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Coinbase.com makes it easy to convert your local currency into and out of bitcoin. After a quick verification of your personal information, all you have to do is link a bank account and deposit some of your local currency. They offer fiat trading pairs in USD, EUR, CAD & GBP. Coinbase is based out of San Francisco and is one of the first fully compliant bitcoin exchanges in the United States. Your USD deposits to Coinbase are FDIC insured just like in your bank account, but at Coinbase you can withdraw all your money anytime via bitcoin.
You can now use Coinbase to buy bitcoin with a credit card or debit card, but there is a 3.99% transaction fee. It is more cost efficient to buy bitcoin by connecting a bank account.
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Coinbase has merchant services for businesses who want to accept bitcoin, with the option to automatically convert the bitcoin you are paid into your local currency. This allows you to accept bitcoin as payment without any risk due to price volatility.
Coinbase has a choice of simple buy / sell orders, as well as fiat wallets and a more advanced bitcoin spot market exchange for professional traders. Their market is API enabled for arbiters and hedge funds. There is also a Vault in which you can safely store your bitcoins long term.
Coinbase is a great exchange for new users to buy their first bitcoin. There are mobile apps for both iOS and Android so you can pay for products with bitcoin easily from your Coinbase account, or buy and sell you coins conveniently.
If you live outside these countries you can use Bitfinex.com exchange or LocalBitcoins.com peer to peer market.
Pros: Coinbase has API that integrates with several other bitcoin services, such as Purse.io and dozens of other cool third party applications. You can setup a profile with a public URL so that anyone can make a bitcoin payment to you with the click of a button. This may be used in the future for micro-tipping content creators across the internet.
Cons: Once you make a purchase you have to wait about 4 business days to receive your bitcoin. This delay is because banks are slow at moving fiat and verifying wire transfers. You can add a credit card to your account to enable Bitcoin Instant buys that lets you withdraw the bitcoin as soon as you place your order, but if your bank transfer flops you’ll be hit with a bigger fee. Coinbase is a licensed and regulated financial institution and has to report suspicious activity, so it is possible they will freeze your funds. This is a risk at an centralized service but most users never have to worry about this.