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As tends to be the case every couple of years, cryptocurrency is in the midst of another boom, which means that people are on the prowl not only for Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin, but also any currencies that might become the next crypto sensation. But buying cryptocurrency isn’t quite as simple as walking into a bank and asking a teller to turn your U.S. Dollars into Satoshis. For that, you need to log on to one of the best crypto exchanges.
Much like an e-trading site or a foreign currency exchange site, the best crypto exchanges let you convert your non-crypto into crypto, and then when the time is right, withdraw your crypto from your account so you can use it, trade it for other crypto you’ve deemed more worthy, or sell it (hopefully for a profit).
But because we are dealing with money (and potentially large sums of money) the process of buying, selling and trading cryptocurrency should not be a laissez-faire undertaking.
Things to Consider When Picking a Crypto Exchange
When looking at the best crypto exchanges, we believe there are a few important factors that should be considered:
- Number of Coins: While you may only be interested in a couple of coins at the moment, you never know when a new cryptocurrency might catch your eye. This is why many of the best crypto exchanges offer U.S. traders access to dozens of different crypto coins big and small.
- Easy to Use: If you can’t navigate the website or app of a crypto exchange, you’re already at a disadvantage because you don’t have all the information you need to make a sound decision. Among other things, it’s crucial for users to clearly understand what is happening step by step. Because when hundreds (or thousands) of dollars are in play, nobody wants to make a mistake.
- Security: The best crypto exchanges might not have flawless pasts (although some do), but you also want to make sure that adequate measures are taken to protect you and your money. Different platforms have different ways of accomplishing this, from traditional encryption protocols to rigorous identification verification processes to decentralizing the platform entirely. Whatever crypto exchange you use, it should have a well-thought-out approach to security.
- Low Fees: The goal here is to make money, and not nickel and dime it away on weird fees.
- Liquidity, Accessibility and Storage: These three go hand in hand because they determine how much freedom you have in what you do with your cryptocurrency, where you choose to store it, and when you can take action. Some exchanges, for example, won’t let you place or remove bitcoin from their service, which means that converting your crypto into U.S. dollars is the only way to use that money outside the service or store it in one of the best hardware Bitcoin wallets. Likewise, a smaller crypto exchange might not have the transaction volume to where you can find a quick buyer for a more obscure coin. As a result, you could miss out on buying another coin before its value rises because you were waiting for a buyer.
Whatever you’re looking for out of the best coin sellers, it’s probably wise not to be hasty in making a decision, and instead find the one that best suits your needs and experience level. That said, here’s our list of the best crypto exchanges you can use in 2021.
BEST CRYPTOCURRENCY EXCHANGE OVERALL
When you factor in everything that makes a crypto exchange the best, Binance stands out from the pack. When you access the site from outside the U.S., you have access to more than 200 different coins and cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin. But even if you are logged into the U.S. site, you can still trade 80 coins, and everyone with an account is required to go through a multi-step identification verification process that is rigorous to say the least.
With transaction fees set at 0.1%, Binance also has some of the lowest fees compared to other crypto exchanges. And what this means is that you can trade a little more freely without worrying that you’re wasting a bunch of money. But ultimately the most important thing is the freedom to move your cryptocurrency as you wish. And because Binance is one of the biggest crypto exchanges around, you’re less likely to be stuck with a cryptocurrency that you can’t sell. You also have the freedom to import and withdraw your cryptocurrency without having to convert it to USD first, which is a courtesy not all apps and exchanges will afford.
Coinbase is the other major player in the world of crypto exchanges, and it just so happens that it’s one of the oldest. Letting you buy, sell and trade more than 50 cryptocurrencies, Coinbase is one of the easiest crypto exchanges to use. But ultimately, there are tradeoffs. Coinbase has comparatively high transaction fees, which means that if you plan to use this for more than a few transactions or you plan to make a big crypto purchase, you could find yourself paying a premium. But given Coinbase’s popularity, you’ll be likely to find someone willing to sell you the coin you want (or buy the one you don’t want) and feel comfortable knowing that this is one of the most secure and stable crypto exchanges available.
BEST CRYPTO EXCHANGE FOR TRADITIONALISTS
eToro does not support as many coins as our top two picks, but the 17 coins it does support are the most relevant ones. With fees ranging between 0.75% and 4.9% depending on the coin, they’re certainly not the worst option but clearly cannot compete with Binance in this regard. What makes eToro an attractive option amongst the best crypto exchanges is that it does not exist solely for crypto and it has been around since 2007. That’s well before the rise of Bitcoin and longer than any other platform mentioned here. At the very least, that can offer some confidence that eToro is a relatively safe place to exchange coins and that they’re going to close up shop if cryptocurrency takes an unexpected nosedive.
BEST CRYPTO EXCHANGE FOR PRIVACY
If you got into cryptocurrency because of its privacy-facing features, then Bisq is absolutely the best crypto exchange for you. That’s because Bisq is completely decentralized, which means that it doesn’t require you to confirm your identity. Instead, it is simply a framework to directly connect crypto buyers and sellers to one another. That said, Bisq comes with its own set of risks and definitely isn’t the first exchange any beginner should look at. Because this is a completely decentralized platform, there’s nothing that can be done if you’re scammed. Like many other exchanges, Bisq experienced a major security breach in 2020. And while they’ve tightened up their security since, it simply underscores the fact that this platform especially should not be used carelessly. Still, it is completely unique in its approach to cryptocurrency exchange and is worth consideration.
BEST CRYPTO EXCHANGE FOR ADVANCED TRADERS
Kraken is a highly secure crypto exchange that has lived out its entire 10-year existence without suffering a major hack. But the thing that sets it apart from the rest of the best crypto exchanges is the fact that it offers some advanced tools for buying, selling and trading its 60+ cryptocurrencies. This includes the ability to take part in margin trading, which allows you to supercharge your crypto purchase by as much as 5X. This is a risky way of trading crypto that should be avoided by beginners, but for seasoned traders with appropriate financial backing, it could be an appealing option.
Although Gemini doesn’t do much that the best cryptocurrency exchanges like Binance and Coinbase don’t, the thing that makes it stand out is that it’s allowed in every state, which is not something every exchange can say. This means states such as New York can buy, sell and trade 30 different cryptocurrencies. It’s also insured against any hacks, which means victims can get their money back in the event that it’s stolen. But with transaction fees ranging between 0.5% and 3.99%, Gemini’s fees are pricey enough that it might not be the first choice among those who have multiple options at their choosing.