Over the passed few months CryptoCurrency and Bitcoin specifically have gained a lot of traction and exposure with the public eye.
The first step in obtaining any of these coins is signing up with an exchange.
An exchange is an online platform that will allow you to purchase digital currencies with either fiat (ex. USD) or CryptoCurrency trading pairs (ex. BTC/XRP).
All of these exchanges have different features, pros and cons, verification methods, and other variable aspects that might make choosing an exchange a little harder for you.
Today, I’m going to show you what to look for in the best cryptocurrency exchanges, our favorite exchanges and what they offer.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Cryptocurrency Exchange
Before investing in anything anywhere, it is important to do research and make sure that you’re trading with a trusted, legitimate, and active source of exchange.
There are scams and irreputable companies in the cryptocurrency space, here are the traits of trusted exchanges.
There are a lot of sources online that provide reviews for exchanges, their history, and some personal experience from the users that might help you form a good idea of what the exchange has in store for you.
Even Reddit and Twitter are good places to look as these exchanges usually possess accounts in those media.
Almost every time you push through a trade a fixed or percentage-based fee will be required to complete the transaction.
Some exchanges have no fees when trading using limits, meaning you set the amount of token you would like to sell at x price.
If that price hits, your trade is pushed through without a fee on certain exchanges such as GDAX.
Most fee information will be listed on the exchanges website.
Methods of Payment
Exchanges usually have a limited variety of payment methods that you can take advantage of.
If you’re planning on using anything specific such as Debit/Credit Cards, ACH Transfers, or Paypal, you should make sure the exchange supports it prior to signing up.
Again, this should be listed on the exchanges site.
As cryptocurrencies get more popular their regulations are getting far stricter.
Now, most exchanges will require you to identify yourself using common information such as name, age, date of birth, etc.
If you want higher withdraw limits or credit card transfers, you’ll likely have to send copies of your ID and your Social Security (in U.S).
This is something you want to be prepared for when joining an exchange so check with their verification department(s) first.
Given the influx of regulations in recent months, exchanges are defining borders.
Some won’t allow you to trade based on your location, so they can keep things domestic and ‘in-house’ to prevent any fraudulent activities.
You likely won’t be able to access these exchanges but check before signing up to make sure your exchange doesn’t disallow your region.
High Volume and Volatility have lead to some exchanges trading marginally higher or lower than others.
There is some arbitrage in the exchange world due to this but for the most part fees make it unprofitable to try to take advantage of an exchange trading 1% higher than your own.
Research to confirm that the exchange you’re looking at is somewhat on par with current rates.
The Top 10 Cryptocurrency Exchanges
Coinbase and GDAX are sister exchanges used for separate purposes, having an account on one means you have one on both.
Trading between them is free and both come with some benefits and some cons.
What they both share is incredible security and reliability.
This was the first exchange I ever used and still use it frequently today.
Seldom have I seen this exchange go down, other than on GDAX months ago during extremely high-volume trading spurts, but unlikely to happen again.
Coinbase allows you, with verification, to buy Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum with USD/GBP/EUR using Bank Wire, Debit/Credit Card, and PayPal.
Be aware, Coinbase is known to stay in-touch with government entities and will likely send tax information to the IRS or other agencies given you’re trading in high-value.
GDAX is the ‘active-trader’ version of Coinbase and provides great day-trading tools to allow you to make fast, safe, and secure trades with market, limit, and stop trades.
- Good Reputation, Fast, Secure, has an ‘active-trader’ platform.
- Slow Customer Support, Heavy Verification, Limited Trading Pairs.
Bittrex is my number one source for trading altcoins.
They have a variety of different cryptocurrency (Over 190+) trading pairs including the renown Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum.
This USA based exchange requires little verification to get started but I have had experiences with the “Basic” verification failing and not being able to trade until I provided “Advanced” verification, SSN and ID photos.
It probably only happened to me but was experienced.
Bittrex has an easy-to-use platform that has made it very simple to trade using limits.
Every token on the platform can be traded against Bitcoin and several of their coins can be traded with USD and USDT (USD Tether).
While most of the operations on the website are fast, they run off Cloudflare which slows the navigation to some website pages.
Nonetheless, Bittrex is an incredibly secure site, and supports several levels of verification and 2FA to prevent your account from being compromised.
If you live in North America, verification has been known to be as quick as 10 minutes and will allow you a withdraw limit of 100BTC in value.
Again, Bittrex is probably the best altcoin exchange available today.
- Good Reputation, Secure, Simple to Use, Support.
- Can be slow at times, Must have verification.
Gemini has become a very renown exchange since it started being used as the index value for Bitcoin Futures prices on the U.S. equities market.
Although Gemini has very limited trading pairs BTCÐ/USD and BTC/ETH, this is one of the few exchanges that allow you to buy cryptocurrencies directly from your bank account.
Gemini is very trustworthy and has an incredibly stable platform.
If security is a must, Gemini isn’t a bad place to start.
Although it is secure, it comes with a slight flaw, the exchange is not available in some states.
The allowed regions are available on their “Areas of Operation” page and will describe in detail where you can use the exchange and limits based on your area.
This is a good cryptocurrency exchange to get started on if you’re new to cryptocurrency space and want a good, secure site to use.
- Secure, Nationally Used by Wall St.
- Very Limited Trading Pairs, Region Restrictions.
Poloniex is a popular exchange and quite similar to Bittrex, it has a variety of altcoins and cryptocurrency to trade against Bitcoin.
While Poloniex is a fast and secure exchange, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “Beginner Friendly”.
It’s not extremely complicated to use, but I would recommend getting comfortable with cryptocurrency before taking this on as your next endeavor.
I’ve heard good things from close investors about using this exchange and they have decent credibility in this realm.
- Verification, Secure, Fast.
- Advanced, Low Limits (Unless Verified).
Binance is a huge exchange but non-native to the U.S. They require little verification for decent withdraw limits.
Binance wears the crown in terms of day-trading.
Their advanced platform has every tool you would ever need for charts, has a theme that is easy on the eyes, and pretty simple to use.
This exchange also has a large community of members that are very close-knit and can help you get started if you’re new.
I started using Binance when I wanted to buy some Tron(TRX) and since then I’ve found it to be one of the more legitimate, well crafted exchanges.
You can also opt-in to pay fees using Binance Coin(BNB) for unbeatably low trading fees.
Although I trust Binance, they are operating outside of the U.S. with little regulation, so take that as you will.
- Fast, Tools, Low Fees, Verification.
- Low Regulation.
Kraken has been around for some time now and has proven itself as a high-end exchange.
They have a mobile application that makes it easy to trade on-the-go and has a lot of trading pairs for several renown cryptocurrencies.
This exchange exhibits low fees and a good customer support center.
It is also one of the few that allow you to deposit fiat currencies directly from your bank account, although it will require some verification.
Although it doesn’t have as many supported currencies as other exchanges such as Bittrex, they’ve come to be known as a good and secure source for trading.
- Fast, Secure.
- Some bad Reviews, Not too beginner friendly.
A lot of people claim that Bitfinex is the most user-friendly exchange they have tried.
Support usually resolves issues within 48 hours, comparative to some exchanges that is notably quick.
They have a number of different trading pairs as well as a likeable and usable platform.
Their fee system is a little different from others and declines as their trading volume rises, which is quickly.
Overall, the fees are low and this is a useful exchange to any cryptocurrency investor and/or trader.
- Low Fees, Fast, Good Support.
- Custom Fee System, Missing some Great Currencies.
HitBTC is a very popular exchange with over 200 trading pairs, their platform is well-made and has proven itself over time.
It is a UK centered exchange but offers USD, EUR, GBP, and BTC trading pairs amongst a variety of your favorite cryptocurrencies.
Free trading if you place with the order book, also known as limits, and trading on market prices include very low fees.
They also offer a rather good referral program for their site.
Overall the site is secure and pretty fast for most users.
Although, there has been complaints of a lack of support help.
- Secure, Many Trading Pairs, Fees.
- Support Staff, Have had “Scam” currencies listed.
Bithumb is the largest South Korean exchange, it is responsible for some very high trade volumes in their area and has contributed to the community very often.
There are mixed reviews on the site, I’ve heard from people personally that they enjoyed it, but there are some bad experiences as well.
They have a good amount of trading pairs but lacking some really good ones.
This exchange is a decent exchange, but if you live in South Korea this should be your go-to.
- Fees, Verification.
- Mixed Reviews, Customer Support.
KuCoin has been around for a while and has proven to be secure and reliable amongst its generation of cryptocurrency exchanges.
It’s easy to use and also known as one of the more popular exchanges among the people.
With many trading features it allows you to make transactions with best bid or ask price, as well as stops and limits.
It’s a good exchange for both business and individuals.
Although it sounds nearly perfect there are mixed reviews on the exchange for some performance issues.
Still a good choice for ease of use cryptocurrency transactions.
- Secure, Reliable.
- Slow Platform.
Our Recommendations For The Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges
Best Exchange for Buying Bitcoin & Ethereum
Coinbase/GDAX take the crown for buying Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Their USD wallets are FDIC insured, and it is quite easy to link your bank account and debit/credit cards to their platform.
This gives you the most fiat purchasing options for both Bitcoin and Ethereum that can be transferred to other exchanges in order to buy altcoins.
Best Cryptocurrency Exchange for Everyday Trading
Binance has proven to me and many others that it has a great platform if you plan on trading every single day.
With basic and advanced trading capabilities whether you’re an experienced day trader or a novice day trader, Binance has a variety of tools that can help you read those charts like the back of your hand.
Most Secure Cryptocurrency Exchange(s)
There are a few for this one as over-time many exchanges have proven that they possess world-class cyber security and only have to worry about a small handful of people every breaching them.
Coinbase/GDAX, Bitfinex, and Kraken have been known to be some of the most secure and safe cryptocurrency exchanges out there as of today.
Ever since the Mt. Gox hack in 2011, choosing exchanges that have supreme security and reliability is a must.
There are many great online resources in the cryptocurrency world that contain personal, consumer-sided cryptocurrency exchange reviews and I recommend you check those out as well.
Whether you want direct trading, chart tools, or great platforms, there is an exchange out there that can probably serve your needs.
If you like to keep your portfolio very diverse you may even need to have an account with more than one exchange in order to get tokens that aren’t listed elsewhere.
Location is also a big determining factor, it is always wise to choose an exchange closer to you in order to minimize the risk of your exchange becoming restricted locally.
Be prepared to have to go through verifications, especially if you’re going to be trading with fiat currencies.