There are plenty of reasons to want to trade Bitcoin for fiat and other digital tokens without an exchange.
The main one is security and trust – two of the largest Bitcoin exchanges of all time, Mt. Gox and Bitfinex, have suffered catastrophic hacks in the past and lost hundreds of thousands of their users’ BTC. Not to mention the multiple other smaller exchanges that were hacked or disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Another is privacy – exchanges these days have similar know-your-customer (KYC) requirements to banks. All this information is kept on file and, like your funds, is at risk of theft if the exchange’s security isn’t up to scratch.
Person-to-person trading is a small but growing market, with services like LocalBitcoins facilitating individual trade deals between users. Some also use online classifieds like Craigslist or even chat groups on apps like Telegram and WeChat to indicate a willingness to trade in person. Other services like BitKanhave special apps designed to introduce you to online buyers who may not be in your physical location.
Be aware that, in many jurisdictions, even trading with other individuals in a private arrangement is regulated by KYC and anti-money laundering (AML) laws, meaning you could be at risk if you don’t know anything about the people you’re trading with. As such, it is important to clarify your local laws before engaging in person to person trades.
There can also be risks to your personal security from carrying large sums of cash in your pocket or Bitcoin on your device, trading with people you don’t know or trust well, trading online, and meeting in private or out-of-the-way locations. Again, it is recommended that you treat your mobile Bitcoin wallet like a regular wallet with cash in it; don’t carry more than you would be comfortable losing in case you lose your phone etc.
A third reason to trade off-exchange is volume – if you’re looking to buy or sell large amounts of Bitcoin all at once, a large trade can shift the market against you on low-liquidity exchanges. An over-the-counter (OTC) exchange like it it’s, or a ‘dark pool’ like TradeZero can do a better deal for such “whale” traders and institutional investors.