If you’re interested in buying and selling cryptocurrency, you’ll need to use a cryptocurrency exchange.
A cryptocurrency exchange is a website, app, or service that allows you to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrency.
There are many different types of cryptocurrency exchanges out there, offering different types of currencies for sale and different payment methods.
Additionally, depending on your location, some exchanges may not be available to you, and you may need to use multiple exchanges in order to buy and sell the coins that you want.
Here’s our rundown of the best cryptocurrency exchanges.
Binance is one of the world’s leading crypto-to-crypto exchanges, allowing users to buy and sell a wide variety of cryptocurrencies.
Unlike other major exchanges, Binance does not allow you to purchase coins with fiat currency, instead having users make exchanges with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other major currency pairs. Based in Hong Kong, it has developed a strong reputation for security and reliability and features some of the highest liquidity among exchanges in the world.
Binance is also distinguished by having a much wider selection of cryptocurrencies on offer. In addition to big names such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ripple, it offers rarer currencies such as Monero and EOS. It also boasts low fees.
One downside to Binance is that it does not accept customers from the U.S., though Binance has made plans to launch a separate platform for American users. Additionally, since it lacks fiat currency buys, if you don’t already own cryptocurrency, you will need to buy it somewhere else.
Binance’s reliability and wide breadth of altcoins make it an invaluable tool for cryptocurrency users, particularly those interested in ICOs and other coins that are hard to get elsewhere.
Gemini is a New York-based cryptocurrency exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, best known for their role in creating Facebook.
Gemini is distinguished by its top-of-the-line security, featuring two-factor authentication, cold storage, and a number of other precautions. It offers Bitcoin, Ethereum, Zcash, and a number of other currencies on its brokerage market, with fees of 1.49 percent on orders over $200.
For high-volume traders, Gemini also boasts its ActiveTrader feature, which scales fees based on trading volume. ActiveTrader fees range from 0.35 percent to zero percent depending on your trading activity, making it an attractive option for those who buy and sell frequently.
One of Gemini’s downsides is that its altcoin offerings are more limited than its competitors. This is because it is based in New York, which has more stringent regulations than other U.S. states. At the same time, this also means that Gemini is in full legal compliance with U.S. law, giving it a security and assuredness that other exchanges may lack.
Gemini is an ideal option for many different types of users, from traders who want to buy and sell on a regular basis to casual users who want to use cryptocurrency occasionally. Users who need a more robust altcoin exchange may want to look elsewhere, however.
Bitstamp is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges on the Internet, having been founded in 2011. It has gained a reputation for top-notch security and reliability.
Bitstamp offers Bitcoin and altcoin trading and is distinguished by its strong security features. Most notably, 98 percent of coins traded on Bitstamp are kept in cold storage (aka hardware wallets), insulating them from fraud, theft, or computer glitches.
While Bitstamp is based in Europe, U.S. users can also make use of the site, as it offers international transfers for a very low fee. It also offers one of the best mobile apps among cryptocurrency exchanges.
Bitstamp is ideally suited for European customers or cryptocurrency users in general who want strong security from a trusted name in the cryptocurrency exchange market.
LocalBitcoins is unique among cryptocurrency exchanges in that it is a service focused on real-world exchanges.
Unlike most exchanges, which are focused on online transactions, LocalBitcoins allows you to buy and sell Bitcoin with users in your local area. Once you’ve made contact with a user in your area who wants to buy or sell Bitcoin from you, you meet them in a public place to make the transaction, similar to buying or selling items from Craigslist. This makes LocalBitcoins a good privacy-focused option, as it does not tie your name or financial information to the exchange.
To ensure trust among LocalBitcoins users, the website has a ranking system that allows users to rate their transactions with particular users. This allows resolutions to be made and users to gain a positive reputation through successful transactions.
Due to its nature as a real-world escrow system, LocalBitcoins lacks many of the features that more traditional cryptocurrency platforms possess. However, for those who want to buy Bitcoin in privacy, LocalBitcoins is a good option. Users who wish to purchase Bitcoin with physical cash will also enjoy the versatility of LocalBitcoins.
Kraken is a U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange focused on high-volume traders.
Kraken is distinguished from other exchanges by its unique sliding fee structure. Unlike other exchanges that charge a flat fee for all transactions, Kraken charges fees according to the user’s 30-day trading history. For example, buying fees on Kraken range from 0.16 percent to zero percent, decreasing the more buys you make. This makes Kraken an attractive option for those who make frequent buys or sells.
Additionally, Kraken also offers margin trading with up to 5x leverage. Kraken users who margin trade can borrow up to $500,000 to go long or short on any cryptocurrency, subject to regulatory approval.
Kraken boasts an intuitive web and mobile interface and also features a powerful API designed for traders. Users can fund their accounts using U.S. or Canadian dollars as well as euros.
Given that its design is laser-focused on high-volume traders, Kraken is not ideal for casual users who merely want to buy and hold cryptocurrency occasionally, or make transactions every once in a while. However, users who want robust features for frequent buying and selling will be enticed by Kraken’s sliding fee structure, margin trading capability, and API.
CEX.io is a London-based cryptocurrency exchange that is distinguished by its liquidity, cross-platform trading features, and security features.
One of CEX.io’s selling points is that it has few or no fees compared to other cryptocurrency exchanges. The exchange accomplishes this by charging a premium price for Bitcoin; when you purchase Bitcoin on CEX.io, you will pay more for the Bitcoin itself than you will at other exchanges.
CEX.io is distinguished by its wide support for altcoins and its large number of payment methods, including bank transfers, debit/credit cards, and many more. It also has a clean, easy-to-use interface and a good mobile app.
While some may find the higher prices for Bitcoin a bit hard to swallow, CEX.io is a good option for those who want to use fiat currency to purchase altcoins that are not available at other exchanges.
Exodus is unique in that it is a software wallet with a peer-to-peer exchange system built in, allowing you to cut out the middleman and directly buy and sell cryptocurrency whenever you want.
Peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchanges differ from traditional exchanges in that you don’t need fiat currency in order to use them. Instead, you simply request a certain amount of a particular cryptocurrency and offer an equivalent amount of another cryptocurrency in exchange. Exodus then connects you to a user who has the cryptocurrency you are looking to buy, completing the transaction automatically.
Exodus’ exchange system is highly secure and reliable, and for users in certain jurisdictions, it offers the easiest way to purchase Monero and other, more esoteric cryptocurrencies that are not offered by Coinbase or other traditional exchanges. Exodus features automatic fee adjustments, which allow peer-to-peer exchanges to occur more rapidly.
In addition to this, Exodus offers a built-in portfolio system, setting it apart from other software wallet. This allows you to track the value of your crypto holdings over time without having to use a third-party portfolio app.
Because Exodus is a software wallet, any cryptocurrency you store in it is saved locally to your computer or other device, instead of being hosted on an exchange’s servers. While logins are not used with Exodus, the program features password and passphrase functionality for added security, though it currently lacks two-factor authentication.
Exodus is uniquely designed for newbies, with a clean interface and extensive online documentation. It is also integrated with Trezor hardware wallets for added security and storage.
One downside to using Exodus is that it is computer-centric, with an underdeveloped mobile app that is not compatible with older smartphone and tablet models. Its exchange fees, like many other peer-to-peer exchanges, are also high, meaning that you will likely save money by using a traditional exchange instead for more popular coins such as Bitcoin.
However, Exodus is one of the best peer-to-peer exchanges on the market, and is a good option for those who want to make buys and sells without having to use the middleman of fiat currency. It is also the easiest way to purchase more esoteric altcoins that are not yet available on many popular exchanges.
Many of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges are U.S.-centric, leaving users in other countries out in the cold. Bitpanda, an exchange sometimes described as the “European Coinbase,” is an alternative for European users who are locked out of other, better-known exchanges.
Bitpanda allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum, and many other cryptocurrencies using a number of different fiat currencies, including U.S. dollars, British pounds, euros, and Swiss francs. It offers a wide variety of payment options, including bank transfers, debit/credit cards, Neteller, Skrill, and several others.
In addition to this, Bitpanda charges some of the lowest fees among exchanges, charging only 1.49 percent on buys and 1.29 percent for sells. This is considerably lower than Coinbase and many of its competitors.
Finally, Bitpanda has a very simple interface for both web and mobile use, making it an appealing option for newbies and those who have just dipped their toe into the world of cryptocurrency.
Bitpanda has fewer cryptocurrencies on offer compared to many of its rivals, and its European-centric approach is a stumbling block for customers who are located elsewhere. However, if you are a European cryptocurrency user, Bitpanda is a strong choice, particularly if you live in a country or region where Coinbase and other, better-known exchanges are not available.
Coinmama is a beginner-friendly cryptocurrency exchange and has rapidly become popular in both the U.S. and the world at large.
Coinmama features both an easy-to-use web interface and a feature-rich mobile app. The exchange allows you to buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and a number of other cryptocurrencies with a bank transfer or debit/credit card. It features instant delivery, allowing you to update your portfolio on the fly. Note that Coinmama has a fairly high fee of five percent when using debit/credit cards.
One interesting additional feature of Coinmama is that it allows uses to sell Bitcoin directly to their bank accounts, without having to go through the intermediary step of selling Bitcoin for fiat currency and then transferring it through ACH or a bank wire. Currently, this feature is only available for European customers, but it is likely that Coinmama will expand it to other countries as well.
With regards to security, Coinmama insulates its customers from fraud or theft by not providing wallets of its own. This means that in order to use Coinmama, you need to possess third-party wallets for whatever cryptocurrency you want to buy or sell. This may seem like a hassle for some, but this feature makes it easy to integrate Coinmama with many popular software or hardware wallets, such as Exodus or Trezor.
Like its rival Coinbase, Coinmama is also fully compliant with U.S. law, and it offers services in some countries and U.S. states where Coinbase is either not licensed to operate or lacks certain features. This makes it a good option for those who do not have access to Coinbase in their places of residence.
Coinmama’s lack of internal wallets may be a deal breaker for some due to the added step of having to set up and secure a separate wallet, and its high fees for debit and credit card purchases may be hard to swallow for thriftier consumers. However, users who are looking for a more credit card-friendly exchange and don’t mind having to use their own wallets to buy and sell will get a lot from Coinmama. It’s also a good choice for those who are locked out of using Coinbase due to their location.
Coinbase is one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.S. and the world for a reason: it makes buying, selling, and storing cryptocurrency a cinch.
Unlike many other exchanges, Coinbase is designed for crypto newbies, with a user-friendly interface and a robust mobile app. Coinbase allows you to directly buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies with a bank transfer or a debit/credit card, allowing you to instantly update your portfolio whenever you want, an important thing given how the price of many cryptocurrencies fluctuates.
Coinbase is also integrated with PayPal, allowing you to easily sell currency and deposit the proceeds in your account.
In addition to its standard exchange, Coinbase also offers Coinbase Pro, a free upgrade for serious crypto traders. Coinbase is also one of the world’s leading exchanges in terms of volume, making it easier to buy and sell in a pinch. Coinbase’s influence is such that any coin it adds to its roster experiences an immediate increase in value.
Coinbase is also recognized as one of the most secure exchanges on the Internet. In addition to regular cryptocurrency wallets, Coinbase offers “vaults,” special wallets that have additional security protections, such as two-factor authentication. This makes Coinbase a good option for those who want to store a large volume of cryptocurrency securely without having to buy a hardware wallet.
Finally, unlike many exchanges, Coinbase is fully compliant with U.S. law as well as New York state law. Many cryptocurrencies have had to stop serving American customers in recent years due to legal issues, but Coinbase’s dedication to legal compliance makes it a consistently reliable exchange for U.S. residents.
Coinbase’s major flaw is that its fees are higher than other cryptocurrency exchanges, incentivizing users to buy and sell in bulk instead of trading small amounts. Additionally, many credit and debit card issuers do not allow their cards to be used for cryptocurrency purchases, including with Coinbase. Please check your card issuer’s terms of service before you make any purchases.
Finally, Coinbase only offers a limited selection of coins, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, CHAINLINK, Ripple, and a few others. This is due to the exchange’s selectivity and its necessity to stay compliant with U.S. law. New York-based users may also not have access to certain coins due to the additional regulatory hurdles Coinbase must meet to do business in that state.
Despite its flaws, Coinbase’s security and ease of use make it an invaluable tool for cryptocurrency users, particularly those interested in buying coins with fiat currency.
1. What is a cryptocurrency exchange? A cryptocurrency exchange is a website or app that allows you to purchase or sell cryptocurrency. Exchanges are the easiest way to obtain cryptocurrency, particularly altcoins, which are harder to get on the open market due to their relative obscurity.
2. Why do I need to use a cryptocurrency exchange? Exchanges are by far the easiest way to acquire cryptocurrency. With an exchange, you can simply make an order for whichever cryptocurrency you want and then pay with your bank account, a credit card, or a number of other methods. Additionally, cryptocurrencies provide a level of security that is absent from other types of transactions.
3. Are cryptocurrency exchanges safe? Many longtime cryptocurrency users will remember the collapse of Mt. Gox during the mid-2010’s, which resulted in numerous users being defrauded after the exchange went under. In the years since then, cryptocurrency exchanges have complied with national financial laws and have beefed up their security in order to protect their clients. Most modern cryptocurrency exchanges feature password protection, two-factor authentication, cold storage, and a number of other features that keep their users’ wallets safe. While not all exchanges use the same security methods, you can rest assured that if you use a popular exchange such as Coinbase or Gemini, your funds will be secure.
4. Which types of cryptocurrency exchanges are out there? The most common types of cryptocurrency exchanges are fiat exchanges, crypto-to-crypto exchanges, and peer-to-peer exchanges. Fiat currency exchanges such as Coinbase allow you to make purchases using a credit/debit card or bank transfer. Keep in mind that some credit card issuers and banks do not allow cryptocurrency purchases; check your bank or card issuer’s terms of service to find out more. This is because the constantly shifting prices of cryptocurrencies is deemed an unacceptable risk by many banking institutions. Crypto-to-crypto exchanges such as Binance allow you to make purchases using cryptocurrency, such as using Bitcoin to buy Ethereum. Some consumers prefer these types of exchanges since they do not involve bank accounts or credit cards, which expose the user to an added level of risk. A subset of crypto-to-crypto exchanges are peer-to-peer exchanges such as Exodus, which do not have a centralized structure, but instead allow users to directly trade cryptocurrencies without the use of a middleman. LocalBitcoins, which allows users to exchange Bitcoins in person, is another example of a peer-to-peer exchange. Peer-to-peer exchanges are favored by some users due to their privacy and speed, though they generally have higher fees compared to more traditional exchanges.
5. What is the best cryptocurrency exchange for me? The answer to this question depends on your needs. All cryptocurrency users will generally need to make use of a fiat currency exchange at some point in order to buy currencies using their personal funds. For low-volume, occasional buyers, a simple exchange such as Coinbase will meet most of their requirements. For altcoins such as Monero that are harder to find on fiat currency exchanges, you may need to use a peer-to-peer exchange such as Exodus. High-volume traders will warm to exchanges such as Kraken and Gemini that offer sliding fee structures based on trading history as well as features such as margin trading. Finally, some exchanges may not be available in your local area due to your country’s or state’s laws. Research exchanges thoroughly so you can find the one that is best for you. It’s not uncommon for many cryptocurrency users to use multiple exchanges in order to meet all of their needs.
Cryptocurrency exchanges are in many ways your personal gateway to the world of cryptocurrency. They are the easiest way by far to buy or sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Whether you want to use cryptocurrency for high-volume trading, day-to-day transactions, or simply buying and holding, you will need to use an exchange in order to accomplish your goals.
There are many different types of cryptocurrency exchanges out there, each geared towards a particular type of user. More serious traders will need to make use of multiple exchanges in order to get the coins that they want. You may also be barred from using certain exchanges due to your local laws.
When looking for a cryptocurrency exchange, always be sure to do your research and develop a clear idea of what you want to do. This will allow you to find the exchange that will benefit you the most.
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