What Is a Bitcoin ETF? Everything You Need to Know

What Is a Bitcoin ETF? Everything You Need to Know

A Bitcoin ETF is an exchange-traded fund that tracks the price of Bitcoin and is traded on traditional stock exchanges. It allows investors to invest in Bitcoin without the complexities of handling the cryptocurrency directly. Learn more about the best Bitcoin ETFs and how to invest in them.

An Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is a type of investment fund traded on stock exchanges, like stocks. It combines the diversification of mutual funds with the lower costs, liquidity, and tax efficiency of stocks. The first ETF appeared in Canada in 1990, and the concept expanded to the U.S. in 1993 with the SPDR S&P 500 ETF. Gold ETFs, such as the SPDR Gold Shares launched in 2004, offer accessible gold investment and can influence gold prices. Similarly, introducing a Bitcoin ETF could significantly impact the cryptocurrency market by enhancing accessibility, liquidity, and investor interest.


Gold price rally after Gold ETF launch in Nov 2004 | Source: BusinessInsider 


Over the years, cryptocurrencies have firmly established themselves in the global financial landscape, captivating both retail and institutional investors. Amidst this digital revolution, Bitcoin ETFs emerge as a pivotal innovation, offering a streamlined path to cryptocurrency investment. This guide demystifies Bitcoin ETFs, elucidating their significance, investment process, and the balancing act of risks and rewards.


What Is a Bitcoin ETF? 

A Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) represents a revolutionary financial instrument on the stock market, predominantly investing in Bitcoin. Simplifying cryptocurrency investment, a BTC ETF allows investors to tap into Bitcoin's value without the intricacies of purchasing or storing the digital asset. 




The first Bitcoin ETF was launched in Canada. The Ontario Securities Commission approved the Purpose Bitcoin ETF, which became the first officially approved Bitcoin ETF in North America. It started trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) on February 18, 2021, under the ticker symbols "BTCC.B" and "BTCC.U". 


The Purpose Bitcoin ETF allows investors to buy into Bitcoin through their regular brokerage accounts, and it holds actual Bitcoin to back its shares. The launch of the first Bitcoin ETF marked a significant milestone in the integration of cryptocurrencies into the traditional financial system, offering investors a regulated and accessible way to invest in Bitcoin without the need to directly purchase and store the digital currency. 


There are primarily two types of Bitcoin ETFs:


  1. Bitcoin Spot ETFs: These ETFs mirror Bitcoin's real-time market price, backed by actual Bitcoin holdings.

  2. Bitcoin Futures ETFs: Focused on Bitcoin futures contracts, these do not hold Bitcoin directly.

Both variants are traded on stock exchanges, akin to conventional ETFs.


As of January 2024, several countries have embraced Bitcoin Spot ETFs, expanding the horizons for crypto investing. However, the regulatory landscape in the US is still evolving, with only Bitcoin Futures ETFs receiving the green light. 


Bitcoin ETFs vs. Traditional ETFs: A Comparative Glance

At their essence, Bitcoin ETFs operate similarly to traditional ETFs. While standard ETFs may track a collection of stocks or bonds (like the S&P 500 ETFs), Bitcoin ETFs are aligned with Bitcoin's current or future price. They offer diversification, liquidity, and ease of trading—qualities highly sought by investors keen on exploring diverse asset classes.


How Do Bitcoin Spot ETFs Differ From Bitcoin Futures ETFs?

Bitcoin Spot ETFs invest directly in actual Bitcoin, offering exposure to the real-time price of Bitcoin. In contrast, Bitcoin Futures ETFs invest in futures contracts on Bitcoin, which are speculative instruments based on the future price of Bitcoin.


What Is a Bitcoin Spot ETF? Simplifying Crypto Investment 

A Bitcoin Spot ETF offers investors a way to gain exposure to Bitcoin's price without the complexities of direct ownership. This eliminates the need to engage with cryptocurrency exchanges and manage wallets. Typically, a Bitcoin Spot ETF is established through the collaboration of:


  1. A financial entity with a robust track record and regulatory expertise, responsible for the ETF filing.

  2. A crypto custodian, entrusted with holding the Bitcoin on behalf of the ETF.

Internationally, Bitcoin Spot ETFs have gained traction in countries like Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has historically hesitated to approve them, citing concerns about market manipulation and investor protection.




Final Deadline



January 1, 2024


ARK and 21Shares

January 10, 2024



January 14, 2024


Blackrock (iShares)

January 15, 2024



January 15, 2024



January 15, 2024


Invesco Galaxy

January 15, 2024


Fidelity (Wise Origin)

January 15, 2024



January 17, 2024


Global X

February 19, 2024



March 31, 2024


Franklin Templeton

March 31, 2024


Pando Asset


Pending Spot Bitcoin ETF Applications with the US SEC as of January 2024 


As of January 2024, the scenario might be shifting. The SEC is actively reviewing several spot Bitcoin ETF applications, signaling a potential change in the U.S. regulatory landscape. Financial giants like BlackRock and Fidelity Digital Assets are keen to launch these ETFs, further fueling market anticipation. 


What Are Bitcoin Futures ETFs? A Different Approach 

In contrast to Spot ETFs, a Bitcoin Futures ETF provides exposure to the price movements of Bitcoin futures contracts rather than the actual Bitcoin market. They do not track Bitcoin's current market price and do not require holding any Bitcoin.


Popular Bitcoin futures ETFs include ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO), Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BTF), VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF (XBTF), and Global X Blockchain & Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITS). 


This distinction has sparked debate in the financial community. Some analysts argue that Futures ETFs may not fully reflect the dynamics of the underlying Bitcoin market, raising questions about their impact on the broader crypto ecosystem.


Why Is a Bitcoin ETF Important? 

Bitcoin ETFs have emerged as a pivotal element in the evolving financial landscape, offering unique advantages for both traditional and institutional investors. Here’s why Bitcoin ETFs are crucial: 


Simplifying Investments in Bitcoin 

At its core, a Bitcoin ETF is a regulated investment fund traded on stock exchanges, similar to traditional ETFs, but specifically focused on Bitcoin. These funds are instrumental in demystifying the investment process for those accustomed to the stock market but new to cryptocurrencies. By encapsulating the essence of Bitcoin investment in a familiar structure, Bitcoin ETFs allow investors to bypass the technicalities of blockchain technology, decentralized exchanges (DEXs), and cryptocurrency storage.


This simplicity is a cornerstone of their appeal. It enables a broader spectrum of investors to participate in the cryptocurrency market, including those wary of the steep learning curve associated with direct crypto investments.


Enhanced Security: A Boon for Beginners

A key feature of Bitcoin ETFs is their enhanced security, especially for beginners. Unlike direct crypto investments, where the investor is responsible for the safekeeping of private keys, Bitcoin ETFs provide a layer of protection. This security is twofold:


  1. Regulatory insurance: In certain jurisdictions, like the U.S., investors' funds are protected up to a certain limit (e.g., FDIC insurance up to $250,000).

  2. Custody management: Investors are relieved from the complexities of managing their crypto holdings, as the ETF provider handles this responsibility.

Attracting Institutional Investors with Bitcoin ETFs

The introduction of Bitcoin ETFs, including spot ETFs and BTC options ETFs, significantly impacts institutional investor interest. These ETFs offer a regulated, transparent, and liquid investment avenue, making them an attractive proposition for institutional portfolios. Their inclusion can aid in diversification and risk management, contributing to increased market capitalization and stability in the cryptocurrency market.


Top Bitcoin ETFs to Watch in 2024 

Bitcoin ETFs, or Exchange Traded Funds focusing on Bitcoin, allow investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without directly purchasing the cryptocurrency. This includes both spot ETFs, which are directly tied to the price of Bitcoin, and futures ETFs, which are linked to Bitcoin futures contracts. For example, the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF is known for its active management, focusing on Bitcoin futures. At the same time, the Global X Blockchain & Bitcoin Strategy ETF diversifies by including blockchain stocks alongside Bitcoin futures.


Explore the top spot Bitcoin ETFs to buy


Spotlight on Global Bitcoin ETFs

In the international arena, several Bitcoin Spot ETFs have gained prominence. Countries like Canada, Switzerland, and Germany offer investors various options. For instance, the Purpose Bitcoin ETF (TSX: BTCC) in Canada and the ETC Group Physical Bitcoin (BTCE) in Germany are notable examples of spot ETFs with substantial assets under management (AUM). These international options are crucial for investors looking to diversify globally.








Purpose Bitcoin ETF





3iQ CoinShares Bitcoin ETF





CI Galaxy Bitcoin ETF





21Shares Bitcoin ETP





QR Capital Gestora de Recursos LTDA





CoinShares Physical Bitcoin





ETC Group Physical Bitcoin




Global Bitcoin ETFs and assets under management (AUM) as of January 2024


The U.S. Scenario: Spot and Futures ETFs

In the U.S., the landscape has been dynamic. While several spot Bitcoin ETFs, such as the iShares Bitcoin Trust and the NYDIG Bitcoin ETF, are still pending approval, the market has seen a rise in Bitcoin Futures ETFs. These include the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) and the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BTF), offering different approaches to Bitcoin investment.







ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF




ProShares Short Bitcoin ETF




VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF

Cboe US



Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF




Simplify Bitcoin Strategy PLUS Inc ETF




Global X Blockchain & Bitcoin Strategy ETF




Bitwise Crypto Industry Innovators ETF



US Bitcoin ETFs and their assets under management as of January 2024


How to Choose the Right Bitcoin ETF 

Investing in Bitcoin ETFs can be a strategic move if you want to diversify your investment portfolio beyond traditional finance. But how do you pick the right Bitcoin ETF? This guide aims to clarify the selection process, addressing the key factors and latest developments in the world of Bitcoin ETFs.


Understanding Bitcoin ETFs and Their Types

Firstly, it’s essential to understand what a Bitcoin ETF is. A Bitcoin ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) allows investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without owning the cryptocurrency directly. There are primarily two types of Bitcoin ETFs: spot ETFs and futures ETFs. Spot ETFs track the actual price of Bitcoin, while futures ETFs are tied to Bitcoin futures contracts. The choice between a spot ETF and a futures ETF depends heavily on your investment goals and risk tolerance.


Analyzing Bitcoin ETF Fees and Liquidity

When considering a Bitcoin ETF, it's crucial to look at the fees, which can vary widely. Often reflected in the ETF's expense ratio, these fees can impact your overall returns. Additionally, liquidity is a key consideration. A highly liquid ETF allows for easier entry and exit from the market, which is especially important in the volatile crypto sector.


Analyzing ETF Track Record and Investment Horizon

A Bitcoin ETF's past performance, while not indicative of future results, can offer insights into its management and stability. Additionally, consider your investment horizon. Bitcoin ETFs, particularly those associated with volatile cryptocurrencies like BTC, are better suited for investors with a longer-term outlook.


Setting Investment Goals and Assessing Risk

Define your objectives: Are you looking for long-term growth or short-term gains? Bitcoin’s inherent volatility means a higher risk, so assess your risk tolerance carefully. Understanding the nuances of Bitcoin ETFs is vital in aligning them with your investment goals.


How to Invest in a Bitcoin ETF 

Investing in a Bitcoin ETF involves several steps:


  1. Open a Brokerage Account: Choose a brokerage based on factors like fees, investment options, and user interface. You're ready to invest once your account is set up and funded.

  2. Find the Right Bitcoin ETF: Research to find an ETF that aligns with your investment strategy. While spot-based Bitcoin ETFs may not be available in every region, such as the US, several futures-based and international spot ETF options exist.

  3. Understand Fees and Expenses: Be aware of management fees and trading costs associated with your chosen Bitcoin ETF. Comparing expense ratios across different funds can help you find a cost-effective option.

Investing in US-Based Bitcoin ETFs 

In the United States, the options for Bitcoin ETFs, as of 2024, primarily revolve around futures-based offerings. This is due to regulatory constraints that limit direct exposure to Bitcoin. These US-based ETFs, often referred to as Bitcoin futures ETFs, invest in Bitcoin futures contracts. While they may not offer the same level of direct exposure as spot-based ETFs, they provide a regulated avenue within the US financial system to gain exposure to the cryptocurrency market.


Investing in International Bitcoin ETFs 

For those looking to broaden their investment scope, international Bitcoin ETFs present an appealing option. Countries like Canada and several European nations offer spot-based ETFs with more lenient regulations, which hold Bitcoin directly. This type of ETF, known as a spot ETF or ETF cryptocurrency, allows for more direct exposure to Bitcoin's market movements. Investing in these international Bitcoin ETFs can afford additional opportunities for diversification and access to the expanding digital asset market.


Closing Thoughts 

Bitcoin ETFs play a significant role in the financial landscape. They offer a more streamlined and secure way for investors to access the cryptocurrency market, which is particularly important given the market's volatility and the evolving regulatory environment. 


Before deciding to buy Bitcoin ETF, investors should be aware of the inherent risks and regulatory considerations. The cryptocurrency market is known for its volatility, which can significantly impact the performance of Bitcoin ETFs. It's advisable to seek professional financial advice and conduct thorough research to align your investment choices with your financial goals and risk tolerance.


Further Reading 

  1. Bitcoin Halving Countdown 2024 - Everything You Need to Know

  2. Bitcoin Halving
  3. Best Bitcoin Wallets in 2024

  4. What Are Bitcoin Ordinals? Your Ultimate Guide to Bitcoin NFTs

  5. Best Ethereum ETFs to Watch in 2024

  6. What Are BRC-20 Tokens? A Deep Dive Into the Bitcoin Memecoin Machine

  7. How to Buy BRC-20 Tokens: A Beginner’s Guide

  8. BRC 20 vs. ERC-20 Tokens: Similarities and Differences Explained

Bitcoin ETF FAQs 

1. What Are the Benefits of Investing in a Bitcoin ETF?

Investing in a Bitcoin ETF provides ease of trading similar to stocks, regulated exposure to Bitcoin's price movements, and eliminates the need for personal cryptocurrency storage or management.


2. Are Bitcoin ETFs Available in the United States?

As of January 2024, the U.S. primarily offers Bitcoin Futures ETFs due to regulatory constraints, with Spot ETFs still under consideration by regulatory bodies.


3. How Does Investing in a Bitcoin ETF Compare to Buying Bitcoin Directly?

Investing in a Bitcoin ETF offers a more regulated, potentially less risky way to gain exposure to Bitcoin's price, whereas buying Bitcoin directly involves handling and securing the cryptocurrency yourself, offering direct exposure but with increased responsibility.


4. What Are the Risks Associated with Investing in Bitcoin ETFs?

The risks include market volatility, potential regulatory changes impacting ETF operations, and the broader risks associated with the cryptocurrency market that can affect Bitcoin's price.


5. How Can I Buy a Bitcoin ETF?

To buy a Bitcoin ETF, open a brokerage account with a firm that offers stock trading, search for the Bitcoin ETF ticker, and place a trade, much like you would for any other stock or ETF.