The interest in cryptocurrency remains strong, and it’s no surprise that many people are hoping to learn how to invest in cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency exchanges make it easy to get started. If you’re looking for the right exchange for you and your personal finance goals, here are some of the best crypto exchange options available.
The best cryptocurrency exchanges of October 2021
- Best Overall: Coinbase
- Best for altcoins: Kraken
- Best for beginners: eToro
- Best to earn interest: BlockFi
- Best for customer service: Coinmama
- Best for low fees: Binance
- Best for strong security: Gemini
Best Overall: Coinbase
- Easy to use
- Wallet service
- Ability to earn rewards
- Fees can be a bit higher
- Some exchanges have more altcoins
Coinbase offers access to scores of popular cryptocurrencies, including altcoins. In addition to well-known cryptos like Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), and Ethereum (ETH), Coinbase also provides access to Dogecoin (DOGE), Polkadot (DOT), and Decentraland (MANA). You can access Coinbase to buy, sell, and trade coins on desktop and via their app. It’s also possible to earn extra rewards by receiving free coins when you learn about them, and earn a yield on certain coins, like Tezos (XTZ).
In addition to making it easy to engage in cryptocurrency investing and trading, Coinbase also has low account minimums and lets you buy fractions of popular (and expensive) coins. On top of that, Coinbase offers a wallet service that allows you to send and receive coins, as well as hold them. You can even directly trade supported pairs.
For those looking for a simple way to buy, sell, and trade, Coinbase provides an easy way to make it happen, while you manage your cryptocurrency portfolio in one place.
... Or read our Coinbase review.
Best for altcoins: Kraken
- Wide variety of coins, including altcoins
- Advanced trading ability
- High level of security
- Limited available coins and features in the U.S.
- No wallet service
- Account funding can be slow
If you’re looking for a wide variety of altcoins, Kraken could be a good choice. In addition to offering major cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, Kraken offers access to Dogecoin, Dash (DSH), Monero (XMR), Orchid (OXT), and more. However, it’s important to note that even though Kraken offers a wide list of altcoins, some of them aren’t available in the United States, and some coins, like Ripple (XRP), can’t be traded by U.S. residents.
Kraken offers advanced features like margin trading and charges reasonable fees, and you can trade using desktop or app. However, you won’t get a wallet service with Kraken, which means you need to have your own crypto wallet before you get started.
In many cases, Kraken isn’t a very good trading crypto trading platform for beginners. Instead, advanced traders with experience in crypto are more likely to benefit from this exchange.
… Or read our Kraken review.
Best for beginners: eToro
- Learn from successful crypto traders
- Demo account
- Low account minimum
- Limited to crypto trades
- Can only copy U.S. traders
- Limited number of available cryptocurrencies
If you’re unsure how to get started with cryptocurrency trading and want some ideas, eToro makes it easy to get going. With a low minimum to start buying, selling, and trading cryptocurrencies, and an easy-to-use interface, eToro makes it simple to get started, whether you trade online or use an app.
eToro offers fewer coins in the U.S. than some other exchanges. However, you can still get access to major coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, along with some altcoins like Cardano (ADA), Dogecoin, and Tezos.
Plus, there’s a social trading aspect to eToro that allows you to see what other traders are doing and even copy them. For beginners, this can be a valuable tool that allows you to get ideas and learn a few tricks before starting. Finally, eToro offers a demo account so you can practice before you actually risk your own money.
Best to earn interest: BlockFi
- Ability to earn interest on crypto assets
- Low minimums
- Borrow against your portfolio
- Withdrawals are limited on interest-bearing accounts
- Not FDIC-insured
- Limited coin choices
If you’re looking to earn interest on your cryptocurrency balances, BlockFi can be a good choice. You can earn some very competitive interest rates on your holdings, depending on the coin you’ve invested in.
It’s also possible to earn crypto rewards using the BlockFi branded credit card. On top of that, BlockFi allows you to borrow money against your crypto portfolio at rates as low as 4.5% APR (as of Aug. 2, 2021). You can access your BlockFi account online or via their app.
However, while you can earn a yield on your crypto assets, it’s important to note that BlockFi is limited in its offerings. You can access Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, as well as a few stablecoins based in the U.S. Be aware, though, that even though you’re earning a yield on some of your coins, free withdrawals from your account are limited and BlockFi’s account isn’t insured against a potential bank failure.
… Or read our BlockFi review.
Best for customer service: Coinmama
- Easy to get started
- Responsive customer service
- Extensive crypto education resources
- Doesn’t provide a wallet or an app
- Limited features for advanced traders
- Limited coin offerings
Coinmama is very easy to use online and makes it simple to buy your first cryptocurrency, though it doesn’t currently offer an app. You will also need to learn about wallets before starting because Coinmama doesn’t provide a wallet either.
However, if you’re interested in starting with the most popular coins, Coinmama offers access to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, as well as popular altcoins like Dogecoin and Cardano.
Where Coinmama really shines, though, is its responsive customer support, which can be reached by email or phone. On top of that, Coinmama is known for its extensive library of educational resources. Coinmama breaks down various subjects related to cryptocurrency, making them easy to understand.
Best for low fees: Binance
- Low trading fees
- Wide variety of altcoins
- Offers advanced trading features
- Limited crypto pairs in the United States
- Not available in some states
Binance offers the ability to buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies online or via app. This exchange is fast and offers advanced trading features, including charting. This can be useful to more experienced cryptocurrency investors.
While Binance offers a wide range of coins worldwide, the U.S. offerings are more limited. However, it’s still possible to access Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, as well as popular altcoins like Dogecoin, Polygon (MATIC), and Tether (USDT).
For the fee-conscious, Binance could be a good choice. Binance is one of the best cryptocurrency exchanges available because it’s so inexpensive. Fees and spreads are some of the lowest among exchanges, making it attractive for frequent traders who want to save money. Plus, Binance offers discounts for people executing a high trading volume.
Best for strong security: Gemini
- Available in all U.S. states
- Insurance on digital assets
- Variety of crypto services
- Fees are on the high side
- Not as many available cryptocurrencies
Gemini offers a solid range of different cryptocurrencies and pairs, although not as many as some other exchanges. However, you can access Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, and other popular altcoins using the online exchange or by trading on the app.
On top of being one of the best cryptocurrency exchanges, Gemini also offers different services, including a crypto wallet, a soon-to-launch credit card, and the ability to loan out your assets so you can earn interest on your crypto balances.
Gemini, though, takes security to the next level. In addition to holding your crypto in cold storage, Gemini applies a number of protocols to increase security, going above and beyond most other exchanges. Not only that, but Gemini ensures its digital assets and submits to banking exams.
... Or read our Gemini review.
Best for peer-to-peer: Paxful
- Accepts a wide variety of payment methods
- Trade directly with others
- Low fees
- Potential for scams
- Completely unregulated
- Can be difficult for beginners
Paxful is an interesting exchange in that it connects you with millions of people worldwide, so you can trade directly using the online exchange interface or a mobile app. More than 350 payment methods are available on Paxful, including the ability to fund your cryptocurrency purchases with coins you already hold.
Paxful users can only purchase three cryptocurrencies. You can buy Bitcoin, Tether, and Ethereum. Still, there are over thirty different cryptos you can use to make those purchases, including the most popular like Bitcoin and Ethereum families, as well as altcoins like Dogecoin and Tether. Additionally, Paxful offers a wallet service, making it easy to manage your holdings.
When using Paxful, you only pay fees when you sell coins, although those fees can sometimes feel high. There is also a learning curve because you might have to search through offers to find the trade you’re looking for. And, even though Paxful does take steps to secure transactions, you need to be more on guard against scams when you use Paxful than you would with some of the other exchanges.
What is a cryptocurrency exchange?
Cryptocurrency exchanges allow you to buy, sell and trade digital currency. Depending on the exchange, you might be able to make purchases with fiat currencies, like the U.S. dollar or euro. This could include using a credit or debit card to fund your account or funding it via a bank transfer. Other platforms allow you to trade one cryptocurrency for another or even directly exchange with other people.
The two types of exchanges to be aware of are:
- A centralized exchange is one in which the exchange acts as a middleman and manages all aspects of trading, and you can simply buy, sell, or trade.
- A decentralized exchange operates on a peer-to-peer basis and requires buyers, sellers, and traders to match themselves to someone on the other side of the trade.
Either exchange can offer a variety of coins and may have other products and services available. Some exchanges provide wallet services where you can keep your assets, while others require you to have your own wallet. A wallet holds your private keys, which essentially acts like a password allowing access to your cryptocurrency. A good wallet may also provide security features like two-factor authentication.
Crypto trading platforms might also offer access to interest-bearing assets, rewards, credit cards, and borrowing, depending on the exchange you choose.
To learn more, check out our guide to cryptocurrency for beginners.
How to sign up for a crypto exchange
Each cryptocurrency exchange or brokerage will have its own requirements for opening an account, but in general, you’ll likely need to provide your name, address, and other identifying information. This is especially true for U.S.-based accounts, where you might need to provide your Social Security number.
You will also need to have a funding source. Depending on the exchange, this is usually a bank account or credit card. However, some exchanges will let you fund your account by transferring current crypto assets from an existing wallet to the exchange.
Also, check to see if the exchange offers a wallet service. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to get your own digital wallet ahead of time.
The good news is that most of the best cryptocurrency exchanges don’t have account minimums and you can begin trading with a relatively small amount of money — as little as a few dollars in some cases.
For more info on specific digital currencies, check out our guides on:
Alternatives to crypto exchanges
In addition to the top cryptocurrency exchanges that we’ve discussed, there are other ways to learn how to buy cryptocurrency and get exposure to coins:
PayPal now allows you to buy, hold, and sell cryptocurrencies. However, the offerings are limited to Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum, and Litecoin. You simply make your purchase using your personal PayPal or PayPal Cash account, and you can then hold onto your coins as long as you want. It’s even possible to use the cryptos you hold in your PayPal account to pay for transactions.
If you use Cash App, it’s possible to buy and sell Bitcoin using your balance. You can get a fraction of a Bitcoin, so you don’t have to worry about the high price. It’s even possible to send Bitcoin directly to someone else on Cash App. However, it’s important to note that this is the only coin available from Cash App.
Read our Cash App review to learn more.
For those interested in trading cryptocurrencies, you can get exposure to cryptos with Robinhood. With Robinhood, you can trade Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV (BSV), Dogecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic (ETC), and Litecoin.
However, it’s important to note that you don’t actually own the coins, and there’s no wallet service. You can’t send your holdings to a wallet. Instead, you have to convert your cryptocurrency to fiat before moving forward.
Read our Robinhood review to learn more.
How to pick the right crypto exchange for you
When choosing from among the best cryptocurrency exchanges, it’s important to consider your own needs and requirements.
Some of the items to consider as you evaluate cryptocurrency exchanges include:
- Available cryptocurrencies. Make sure the crypto you’re interested in is available on the exchange. Many of the main coins, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, are going to be available almost everywhere. Litecoins, however, might not be as widely available. The availability of different coins and trading pairs could impact the liquidity of your assets, meaning they could be easier or harder to sell when you need cash or want to invest elsewhere.
- Wallet service. If you don’t have your own digital wallet and you’re not interested in getting your own software or hardware wallet, consider an exchange that offers a wallet service, so you have a place to keep your crypto.
- Ease of use. Find out if the platform is easy to use. Look for a user-friendly platform that makes it easy to execute transactions and manage your portfolio.
- Fees. Review the fee structure because they can work very differently. Many exchanges charge based on the spread, which is the difference between the buy and sell price. Others might charge a flat transaction fee based on your funding source, or there might be a combination of flat fee and spread. Many exchanges will let you know what fee is being charged before you complete your transaction.
- Other services and features. Figure out what’s important to you. Some exchanges offer rewards programs, the ability to stake your assets in order to earn interest, credit cards, futures trading, margin accounts, and even the ability to borrow against the value of your portfolio. Decide what matters to you and look for an exchange that offers those things.
In determining our list of the best cryptocurrency exchanges, we looked at popular services and platforms and evaluated them according to a set of criteria we consider critical to the consumer. We did not evaluate all services in the category. We used editorial judgment to determine what use or user each cryptocurrency exchange would be best for.
FinanceBuzz evaluation criteria include:
- Available coins: We reviewed coin availability and looked for exchanges that offer access to the most popular and most traded coins and altcoins.
- Ease of use: We considered whether an exchange was easy to use, as well as functionality and how accessible it was online and via app.
- Fees: We looked at fee structures and rates, including spreads.
- Wallet services: Not every exchange offers wallet services, so we evaluated whether or not wallets were provided.
- Other features and services: In addition to cryptocurrency trading, we also looked at other services and features, including the ability to earn rewards, staking, credit cards, and margin trading.
While not comprehensive, we believe our list offers a variety of options that can appeal to most people interested in crypto, depending on various needs. There’s a good chance you’ll find a fit for you using this list.
Which is the best cryptocurrency exchange?
There is no one answer to what is the best cryptocurrency exchange or the best Bitcoin exchange. We’ve provided a list of what we feel are great cryptocurrency trading platforms, but the best exchange for you will offer the coins you’re most interested in, and provide features and functionality that fit your preferences and individual financial strategy.
What's the difference between a crypto exchange and a crypto wallet?
A crypto exchange is a place where you can buy, sell, or trade tokens. A crypto wallet, on the other hand, is a place to hold your digital assets. Some exchanges offer wallet services, so you can have a wallet address through the exchange. However, not all exchange platforms offer wallet services, so if you want to manage your digital assets, you need a separate crypto wallet.
What crypto exchange has lowest fees?
It’s hard to determine which exchange has the lowest fees, but Binance is known for its low fees. Binance has low spreads and fees, while other exchanges like Coinbase might charge a percentage of the transaction plus a flat fee depending on your funding source. Carefully compare fee structures so you understand how you’re being charged in relation to the ideal trades or purchases you want to make.
Is Kraken better than Coinbase?
Whether Kraken is better than Coinbase depends on your needs and preferences. In general, Kraken can be a better choice for advanced traders, since there are functionalities like margin trading available through that exchange. However, Coinbase might be better for beginners and casual traders. Coinbase offers a wallet, while Kraken doesn’t, and Coinbase can be easier for less advanced traders to get started. To learn more, check out our Kraken vs. Coinbase vs. Gemini comparison.
Any time you invest, you could potentially lose your money. However, crypto is an especially volatile market, as it is a new asset class.
There are a number of cryptocurrency exchanges that could help you get started with trading and make the most of your money. But learning the basics of how to invest money is a good first step before you risk any of it with cryptocurrency.
If you’re interested in getting started with cryptocurrency, make sure to do your research and limit the amount of your portfolio you’re committing to this asset class. With the right approach, and when you know where crypto fits in your overall strategy, digital currencies can be a fun and smart investment.
Disclosure: The author has positions in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, Dogecoin, Cardano, Tezos and Tether.