Picking a cryptocurrency exchange can be tough because there are so many of them these days. There are now hundreds of exchanges selling altcoins, and new ones opening every day.
The internet is not much help because typing the words “cryptocurrency exchange” into a search engine will turn up hundreds of results. To make matters result the exchanges that come up first in a search are often those that buy the most advertising – not the best.
Fortunately, there are many good exchanges out there and they are easy to find – if you are willing to do some research. Taking the time to learn about exchanges and reading a few reviews will help you understand these marketplaces and identify the best alternatives.
To help you we have assembled a list of best exchanges we know about. Be careful because not every exchange is for every trader, and the cryptocurrency market is changing dramatically.
Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges: Our List
We’ve given a list of the best cryptocurrency exchanges that we feel stand out above the rest (and are the most trusted and reliable). All these exchanges are used by traders and do millions of trades per day.
Keep in mind that if you use a Centralized Exchange (which most of these on this list are), your crypto is at risk if something happens to the exchange as they own the private keys. This means if the exchange eis hacked and funds stolen or the exchange is shut down, you will lose your funds. And yes, this has happened several times already over the years.
This exchange is the most popular in the world because it offers over 190 cryptocurrencies for sale. Another popular selling point to Bittrex is that it is based in the United States in Seattle, and is American owned. Unlike some of the exchanges, Bitterex is fully regulated by U.S. authorities and follows all American laws.
Bittrex does NOT offer fiat to crypto trades, however. So if you want to buy Crypto with USD dollars or Euros, you’ll need to use another exchange.
Bittrex would be best for serious currency traders that want to diversify their holdings away from major altcoins such as Ethereum. This is a site built for traders by traders, so no traders might be intimated.
Why Use BittRex
Bittrex has what’s called the ‘Bitrex Pump Effect’. When Bittrex adds a brand new coin to their exchange, that coin often does an immediate 100%- 200% increase in value, due to the volume and liquidity of trading that Bittrex offers. If you own a new cryptocurrency coin that say just came out of an ICO and it gets added to Bittrex, you will likely make money with the rapid value increase due to the Bittrex pump.
Bittrex does require KYC info to be submitted if you want to withdraw more than a few thousand dollars of crypto from your Bittrex wallet.
Support for algorithmic trading is available at Bittrex. There are somethings unclear about Bittrex including the number of currencies supported. Persons who are simply shopping for currencies might be better served by Shapeshift.
Bittrex’s main US rival is another site built for serious traders. The main appeal to Poloniex is that it offers margin trading the ability to trade on credit.
You can’t convert fiat to crypto at poloniex, however. So to buy Bitcoin with fiat, you’ll need to look at one of the other exchanges.
Poloniex would be best for full-time traders, and persons that need access to more trading resources. Individuals used to trading on currency exchanges will like Poloniex because of its trader friendly features. Non-traders will be put off by the design which is heavy on charts.
Poloniex tends to have older more established crypto currencies rather than new crypto currencies. You might think of this exchange as one that specializes in ‘blue chip’ type crypto currencies. The big, established and more stable cryptocurrencies.
Like Bittrex, if a new coin is added to Poloniex, it usually ‘pumps’ in value due to the increased liquidity Poloniex offers.
People that do not need extra trading resources, such as margin trading and lending might be better served by Ether Delta or Bittrex. Novice traders might be better served by more basic exchanges such as CEX.IO, NEXCHANGE, or GDAX.
This very professional exchange offers a webpage that looks like a traders screen. Ether Delta is popular with cryptocurrency geeks because it lets you buy or trade hundreds of cheap and unusual altcoins. This is a great site to visit if you are looking for something unusual – or the next big currency. It would not be a good resource for an average person that wants to trade Bitcoin.
Ether Delta is best for serious Ethereum Traders and those interested in trading ERC-20 Ethereum-based initial cryptocurrency offerings (ICOs). If you are looking for a token, chances are it is at Ether Delta. The biggest drawback is that Ethereum is required for trading.
Support is minimal but you can trade Ether Gas here and download data to the popular Ledger Nano S hardware wallet. Novices should probably look elsewhere.
Why Use Ether Delta
The advantage of Ether Delta is that it’s a DEX (Decentralized Exchange). This means there is no third party controlling the coin trades. As long as you have an ERC-20 token, you can trade it on ED.
This has led to Ether Delta (or ‘ED’ for short) as the first place most tokens are traded when released on the market. The centralized exchanges all have a process that may take days to weeks (or longer) before they list a coin for trading. Ether Delta, however, allows instant trading of tokens.
For traders willing to brave the dangers of ED (the interface is very hard to use and can easily lead to mistakes where you mix up the purchase price and the coin amount to buy, vastly overpaying), it’s possible to get cryptocurrencies much cheaper BEFORE they hit the centralized exchanges.
Binance is a new exchange (only a few months old as it came out in mid 2017). However, it’s quickly become the new ‘hot’ exchange due to their willingness to add brand new crypto currencies that just come out of an ICO.
Binance is usually the ‘first’ centralized exchange to list a crypto currency once it hits the market with the time ranging from a day to a couple weeks (usually a few days).
Typically a crypto currency will first hit Ether Delta once out of ICO then Binance a few days to weeks later.
You can also get 50% off trading fees by using Binance’s own BNB crypto currency to pay for your trades. The exchange is lightning fast as offers most of the features that bittrex, poloniex, and other major exchanges do. You can’t do margin trading like Poloniex, however.
This is a very professional site for traders and investment geeks. Bitfinex calls itself a trading platform and looks the part – the screen resembles a Bloomberg terminal. An exchange, margin trading, margin fund (credit), and a wide variety of order types are available.
Bitfinex is one of the oldest exchanges and offers serious liquidity for any crypto added to the exchange.
Bitfinex would be a great resource for currency or commodities traders that wanted to branch out into cryptocurrency. It offers trades in a wide variety of altcoins – including some obscure ones like EOS, Eidoo, and Santiment. Margin trades are funded through a peer-to-peer market.
Investment geeks will love the advanced tool charts at Bitfinex. Everyday people might get confused. Unless you have had some serious experience with currency, commodities, or derivatives trading it would be a good idea to stay away from Bitfinex.
This British exchange has one of the most impressive and elaborate websites. It offers market data, margin trading and government-regulated accounts. CEX.IO allows people to buy bitcoin with fiat.
The main attraction here is that CEX.IO will take bank transfers from a number of countries including some in the Eurozone, and Visa or MasterCard payment from almost anywhere. The number of currencies traded is limited but CEX.IO works with the major altcoins including DASH, Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Zcash. It also offers trades in Euros and British Pounds in addition to dollars.
CEX.IO would be best for traders that need a reliable government-regulated exchange that offers cross-platform trading. Be careful because CEX.IO trading is not yet available in a number of US states. It offers a high customer satisfaction rating and a professional trading experience. CEX.IO is a good site for cryptocurrency geeks that want to trade but have little trading experience.
This is a highly professional exchange that’s very easy to use. It offers margin trading, advanced order types including stop loss and automated strategies and an iPhone app. Kraken allows traders to link your bank account and do wire transfers to the exchange and thus buy bitcoin with fiat. You can also convert your crypto to fiat and withdraw to your bank via wire transfer.
Many traders like Kraken because it offers cryptographically-verified proof of reserve audits. Despite its ease of use and access, Kraken is a professional trading platform. That means it is not for novice traders or persons just looking to buy cryptocurrency.
The emphasis is on Bitcoin but trades in several other currencies including Ethereum Classic are available. One reason why a lot of traders like Kraken is that it is one of the few exchanges that accept Canadian dollars. Ethereum Canadian Dollar trades and Bitcoin Canadian Dollar trades are available.
Kraken is probably the best exchange for Canadian traders right now. Its capacities are limited but some of the other features like margin trading make up for those limitations.
This is probably the best-known cryptocurrency exchange out there right now because of its association with the very popular digital wallet Coinbase. The advantage to Global Digital Asset Exchange or GDAX is that it is a simple platform that offers basic trading in a few major currencies.
The disadvantage is that GDAX’s offerings are very limited it only offers trades in three cryptocurrencies; Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, and three fiat currencies, U.S. Dollar, British Pound and Euro. Although some advanced features like Margin trading are available.
GDAX would be the best exchange for beginners and those with little experience in other kinds of trading. If you’re looking for a simple exchange to learn the basics GDAX is certainly it.
More advanced and sophisticated traders will get disappointed fast because the offerings are limited. Those looking for expanded offerings might be better served by Kraken or Poloniex. Derivative traders will probably prefer Bitmex because it offers a far wider variety of swaps. Most traders will probably move onto to more advanced platforms after learning the ropes on GDAX.
This popular European exchange offers a variety of basic trades such as Ethereum/Euro and Litecoin/Bitcoin. Bitstamp is very bare bones but if you just want a place to do basic trading it serves that purpose. It’s also one of the better places to buy bitcoin with fiat as you can wire transfer money to the exchange to buy bitcoin with. You can also convert bitcoin into fiat and withdraw to a bank account.
One reason why Bitstamp is popular is that offers instant trading and “hidden fees.” A really good feature of Bistamp is the charts that are simple and easy to read. An added advantage is that Android and Apple apps for Bistamp are available. Bistamp will accept MasterCard and Visa payments.
Like CEX.IO, Bistamp is based in the United Kingdom and regulated by Her Majesty’s Government. It is also one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges having been in business in since 2011.
Those seeking simple, no-nonsense trading and nothing else will appreciate Bitstamp. More sophisticated traders might be better served by more elaborate American sites such as Poloniex and Bitmex. Persons trying to familiarize themselves with trading might Bitstamp a handy resource.
This is a very basic no-frills exchange that offers quick conversion of several of the most popular altcoins around. Shapeshift is simple and easy to use, but there is very little support available.
The most intriguing aspect of Shapeshift is that no account is needed. That makes it fast, but limits use. For example, you cannot use MasterCard or Visa at Shapeshift. The best thing about Shapeshift is that it will allow you to buy a wide variety of altcoins fast.
If you just need a place to find and buy an unusual altcoin, Shapeshift is a great resource. Serious traders might not like it because all you can really do at Shapeshift is to buy and sell. One feature that will turn off many users is the lack of a digital wallet.
Like Changefully, this portal is very to use, navigate and understand. NEXCHANGE is also very user-friendly which makes it a great site for beginners. One feature many visitors will appreciate it is fast customer service – a chat window appeared and offered help as soon as I got there.
Another useful feature is a comparison of real-time rates for exchanges. Traders will like this because it shows how they might get their money faster. There’s also a high level of transparency. NEXCHANGE seems focused on Litecoin which might make it a good exchange for investors in that coin.
The number of coins offered seems limited but most of the major currencies are. A person that just wants to trade might be well served by NEXCHANGE. Experienced traders will probably prefer more elaborate and professional platforms such as Bitmex and Poloniex.
This is a more professional looking site that serious trades might appreciate. Like a number of the more advanced exchanges, Bitxmex looks like a Bloomberg Terminal screen which will appeal to investment geeks.
An advantage to Bitmex is that it is fairly serious about Monero trading. The specialty at Bitmex is “swaps” or derivative contracts so it’s a great place for those looking to trade cryptocurrency derivatives.
Bitmex offers its own speculative swap the XBT, a Monero swap called XMR and Ethereum and Ethereum classic swaps. There’s also the perpetual P2P (peer to peer) swap – a contract that supposedly never expires.
Traders and speculators will love Bitmex because it offers high levels of leverage. That means trades can exceed the amount you invest by up to 100 times, it means successful traders will make more money and unsuccessful traders will lose more money.
Bitmex is best for derivative traders but it is not for everybody. Persons with little trading experience will be better off at simpler sites like NEXCHANGE, Shapeshift, and Changefully. Those unfamiliar with trading should definitely stay away from Bitmex.
This very simplistic site is direct and two the point. If you just want to purchase Bitcoins, BuySomeBitcoins is a good resource it lets you buy Bitcoin with a credit or debit card for a flat 2% fee
Many people like BuySomebitcoins because it accepts a wide variety of fiat currencies including obscure ones like the Danish Krone, the Georgian Fari and the Surinamese Dollar. Therefore it would be a good resource for somebody outside the US or Canada that wants to start trading cryptocurrency and needs Bitcoin.
BuySomeBitcoins site is very old-fashioned it looks like something straight out of the year 2000. Despite that, it gives you little information and it’s hard to navigate. BuySomeBitcoins would only be of use to a person in a smaller country that needed to buy Bitcoin fast. As an exchange it is very limited, I would actually rank this site as a currency brokerage rather than an exchange.
Also known as Bitsquare, Bisq is a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange that bills itself as a “P2P exchange network.”
The exchange takes the form of a desktop app that functions as a trading account complete with charts. Among other things this gives users access to a number of markets and a wide variety of financial data.
Despite its’ promises, Bisq is actually one of the most limited cryptocurrency exchanges around. It only offers four base currencies Bitcoin, DASH, Dogecoin, and Litecoin but offers conversion to a wide variety of fiat and digital currencies.
The greatest drawback to Bisq from a serious trader’s standpoint is that it does not offer Ethereum as a base currency. That might make it hard to convert ERC-20 initial currency offerings and work with Ethereum-based applications like smart contracts. Those looking for basic currency conversion using Bitcoin will be well served by Bisq, traders and speculators should definitely look elsewhere.
Gemini is one of the few cryptocurrency exchanges that cater to institutional customers such as investment banks and hedge funds. Personal accounts are available but the focus is on institutions.
Gemini has some advantages it is one of the exchanges licensed to operate in 45 U.S. states. All of its services also available in Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. There are serious limitations at Gemini it only works with Bitcoin and Ethereum and only supports one fiat currency the US dollar.
Institutions and large investors will be well served by Gemini because all of its US dollar funds are stored in FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insured banks. That means at least some funds are insured by the U.S. government.
Gemini is among the highest profile cryptocurrency exchanges because it is owned by the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler. The twins are the early Facebook investors who have been trying to create a Bitcoin-based exchange-traded fund (ETF) for some time. Gemini has an agreement with the Chicago Board Options Exchange to market cryptocurrency based derivatives and indices or indexes, Business Insider reported.
Those seeking a very secure and very safe cryptocurrency investment might check Gemini. Non-institutional customers will probably better served by consumer-oriented exchanges like Shapeshifter or CEX.IO than Gemini. Individual traders would be better served by sites like Kraken and Poloniex.
The best thing about Changefully is that it is very user-friendly and simple. Average people will like Changefully because Visa and MasterCard transactions are available. That means you should be able to use most debit and credit cards with those brand names at this site.
The advantages to Changefully are that it is simple and easy to use. There’s also a wide variety of currencies available. It is rated through Trusty and unlike a lot of exchanges posts consumer reviews.
Changefully would be best for beginners and persons looking to buy some of the lesser coins. Altcoin owners that want to expand into trading would be well-served by Changefully. It is oriented towards Bitcoin users but Ethereum, DASH, Ripple, Litecoin, and Ether Classic are accepted.
How to Pick a Cryptocurrency Exchange
The good and bad news about cryptocurrency exchanges is that there are lots of them out there. That gives investors a lot of choices but it can make decision making difficult.
Fortunately, there are some criteria that can help you determine which exchange to use. The best way to identify these criteria and determine if the exchange meets them is to ask the right questions.
The right “questions” to ask about cryptocurrency exchanges include:
- Is it a centralized or decentralized exchange? Centralized exchanges are usually regulated, charge lower fees, and offer more payment options but they can be more vulnerable to hacking and tracking. Decentralized exchanges are more expensive but give you more control.
- What payment and payout options are available? Make sure the exchange will take your credit or debit card or work with your bank account if you want to use that option. Something to remember is that you can lose money converting currency to and from Bitcoin.
- Know what the fees are. It is always a good idea to do a little poking around at the exchange’s website and learn what the fees are. Many exchanges will post no fees, free trades or O% fees then hide other fees in fine print. Check the bottom of the web page and if you see the word fees click on it. The amounts listed there are often very different from those at top.
- Is it legal where you live? Some exchanges will not work with customers in certain places, for example CEX.IO will not let people that live in some U.S. states open accounts. There are also five U.S. states where Gemini will not open accounts in. Make sure the exchange is legal in your area.
- What customer service is available? Will somebody actually answer emails or chat with you if you have a question or problem? Many of the decentralized exchanges have poor customer service. The worst time to find out about poor customer service is when you have a problem.
- What is the liquidity? The liquidity is the amount of money in the exchange. It’s important because liquidity determines if the exchange can pay you.
- Are the exchange payment methods available in your area? Generally, Visa and MasterCard are available everywhere but there can be serious limits on where bank payments can be accessed. Check the fine print at the website to make sure your payment method is available where you live.
- What cryptocurrencies are traded? Every exchange posts a list of the altcoins it trades. Read this to make sure your coin is there. Not every exchange works with every cryptocurrency?
- Is your fiat currency accepted? Most centralized exchanges use US Dollars and Euros and a few of them accept British pounds – but most other currencies may not be accepted. Check the list of currencies the exchange uses to make sure your currency is converted.
What are you planning to Use the Exchange for?
The most important question of all is what are you planning to use the exchange and the cryptocurrency for? Your plans should dictate what exchange you plan to use.
If you just plan to buy cryptocurrency a decentralized exchange such as Ether Delta or Shapeshift will be the best option. The fees can be a little high, but such exchanges are easy to use and fairly fast.
Investors and traders should consider centralized exchanges such as Poloniex and Bitmex. Those exchanges offer lower fees, margin-trading, more options, higher levels of customer services, and some free trades. Many of them also offer more complex investments such as swaps.
Other reasons why investors should consider centralized exchanges are regulation, guarantees of liquidity, and fast-payout. Some cryptocurrency owners will use centralized exchanges for conversion into fiat currencies.
Understanding how cryptocurrency exchanges work and their limitations is a key to making money in altcoins. Taking the time to find the right exchange or exchanges for you can reduce costs and help you make more money. It can also make trading and investment a lot more fun, and life in the cryptocurrency universe far easier.