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With Bitcoin currently riding high, tripling its value in the past year, more and more investors are clamoring to get on the cryptocurrency investing bandwagon. Aside from the extreme peaks and valleys that are inherent to trading in cryptocurrency, there are other risks to consider. With exchanges such as KuCoin and Liquid recently suffering hacks to the tune of more than $300 million worth of digital coins, choosing the right exchange to handle one's trading is crucial. Crypto exchanges range from those with user-friendly interfaces and educational material that are ideal for newcomers to crypto trading to decentralized exchanges that offer better security and lower fees by eliminating the middleman.
To make choosing easier, we’ve reviewed the top exchanges on the market to assemble our list of the best exchanges.
— Best Overall: Binance.US
— Best for Beginners: Coinbase
— Best Decentralized: Bisq
— Best for Bitcoin Investors: Cash App
— Best Altcoins: KuCoin
How We Picked the Best Crypto Exchanges
In selecting the crypto exchanges for this list, I looked at the top exchanges on the market and considered several criteria, including security, liquidity, fees, user interface, and the number of currencies the exchange offers. Keeping these criteria in mind, I chose exchanges with a reputation for preventing hacks or reimbursing their customers in the event of a security breach. Since fees can quickly eat into market earnings, I leaned toward exchanges with reasonable fee structures and enough liquidity to facilitate competitive buying and selling. With the exception of our award categories designed for advanced investors, I also favored crypto exchanges that provide a wealth of educational material and user-friendly interfaces that make it easier for beginners to make trades.
The Best Crypto Exchanges: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Crypto Exchange Overall: Binance.US
Why It Made The Cut: Binance.US offers excellent trading volume and some of the lowest fees of any crypto exchange.
— Number of coins: 74
— Fees (maker/taker): 0.1 percent/0.1 percent
— Minimum Trade: $10
— Some of the lowest fees for any exchange
— Broad range of features that meet the needs of casual and serious crypto investors
— A 25 percent trading fee discount when you pay fees using Binance Coin
— Not available in all states
— Limited number of coin options
— Not as many tutorials for beginners as other exchanges
By keeping fees low and appealing to beginners as well as veteran crypto traders, Binance.US is one of the best all-around crypto exchanges on the market. Binance.US was formed in 2019 after China-based Binance.com stopped offering its services in the U.S. The exchange’s biggest draw is its fees, which at 0.1 percent for buying or selling is among the lowest in the industry.
For the beginner or casual trader, Binance.US’s user-friendly interface makes it easy to trade cryptocurrencies for transactions under $10,000, though it does lack the educational features that other exchanges have. For veteran traders, the exchange includes more advanced functionality with a trading dashboard that is loaded with data that allow you to track trading volume as well as highs and lows over one-day periods. It also includes advanced buying and selling features that allow you to make limit, market, and stop-limit orders.
While its 74 available coins include all the major digital coins, Binance.US’s selection is a small fraction of the more than 500 coins Binance.com offers. It’s also important to note that you won’t be able to open a Binance.US account if you live in Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, New York, Louisiana, Texas, or Vermont.
Best Crypto Exchange for Beginners: Coinbase
Why It Made The Cut: Coinbase has the most beginner-friendly interface and secure platform of any cryptocurrency exchange we reviewed.
— Number of coins: 100+
— Fees (maker/taker): 1.99 percent/1.99 percent
— Minimum Trade: $2
— Easy-to-use interface makes it ideal for beginners
— Cryptocurrency educational features are robust
— Very secure platform
— Does not allow users to control wallet keys
— Higher fees than other exchanges
Although Coinbase doesn’t make trading in the volatile cryptocurrency market less risky, it does make it easier for newcomers to make trades while protecting them from hackers.
The cryptocurrency industry has been a prime target for hackers with numerous exchanges suffering attacks that have drained their client’s accounts. Coinbase has thus far avoided those losses with one of the most secure exchanges on the market. Coinbase has yet to be hacked. The company also offers the reassurance of insured custodial wallets that protect its users by storing funds in FDIC-insured bank accounts. This structure has made Coinbase one of the safest platforms you can use. Just keep in mind that these custodial accounts keep ownership of the con’s private keys. Other exchanges hand over the key to the account holder, which, while offering more control, makes the user liable for losses if they happen to lose their keys.
Coinbase’s interface is one of the easiest to use and includes more educational content than any other exchange, making it the ideal choice for beginners. And, when it’s time to graduate to the next level, you can upgrade to Coinbase Pro, which has the same price structure but offers more robust charts and performance data. This more sophisticated interface does come with a cost as Coinbase’s fees, which range from 1.49 percent to 3.99 percent, depending on payment type, are some of the highest of any exchange.
Best Decentralized Exchange: Bisq
Why It Made The Cut: Bisq’s decentralized exchange offers low fees and better security for those who want to eliminate the intermediary.
— Number of coins: 11
— Fees (maker/taker): 0.05 percent/0.70 percent
— Minimum Trade: N/A
— Very low fees
— No middle man minimizes hacking
— No KYC process adds privacy
— Lower trading volume
— Slow transaction speeds
Of the decentralized exchanges on the market, Bisq is one of the best. A decentralized exchange lets crypto investors make cryptocurrency transactions directly to each other without the need for an intermediary. This means no other entity touches or controls a user’s funds from ownership through the sale. A decentralized exchange minimizes the risk of theft since there’s no intermediary to hack while minimizing fees. And since no one else owns the keys to your account, there is no third party that can freeze it if its computers detect suspicious activity. It also means that if you are ever hacked, the likelihood of you tracking the culprit down and recovering your funds is nil. You’re also on the hook for losses if you happen to misplace the keys to your crypto wallet.
While Bisq’s fees are very low, keep in mind that the trading volume on Bisq is slower than more mainstream exchanges, which can make it more challenging to buy or sell certain coins at a competitive price.
The services are available via any computer or smart device and they do not adhere to the Know Your Client (KYC) rules that force investors to go through lengthy identity authentication when opening an account. This makes Bisq ideal for those who value privacy or who might be living in a country rife with government corruption. Bisq trades in several of the most common cryptocurrencies but only offers a total of 11 digital coins.
Best for Bitcoin Investors: Cash App
Why It Made The Cut: There’s no easier way to trade Bitcoin than through the easy-to-use interface of this peer-to-peer money app.
— Number of coins: 1
— Fees (maker/taker): $1.99 per transaction
— Minimum Trade: $1
— Very easy to trade in Bitcoin
— Allows crypto currency withdraws
— Familiar money transfer app interface
— Only works with Bitcoin
— Cash App keeps the keys to your cryptocurrency
For Bitcoin investors who only invest in Bitcoin, it’s hard to find an easier way to make trades than with this app. Cash App is a peer-to-peer money transfer application that’s very similar in functionality to the better known Venmo and Zelle. The app acts as a bank account that has the added functionality of allowing users to quickly send money to friends and family members for restaurant bills, rent, utilities, lost bets, and other shared expenses.
In addition to making peer-to-peer transactions, the app also allows you to invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds, and Bitcoin. Similar to other peer-to-peer money transfer apps, Cash App is very easy to use, making it a great choice for casual and first-time investors who don’t want the complexity of data offered by other crypto exchanges.
While there are other peer-to-peer money transfer apps and investment meant apps that allow you to invest in Bitcoin, Cash App allows you to withdraw cryptocurrency investments, which is a vital feature. That said, like Coinbase, Cash App does not allow you to hold the keys to your cryptocurrency, which can be a deal-breaker for more serious crypto investors.
Best Altcoin Exchange: KuCoin
Why It Made The Cut: KuCoin offers the most comprehensive collection of digital currency of any exchange we reviewed.
— Number of coins: 1
— Fees (maker/taker): $1.99 per transaction
— Minimum Trade: N/A
— Broad selection of digital coins
— Low trading fees
— 20 percent discount when you pay fees with KuCoin’s digital coin
— Too complex for beginner investors
— Limited educational content
Those looking for a broad range of altcoins, which is any coin other than Bitcoin, would be hard-pressed to find a broader selection than that offered by Kucoin. Founded on the idea of giving investors access to more currencies, KuCoin offers more than 400 cryptocurrencies to trade, which includes such popular coins as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
While this alone makes Kucoin an attractive option for those looking for a broad swath of cryptocurrencies to choose from, Kucoin separates itself from other top altcoin providers with its low fees. It charges just 0.1 percent for both maker and taker fees. And, if you choose to pay with KuCoin’s own KCS stablecoin currency, you can cut these fees by 20 percent.
We also like the fact that KuCoin offers flexibility when it comes to custodial services. You can store your crypto assets on KuCoin or opt to store currency and trade via a third-party wallet, which is ideal for those who like to hold the keys to their cryptocurrency.
KuCoin also offers features not typically found on other exchanges, including automated trading with trading bots, leverage and margin investing, and other features that appeal to advanced traders. In terms of security, KuCoin stores a chunk of its assets in cold storage, which helps to protect the majority of its assets from hacking.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Cryptocurrency
First and foremost, you need to make sure you go with a crypto exchange that is going to protect your assets. The growth of cryptocurrency has made it a popular target for hackers with such exchanges as Binance and KuCoin suffering millions of dollars in losses to hackers. While these exchanges are insured and reimburse their client’s losses, no one wants to be in a position in which they’re hoping an exchange will cover their losses if they’re hacked. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to diversify among multiple exchanges or, better yet, work with one that allows you to move assets into your own cold storage wallet.
Exchanges vary dramatically with the number of cryptocurrencies they offer from as few as one to more than 600. If you’re only investing in Bitcoin, then going with an exchange that only deals Bitcoin is just fine, but if you want an exchange that will allow you to diversify your portfolio by offering you access to well-known currencies as well as more obscure digital coins, you may want to consider an exchange that offers many options.
Just like purchasing an ETF (exchange-traded fund) mutual fund or stock, there are fees involved for executing a trade in cryptocurrency. You’ll pay more for an exchange with a user-friendly interface and loads of instructional material. While this may be fine for those just starting out, advanced users should consider an exchange that won’t take a chunk out of their returns. Those who trade frequently will especially want to seek out exchanges that lower their trading costs and consider decentralized exchanges, which charge the lowest fees by eliminating the intermediary.
If there aren’t enough trades happening on an exchange, you’ll have a tough time buying and selling. Check that there is enough liquidity (trading activity) on an exchange to make sure you can make trades without having to buy or sell a digital currency for more or less than you should.
Q: What is a crypto exchange?
A cryptocurrency exchange is a business that allows you to trade cryptocurrencies for other cryptocurrencies or for other assets, such as conventional money. These exchanges use an online ledger called blockchain, which is protected by high-level cryptography, to execute and record these transactions. Similar to conventional exchanges, crypto exchanges make money by charging fees for transactions.
Q: How does a crypto exchange work?
A crypto exchange works similarly to a brokerage, allowing clients to deposit money into it via a bank transfer. The user then pays a conversion fee to convert that money into cryptocurrency to invest in this currency. Similar to other trading systems, trades work with the buyer placing a limit order which is fulfilled when that cryptocurrency is available at that price from a seller on the exchange.
Q: How do you buy crypto?
You can buy crypto by signing up for a cryptocurrency exchange and linking a bank account. Once you deposit money into the exchange via a bank transfer, you can then place a limit order to buy a specific currency such as Bitcoin, Solana, Ethereum, or Binance Coin.
Q: What is cryptocurrency?
A cryptocurrency is a form of payment not unlike traditional currencies that can be exchanged online for goods and services. Some companies even set up their business only to accept certain cryptocurrencies, not unlike an arcade or amusement park that requires tokens to purchase its goods or services. These currencies work using a technology known as blockchain that serves as a secure ledger of cryptocurrency transactions.
Q: Is Coinbase good for beginners?
With its simple interface and high level of security, Coinbase is one of the best exchanges for beginners. With more than 60 currencies available on its exchange, it covers the best-known coins. And, with 98 percent of its client’s funds stored offline in cold storage, it’s one of the most secure exchanges you can use.
Q: How do I open a crypto exchange account?
Begin by choosing a crypto exchange. If you’re new to trading cryptocurrencies, then go with an exchange that has a user-friendly interface, such as Coinbase. Register for the site and connect a checking account. Once you’ve uploaded money to the site, you can begin purchasing cryptocurrency.
While risk is inherent in any type of investing, there’s little doubt that trading in cryptocurrency is a particularly perilous way of investing one’s money. With that in mind, it’s important to choose a reputable exchange. With its reasonable fees, user-friendly interface, secure platform, and decent range of digital coins, Binance.US is a worthy exchange for beginners or advanced crypto traders. Those brand new to the world of cryptocurrency should consider Coinbase, which has a user-friendly interface and a wealth of educational content.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.