Our Guide to Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that you can buy, sell, or exchange through cryptocurrency exchange websites. There are many different types of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Ripple, Zcash, Monero, Augur REP tokens, ICONOMI, Stellar/Lumens and hundreds more. On many exchanges, you can exchange cryptocurrencies for other cryptocurrencies or even traditional currency, like US dollars.

There are a few different types of exchanges:

  • Trading platforms connect sellers and buyers and collect transaction fees.
  • Brokers allow individuals to buy cryptocurrencies at a price set by the broker, which is a lot like foreign currency exchange dealers.
  • Direct trading offers individuals the ability to trade with another individual and set their own exchange rate, instead of paying a fixed market price.

For every cryptocurrency exchange, there is of course an exchange web site. Some sites are better for the beginner trader. These beginner-friendly sites are very straightforward and often don’t require you to create an account to learn about trading on their platform. Other sites are better for more experienced and professional traders. These sites typically require you to create an account and verify your ID before doing much of anything.

Find out which exchange site is right for you

  • First, check out the website’s reputation by looking up their reviews from users on well-known websites. Bitcoin and Reddit have forums where you can ask questions.
  • Find out if the exchange offers full access to all of its resources for the country where you live. There may be some restrictions for certain countries.
  • Learn about any applicable fees the exchange charges. Possible fees include deposit, transaction, or withdrawal fees. These fees vary depending on the exchange site you decide to use, so don’t assume every exchange is the same.
  • Look at what the exchange rates are, and seek out the lowest rate available. These rates can differ up to 10% or more from one exchange to another.
  • Find out what payment methods are available. Payment methods can include credit card, debit card, PayPal, EFT, wire transfer and more. Be aware that wire transfers take more time for the bank to process, and your bank may charge you a fee to process a wire transfer. Also keep in mind that using a credit card often requires ID verification, because this comes with a higher risk of fraud. Also, there will most likely be higher transaction fees with a credit card. Make sure that the available payment options on the exchange you’re considering work for you.
  • Find out what kind of verification is required. Some exchanges will allow you to remain anonymous, but most exchanges will require some sort of ID verification. This may take a few days, but this protects against all kinds of scams and fraud, so it’s better for the exchange as well as its members.

To get you started, below is a list of 11 of the top crypto exchanges from around the world. This list is based on user reviews, fees, security, accessibility, and user-friendliness and is organized in alphabetical order.

Bisq

Bisq (formerly Bitsquare) is where peers can buy, sell, or exchange Bitcoins in exchange for cryptocurrencies or flat currencies. Bisq has no central authority and no need for registration so it is instantly accessible. If you don’t trust anyone and would prefer to be anonymous, Bisq is your best, secure choice. Bisq’s security features security deposits, multi-sig addresses, and an arbitrator in case there are any trade disputes. The only person who sees your personal information is the person that you’re trading with. Bisq also never holds any user funds. Bisq is user-friendly but it’s more suitable for advanced traders than for beginners. There are limited payment options but the fees are decent. The customer support may be only average but Bisq has a good reputation, it’s available worldwide, open source, and offers a very wide range of cryptocurrencies to trade in. You can check the Bisq FAQ here.

Bitstamp

Bitstamp, one of the best-known exchanges, was founded in 2011 and is based in the European Union. Bitstamp is a cryptocurrency marketplace that’s very well-known and available around the world. Loyal customers trust Bitstamp to be very safe. They offer high-level security with multiple security features, such as a two-step authentication, multi-sig technology for its wallet, and a fully insured cold storage. Getting started is easy. All you have to do is open a free account, make a deposit, and start trading right away! Bitstamp’s interface is not the most user-friendly or beginner-friendly but they do offer 24/7 support. It has limited payment options and slightly higher deposit fees than some exchanges, but has low transaction fees. The platform is multilingual and perfect for large transactions. Check out their FAQ here.

Bittrex

Bittrex is where you can exchange over 190 cryptocurrencies. You cannot trade with traditional currency with this exchange. They are always expanding with new cryptocurrencies which uses the latest blockchain technology. Bittrex conducts compliance audits on all new coin launches to help you stay informed. Bittrex is great for beginners and advanced traders alike. Bittrex trades are fast and they provide a stable wallet. For security purposes, Bittrex requires a two-step authentication process for all withdrawals and API usage. Bittrex is based and fully managed in the US but is available worldwide. You can find the Bittrex FAQ here.

Cex.io

Cex.io allows users to easily trade cryptocurrencies with flat money and vice versa. Cryptocurrencies can also be stored in safe, cold storage. Cex.io is supported worldwide, has a decent exchange rate, and accepts credit cards. They have a good reputation and a good mobile product. This platform is great for beginners and experienced traders alike. For beginners, it offers a brokerage service that allows a really simple way to buy bitcoin at market rate prices. For experienced traders, it offers margin trading and trading dashboards that are personalized and user-friendly. The downsides are that is has a long verification process, high depositing fees, and only average customer support. Check out the Cex.io FAQ.

Coinbase

Coinbase is by far the best-known exchange and is used by millions of customers around the world and supported by trusted investors. As one of the most well-known trading platforms and brokers in the world, it is a great exchange for beginner and experienced traders. The Coinbase platform allows you to easily and securely buy, sell, trade, and store cryptocurrency, and your stored cryptocurrency is covered by Coinbase insurance. The fees are very reasonable as well. Currently, you can buy Bitcoins, Ether, and Litecoin through a digital wallet which is available on iPhone and Android. The downsides are there are limited countries supported, fewer payment options than some exchanges, and customer support is tough to reach. However, they do provide a comprehensive support site. Check out the Coinbase support site here.

GDAX

Coinbase also offers services through its subsidiary company Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX). GDAX is best for technical traders only. If you need to transfer funds from your Coinbase account to a GDAX account, there are no transfer fees. GDAX operates in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, and Singapore. However, the selection of tradable currencies will depend upon the country in which you live. Here is the GDAX FAQ.

CoinMama

CoinMama is a broker platform where just about anyone can buy Bitcoin or Ether with your own local, traditional currency. However, you cannot sell any Bitcoins through this exchange. They accept credit card or cash using Western Union or MoneyGram. Keep in mind that there is a fee for credit card transactions. The exchange rates are also high. CoinMama is great for beginners and has a very user-friendly interface. The customer support is about average, and people in some countries may not be able to use all of the site’s features. CoinMama is available in English, French, Italian, Russian, and German. Check out the CoinMama FAQ.

Gemini

Gemini is a fully regulated, licensed US Bitcoin and Ether exchange. All US dollar deposits are stored at a bank that is FDIC-insured, and most of the cryptocurrency is in cold storage. Their security and compliance are similar to that of a bank. There are only three currencies that Gemini trades in: US Dollars, Bitcoin, and Ether. No other cryptocurrencies are available through this platform at the time of this writing, and Gemini is available in only 42 US states, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, so it has limited availability. The exchange utilizes a maker-taker fee schedule with high liquidity, and great analytics. There is no margin trading, but there are discounts for high volume trades. Also, all the withdrawals and deposits are free. The customer support is only average, but the user-friendly design is slick and minimalistic. Here is the Gemini FAQ.

Kraken

Kraken is the largest Bitcoin exchange in euro volume and liquidity. Kraken is actually a partner in the first cryptocurrency bank. With Kraken, you can buy, sell, and trade bitcoins with Euros, US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, and Japanese Yen. You can also trade with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Zcash, Ripple, Dogecoin, Augur REP tokens, ICONOMI, and Stellar/Lumens.

Kraken is great for more experienced users, because it offers margin trading and more advanced trading features. Kraken has a good reputation, great user support, and worldwide support. Kraken also has low transaction fees, minimal deposit fees, and decent exchange rates. The downsides to Kraken are that it has limited payment options, is not very suitable for beginners, and doesn’t have the most user-friendly interface. Here is the Kraken FAQ.

LocalBitcoins

LocalBitcoins is where peers can buy, sell, and trade in your local area. There are thousands of locations available around the world, and you can buy or sell Bitcoins in cash, through PayPal, Dwolla, or Skrill. You can also arrange to deposit cash at a local bank branch. This exchange is great for beginner traders. There platform is usually free and offer instant transfers. Sellers set their own exchange rates which are often high and LocalBitcoins takes an additional 1% commission off the seller’s exchange. It is difficult to buy large amounts of Bitcoin on LocalBitcoins. There are a number of security measures. First, each trader’s past activities are publicly displayed and each trader is ranked according to their reputation. Then, when a trade is requested, the funds are held in an escrow service until the seller confirms that the trade is complete. LocalBitcoins also has a conflict resolution team in case there are any conflicts between sellers and buyers. You can check the LocalBitcoins FAQ here.

Poloniex

Poloniex was founded in 2014 and already has one of the highest trading volumes in the world. Because of this, users will always be able to make a trade. This exchange offers over 100 different Bitcoin cryptocurrency pairings. Poloniex is great for advanced traders because of its advanced tools, data analysis, BTC lending, and open API. They utilize a volume-tiered, maker-taker fee schedule for all trades. There are transaction fees but no withdrawal fees, and the trading fees are low. For makers, fees are as low as .15% depending on the amount that is traded. For takers, fees range from .10% to .25%.

Poloniex’s exchange site is user-friendly, and the account creation process is fast. Poloniex has a unique chat box where you can write any questions, comments, or suggestions that you may have. The chat box helps you to be engaged with the community, as all the comments can be seen by all Poloniex users. It can be a bit challenging to sort through the comments and discern which are helpful and which are not, but the moderators will delete inappropriate comments, so that’s helpful. The only downsides are slow customer support and no flat currency support. Here is the Poloniex FAQ.

ShapeShift

ShapeShift is great for beginners or anyone who wants to make simple trades without signing up for an account. The process is fast, the prices are reasonable, and their reputation is good. However, ShapeShift does not hold your funds for you, has no flat currency policy, its mobile app is only average, and does not accept credit cards, debit cards, or any other traditional payment method. This is because they don’t accept traditional currencies and support exchange for cryptocurrencies only. They do support a wide range of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Dogecoin, Monero, Zcash, and many more. Browse the ShapeShift FAQ here.

In Conclusion

As the world of cryptocurrency continues to grow and investing in it become more popular, we’re sure to see more exchanges pop up. Some will be better than others, some will thrive, and some will falter. Whatever the case, doing your due diligence on the exchanges you’re considering is the key, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed as always!