Cryptocurrencies are the latest craze to sweep the finance world, with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) dominating the space while alternative coins like Dogecoin (DOGE) nail the punchlines.
As the number of cryptocurrencies in the market continues to expand, investors have more options than ever before to exchange their hard-earned cash for decentralized digital money. But how do you go about trading your favorite cryptocurrency?
The internet is filled with horror stories of hackers swindling traders of their gains from poorly protected cryptocurrency exchanges, making it all the more essential to carefully choose a secure crypto trading platform before you make your investment. So, which of the many cryptocurrency exchanges is the best choice for you?
There are myriad factors that will influence your decision: security measures, ease of use, trading fees and the number of coins available for trading all play a part in helping you determine the top crypto exchange for you.
To help you find the cryptocurrency trading platform that meets your needs, here are five options to choose from that will suit a variety of cryptocurrency investors:
It should come as no surprise that Coinbase, one of the most popular crypto exchanges in the world, tops this list. Crypto traders have been using Coinbase -- operated by the publicly traded Coinbase Global Inc. (ticker: COIN) -- since 2012, and the crypto exchange has only gotten better with age. Coinbase is one of the best cryptocurrency exchanges for beginners. Its platform is easy to use when buying, selling and storing cryptocurrencies. It also is a great place to stay up to date with alternative coins, new crypto projects and what's happening next in the world of digital assets.
A user-friendly interface, straightforward onboarding process and free $5 in Bitcoin for opening an account make Coinbase an excellent place for new traders to get started.
For more experienced traders, Coinbase offers Coinbase Pro, with advanced charts and cryptocurrency trading tools.
With hundreds of digital currencies and altcoins supported on Coinbase, users have a good range of options to choose from, though the list is by no means extensive. On the downside, Coinbase is more expensive than other cryptocurrency trading sites and only has a few payment options. Users will want to watch out for high trading fees tacked onto their trades, part of a labyrinthine fee structure across the Coinbase site.
Another popular crypto trading site, Binance has only been around since 2017, but it has quickly taken the crypto market by storm.
Binance is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, with more than 500 cryptocurrencies worldwide, and it is available in more than 180 countries. Binance has risen in popularity because it allows crypto traders to transact with nearly any alternative coin on the market. Users can start trading crypto on Binance for as little as $1.
The trading platform also has a feature called Binance Academy, where novice crypto traders can learn about cryptocurrency and blockchain through short videos. The exchange operates at high trading volume, with about $95 billion in spot exchange volume in a recent 24 hour period.
While new cryptocurrency traders will find Binance simple to use, ultimately it might be best for crypto day traders -- low trading fees, strong charting tools and an easy-to-use mobile app allow for fast, simple cryptocurrency trading. With all these strong features, it's not hard to understand why Binance has become one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.
Note that Binance doesn't allow you to exchange U.S. dollars for cryptocurrency, though it does accept credit and debit cards. U.S. users would have to go to Binance.us, which is a U.S.-regulated crypto exchange where you can buy and sell more than 60 cryptocurrencies. In addition, Binance has been hit by cyberattacks in the past, most recently, in 2019 -- though the site does have an insurance fund to cover losses.
Despite the crypto exchange's popularity, Binance has come under global regulatory scrutiny over whether it had permission to operate in certain jurisdictions. That said, Binance is a secure trading platform that offers several powerful tools for users who want to invest in a range of digital currencies on the blockchain.
You may not think of Robinhood Markets Inc. (HOOD) when you think of cryptocurrency trading. The mobile app is known for commission-free stock trading -- and for prohibiting users from selling GameStop Corp. (GME) and other "meme stocks" earlier in 2021 -- and is a stock-first app But in 2018, Robinhood began to roll out cryptocurrency trading as well. In the years since, the company has slowly built up the crypto side of its app. Robinhood offers a limited supply of seven cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin (LTC), Ethereum Classic (ETC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin SV (BSV). This crypto exchange could be an option for investors who only want to add exposure to the most popular cryptocurrencies.
While that's a small pool to work from, it's a beginner-friendly selection for users just starting their crypto journeys. With the company's mobile-first mindset, Robinhood has built an incredibly easy-to-use app, and no fees for trading means the barriers to entry are extremely low. As for security, Robinhood keeps cryptocurrency secured through a combination of hot and cold storage. Hot storage is connected online to the crypto exchange, whereas cold storage is offline. A majority of users' crypto is held in cold storage for additional protection. Robinhood has no minimums for deposit.
You should know that Robinhood doesn't allow users to remove their coins and put them into a crypto wallet of their choice. In fact, Robinhood doesn't let users use their coins for payments -- it is strictly a trading app. Robinhood lacks the bells and whistles of its bigger, better-established competition, and advanced users would be better served elsewhere. But it has all the essentials for a cryptocurrency rookie, and it might just be the best crypto exchange for new traders.
Founded by the Winklevoss twins in 2014, Gemini has established itself as one of the most trusted names in crypto. Gemini is a regulated cryptocurrency exchange that prides itself on security and compliance. The two stars of Gemini are Bitcoin and Ethereum, but today the exchange allows users to trade more than 50 cryptocurrencies on its site, including Bitcoin Cash and Gemini dollars (GUSD), a U.S. dollar-backed stablecoin.
Gemini is a fiduciary, and the site is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. As you might imagine, this means security is paramount for Gemini. In a market that has been faced with regulatory challenges, Gemini undergoes regular bank exams and is subject to cybersecurity audits.
Gemini is also known for its safety. Cryptocurrency held online in Gemini's exchange wallet is insured, and most of the coinage on the exchange is held in cold storage.
Fees are charged on a sliding scale depending on the frequency of trading, encouraging power users to use the platform more often but leaving one-time buyers paying an above-average fee. The site itself is straightforward, though the mobile app isn't as intuitive as some of the competitor apps, and the site doesn't accept debit or credit card payments to fund your trading. That said, if your primary concern is safety and security for your crypto, trading via Gemini is an excellent choice.
Kraken has proven itself to be a trusted, secure crypto exchange since its founding in 2011.
While the site has basic features for newer traders, Kraken's Pro site is where it truly shines. Advanced tools such as margin trading and crypto futures are sure to attract power users, while the ability to stake your coins -- a way of strengthening the blockchain in exchange for an income stream -- will appeal to set-it-and-forget-it users. Kraken can be used by a range of individuals, from novice crypto investors to institutional clients.
As for security measures, Kraken has an in-house proprietary custody system, according to a Kraken spokesperson. In fact, the company says 95% of all deposits on Kraken are kept in offline, air-gapped, geographically distributed cold storage. The only time assets are moved online is when users trade or withdraw them from the platform.
Kraken's fees are competitive among other cryptocurrency exchanges. Kraken does not have a flat fee for every trade but rather has a volume-based fee structure, so the more you trade, the lower your rate is. However, the exchange's maker-taker fee system is confusing at best, and it often leaves users holding the bag for larger fees than they'd find elsewhere unless they're actively trading during a 30-day period. In the past, Kraken also has run up against technical system glitches during periods of high market volatility.
Kraken was warned by the New York Attorney General's office in 2018 for possible compliance issues. That aside, Kraken is one of the oldest and safest exchanges available, and it's a great pick for anyone looking for advanced crypto features.