One of the hottest financial trends of 2021 is cryptocurrencies. People are looking for easy ways to learn how to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
If you’re interested in digital currency and want to go beyond Bitcoin, there are a number of other coins you could consider. Let’s look at a comparison of cryptocurrencies so you can get an idea of what’s popular, why people are interested in it, and how it might work well for you.
What are cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrencies are digital tokens that can be used as a medium of exchange or even as a store of value. A store of value is something that retains its value into the future.
Cryptocurrencies operate on blockchain technology, in which blocks of information are added to the end of a chain of similar blocks. This technology is typically open-source and can be centralized or decentralized. Centralized means there’s a controlling central authority that manages the platform, whereas decentralized means control is distributed across the blockchain, without a single authority controlling the platform.
There’s a lot going on in the cryptocurrency market right now, with different tokens built on different platforms and a way of operating that differs greatly from traditional financial institutions. To help you decide which cryptos make sense for you, let’s dive into a comparison of popular cryptocurrencies.
Comparison of 10 popular cryptocurrencies
|Name||Launch||Circulating supply||Maximum supply||Transaction speed||Network|
|Bitcoin (BTC)||2009||18.79 million||21 million||7 transactions per second||Bitcoin|
|Bitcoin Cash (BCH)||2017||18.82 million||21 million||116 transactions per second||Fork of Bitcoin|
|Cardano (ADA)||2015||32.13 million||45 million||1,000 transactions per second||Cardano|
|Dash (DASH)||2014||10.28 million||18.9 million||56 transactions per second||Based Litecoin, which was based on Bitcoin|
|Dogecoin (DOGE)||2013||130.90 billion||N/A||30 transactions per second||Fork of luckycoin, which was a fork of Litecoin|
|Ethereum (ETH)||2015||117 million||N/A||20 transactions per second||Ethereum|
|Litecoin (LTC)||2011||66.75 million||100 million||56 transactions per second||Based on Bitcoin’s original source code|
|Monero (XMR)||2014||17.97 million||N/A||4 transactions per second||Monero|
|Ripple (XRP)||2012||46.42 billion||100 billion||1,500 transactions per second||XRP Ledger|
|Stellar (XLM)||2014||23.53 billion||50 billion||1,000 transactions per second||Stellar|
How it works: Bitcoin (BTC) is the original cryptocurrency. The protocol of Bitcoin is based on an anonymous whitepaper authored under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
The idea is that transactions can take place over a cryptographic network, and members of the network lend their computing power to run the network. By helping run the network, those involved are rewarded with their own tokens, called bitcoins. Supply is supposed to be limited to 21 million coins.
Although Bitcoin was supposed to originally be considered a way to send payments cheaply and easily, there are scalability problems. And Bitcoin has recently come under fire for the large amount of energy it uses.
Best for: Those who feel Bitcoin can be a store of value. It’s often called digital gold.
Learn more about how to buy Bitcoin.
How it works: Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is a hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain. Developers who felt that Bitcoin was too unwieldy for peer-to-peer cash transactions, as originally intended, created larger block sizes. As a result, Bitcoin Cash is faster and cheaper than Bitcoin.
However, Bitcoin Cash itself has had forks develop. Bitcoin Cash ABC and Bitcoin SV are forks of Bitcoin Cash. Like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash is limiting supply to 21 million coins, most of which have already been mined.
Best for: Those who want an affordable alternative to Bitcoin, or who want to use peer-to-peer payments.
How it works: Cardano (ADA) was built by people who were involved with the creation of Ethereum. It is sometimes called the “Ethereum killer” because it has the ability to execute smart contracts. It’s designed around mathematical principles and a multi-layer architecture.
On top of that, Cardano prioritizes building its chain in a way that is compatible with regulatory bodies in order to ensure that it fits into financial frameworks around the world.
Best for: Those who are interested in smart contracts and believe that Cardano can provide a use case for fast transactions.
How it works: Dash (DASH) was built as a fork of Litecoin, which itself was based on the Bitcoin protocol. Originally called Xcoin and then later referred to as Darkcoin, the token was called Dash in 2015.
Dash makes use of nodes that act as servers and can provide instant transactions and even promote privacy. Another way that Dash sets itself apart is that it has the ability to self-fund and self-govern. This is because a portion of mined Dash goes back to the blockchain to keep it funded.
Best for: Those who want a fast method of sending money peer-to-peer.
How it works: Dogecoin (DOGE) began as a joke by IBM programmer Billy Markus and Adobe employee Jackson Palmer. There was a popular “doge” meme in 2013, based on the image of a Shiba Inu dog, and that’s the joke.
However, the underlying blockchain has some potential and the coin received a lot of attention after Elon Musk tweeted about it. Dogecoin has shown extreme volatility and there have been concerns about price manipulation based on famous tweets.
Best for: Speculators who think that Elon Musk’s involvement could mean upgrades to the blockchain.
Learn more about how to buy Dogecoin.
How it works: Even though Ethereum (ETH) was proposed in 2013, it didn’t launch until 2015. The idea behind it was suggested by Vitalik Buterin, a developer who was 19 at the time. Ethereum was suggested as a way to offer a use case for blockchain beyond payments.
This blockchain offers a way to execute smart contracts. It has also been the home of many initial coin offerings, or ICOs, for new coins raising funds to launch. Ethereum is also popular among app developers who want to make their own applications on the blockchain. It’s one of the most popular platforms for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Best for: Those who want a store of value for the future but also believe in blockchain with a variety of use cases.
Learn more about how to invest in Ethereum.
How it works: Litecoin (LTC) was founded by Charlie Lee, an early Bitcoin adopter who saw some of the speed and scalability issues with that cryptocurrency. Litecoin is designed for faster transactions — and cheaper transactions.
On top of that, Litecoin has a technology that allows you to exchange Litecoin for other cryptocurrencies without the need to go through an exchange. Litecoin is sometimes considered “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.”
Best for: Those who want faster transactions or who believe Litecoin can be a more affordable store of value than Bitcoin.
Learn more about how to invest in Litecoin.
How it works: Monero (XMR) sets itself apart by focusing on the fact that it’s untraceable when you send tokens from one wallet to another. Although the purchase of Monero from an exchange is recorded, once you start using the coin in the Monero system, your transactions are obscured.
As with other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, Monero uses cryptography-based puzzles as a way to power and validate transactions.
Best for: Those who are interested in complete privacy in their cryptocurrency transactions.
How it works: The seeds of Ripple (XRP) were planted in 2004. It’s important to note, though, that Ripple is a company, and that’s different from the blockchain eventually developed and the coin native to that blockchain. Ripple started as a payment company trying to smooth the process.
After the growth of blockchain technology, Ripple created its own platform and coin. However, one of the issues right now is that the company is facing regulatory issues and, though you might be able to hold your XRP, you can’t currently buy or trade it easily on Coinbase.
Best for: Those who believe that Ripple can remake the payments systems, and who believe that it will settle its regulatory issues.
How it works: Stellar (XLM) is a blockchain platform powered by its native token, the lumen. However, Stellar is designed to make financial transactions all over the world faster and easier to manage.
With the Stellar network, it’s possible to complete transactions after converting money — including fiat currency like the U.S. dollar — into a digital tokenized representation and sending it to others. Basically, you create your own coin and use that to represent the money you actually have.
Best for: Those who want fast and inexpensive cross-border transactions using digital representations of money that’s already in existence.
How to buy these popular cryptocurrencies
If you’re learning how to buy cryptocurrency or you’re interested in getting into cryptocurrency trading, you could start by learning how to use an exchange. Most exchanges will let you buy with bank transfer, or even with debit or credit card. Some of the most popular exchanges are Binance and Coinbase.
You can learn more details by reading our Coinbase review.
Before you sign up for an exchange, though, you always need to check to see whether the token you’re interested in is available on that particular exchange. For example, Coinbase has suspended the ability to directly buy Ripple. Additionally, not every exchange offers every coin.
You can also buy cryptocurrencies directly from others, using a peer-to-peer exchange. However, you need to have a digital wallet that supports that currency. Wallets have their own addresses, so it’s important you know your address so you can receive cryptocurrency after buying it. Make sure your wallet is compatible with what you’re trying to buy before you get one.
Some of the best investment apps also offer exposure to cryptocurrency in a simple manner.
If you’re not sure where to start, our list of best cryptocurrency exchanges can help you find one that’s likely to work for you, including those with wallet services and low transaction fees.
There are many popular cryptocurrencies available, and according to the price tracking website CoinMarketCap, the market capitalization (or total dollar market value) of global cryptocurrencies is around $1.99 trillion as of Aug 17, 2021. And although Bitcoin might be popular, there are many altcoins and other digital currencies that are now becoming more common.
But carefully consider how you want to use crypto, and what you think the future is before you decide on investing money in digital assets. Cryptocurrencies are volatile in price, have some technical hurdles when it comes to liquidity, and there’s no guarantee that one will win out above another.