16.3 million Americans buy and sell bitcoin frequently

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer
Traders work in a trading pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Trading in Bitcoin futures began Sunday (12/10) on the CBOE. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Cboe’s bitcoin futures are on track for a stellar first week, the CME will launch its own contract Monday and Nasdaq plans to do the same next year. Still, 74% of adults have never used the digital asset at all, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

Meanwhile, 5% of Americans — roughly 16.3 million people — are buying and selling bitcoin frequently. Given bitcoin only hit mainstream mania this year, it’s safe to say we’re far from peak adoption.

This number is still small compared to the number of Americans who have traditional investments. Fifty four percent of Americans — a record low — invest in the stock market (including through individual stocks, mutual funds, 401(k)s and pensions).

Unsurprisingly, the affluent are more likely to dabble in bitcoin regularly. Fifteen percent of adults who earn over $100,000 annually said they are buying, receiving or sending bitcoin somewhat or very frequently. One could imagine that ultra high networth individuals have the luxury to diversify their earnings even more. In contrast, 7% of those who earn less than $50,000 said they use bitcoin, according to the survey of 2,039 U.S. adults.  

Lack of knowledge

Even though 16.3 million Americans use bitcoin all the time, most people may not be ready for it, particularly given concerns surrounding security and diversification.

Overall, Americans remain confused about the cryptocurrency. A 37% plurality say they aren’t familiar at all with bitcoin. Forty-two percent say they’re either somewhat or not too familiar with it while 9% claim they are very familiar. The remaining 12% didn’t know or had no opinion.

“I would simply say that bitcoin at this time plays a very small role in the payments system. “[Bitcoin] is not a stable store of value, it doesn’t constitute legal tender, and it is a highly speculative asset,” as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said this week.

Perhaps we should heed Warren Buffett’s advice about investing in what you know and trust. He was an early bitcoin bear, dubbing it a mirage in 2014 (the price of bitcoin has increased 35-fold since he first made the call.) If that’s the case, much of America might be better off observing from the sidelines.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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