Two things that we all should know are
- Know Your Customer (KYC)
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML)
Let's start with KYC. This is the term government regulators use to know the identify of people they're dealing with, this is most commonly used by financial institutions and money service businesses. kycmap has a list of businesses in Canada that this applies to. When you created your bank account, you had to show your government issued id to the bank teller. This also applies to most of the online exchanges. Before you deposit fiat currency (dollars) to buy bitcoin, you need to give them your government issued id. For most exchanges, this means taking a picture of you with your passport and waiting for a human at the exchange to verify it. Note, this typically takes around 3 business days. So if you're considering getting into bitcoin or cryptocurrency, you should start the account creation process with your exchange of choice, and beginning the KYC process.
Now let's jump into AML. In Canada, we have FINTRAC, in the U.S.A there is FINCEN. I won't cover anything more than than the popular thing to be aware of, which is that large transactions through KYC regulated reporting entities need to be provided to your regulator to ensure the customer and transaction are above board. It is because of AML compliance that your KYC must be completed with an exchange before you can do a 5 figure transaction or higher.
OK. Now you want to pick an exchange and start KYC. Which exchange will you use? Here's a great list, sorted by volume. You may also chose an exchange by location (QuadrigaCX is here in Vancouver/Canada) or trading pairs (Bittrex handles over 200 cryptocurrencies, not just Bitcoin). Once you have bitcoin, you can transfer it to any other exchange, and trade it for any of the other cryptocurrencies, but generally you need bitcoin to start. For future reference, this is a trading pair. So if I have money and I want IOTA, I likely need to find an exchange with a USD/BTC trading pair, so my US dollars can be exchanged for bitcoin. Then I would transfer my bitcoin (BTC) to an exchange with a BTC/IOTA trading pair, and do that exchange there.
If you're reading this with the intent on getting into trading, you'll likely have accounts on several different exchanges, so start the KYC now on several of them with many trading pairs and in different jurisdictions. I'm two weeks into going through KYC with one exchange as of writing this, for example. They weren't happy with my utility bill scan for example, so I have to send another.
Outside of the traditional exchanges, if you're starting small, and want to skip the long and arduous process of KYC/AML you could also try the craigslist equivalent of cryptocurrency purchasing which is by going to localbitcoins.com and completing the transaction there, finding a local bitcoin ATM (often with 8% of higher transaction fees for the convenience!), or finding your local cryptocurrency/decentralization community hub. If you're in Vancouver, that is D-CTRL, get your butt there.
There's a lot more to learn, but these are the ways that you can acquire bitcoin. Let me know if you have any questions!