoin. It's the app I used in my original "how to buy bitcoin guide," too.
  • Create an account at the login screen and you're on your way.

Add a payment method

  • Tap "Buy" button on the home screen, you'll be prompted to add a payment method.
  • Next you'll add a bank account (for buying large amounts), or a credit or debit card (for smaller amounts).
  • I chose to add my debit card, since the transfer is instantaneous instead of taking several days, but you can use any option you prefer.

Buy bitcoin

  • Open Coinbase and tap "Buy" on the bottom of the screen.
  • Enter any dollar amount you want and then you'll see how much bitcoin that actually gets you. Bitcoin was trading at $15,901.93 at the time I wrote this, so $20 got me 0.00116401 bitcoin. Told you it was a fraction!
  • Tap "Buy" again in the right corner.
  • Beware: in some cases you may receive a fraud alert from your bank, which you'll need to clear up. (This happened to me and required a call to the bank to approve charges.)

Send Bitcoin

OK, now we're finally ready to gift some Bitcoin.

  • Tap the Accounts button at the bottom of Coinbase.
  • Tap your BTC Wallet, which shows the current balance.
  • Tap the small "send" arrow in the top-right corner.
  • Choose how much you want to send. We'll do $5. Better than a scratch-off, right? Maybe.
  • Enter in someone's email address or Bitcoin address. (The receiving party can find this by tapping the QR code in their BTC wallet inside Coinbase.)
  • Hit send.


That's it. They'll receive a message like the one above, allowing your friend or family member to transfer the funds right into their Coinbase account.

Now, if you're with someone who has a Bitcoin account and knows what they're doing, you and that person can easily exchange money using QR codes...but that's not really "gifting" so much as transferring.

Some thoughts

Here's where things get tricky. Bitcoin is not a stable investment. Mere moments after you buy bitcoin, it could be worth a lot less. That means if you buy $20 worth of bitcoin, it could actually be worth more like $18 by the time you end up sending it...or more. That's sort of the fun...and the danger...of giving bitcoin.

Maybe just write a check?