16 update: I had some issues over the past start a bitcoin exchange or two, but Coinbase support has resolved them successfully. I wish their support had been faster, but they eventually went above-and-beyond in resolving my issues.
In my mind, nothing comes close to Coinbase in terms of ease of use and security. You link a bank account to the San Francisco-based start-up, and then send them money to buy Bitcoin at the currently offered price. If your goal is to be buying and selling Bitcoin on its swings, you don’t want to be using Coinbase for your day-to-day trading. High fees and long waits make it unsuited for trading. It’s more like Western Union than like Scottrade. There appears to be a coordinated smear campaign against them on the internet.
Would I recommend it to my mother? Summary: I use Coinbase to manage my long-term holds of Bitcoin, and also to get my USD into Bitcoin to begin with. I have a huge amount of confidence in their business. They’re the most legitimate provider in the Bitcoin world. Want to head back and check out some more Bitcoin Exchange Reviews? Coin Base changed their policies very recently.