Crypto exchanges are where traders can buy, sell, and convert cryptocurrencies. They are necessary for cryptocurrencies to be traded at the scale they are today. Some exchanges offer the most competitive prices or speeds, whereas others provide specialized financial products.
Read on to learn about the best cryptocurrency exchanges, how they work, and which one you should pick.
Why we chose it: We chose Coinbase as the best crypto exchange for beginners because of its easy-to-use interface, extensive educational material on everything from blockchain to volatility, and robust security features.
If you’re familiar with crypto, chances are you’ve already heard of Coinbase. The exchange is one of the largest and most well-known in the U.S., and its debut on the public market last year was seen by many as a legitimization of the crypto market.
The Coinbase platform does a great job of lowering the barrier to entry for investing in crypto, with a straightforward onboarding process that eases users into trading. At the same time, its interface makes navigating the platform and managing crypto a seamless experience.
Coinbase also features a comprehensive and accessible variety of learning materials. Users are encouraged to use these resources through the Coinbase Earn program, which teaches how to trade specific cryptocurrencies and rewards users with free crypto.
Lastly, the exchange’s security features are worth mentioning: Coinbase uses two-factor authentication on all versions of its platform, stores 98% of customers’ crypto offline, and has an insurance policy to protect crypto holdings of up to $250,000 (per FDIC coverage limits). Such robust measures are why Coinbase is ultimately worth it, despite the higher fees.
Users who enjoy Coinbase but would like more advanced charting and trading features may want to look at the company’s other exchange platform, Coinbase Pro.
Why we chose it: We chose Binance.US as the best crypto exchange for low fees because it features one of the most generous fee structures across all the trading platforms we considered.
Binance is the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, and its domestic counterpart, Binance.US, offers many of its parent company’s advantages. One of its biggest attractions is a competitive maximum 0.1% maker/taker fee. This fee starts low and keeps getting lower as your trading volume increases.
Binance.US also offers discounts for using the company’s proprietary cryptocurrency (BNB) to buy and sell other coins.
For those who want to buy coins directly, many of the exchange’s cryptocurrencies are purchasable with U.S. dollars, saving you money in conversion fees. This variety of discounts and purchase options benefits advanced users who may also enjoy the platform’s comprehensive market dashboards and variety of order types, including limit orders, market orders, and stop limit orders.
Binance.US is not available in Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, New York, Texas and Vermont.
Why we chose it: We chose Crypto.com as the best crypto exchange for security because of its multiple layers of protection against crypto fraud and cyberattacks.
Most reputable crypto exchanges feature a solid cybersecurity infrastructure, but this is where Crypto.com really stands out. The exchange is ranked first in the Cybersecurity Ranking and CERtification Platform’s top 100 exchanges by cybersecurity rating.
Crypto.com employs various techniques to keep users’ cryptos secure on its trading platform, including offline cold storage for all crypto, regulated custodian bank accounts for traditional currency, and regular software peer-review. It also uses multi-factor identification with a password, biometric, email, phone, and authenticator verification.
In addition, its platform has successfully completed several penetration tests, which are simulated cyberattacks performed to evaluate system security, and has shown proof of its funds over the years.
But security isn’t Crypto.com’s only attraction. The exchange offers the largest selection of currencies among all the companies on our list — over 250 coins.
Other noteworthy features are its non-custodial DeFi wallet — which allows users to send crypto at their preferred speed and earn interest on tokens —, margin trading, prepaid visa cards to spend crypto, and crypto loans.
Why we chose it: We chose BlockFi as the best crypto exchange for earning interest because it allows users to earn interest on their crypto and borrow money using Bitcoin as collateral.
Where most crypto exchanges offer bonuses and discounts for high-volume trading, BlockFi has chosen to create financial products that cater to conservative traders instead.
The exchange’s main highlight is its BlockFi Interest Account, offering up to 9.5% APY as monthly compounding interest to investors who store their crypto in the account. The platform also lets users use existing bitcoin as collateral for a loan.
In addition to its novel financial products, BlockFi also features an affordable fee structure and a strong cybersecurity infrastructure. The exchange charges spread fees and withdrawal fees, but no transaction fees for trading on its exchange. To keep your data secure, BlockFi uses tools such as two-factor authentication and allowlisting, which lets users ban withdrawals or restrict them to certain addresses to avoid theft.
Consumers should keep in mind that decentralized finance (DeFi) products and services like BlockFi carry significant risks related to the technology of the software, the assets involved, and compliance with regulators.
Why we chose it: We chose Bisq as the best decentralized exchange because it follows the ethos of Bitcoin best by maintaining an open-source platform that is completely decentralized without limiting currency support.
Formerly known as Bitsquare, Bisq brings the clean, easy-to-use interface and vast coin support of centralized exchanges to a decentralized environment. The platform is built on open-source software, meaning its design is publicly available, and the project is funded by personal savings and donations from its community of users.
Bisq doesn’t need a third party to conduct cryptocurrency transactions, nor does it require users to submit personal information to trade on the platform. It’s an excellent alternative for Bitcoin fans looking for a wide variety of coins to trade with. In fact, it’s not typical for decentralized exchanges to support so many digital assets — and fiat currency.
Additionally, the platform’s security features, such as multisignature and a security deposit system, enhance the inherent safety and privacy of decentralized exchanges by ensuring that both parties act honestly and have complete control of their funds during the trading process.
The following trading platforms are all excellent options, especially for newer traders. However, they are not dedicated crypto exchanges but primarily deal in other securities, like stocks and futures. We decided to list them separately for this reason.
Crypto exchanges are platforms where users can trade digital currencies for other assets, including cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and regular currencies, like the U.S. Dollar and the Euro.
Exchanges are an essential part of the crypto ecosystem because most traditional investment firms do not offer cryptocurrencies in their portfolios. Without exchanges, you would have to find another person willing to trade crypto and agree at an exchange rate. Then, you would have to send the coins directly to each other’s cryptocurrency wallets — a somewhat convoluted process.
Crypto wallets and exchanges are both essential tools used to manage cryptocurrencies. Wallets are meant to keep your crypto funds safe, whereas exchanges are trading hubs where users convert fiat currencies to digital ones and buy or sell crypto based on current market rates.
|Crypto exchanges||Crypto wallets|
|Facilitate trading between users||Hold the private keys that are necessary to access cryptocurrency on the blockchain|
|Convert fiat currency into digital currencies||Are offered by exchanges and independent developers.|
|Are available 24/7, unlike traditional investment firms||Can be an online-only platform, a physical storage device, or incorporate both aspects.|
Many crypto exchanges operate their own wallets, so users can start trading crypto as soon as they open their account without having to worry about getting a digital wallet of their own. These are known as web-hosted wallets, and their incorporated exchange is responsible for their security.
Serious traders are encouraged to keep an independent wallet to deposit crypto they aren’t actively trading. This is because you could lose all your digital currency if the exchange is hacked.
Although you’ll be responsible for securing, backing up, and managing your own funds, independent digital wallets are a much safer alternative for safeguarding the bulk of your crypto.
The way crypto exchanges work depends on their type of platform. Most crypto trading platforms are known as centralized exchanges, which function as a brokerage, acting as intermediaries between buyers and sellers.
Users can deposit money into exchanges to buy cryptocurrencies or deposit their own crypto to trade for other currencies, known as crypto-to-crypto trading. Traders can expect to pay a fee for converting one crypto to another, like when exchanging regular currencies at a bank (for example, converting USD to EUR).
In exchange for digital currencies, exchanges may accept a wide variety of payments, including credit card payments, direct bank transfers, credit or debit cards, money orders and even gift cards.
Dedicated crypto exchanges will allow you to withdraw your crypto funds and transfer them to another wallet of your choice. Others, especially those that focus on other assets, like stocks — including Robinhood and eToro — only let you purchase the crypto but not transfer it out of their web wallets.
Crypto exchanges come in three varieties: centralized, decentralized, and hybrid.
Centralized exchanges (CEX)
Centralized exchanges are the most common and traditional type of crypto exchange. These are owned by private companies and offer investors a platform to trade cryptocurrency. This type of exchange tends to have higher trade volumes and liquidity and a greater number of trading pairs.
Centralized exchanges are often considered a good option for new crypto traders because of their better onboarding and user interface, availability of customer support, and insurance should the platform’s systems fail.
The main issue with this type of exchange is that users are inherently more vulnerable to hacking attacks. Some users also feel uncomfortable sharing their private data in the KYC process.
Examples: Binance, Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini
Decentralized exchanges (DEX)
Decentralized exchanges follow in the spirit of Bitcoin by operating with no central point of control. Servers for this type of exchange are spread throughout computers located across the world, which means if one computer is attacked, the network keeps running. This alone entices many users who fear losing their crypto due to a security flaw in a company’s trading platform.
Where centralized exchanges operate as brokerages, decentralized exchanges are more like marketplaces. They facilitate peer-to-peer trading and have a less rigid registration process. The main drawbacks of decentralized exchanges include lower trading volume, small liquidity, generally poor user interface, and a lack of customer support.
Examples: Bisq, Uniswap, PancakeSwap, Tokenlon, dYdX
Hybrid exchanges are part of a new generation of crypto trading platforms whose goal is to provide the best of both worlds. They aim to overcome the limitations of older exchanges by offering the greater functionality and liquidity of centralized exchanges together with the security advantages of decentralized exchanges.
Hybrid exchanges boast fast transaction speeds without compromising their users’ privacy but are still a relatively new development in the crypto world. Time will tell if they will be successful or struggle due to high costs, limited scalability and limited assets.
Examples: Nash, Qurrex, Eidoo, Legolas
Crypto exchanges charge several fees, and it’s not always clear what exactly you’ll be charged for.
There are two main types of fees to look out for: exchange fees and network fees.
Exchange fees are how crypto exchanges make money. In other words, they’re service fees that include:
Network fees are paid to cryptocurrency miners, who process and secure crypto transactions on the blockchain. Many centralized crypto exchanges incur this cost, though some may allow their users to pay more in miner fees to speed up transaction speeds. Users on decentralized exchanges generally have to pay this themselves, since there is no third party between them and the crypto miners.
When choosing a crypto exchange, the main things to look for are functionality and security. Your exchange of choice should have most, if not all, of the features you expect to use, be it fiat-to-currency trade pairings or liquidity aggregation. It should also provide additional lines of defense, such as two-factor authentication and Bitcoin locks, which help against hackers.
Ease of use is another factor to consider and is especially important for newer traders who may struggle to use platforms with a less intuitive user interface. Nonetheless, experienced traders can also benefit from greater usability.
It’s also important to consider geography. Not all exchanges are available in the U.S., some only operate in certain states.
When looking for crypto exchange, it’s essential to keep an eye out for fake websites and mobile apps. Even if the platform seems legitimate, make sure to check for any misspellings in the copy, inauthentic branding, and, in the case of a website, whether there’s a small lock icon indicating security near the URL bar.
Likewise, it’s important to remind yourself that scams aside, trading crypto can be dangerous. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, meaning that they are subject to sudden increases and decreases in values that even the wisest investors cannot predict with certainty.
Financial advisors recommend that if you invest in cryptocurrency, practice caution and keep it below 5% of your total investments.
Every crypto exchange has its own registration and setup process. Some exchanges may let you open an account without verifying your identity or submitting sensitive information. Others will require new users to undergo an extensive “Know your Client” (KYC) process to comply with U.S. government regulations meant to prevent money laundering and fraud.
However, some parts of registration are shared across platforms. You will need the following information and documentation to open an account on most crypto exchange platforms:
The sign-up process generally starts by asking for your personal information, followed by an email to confirm your address. Some exchanges may also ask for a copy of a utility bill sent to your physical address and inquire about your interest in trading crypto. Then, you’ll need to add a payment method to deposit funds into the exchange and start to buy and sell cryptocurrency.
Wall Street experts are predicting the price of Bitcoin may hit $100,000 soon, maybe even this year. The coin has a reputation for being impossible to forecast: it had an all-time high above $68,000 in November last year before experiencing a sharp drop below $42,000 in early January.
Recent trends in the price of cryptocurrencies could be a sign that crypto is going more mainstream. Political instability in Kazakhstan, a popular bitcoin mining hub, and news that the central bank may raise interest rates soon have caused crypto prices to plummet, which may indicate a border base of consumers investing in this type of currency.
What is the best crypto exchange?
There is no one best crypto exchange for every user. However, some of the features shared by the best exchanges include solid security tools, low fees, several payment options, an accessible platform and availability on both mobile and desktop.
A large number of tradable cryptocurrencies and trading pairs — for example, Bitcoin/Litecoin (BTC/LTC) and Ethereum/Bitcoin Cash (ETH/BCH) — is also something to look for.
How many crypto exchanges are there?
Because crypto exchanges do not register with any central authority, it’s hard to know how many crypto exchanges there are at any given point in time. Many exchanges may be set up and then closed after very little time, which makes tracking this number even harder.
As of January 10, 2022, CoinMarketCap lists 308 exchanges, the biggest of which are Binance, Coinbase, and FTX.
Which crypto exchange has the lowest fees?
Crypto exchange fees are complicated and can be the source of great frustration, especially when the cost of a trade suddenly spikes upwards due to unexpected charges.
Based on our research, we found that the best crypto exchange for low trading fees is Binance.US. Its maker and taker fees start at a very generous .01% / .01%, and its discount programs allow active traders to grab even lower rates.
What is the most secure crypto exchange?
The nature of a crypto exchange’s security depends on whether it is centralized or decentralized. The most secure crypto exchange should offer one or more methods of safeguarding your login and personal information. Based on our research, Crypto.com is the most secure exchange among all centralized exchanges.
We looked at over 20 crypto exchanges and evaluated them based on cost, security, and user experience. Other factors we considered include cryptocurrency selection, payment options and trade volume.
We mainly focused on dedicated crypto exchanges and looked at trading platforms that let you trade other securities.
The exchanges on our list scored high in the following categories:
Security – Users should feel that their crypto is secure on their trade platform, so security breach prevention measures and safe account management methods are essential elements. We looked at each platform’s history of keeping their users’ funds and information safe and considered whether they offered insurance to users in case they lost their money due to a mistake on their part.
User Experience – Regardless of whether one is a novice or an expert, an exchange that is easy to use and navigate is always a plus. We considered each crypto exchange’s mobile and desktop interface and favored those with more intuitive designs. We also looked at the educational content and research tools available for users.
Cost – Fees can be a headache for users, especially those trading with great frequency. We favored crypto exchanges that offered lower fees or ways of reducing said fees. We also valued transparency when it came to their fee structure.
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