If you’re someone who has become well-versed in the field of cryptocurrency, chances are you might be interested in learning how to start trading. Having basic knowledge of the general system is certainly a benefit, however, when it comes to trading currency, there are other important things that you will need to know. This article will simultaneously serve as both a guide and also a list of recommended cryptocurrency exchanges.

What is it?

Before we talk about the best exchanges, let’s first go over what exactly cryptocurrency is so that we may be given context as to what we are about to dig deeper into.

Cryptocurrency is a digital (or virtual) form of currency that utilizes cryptography for its security. This specific security feature makes cryptocurrency something that is difficult to counterfeit. Many cryptocurrencies function on decentralized systems that are based on blockchain technology, which is a distributed ledger of sorts that is run by a wide variety of computers in a network.

Bitcoin was the first blockchain-based cryptocurrency and it continues to be the most popular and highly regarded of the many others that exist. Ever since the development of this system and its growth in popularity, there have been thousands of alternate cryptocurrencies distributed, all with their own various functions or specifications. Some of these are duplicates of Bitcoin while others are ‘forks’, which can be defined as cryptocurrencies that split from one that already exists. Also known as ‘hard forks’, these are basically radical changes that are made to the protocol that makes previously invalid transactions (or “blocks” on the blockchain) valid, and vice-versa.

Investopedia editor, Jake Frankenfield, breaks down cryptocurrency by saying that:

Cryptocurrencies are systems that allow for the secure payments of online transactions that are denominated in terms of a virtual “token,” representing ledger entries internal to the system itself. “Crypto” refers to the fact that various encryption algorithms and cryptographic techniques, such as elliptical curve encryption, public-private key pairs, and hashing functions, are employed.”

Cryptocurrency exchanges are websites where you are able to purchase, sell, or exchange cryptocurrencies for other digital forms of currency or even traditional currency, like Canadian Dollars or Euro. For those of you who would like to trade professionally and you just so happen to have access to grade-A tools, it is a wise idea to use an exchange that requires you to validate your ID and open an account.

Now for those of you who would prefer to make occasional and more basic trades, there are platforms available for you to use that do not require an account.

There are various types of exchanges, which are:

  • Trading Platforms. These are websites that connect the buyers and the sellers, as well as taking a fee from each transaction.
  • Direct Trading. These particular platforms provide a direct person to person trading protocol in which people from different countries can exchange currency. These direct trading systems do not possess a fixed market price; instead, each seller is able to establish their own exchange rate.
  • Brokers. Sharing similarities with foreign exchange dealers, these specific websites are ones that anyone can visit to purchase cryptocurrencies at a price that was set by the broker.

What to know before you join

While it seems like anyone can jump in and start trading at any time, it is crucial that you do some research before you dive into the trading system. Among other things that should be looked into, here are a few important bits of information you should consult before making your first trade:

  • Reputation – The best and most recommended way to find out about a certain exchange is to read through reviews written by individual users and the more well-known industry websites. If you have any inquiries, you can always ask them on forums such as Reddit and BitcoinTalk.
  • Fees – Most exchanges usually have information pertaining to fees on their websites. It is important to note that before you join, make sure you properly understand fees relating to deposits, transactions, and withdrawals. Fees can differ extensively depending on which exchange you are using.
  • Payment Methods – Look into what payment methods are available on the exchange platform. Do they accept debit and/or credit cards? How about wire transfer? Or PayPal? If an exchange ends up having a limited amount of payment options, then it is probably not the most convenient one to use. Keep in mind that buying cryptocurrencies with a credit card will always require ID verification and will come with a premium price because there is a higher risk of fraud and greater transaction and processing fees. Purchasing cryptocurrencies with the use of a wire transfer will take a longer amount of time, as it takes a while for banks to process.
  • Verification Requirements – The majority of the trading platforms under the Bitcoin name demand some form of ID authentication in order to officially make deposits and withdrawals. With that said, there are some exchanges that will permit you to remain anonymous. While verification may come across as a pain to do, especially since it can take up to a few days to conduct, it protects the exchange from all kinds of scams and methods of money laundering.
  • Geographical Restrictions – Some certain types of user functions that are offered by exchanges are only accessible from specified countries. Be sure to clarify that the exchange you wish to join allows full access to all of the platform tools and operations in the country you are currently residing in.
  • Exchange Rate – With every different exchange there comes a different rate, and by researching the various platforms, you will find that you save more with certain exchanges over others. It is not out of the ordinary for rates to fluctuate up to 10% and even higher in some cases.

Now that cryptocurrency exchanges have been defined and the specific points relating to them (i.e. the different types and the vital steps to take before engaging) have been highlighted, we can now move forward in explaining the best of the best.

With there being a slew of platforms to choose from, it is easy to think that they are all generally the same. However, not all of these exchanges are equal. This list consisting of the 14 best crypto exchanges are based on user reviews and also a variety of other principles, including accessibility, fees, security, and user-friendliness. Its purpose is not to dictate which exchange platforms are the better or the lesser ones, but rather it is to balance out the good qualities of each with the less than satisfactory qualities.

Exchange #1 – Bitbuy.ca

Bitbuy.ca is a digital currency platform that is owned and operated in Canada and was founded at InstaBT in 2013. According to its website, “…the company’s mission is to provide convenient, dependable and secure access to Bitcoin and other digital currencies.”

The backbone of this platform includes great customer service, using the system with ease, and quick turnaround times for both deposits and withdrawals. They provide their services for beginners alongside more experienced traders, and they are among the quickest growing and most efficient buy-sell platforms in Canada.

How this platform works can be broken down into just three steps. As explained on their website, the procedure goes as follows:

  1. Create an account. Set up your account by signing up at Bitbuy.ca. As an enhanced and extra cautious security measure, you will be asked to confirm both your email address and your phone number, and you will additionally need to verify your identity as required by Canadian laws.
  2. Add funds from your bank account. As soon as your identity has been confirmed, you are then permitted to add funds to your Bitbuy.ca account in order to purchase digital currencies. They currently offer Interac e-Transfer, Interac Online, Flexepin, and Bank Wire as a source to add funds.
  3. Buy and sell digital currencies. After you have added funds to your account, you must then select the type of digital currency you wish to purchase along with a dollar amount. They currently offer the following digital currencies: Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash.

This particular platform is a great choice for users who are looking to buy and hold crypto or users who are in need of a wholly reliable on-ramp to transform their fiat into crypto promptly and easily.

The pros of Bitbuy.ca are…

  • Great customer service
  • Fast registration and validation
  • Quick conversion of CAD deposits and withdrawals
  • Low fees

The cons of Bitbuy.ca are…

  • It only offers BTC, ETH, LTC, and BCH
  • It is only accessible to Canadians

Exchange #2 – Coinbase

Coinbase is a digital currency wallet and platform that was founded in 2012 and is based in San Francisco. It is “…where merchants and consumers can transact with new digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.” The platform provides an easy system where users can securely purchase, use, store, and trade digital currency.

Users can buy the three aforementioned currencies from Coinbase through either a digital wallet or through the act of trading with other users on the company’s GDAX (Global Digital Asset Exchange) branch. GDAX operates in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and Singapore, and it does not – at this point in time – charge any transfer fees for moving your funds between your Coinbase account and your GDAX account.

That being said, the selection of tradeable currencies will depend primarily on the country you currently live in.

The pros of Coinbase are…

  • A good reputation
  • Guaranteed security
  • Reasonable fees
  • Beginner friendly
  • The stored currency is covered by Coinbase insurance

The cons of Coinbase are…

  • There are a limited amount of payment methods
  • A limited number of supported countries
  • Non-uniform rollout of services internationally
  • GDAX is suitable for technical traders only

Exchange #3 – Coinsquare

Coinsquare is a platform built on technology similar to that of the New York Stock Exchange and is committed to providing users with safe and secure trades. Their website boasts that:

Our 100% proprietary system has been stress tested and DDoS tested … We manage our ledger consistently so we know where every coin is at all times.”

Whether the coins be CAD or Ethereum, its location is always monitored.

Coinsquare’s dashboard is “packed with robust charts and sophisticated features, so you can review the entire digital currency market and trade wisely,” and with the system’s mobile app, you are able to trade anytime from just about anywhere.

How it works is similar to how other exchange platforms function. First, you create an account by signing up. All that is required is your email address and some additional basic information. The second step will be where you verify your account, which means providing a little more information to get properly confirmed. The third and final step is where you can start adding funds to your account. You can choose from a number of options when funding it, such as using dollars, euros, or digital currency.

The pros of Coinsquare are…

  • A solid reputation
  • Good security
  • Reasonable fees
  • Beginner friendly

The cons of Coinsquare are…

  • A limited amount of methods of payment
  • A limited number of countries supported
  • Non-uniform rollout of services across the globe

Exchange #4 – Kraken

Founded back in 2011, Kraken is the largest Bitcoin exchange platform in Euro volume and liquidity. It is also a partner in the first cryptocurrency bank.

This platform allows users to purchase and sell Bitcoins and trade between Bitcoins and Euros, Canadian Dollars, US Dollars, British Pounds, and Japanese Yen. Its straightforward interface provides “…quick funding options and wide range of digital currencies allow you to effortlessly execute both long and short-term investment strategies. You can also take advantage of our advanced features, like margin and futures trading, so you can do more with less, leveraging the power of your portfolio.”

Overall, Kraken is an ideal choice for those who are more experienced in trading.

The pros of Kraken are…

  • A good reputation
  • Decent exchange rates
  • Low transaction fees
  • Low deposit fees
  • Great customer support
  • It is secure and supported worldwide

The cons of Kraken are…

  • A limited number of payment methods
  • It is not entirely suitable for beginners
  • It has a user interface that is unintuitive

Exchange #5 – Cex.io

Launched in 2013 as the first cloud mining provider, Cex.io is a platform that offers a variety of services for using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It allows users to easily trade fiat money with cryptocurrencies, and vice versa.

It provides users with “…cross-platform trading via website, mobile app, WebSocket and REST API, providing access to high liquidity orderbook for top currency pairs on the market.” For those who want to trade professionally, Cex.io offers personalized trading dashboards and margin trading. An alternate option is a brokerage service that supplies novice traders with a much more simple way to purchase Bitcoin at prices that are in the range of the market rate.

Overall, it is a platform that is secure and visceral, and cryptocurrencies can be placed in cold storage, meaninggenerating and storing the crypto coin’s private keys in an offline environment, away from the internet.”

The pros of Cex.io are…

  • A solid reputation
  • Good mobile product
  • It is supportive of credit cards
  • Beginner friendly
  • A decent exchange rate
  • It is supported worldwide
  • Provides API (Application Program Interface) solutions for automatic trading

The cons of Cex.io are…

  • It has strict verification rules
  • Fees will usually vary with the method of payment

Exchange #6 – ShapeShift

ShapeShift is the leading exchange that supports numerous cryptocurrencies, some of which include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, Zcash. Dogecoin, and Dash. According to its website, “The platform gives you the power to quickly swap between assets in a seamless, safe, and secure environment.” It is the quintessential platform for those who would like to make straightforward trades without needing to sign up with an account or relying solely on a platform to hold onto their funds.

Having said all that, ShapeShift does not approve of the users purchasing cryptos with a debit card, a credit card, or any other similar payment system. Additionally, the platform has no fiat policy and only permits the exchange between Bitcoin and other supported digital currencies.

The pros of ShapeShift are…

  • A solid reputation
  • Beginner friendly
  • A wide variety of crypto’s available for exchange
  • A fast system
  • Reasonable prices

The cons of ShapeShift are…

  • An average mobile app
  • No fiat currencies
  • A limited amount of payment options and tools

Exchange #7 – Poloniex

Poloniex is a crypto to crypto exchange that was founded in 2014 and redesigned the following year. Among the largest of the world’s cryptocurrency exchanges, it is one that offers a guaranteed secure trading environment with over 100 diverse Bitcoin cryptocurrency pairings, as well as tools and data analysis for those who are advanced traders.

With trading volumes that are incredibly high, the users will always be able to secure and close a trade position. The platform applies a fee schedule for all trades that is volume-tiered, ‘maker-taker’ so that the fees are different depending on whether you are the maker or the taker.

Investopedia writer, Andrew Bloomenthal, explains ‘maker-taker fees’ with the following statement:

So-called maker-taker fees offer a transaction rebate to those who provide liquidity (the market maker), while charging customers who take that liquidity. The chief aim of maker-taker fees is to stimulate trading activity within an exchange by extending to firms the incentive to post orders, in theory, facilitating trading.”

Tying this concept back to Poloniex, for those who identify themselves as the makers, the fees range from 0 to roughly 0.15%, it all depends on the amount that is traded. For those who are the takers, the fees range from 0.10 to about 0.25%.

It should be noted that there are no fees for withdrawals beyond the transaction fee that the network requires.

One of the more unique features on the Poloniex platform is the chat box, which is consistently present and filled with user help relating to just about anything. While it is admittedly difficult to weed out the good advice from the bad advice, this chat box tool is an ideal feature for all who decide to use this platform.

The pros of Poloniex are…

  • The fast creation of an account
  • It features BTC lending
  • High-volume trading
  • User-friendly
  • Low trading fees
  • Open API

The cons of Poloniex are…

  • Relatively slow customer service
  • No fiat support

Exchange #8 – Bitstamp

Bitstamp is a European Union based Bitcoin marketplace that was founded in 2011 and is one of the first generation Bitcoin exchanges that has gradually built up a devoted customer base over time. It is an overall widely trusted and renowned platform that is considered by many in the Bitcoin community to be wholly safe and secure.

It provides its users with advanced security features, including a two-step verification system, multisignature technology for its wallet, and a fully insured cold storage. This platform, in particular, offers 24/7 support and a user interface that is multilingual, and on top of that, getting started is an easy process. You simply open a free account and then after you make a deposit, you can begin trading almost immediately.

The pros of Bitstamp are…

  • A solid reputation
  • High-level security
  • It is available worldwide
  • Low transaction fees
  • It is a very good platform for larger transactions

The cons of Bitstamp are…

  • It is not very beginner friendly
  • There is a limited amount of payment methods
  • High deposit fees

Exchange #9 – CoinMama

CoinMama is an older, ‘seasoned’ broker platform that just about anyone can visit to purchase Bitcoin or Ether by using either your credit card or with cash via MoneyGram. It is a great system to use for people who want to make instant purchases of digital currency by utilizing their local currency.

The procedure is divided into three key steps: 1) Register (the data is encrypted and they do not keep any of your coins or money), 2) Finalize your account (submit your personal data, with the amount you can purchase increasing the more information you provide), and 3) Buy cryptocurrency (choose between either Bitcoin or Ethereum and then the amount you wish to buy).

It should be noted that while CoinMama’s services are indeed available worldwide, some countries might not be able to use all of the functions on the site.

The pros of CoinMama are…

  • A good reputation
  • Beginner friendly
  • A great user interface
  • A solid number of payment options
  • Worldwide availability
  • Fast transaction times

The cons of CoinMama are…

  • High exchange rates
  • A premium fee pertaining to credit cards
  • No Bitcoin sell functions
  • Provides average-level user support

Exchange #10 – Bitsquare

Bitsquare describes itself as “…an open-source, peer-to-peer application that allows you to buy and sell cryptocurrencies in exchange for national currencies.” This particular platform boasts that it is truly a decentralized exchange system that is instantly accessible and it does not require any need for registration or even dependence on central control. In addition, Bitsquare does not hold any user funds and no one exchanges personal data except those who are trading partners.

This exchange platform provides excellent security with multisignature addresses, security deposits, and a purpose-built mediator function if there was ever an instance of trading disputes. All in all, if your preference for exchanging is to remain anonymous and/or you do not trust any of the other users, then Bitsquare is the ideal platform for you to use.

It is private, it runs on an open source network, and it guarantees a sense of anonymity; the complete package for an exchanging platform.

The pros of Bitsquare are…

  • A good reputation
  • A secure and private system
  • A large number of cryptocurrencies are available
  • There is no sign-up
  • Decent fees
  • Open source system
  • Worldwide availability
  • It is good for the more advanced traders

The cons of Bitsquare are…

  • It has a limited amount of payment options
  • Average-level customer support
  • Not inherently beginner friendly

Exchange #11 – LocalBitcoins

LocalBitcoins is a peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange platform that consists of buyers and sellers in different cities and countries around the world. According to their website:

The site allows users to post advertisements where they state exchange rate and payment methods for buying or selling bitcoins. You reply to these advertisements and agree to meet the person to buy bitcoins with cash, or trade directly with online banking. Bitcoins are placed in LocalBitcoins.com web wallet from where you can pay your bitcoin purchases directly.”

You can send money through PayPal, Skrill, or Dwolla, and regional sellers might offer other payment arrangements. LocalBitcoins only takes a 1% commission from the sellers who establish exchange rates that they independently determine.

This platform takes a number of precautions to maintain the strength of the security protocol of the trading, one of which is that it rates each of the traders with a ‘reputation rank’ and displays past activities for the public to see. Another method of precaution is that as soon as a trade is requested, the money is held on LocalBitcoins’ collateral service. After the trade is confirmed by the seller, the exchange is deemed completed and the funds are then released.

If something were to go wrong, LocalBitcoins provides the services of their support and conflict resolution team in order to solve any disputes that might occur between the buyers and the sellers.

The pros of LocalBitcoins are…

  • Beginner friendly
  • It is usually a free system
  • Instantaneous transfers
  • Worldwide availability

The cons of LocalBitcoins are…

  • It is difficult to purchase large amounts of Bitcoin
  • High rates of exchange
  • Full KYC is now required

Exchange #12 – LinkCoin

LinkCoin is an Over-the-Counter (OTC) cryptocurrency exchange platform based in Toronto that supports free multi-token exchanges safely and easily. This trading system is, as its website claims, “…developed and operated by a professional and international team that aims at providing global users with convenient and reliable digital assets exchange services, gathering users around the world and creating a world-class digital assets exchange platform.”

We are going to take a quick detour to better explain was OTC trading is. CNBC writer and reporter, Kate Rooney, describes this concept like this: “Over-the-counter, or OTC, trading is a familiar option for institutions used to buying and selling equities, and adds diversity to a mostly retail-driven crypto market, Coinbase executives say.” Furthermore, she writes that the trading is conducted directly between two parties as opposed to on an exchange.

This OTC idea has been around for a good long time and its roots can easily be drawn back to some of the first store-based exchanges of goods. Expanding on that, the name “over-the-counter” is typically defined as “a fancy way of saying ‘decentralized trading.’ Orders are not listed on a public order book. Clients can trade with each via broker without anyone else knowing about their transaction.” ‘Security’ and ‘exchange’ are two other terms that, without a doubt, coincide with the concept.

Furthermore, Ryan Smith of CoinCentral explains that:

In the traditional financial world, companies that don’t have the right reputation and/or required funds to pay for exchange fees may go the OTC route to raise capital. In the crypto context, we are now seeing this phenomenon unfold as the ICO boom gathers pace.

Elsewhere, very large crypto holders (whales) would prefer to make large trades without drawing too much attention and therefore seek out specialized brokers to make this happen.”

Some of the more established and valued OTC brokers include such names like BitStocks, CircleTrade, JumpTrading, IBC Group, Cumberland, itBit, and Genesis Trading. That being said, these brokers in particular only engage with higher net worth traders.

The exchange in LinkCoin processes the transactions independently with the use of smart contracts and with its fully functional website and phone apps, the platform contains the essential technological framework to give users a service that achieves all of their investment needs.

LinkCoin supports and has seven cryptocurrencies that are available for purchase: BTC, ETH, USDT, EOS, LTC, BIX, and LKN. Additionally, they have some of the lowest transaction fees in the industry (zero buyer fees + 0.6% seller fees), so they also make buying and selling cryptocurrencies as affordable as possible. Accessibility is one of LinkCoin’s core values, and it is because of this that they accept payment options like Interac e-Transfer, Bank Wire, AliPay, and WeChat Pay. Users are also able to pay with either CAD, USD, JPY, CNY (Chinese Yuan), or HKD (Hong Kong Dollar).

The pros of LinkCoin are…

  • No ID is required
  • It is very cheap to sell
  • It is free to purchase
  • High-level privacy and security
  • A good number of payment options
  • It has a platform token

The cons of LinkCoin are…

  • Lack of altcoins
  • Limited volume
  • Not beginner friendly

Exchange #13 – Binance

Binance is a platform that is considered the ideal choice for those of you who want to focus primarily on conducting crypto to crypto trading. It is widely acknowledged as being one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. They provide users with impressive offerings alongside an extremely low trading fee and although this platform is relatively young when compared to other exchange systems, it has been rapidly growing over time. In fact, it already holds a huge selection of altcoins with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether pairings.

Moreover, this exchange provides its own coin, known as BNB. As this is a centralized exchange, you are able to get decent discounts while overseeing trade with their token. Binance offers a trading fee at only 0.1%, which can actually be reduced even further if the payment is made with BNB.

The pros of Binance are…

  • An omnipresent platform
  • It has a platform token
  • It is very cheap to transact
  • It is available across the globe

The cons of Binance are…

  • No fiat trading
  • There is a limited number of payment options

Exchange #14 – Gemini

Gemini is a fully licensed digital asset exchange between US Bitcoin and Ether, which essentially means that it capital requirements and regulatory standards are similar to that of a bank. It is “…a fiduciary and subject to the capital reserve requirements, cybersecurity requirements, and banking compliance standards set forth by the NYSDFS and the New York Banking Law.” Furthermore, all deposits of US Dollars are held at a bank that is insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and a majority of the digital currency is held in cold storage.

This specific platform trades in three types of currencies: US Dollars, Bitcoin, and Ether. Because of this, the platform does not serve traders related to the excess of other cryptocurrencies. The exchange carries out through a maker-taker fee schedule with discounts that are accessible for higher volume traders, and all deposits and withdrawals are free of charge.

It should be noted that Gemini is only fully available for use to customers in 42 US states, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and the UK.

The pros of Gemini are…

  • Great security and compliance
  • A minimalistic design that is also user-friendly
  • Excellent analytics
  • High-level liquidity

The cons of Gemini are…

  • There is a limited number of currencies
  • A small community
  • Average-level customer support
  • It has limited worldwide availability
  • No margin trading

Conclusion

There is no shortage of potential exchange platforms that are available for use, though it is wise to understand the pros and the cons of each before committing to one. This article was written solely out of a desire to highlight what makes each of these platforms unique and to point out both their strengths and their weaknesses. To deny that they have any flaws would not only be unreliable but also unhelpful for those seeking out the proper information.

The choice as to which exchange system is the ideal platform is a purely subjective one, so hopefully, this list provided the insight needed to help make that choice.

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