Cryptocurrencies are not an old trend. They have only been around for about ten and a half years at this point. Even so, they had truly gone ‘big’ and ‘worldwide’ only in the last two years. This, of course, has nothing to do with borders and their size — cryptos are borderless and available to anyone at any time.
However, about two years ago, their prices started to rise, which had allowed many people to get rich. The news spread quickly, and more people wanted to do the same, which brought an entire flood of investors, developers, traders, coin holders, and others. This was when the entire crypto industry saw a massive move forward. The world had recognized cryptocurrencies, the authorities had no choice but to do the same, and the entire industry exploded.
One of the main aspects of the crypto sector — and one that had seen the most change — are cryptocurrency exchanges. With countless altcoins emerging everywhere in the markets, and new ones being scheduled to arrive, it is hardly surprising that investors needed a place to trade and exchange their coins for others. This has brought an entire revolution of exchanges, which started emerging all over the world, as well.
Some of them are gone now, forced to close once the crypto winter of 2018 knocked the prices down and trading and investing dropped to a minimum. Others were hacked and had to close due to bankruptcy, ruined reputation, or some other consequence of the incidents.
And, of course, some are still around, struggling to beat the competition, become better, and take the title of the world’s best/strongest/biggest exchange. Today, we will go through an entire list of them, and see which ones are the best ones, what they have to offer, and which might be the best-suited one for you.
But, before that, let’s start from the beginning, and answers some of the basics, such as:
What is a crypto exchange?
Simply put, crypto exchanges are websites — and companies — where you can exchange, buy, or sell your digital currencies. Depending on what trading pairs the exchange offers, you can exchange your specific coin for another cryptocurrency, or fiat (traditional) currency. You can use fiat or crypto to buy Bitcoin or altcoins. And, of course, if you wish to sell your coins — there will always be a buyer willing to take them off your hands in exchange for proper payment.
Crypto trading has grown to become almost an art, mostly due to the ever-changing industry. The prices can go up or down at any time, and no one can accurately predict what will happen next. For some, that is a risky business. For others, it is an exciting opportunity. A lot of it has to do with your skill, knowledge, sources, trading tactics, and of course — the choice of the exchange.
Many in the crypto industry call themselves trading professionals, and they often use all kinds of special tools developed by the exchanges. These tools can provide valuable insight into the market, or they can be used for making calculations and educated predictions regarding short-term development. Others can be used for tracking price changes, achieving automatic trading via trading bots, and more.
Now, when it comes to exchanges, there are two different kinds: centralized and decentralized exchanges.
Crypto exchanges: Centralized vs. Decentralized
Simply put, centralized exchanges are controlled by a company that owns them. They require you to make an account, verify your identity, and deposit your money into the exchange’s wallet. Then, you can use that money for trading, and you can transfer it back to your private wallet only when you are done trading.
But, most members of the crypto community do not approve of such practices, as the exchange can do whatever it wants with your money while it is within its wallet. In a way, this makes it no different than banks, whose reckless behavior has caused the crypto industry to emerge in the first place.
Not to mention the security risks, as all the crypto hacks that you may have heard about were actually hacks on different exchanges. Hackers would attack the exchange, steal the money within the exchange’s wallets, and disappear. It is not possible to steal crypto otherwise unless they somehow get users’ private wallet login credentials.
All of this has caused people to develop the other type of exchange — decentralized exchange, or DEX. DEXes are also crypto exchanges that do pretty much the same in terms of what you can do within them. However, they are not controlled by a single entity, but by their blockchain nodes. They do all of the transactions, and no one can just do what they want with your money.
Primarily because DEXes does not force you to deposit funds in the exchange-controlled wallet. Instead, you just use the exchange as a platform, and trade from your own wallet directly. You are in charge of your private keys, and no one can steal your funds.
Types of exchanges
Apart from being centralized and decentralized, exchanges can also be categorized by their type. There are several main types, including:
- Fiat-to-crypto exchanges — these exchanges allow people to use government-backed money (fiat currencies) for purchasing cryptocurrencies-
- Crypto-to-Crypto exchanges — some exchanges that only allow you to purchase crypto with another crypto.
- Traditional crypto exchanges — These operate like regular exchanges. Buyers and sellers are connected, and trade in cryptos based on the market prices
- Crypto brokers — Similar to regular exchanges, here brokers facilitate buying and selling for customers at prices determined by them, plus a small premium.
- Direct trading platforms — Platforms that facilitate P2P trading between participants, and there is no official exchange that acts as an intermediary
How to pick an exchange?
Finally, we have come to choosing an exchange you are going to use. There are many criteria that you must keep an eye out for, as any one of them can be a deal-breaker, depending on your situation. It would not do you well to find a perfect exchange and start trading, only to realize that you cannot withdraw money via your preferred method.
Because of that, here is a list of things you should watch out for when picking an exchange:
- Geo-restrictions — the most important part when it comes to choosing the exchange. No other feature is important if the exchange won’t let you create an account because it does not support your region. You could use a VPN, but only on exchanges that do not require you to verify your identity.
- Supported coins — once you are sure that you can actually use the exchange, it is time to check if it has the coins you are interested in. Having access means nothing if you don’t have the desired assets available for trading.
- Security — finally, it is time to take a look at the exchange’s security, legitimacy, type, and alike. This is also where the exchange’s reputation should come in handy, and you should check if the exchange has ever been hacked, whether or not it offers two-factor authentication and other security features. Also, never leave your coins in the exchange’s wallet if you can avoid it.
- Fees and commissions — Transactions require fees, that much remains a fact no matter which exchange you use. However, if you can choose between a few, make sure to check out the height of the fees. If your orders end up being high-volume, the fees might take a serious bite out of your profits.
- Payment methods — Different exchanges offer different payment methods, and you might be interested in seeing whether or not you can withdraw money before you start trading on the exchange. This might or might not be a deal-breaker, depending on your situation, plans, and alike.
- Ease of use — finally, there is ease of use to consider. We put this in the last spot because it is possible for you to learn how to use pretty much any platform if you have to, and having decent security and the assets you are interested in listed definitely has an advantage than a pretty user interface. But, once again, if you can afford to choose, picking an exchange that is easier to use and understand is certainly preferable.
With all of that in mind, let’s get on to our list of the best exchanges out there. Hopefully, at least one of them will be a good enough choice for you to use and trade on.
Binance is one of the biggest exchanges out there, if not THE biggest one. It is certainly one of the most influential ones and among the most advanced ones. It is an excellent option for those who are allowed to trade on it.
The platform is relatively young, only being around for a few years now. However, it grew rapidly and has quickly overthrown all previous major platforms. It even became the biggest one per trading volume, with millions of verified individual users. Not only that, but the exchange continues to evolve and change, impacting the entire crypto business alongside it.
For example, it launched its own native coin, Binance Coin (BNB), which became the first coin to decouple from Bitcoin successfully. It started launching fiat-to-crypto subsidiaries on one continent after another, aiming to bring more traders into the crypto sector. It launched its own blockchain, and even its own decentralized version, Binance DEX.
Not only that but its decision to bring back its Binance Launchpad earlier this year started an entirely new token sale model — IEO (Initial Exchange Offering). Binance can determine the fate of coins by listing them or delisting them, which can seriously impact the asset. It is a very powerful exchange, but it did show that it can be very beneficial for its users.
It is among the most popular ones, with very low trading fees, a great selection of altcoins, a native coin that brings major discount to its users, and it is becoming available worldwide, with more and more locations being supported with each new subsidiary and wing that the exchange launches.
Of course, even Binance has a few drawbacks, such as limited payment options, and the fact that it does not allow fiat trading. But, that is what its subsidiaries — Binance.Jersey, Binance.Singapore, Binance.US — are for.
Next, we have Coinbase, the Binance of the US. With Binance having a difficult relationship with US customers due to regulatory and legal issues, Coinbase managed to keep hold of the country’s markets and customers. This made it the biggest exchange in the US, but also one of the biggest ones worldwide. The exchange also operates in Europe and other areas, thus allowing itself certain diversity, just in case the situation in the US takes a bad turn for crypto businesses.
Coinbase is also backed by some very influential and trusted investors. It has millions of customers around the world, all of which places it among the most popular brokers worldwide. It is also very user-friendly and using it for buying, selling, storing, or trading cryptocurrencies is very easy.
Now, Coinbase also has its digital wallet, which is available for iOS and Android alike. Its users can even purchase a number of digital currencies via the wallet directly. Alternatively, the exchange has a GDAX subsidiary where it is possible to trade these coins with other users as well. Furthermore, GDAX does not charge for transfer fees right now, and it is available in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Singapore.
Coinbase is also known for being quite selective when it comes to coins that it will list on its main exchange. But, it also decided to directly support a single token, Basic Attention Token (BAT), after one of its biggest rivals, Binance, did the same for TRON (TRX) and BitTorrent (BTT).
All in all, Coinbase has great security, sensible fees, a great reputation, user-friendly UI, its own wallet, and enough major coins for any trader to have a great time using it.
It does have a few drawbacks, such as not that great customer support, and only a handful of payment methods. It is also available in a limited number of countries, despite the fact that they are spread out around the world. Not all countries have access to the same services and coins, either. Meanwhile, GDAX might be too complex for anyone but highly tech-savvy traders to handle.
Next, we have Bitbuy.ca — a well-known digital currency platform headquartered in Canada. Bitbuy was founded in 2013 under a different name — InstaBT. Back then, the company set up a goal of providing dependable, convenient, and above all — secure — access to Bitcoin and the growing number of altcoins.
The platform’s service is among the best in the industry, and certainly among the top ones in Canada. The customer service is excellent, the platform is very user-friendly, while withdrawals and deposits are extremely quick.
The exchange is perfect for novices and experts alike, which had made it extremely popular in the country. Naturally, high popularity allowed it to become one of the quickest-growing platforms. It even allows fiat-to-crypto trading, which only adds to its efficiency and reliability. No trader located in Bitbuy-supported area would make a mistake by joining the platform and taking advantage of its great services.
Even the registration and verification processes are extremely fast and efficient. The only drawbacks are the fact that the exchange is available only in Canada, and that it only offers four coins — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin.
When it comes to Huobi, this is yet another US-based exchange that is operated by a company called HBUS Holdco, Inc., or simply HBUS, for short. This is another US firm, as well as a strategic partner of Huobi Global. Many likely already know of Huobi Global as one of the largest crypto trading and management service providers in the world.
With such strong names backing it, Huobi came quite a long way very quickly. For now, the exchange is only available in China and the US, although not the entirety of the US has access to it. Only a handful of countries — including Alabama, Connecticut, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Vermont, New York, Louisiana, Hawaii, and US Territories — do not have access to it, however, which leaves the majority of the country among its customers.
One of the reasons for Huobi’s popularity is its massive offering. The exchange features more than 50 trading pairs which are available at all times, just like the exchange’s customer support. All USD fees are .1% large, while crypto-to-crypto fees are even lower, at .05%.
With all of this combined, in addition to high-quality analytics, a great reputation, high liquidity, and more — it is easy to understand why Huobi is advancing as rapidly as it is.
Then, we have Gemini, another very well-known US-based exchange, co-founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The famous billionaire twins are Wall Street stars, and so their exchange is bound to be different than most others. It is a fully-regulated and licensed US exchange for Bitcoin and Ethereum trading.
In other words, its regulatory standards and capital requirements are pretty much the same as that of a typical bank. Gemini is as close to regulated as a crypto exchange can come without any specific regulations in place. Additionally, all USD deposits are held at the FDIC-insured bank, while the exchange holds the majority of its coins in cold storages, which also makes it one of the most secure ones in the industry.
As mentioned, Gemini trades in few currencies — two cryptos (BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH, ZEC), one fiat (USD), as well as its own stablecoin, Gemini Dollar (GUSD). It is not a great choice if you are looking for an exchange with dozens, if not hundreds of altcoins. However, if you wish to trade Bitcoin and Ethereum, this is pretty much as safe an option as you will ever find.
Gemini works via a maker-taker fee system, providing discounts for high-volume trades. It also imposes zero fees when it comes to withdrawals and deposits, so you can empty and fill your wallet as much as you want.
With all the advantages, however, the platform serves a somewhat limited user base. It is available in 42 US States, as well as a handful of other countries, including the UK, Canada, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. But, it is still very user-friendly, with high liquidity, great analytics, minimalistic UI, and more. Its biggest drawbacks are the limited crypto offering, small community, the lack of margin trading, limited availability around the world, and average customer support.
ChangeNOW is one example of an instant cryptocurrency exchange platform that does not require registration or verification. There are no limits on crypto conversions, which made it instantly popular with users from around the world.
The exchange is only a few years old at this point, and it is already considered a highly-reliable service with excellent rates. Users do not need to have an account in order to use it, and they have access to over two hundred cryptos, not to mention fiat-to-crypto purchases.
The exchange is also quite well-known for its transparency, low fees, and lack of any hidden fees — something that many other exchanges tend to use, and the user usually finds out about when they are already trading. As mentioned, the exchange is also very fast, with transaction time being very short, likely below 2 minutes.
The exchange features over 36,000 trading pairs, no limits of any kind, and it even has 2 crypto exchange flows — fixed-rate and standard. You can even purchase coins with your credit card, and it has a great mobile app for you to trade on the go as well. As for its drawbacks, there is no leveraged trading, which might take the fun out for some traders who are used to taking higher risks and getting better rewards.
As for BitMex, this is another high-volume exchange, and one of the best-known ones around the globe. It was created by numerous talents in fields of economics, web development, and high-frequency trading. BitMex is an exchange that never has issues with crypto liquidity.
However, the primary crypto on this exchange is Bitcoin, as well as Bitcoin Futures. However, the exchange also offers futures contracts for a number of altcoins, including Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Cardano, and alike.
BitMex is a very user-friendly exchange, perfect for new and experienced traders alike. It is very easy to register on it, and all you really need is an email ID. The exchange also has a simple and transparent fee structure, so there are no surprises and unexpected additional fees.
It also features excellent trading tools that can help traders make the best decision at any given time.
If you are after a strong, reputable exchange that will provide you with easy access to numerous altcoins — Changelly is the best choice for you. The exchange has always offered top products, and it has developed quite a strong, positive reputation in the crypto space.
This is yet another exchange where you can come and trade as you please, with no need to register or go through a long period of verification. All you need is an email ID for logging in, and you can start trading immediately.
Changelly offers over 35 cryptocurrencies, as well as multiple fiat pairs, including USD/EUR. This exchange is among the easiest ones to use out there, and it is likely the best choice for novices.
Changelly operates in an interesting way, where its bots connect to other crypto exchanges in real-time, just as you are using Changelly’s services. The bots tend to choose the busiest and best exchanges in order to return the best possible prices. You can complete each crypto-to-crypto trade in around 30 minutes or less.
Now, Changelly has a commission fee (.5%) that is charged per each trade. However, this is a really low fee, considering the volatility and the risk that the exchange takes away from the user. Further, the fee is deducted from the user’s crypto balance directly.
Changelly can be used with only a MasterCard or Visa credit or debit card. Further, you can use any cryptocurrency that the exchange itself offers. Finally, don’t forget to prepare a wallet in which your coins will be stored.
Bittrex is another US-headquartered crypto exchange that is known throughout the world, and it lets you trade a massive amount of altcoins — over 190. As a US-based exchange, Bittrex is very well regulated, and it compliant with all of the country’s regulations. There is no need to worry about a regulatory crackdown when it comes to Bittrex, which certainly gives it an advantage over some other exchanges.
Also, Bittrex is the place where most of the Bitcoin trading in the world is done, which can be seen by its BTC trading volume. This is the place where traders decide the rates in which they will trade, and the exchange only charges a small (0.25%) service fee.
Trading does not require much, apart from registering and logging in. However, if you wish to withdraw your funds, you will need to go through a verification process. In other words, it is best to submit your documents and phone number right away and be done with it as soon as possible. You don’t really need to worry about security, as the exchange offers pretty strong features, including 2FA. However, one positive thing is that the KYC procedure is lightning fast on Bittrex.
Next, the exchange will let you create a basic account or an advanced account. With a basic one, you can only withdraw funds that amount to around 3 BTC per day. If you choose an advanced one, however, you can withdraw up to 100 BTC each day. It should also be pointed out that Bittrex does not let you deposit traditional money, meaning that currencies such as USD, GBP, EUR, and others cannot be used on the exchange.
But, you will have access to all the necessary tools, charts, crosshairs, and alike. Further, the exchange features a very intuitive and clean user interface.
Finally, we have Poloniex — a US-based exchange that has been on top of its game since 2014. It is still one of the biggest and best ones around the world, with a massive altcoin offering that goes beyond 100 different coins and tokens.
Poloniex is known for its massive trading volumes, able to rival Binance’s own. Back in 2017, when the crypto sector started seeing a massive surge in prices, as well as the number of traders and other participants — Poloniex recorded the highest Ethereum trading volume. The reason is the fact that the exchange supports an independent ETH market, as well as a Bitcoin market.
Like Bittrex, Poloniex is also a crypto-only exchange, although it does feature Tether (USDT), which is a stablecoin, and the closest thing to USD that you can find on this exchange. As for tools and features — Poloniex has everything you would expect, such as detailed, zoomable candlestick charts, stop-limit features, and more.
It is also well-known for its low fees, which go from 0.15% to 0.25%, depending on whether you are a taker or a maker. It is definitely an excellent choice for those who are looking to trade with a great number of altcoins, pay low fees, and still work in a professional environment.