Bitcoin ETF: Everything to Know

By  Beluga Research August 26, 2023

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  • A Bitcoin ETF is a cryptocurrency investment vehicle that tracks the price of bitcoin and allows investors to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency without directly owning it
  • This allows investors to gain exposure to bitcoin without owning the cryptocurrency itself
  • Bitcoin ETFs offer regulated and secure access to bitcoin, subject to the same oversight as traditional ETFs
  • Bitcoin ETFs simplify the investment process, reduce barriers to entry and provide tax advantages compared to directly owning bitcoin


A Bitcoin ETF is a cryptocurrency investment vehicle that tracks the price of bitcoin and allows investors to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency without directly owning it. An Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is a type of investment fund that trades on stock exchanges, similar to individual stocks.

It provides investors with an opportunity to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of assets, such as stocks, bonds, commodities or, in this case, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. ETFs have gained immense popularity due to simplicity, liquidity and the ability to track the performance of specific assets or indices.

A Brief History

The concept of ETFs originated in the early 1990s, with the launch of the first ETF, known as the "Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipts" (SPDR) or "Spider." These ETFs were designed to track the performance of the S&P 500 index and offered investors an efficient way to invest in the broader stock market. Over time, ETFs expanded to cover various asset classes, including bonds, commodities and international markets.

Bitcoin ETF: Everything to Know

A Bitcoin ETF serves as an investment instrument enabling investors to experience bitcoin's market movements without needing to own the cryptocurrency directly. Instead, the ETF holds bitcoin on behalf of investors and issues shares that represent ownership of the underlying bitcoin holdings. This enables investors to indirectly invest in bitcoin through brokerage accounts, without the need to manage private keys or deal with the complexities of cryptocurrency storage.

Bitcoin ETFs aim to provide investors with a regulated and secure way to invest in bitcoin. They are subject to the same regulatory oversight as traditional ETFs, providing a level of transparency and investor protection. Furthermore, Bitcoin ETFs offer the convenience of buying and selling bitcoin through traditional brokerage accounts, making it accessible to a wider range of investors.

One of the key advantages of Bitcoin ETFs is the potential to simplify the investment process and reduce barriers to entry. Traditional cryptocurrency exchanges often require users to navigate complex interfaces, manage wallets and handle security measures. With a Bitcoin ETF, investors can gain exposure to bitcoin through existing brokerage accounts, leveraging familiar platforms and procedures.

It is important to note that Bitcoin ETFs are designed to track the price of bitcoin, rather than directly hold the cryptocurrency itself. This means that the performance of a Bitcoin ETF is tied to the price movements of bitcoin. As the price of bitcoin fluctuates, the value of the ETF's shares will also fluctuate. Investors should carefully consider the risks associated with bitcoin's volatility before investing in a Bitcoin ETF.

Getting Started

To begin investing in Bitcoin ETFs, investors need to open an account with a brokerage or financial institution that offers these products. The process is similar to investing in traditional ETFs, requiring the completion of the necessary paperwork and compliance with regulatory requirements. Once the account is set up, investors can start purchasing shares of the Bitcoin ETF.

One of the primary advantages of Bitcoin ETFs is the ease of access they provide to the cryptocurrency market. Unlike buying and storing actual bitcoin, which involves setting up a digital wallet and dealing with security considerations, investing in a Bitcoin ETF simply requires a brokerage account. This accessibility has made Bitcoin ETFs particularly attractive to investors who are new to cryptocurrencies or prefer a more familiar investment structure.

Unique Aspects

Bitcoin ETFs differ from traditional ETFs in several key ways. Firstly, they track the price of bitcoin by holding the cryptocurrency or bitcoin futures contracts, rather than holding a basket of underlying assets like stocks or bonds. This distinction means that the value of a Bitcoin ETF is directly tied to the price movements of bitcoin.

Secondly, Bitcoin ETFs offer investors the ability to trade shares on traditional stock exchanges. This means that investors can buy and sell shares of the ETF throughout the trading day, just like they would with any other publicly traded stock. This liquidity and flexibility are significant advantages, as they allow investors to enter or exit positions quickly, based on investment strategies or market conditions.

Another unique aspect of Bitcoin ETFs is potential tax efficiency. Unlike owning and selling actual bitcoin, where taxable events are triggered, investing in a Bitcoin ETF may allow investors to enjoy the tax advantages associated with traditional ETFs. This can include the ability to defer capital gains taxes by using in-kind transfers, as well as the potential for tax-efficient distributions.


  • Accessibility - Bitcoin ETFs make it easier for investors to participate in the cryptocurrency market without the need to directly hold or manage bitcoin themselves.
  • Familiarity - ETFs are a widely recognized investment instrument, making them more approachable for traditional investors who may be hesitant to directly invest in cryptocurrencies.
  • Liquidity - Bitcoin ETFs are traded on regulated exchanges, providing investors with the ability to buy or sell shares at any time during market hours.
  • Diversification - ETFs offer exposure to a basket of bitcoin, which can help mitigate the risks associated with investing in a single cryptocurrency.
  • Regulatory Oversight - Bitcoin ETFs are subject to regulatory oversight, providing investors with a certain level of protection and transparency.
  • Lower Minimum Investment - An ETF often can have lower minimum investment requirements compared to directly purchasing bitcoin, making them more accessible to a wider range of investors.
  • Tax Efficiency - ETFs can offer tax advantages, such as the ability to defer capital gains taxes by using in-kind transfers of bitcoin to create and redeem ETF shares.


  • Counterparty Risk - Bitcoin ETFs introduce counterparty risk, as investors rely on the ETF issuer to hold and manage the underlying bitcoin. If the issuer faces financial difficulties or becomes insolvent, it could impact the value of the ETF.
  • Premiums and Discounts - Bitcoin ETFs may trade at premiums or discounts to the net asset value (NAV) of the underlying bitcoin holdings. These deviations can be influenced by market demand, supply and investor sentiment.
  • Management Fees - ETFs charge management fees, which can reduce the overall returns for investors over time. It is important to consider the expense ratio and compare it to other investment options.
  • Limited Control - Investing in a Bitcoin ETF means relinquishing direct control over the private keys and custody of the underlying bitcoin. This lack of control may not be suitable for investors who prefer to have full ownership and control over digital assets.
  • Market Volatility - Bitcoin itself is known for price volatility, and this volatility can also affect the value of Bitcoin ETFs. Sudden market movements can result in significant price fluctuations and potential losses for investors.
  • Regulatory Uncertainty - While some countries have approved Bitcoin ETFs, regulatory frameworks around the world are still evolving. Changes in regulations or the introduction of new restrictions could impact the availability and viability of Bitcoin ETFs in certain jurisdictions.