All around the world, people are getting excited about cryptocurrencies. New coins are appearing every day and although it is possible to ‘mine’ coins, a lot of people want to buy some with old fashioned fiat money. If you are interested in buying or selling crypto, then you need to start learning all about exchange websites.
Exchanges are websites that facilitate the buying, selling and trading of crypto. Even though altcoins were designed to be independent of institutions such as banks, exchanges in some ways fill this role for. They connect buyers with sellers and make their money from commissions on deposits, withdrawals and trades. These sites work in a very similar way to share trading platforms.
Just about everyone involved in cryptocurrency has a trading platform account. While some are only looking to buy and hold, others use the trading functionality to generate investment gains from their holdings. Even early adopters with large holdings benefit, by using the exchanges to sell some of their coins and take profits off the table.
To help you decide which of the many exchange sites will be best for you, we have put together a list featuring the top 20-30 platforms.
One common concern when using online exchange sites is safety and security. Given that cryptos and cryptocurrency exchanges have only come into existence in the last 10 years, it is understandable that people are unsure. It is also clear that some trading platforms are still not high quality.
The highest profile danger associated with using exchange sites is losing coins to hacks. You may have heard of the Mt. Gox hack. This is by far the most infamous trading platform hack, which cost users millions of dollars and forced the company into bankruptcy. While many platforms have learnt from this massive mistake, many other hacks have happened.
Now this definitely does sound scary, but the good news is that there are platforms that have stood the test of time and resisted hacking attempts. Not every exchange is equal and while some are run in a professional way by people with a high level of technical proficiency, there are others that are fly by night operations.
The struggle you have as a potential user is to separate the wheat from the chaff. While websites may look professional and legit, this is no indication of quality. For new users, doing an in depth analysis of an exchange and its trustworthiness is tough.
If you want to be sure that the company you are trusting with your money is legit, you need to do extensive research before you invest. One key indicator is the regulatory status of the site. Financial regulators have strict standards and if they have agreed to work with an exchange, it is a good indicator that it is trustworthy.
In addition to this, real user reviews are invaluable. To help make the life of new investors a little easier, we have created some brief reviews about all the major exchanges. With our years of experience using these sites, we hope our honest reviews will allow you to invest with confidence.
If you are completely new to using altcoin exchanges, then the whole process of buying or selling for the first time can be daunting. You will be glad to know that buying crypto is not that different to trading shares, or moving money around between online bank accounts.
Probably the biggest challenge though is getting onto a trading platform in the first place. Not only do you need to do your research and find a good one, you also need to register and get verified, which can be troublesome.
To help you better understand the process of buying on an exchange, we have made a very basic guide. As you can imagine, every platform has a slightly different process, which can make it hard to give general guidance. Because of this, we have kept this as simple as possible.
The following guide is only intended as an explanation of the basic process for buying cryptocurrencies. Before buying on your chosen exchange site, always read the instructions and FAQs.
Your first step to buying some altcoins is to choose a trading platform and register an account. Check the trustworthiness of the site and also make sure that it definitely deals in the digital currencies you wish to buy or sell.
At this point, you will need to go through the exchange’s registration process. This is something that varies from site to site. While some need very little documentation, others are very thorough with their checks. Generally, you will not be able to start using your new account until verification is complete.
Once you have a verified account, the next step is to fund your account. This can be done with crypto tokens, however most beginners will want to use fiat initially. This can be one of the tougher steps to complete, as not all banks want to work with a trading platform site.
Be especially cautious when choosing the payment method you will use. Make sure you are aware of the fee structure for deposits before proceeding.
As soon as some fiat hits your activated and verified account, you can start buying. As a beginner, you will want to start with some simple buy orders at the market price. Once you get some more confidence and experience, you can use some of the more advanced options.
Placing your buy order is straightforward. You can usually specify an amount you want to buy in either fiat, or your target altcoin. Then you place the order and it will be filled at the days market rate.
When choosing a crypto exchange to use, there are a few things you can look for to help you make a good decision. Here are some of the most important features a good platform should have:
Now we are going to give you a very brief rundown of the best exchanges that are out there. After giving you a brief overview, we will give you the top positives and negatives.
If you’re looking for an exchange with a diverse offering of different altcoins and tokens that you can trade against more popular coins, Binance should make your shortlist. Its competitive fees make it one of the most appealing platforms in the marketplace today. Pair that with their impressive backend infrastructure and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more attractive marketplace.
Supports a number of altcoins that don’t find support on other platforms.
Low standards in terms of the coins allowed on the exchange.
Heavily reliant on the one geographic market for volume, which can easily be affected by political or economic changes.
Massive range of trading pairs, making it great for traders.
As a relative newcomer, the Kucoin team has brought state-of-the-art technology to crypto trading. With extremely low fees and attractive trading incentives, it’s no surprise that this trading platform is growing rapidly. Combine that with their impressive customer support team, and you’ll quickly see why this digital exchange is considered a top contender.
Efficient customer service that is available via multiple channels, 24 hours a day.
Right now, there are no fiat funding options. This really limits the usefulness of this platform for beginners.
Solid API interface that allows developers to build custom apps for the platform.
Although there are a lot of tools for traders, no margin trading is available.
Fast processing of even the largest withdrawals - these can take as little as ten minutes.
Bitfinex is considered the largest trading platform for Bitcoin, processing high volumes on a daily basis. This makes it the exchange of choice for traders, who rely on the volatility in large markets to make profits.
The high volume of trades makes the liquidity on this exchange unrivalled.
The features that make this site great for traders also make it confusing for new users.
The fees on this site are quite reasonable, especially for those who trade in high volumes.
There is no fiat support on the platform, making it impossible to build a position in crypto from nothing on Bitfinex.
A number of advanced trading and charting tools for experienced traders to use.
This trading platform in particular has a troubled past, with hacks and regulatory issues.
Coinbase is a San Francisco based exchange that sees high volume in many cryptos, but is particularly known for Bitcoin trading. It is available in 33 countries currently and has the support of a number of institutional investors.
This platform features a high degree of volume and liquidity, mainly due to the higher trading limits that are available to fully verified accounts.
A high degree of regulatory attention means that verification requirements can be steep.
Because there are plenty of easy to use fiat deposit options, combined with an easy interface, Coinbase is great for beginners.
There are reports that the exchange may track how users spend their cryptos.
Instant buying with credit or debit cards is available.
Bank transfers, which are most commonly used for large deposits can take as long as seven days.
Also based in San Francisco is Kraken, who claim to process the highest volume of Bitcoin to euro transactions. It is known for its commitment to low fees and high security, making it a favourite amongst traders.
High volumes of trades have been known to crash the site, or make the trading so slow that it is unusable.
SEPA payments of EUR is completely free from EU accounts, making it a great option for large investments of fiat.
The complex interface means that this platform is not newbie friendly.
Some of the lowest fees of all full service exchanges.
The ownership of Poloniex is shrouded in some mystery, which is odd for companies in this space. Despite concerns about this secrecy, Poloniex has been able to establish itself as the number one site for Ethereum trading.
Often leads the way in offering trading pairs for new, popular altcoins. More than 70 digital assets are currently supported.
Questions about the security of deposited funds are common given the unclear ownership.
Offers margin trading.
Customer support is lacking, with the ticketing system often going down.
High quality charting and data analysis tools.
Bitstamp is the leading european trading platform for cryptocurrencies. In terms of volume, it is one of the largest exchanges and has stood the test of time, having been around since 2011.
Massive volume that provides unrivalled liquidity.
Bitstamp often requests an invasive level of information for user verification.
Easy EUR and USD deposits.
The user interface is not really beginner friendly.
Fully legal and regulated by authorities in Luxembourg.
Originally started in Slovakia, Coinmama is now owned and managed by an Israeli firm. It operates in almost every country worldwide, with the exception of a handful of US states. This is a platform for buying and selling rather than trading.
All purchased coins come from Coinmamas own reserves, making transfers instant and secure.
Only buys are offered - there is no way to sell your digital token on this platform.
Supports credit and debit card payments.
There is no trading functionality.
Very beginner friendly and a good place to get your first crypto.
No wire transfers are supported.
This trading platform was built by security professionals, which has helped to make it one of the most popular US based platforms. They work hard to comply with financial industry regulations, which increases user confidence. If you want to learn more about Bittrex, you can check out our review.
A secure platform that has shown it can hold up under the strain of high volumes.
Customer support is lacking.
Strong adherence to financial industry regulations.
Recently, accounts have been frozen for no apparent reason, leaving funds stranded on the site.
Good range of coins and trading pairs.
LocalBitcoins is one of the few exchanges that stays true to the principles of anonymity and peer to peer transactions. Based in Helsinki, Finland, this platform facilitates private Bitcoin sales between individuals.
Unique model where the trading platform acts as an escrow - you never lose control of private keys.
Slightly higher prices than other exchanges due to the seller fees.
It is possible to buy and sell with complete anonymity.
Higher chance of scam listings that prey on new users.
Available in many countries and in some locations it is the only viable option.