Investing or trading in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies can be intimidating at first. There is frequently news about scams and people losing money. While this is true, and many scams have happened and continue to happen, it has never been so simple to invest in cryptocurrency. So much has advanced in the last few years that have made crypto trading safe and easy.
The foremost concern when trading and purchasing Bitcoin, or other cryptocurrencies, is safety and security. Whether you intend to purchase and hold long term, want to trade frequently, are interested in anonymity or privacy, or simply want ease of use, the following exchanges are the best for any use case you may have.
This list covers the best exchanges for certain types of traders as well as the best exchanges within each type of exchange. There are a number of ways to go about investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. To learn more about how the different exchange types differ, please read on after the list of exchanges. Once you have decided on an exchange, it is important to also practice safe storage. You can see the best storage methods on our best Bitcoin wallets article.
Coinbase and Coinbase Pro: Best Overall
The most widely known and used cryptocurrency exchange in the United States is Coinbase. Coinbase was founded in 2012, not very long after the release of Bitcoin’s code in 2009, and is a fully regulated and licensed cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase currently has licenses to operate in over 40 U.S. states and territories.
Fees: Between $0.99 and $2.99 depending on the dollar value of the purchase.
- Solid variety of altcoin choices
- Extremely simple user interface
- Very high liquidity
- High fees when not using Coinbase Pro
- User does not control wallet keys
- Those interested in altcoin trading won’t find as many as some other exchanges
While the cryptocurrency industry has been fraught with fraudulent coins and shady exchanges, Coinbase has largely avoided any controversy. Coinbase offers an extremely easy-to-use exchange, greatly lowering the barrier to entry for cryptocurrency investment, which is typically seen as confusing and convoluted.
Coinbase also offers insured custodial wallets for investors and traders to store their investments. It is important to note that, should your account be compromised from your own doing, this insurance does not apply. These custodial accounts are very convenient for newer users just getting their feet wet, but the private keys to the coins within them are owned by Coinbase, and not the investor.
Additionally, Coinbase also offers the free Coinbase Pro version that has a different, but cheaper, fee structure and significantly more options in terms of charts and indicators. Coinbase Pro is a perfect next step for those who have learned the ropes using Coinbase. Coinbase Pro helps round out the overall offering by adding features that the more advanced user would want.
Cash App: Best for Beginners
Cash App is a peer-to-peer money transfer system much like Venmo. This type of service allows users to split food, pay rent to a roommate, or even shop online at a retailer that supports Cash App. Cash App can essentially act as a bank account and users can have their own Cash App debit cards. This service is very convenient by itself, but Cash App has even more features.
Fees: Cash App charges a service fee for each transaction. It also charges a fee determined by price volatility. These fees change depending on the market’s activity.
- Peer-to-peer money transfer like Venmo or Zelle
- Ability to withdraw Bitcoin
- Extremely simple user interface that is great for beginners
- Only allows Bitcoin investment at this time
- 3% charge when sending money via a linked credit card
- Withdrawal limit of $2,000 worth of Bitcoin every 24 hours
Cash App also allows its users to invest in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency in a similar fashion that Robinhood does. The mobile-first interface that this exchange uses is very easy to figure out and use, making it ideal for a first-time investor.
Aside from offering a payment system like Venmo and an investment platform like Robinhood, Cash App differs in the user’s ability to withdraw cryptocurrency investments to your own wallet. This is the main reason that we chose Cash App over Robinhood as the best option for beginners looking to buy Bitcoin.
The ability to withdraw cryptocurrency from an exchange is extremely important in the cryptocurrency community. With Robinhood, you can invest and trade cryptocurrency but you cannot withdraw and spend it how you wish. Many in the crypto-community refer to this concept as “not your keys, not your coin.” This means that if you do not hold the private keys to the wallet that the coins are stored in, they are effectively not owned by you.
Binance: Best for Altcoins
The Binance exchange is an exchange founded in 2017 with a strong focus on altcoin trading. Binance offers nearly 600 different trading pairs between different cryptocurrencies. It does offer some fiat/crypto pairs, but most of its pairs are between cryptocurrencies.
- Lower fees than other commonly used exchanges
- Large variety of cryptocurrencies and trading pairs
- More advanced charting
- Geared for more advanced users
- Binance US has fewer trading pairs than its international counterpart, though it still has over 100 trading pairs
- 13 U.S. states, like New York, are not supported by Binance US
Fees: 0.1% for the taker side and 0.1% for the maker side. This scales down with trade volume to 0.02% for both sides of the trade. Using Binance’s native cryptocurrency, BNB, lowers fees by 25%.
Currently, Binance dominates the global exchange space, making up a significant portion of crypto trading volume daily. The exchange does not currently allow for US dollar deposits but it does allow you to directly purchase a select number of cryptocurrencies with a credit or debit card. Deposits using over 20 other fiat currencies are allowed, including the Euro.
Binance is best suited to people who would like to trade or invest in lesser-known altcoins. For example, Coinbase only offers 22 different cryptocurrencies to trade while Binance has over 150. Binance is the ideal exchange for anyone who would like to trade altcoins or anyone who wants more advanced charting than most other exchanges.
Bisq: Best Decentralized Exchange
The premise of Bitcoin itself is that it grants open and free access to a unit of account. Banking products, like a checking or savings account, are only accessible if you have a legally provable government-issued identification. With Bitcoin, this isn’t necessary. It can be accessed regardless of nationality or location, and without any identification.
- Decentralized, non-KYC platform
- 26 different payment options, including Zelle
- Mobile app for both Android and iOS
- Transaction speed is dependent on the payment method and can be slow, in some cases
- Trading volumes can be low
- Not really designed for active trading
Fees: Trading fees are payable in BTC or BSQ (the network’s native cryptocurrency). When paying for the fees using Bitcoin, the cost to trade one Bitcoin is 0.20% on the maker side and 0.60% on the taker side. When paying the fees in BSQ, the fee to trade one Bitcoin is 0.10 on the maker side and 0.30% on the taker side.
While many argue that this opens up possibilities for criminal activity (the same could be said about criminal activity using cash), it also immediately grants units of account to individuals in countries with less-developed banking systems. There are millions of people in the world that do not have access to bank accounts or means to trade because their countries may not have the proper financial infrastructure, or the individuals may not have government-issued identification. Bitcoin, used in tandem with a decentralized exchange like Bisq, can be a good solution in these cases.
Bisq is a downloadable software and peer-to-peer decentralized Bitcoin and crypto exchange. This means that Bisq has no central point of failure and cannot be taken down, much like Bitcoin itself. Bisq is non-custodial, which means that no one other than the user touches or controls the user’s funds. This differs from centralized exchanges, like Coinbase, as Coinbase controls the user’s funds in a custodial account that the user does not have the private keys to. In that scenario, Coinbase holds the right to seize your funds if it deems your account activity suspicious, whether or not the activity is actually illegal in your location.
Bisq is instantly accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone as there is no registration process or KYC (Know Your Customer) rule. This makes it ideal for those looking for privacy, dissidents living within an oppressive regime, or anyone who does not have any government-issued identification.
Bisq offers trading of several different fiat currencies including USD, as well as Bitcoin and a number of other cryptocurrencies. Bisq’s decentralized and peer-to-peer characteristics can mean low trading volumes and slower transactions, but for some, this is well worth it.