Cryptocurrency exchanges allow you to buy and trade cryptocurrencies.
They can get confusing because there are so many of them.
For beginners, you’ll want to start using an exchange that accepts fiat in your country (like Coinbase, GDAX or Gemini in the USA). From there, you’ll be able to move your coins into other exchanges that support many more cryptocurrencies.
We researched and ranked the exchanges according to features, security, reliability and how easy it is to open an account.
1. Coinbase 🇺🇸
Coinbase is a U.S.-based exchange that is recognized as the “go-to” for moving cash and money from banks into crypto assets like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litcoin.
Coinbase offers a high trading volume, strong security, tight regulation, low fees, and an easy-to-use interface. It’s the easiest way for newbies to get started with cryptocurrency, as it does just about everything right.
Coinbase’s major problem is that it lacks features for hardcore traders, but fortunately, GDAX–which is owned by Coinbase—has all the features that serious traders want.
Opening up a Coinbase account also gives you a GDAX account. GDAX (now called Coinbase Pro) is easily the best exchange for hardcore traders, as its trading platform is the most comprehensive and easy-to-use in the industry. GDAX also offers low fees, accepts bank transfers, and strong security. Because it is owned by Coinbase, anyone who opens a Coinbase account also automatically can have a Coinbase Pro account.
The no-brainer option for beginners.
2. Binance 🇭🇰
Binance is a Hong Kong-based exchange with a smart mix of features designed to appeal to newbies and experienced investors.
Binance is distinguished by its extremely strict security—it was founded by market veterans—and its wide variety of coins, including Monero, Dash, Bitcoin, and others. The site’s trading platform is comparable to GDAX’s and it offers reasonable commissions.
Binance’s primary problem—and what keeps it from taking the number one spot—is that it does not allow fiat buys, meaning that users must fund their accounts with cryptocurrencies from other sources.
However, don’t let this stop you: Binance is by far the best exchange for altcoins such as Monero and Dash.
3. Poloniex 🇺🇸
Poloniex is a U.S.-based exchange distinguished by its large number of coins available for trading.
It was acquired by Circle, a large payments company in February 2018 (4).
Pluses to Poloniex include its wide variety of altcoins and its high liquidity, making it similar to Bittrex and Bitfinex in many regards. Its downsides include its confusing trading platform and the fact that it does not accept fiat buys.
Poloniex remains one of the best exchanges out there today, but it is kept out of the top rungs for these reasons.
4. Kraken 🇺🇸
Kraken is a U.S.-based exchange with a strong selection of coins available for purchase.
Kraken is a strong choice for European traders, as it is the world leader in EUR to BTC trading volume. It offers reasonable commissions, an easy-to-use trading platform, and has not been hacked to date.
However, Kraken does not allow credit card buys, which may be a deal-breaker for some users.
Kraken is an ideal choice for Europe-based cryptocurrency investors, though those in other parts of the world can use it, too.
5. Bitstamp 🇱🇺
Bitstamp is a Luxembourg-licensed cryptocurrency exchange specializing in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Ethereum, and Litecoin.
Bitstamp is one of the most secure exchanges, due to its adherence to European financial laws as well as its policy of keeping nearly all of its users’ coins in cold storage. It also offers good commissions and accepts bank transfers and credit card buys.
However, Bitstamp is hurt by its high credit card fees (8%) as well as its lack of coins to purchase.
Bitstamp is a good option for basic traders who are concerned with security.
6. Bittrex 🇺🇸
Bittrex is a major cryptocurrency exchange that is similar to Bitfinex, but offering superior security.
Bittrex has a large number of coins available, much like Bitfinex, but unlike that site, Bittrex has never been hacked. It also has good commissions and a solid trading platform.
Bittrex’s major demerit is that it does not allow fiat currency buys, a problem for newbie traders.
Overall, Bittrex is a fine option for traders who don’t mind the lack of a fiat option.
7. Bitfinex 🇻🇬
Bitfinex is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, with a wide variety of coins available.
Bitfinex’s primary advantages are its large number of coins, its large trade volume, and the ease of funding accounts with fiat currency. The site also boasts a robust trading platform and a solid commission structure.
However, Bitfinex was the victim of a major hack in 2016, casting doubts as to its security. Bitfinex has also been subject to a large number of negative user reviews as of late, indicating the quality of its services is declining.
While Bitfinex is still one of the best platforms out there, these problems are significant demerits for security-focused traders.
8. OKEx 🇨🇳
OKEx is a Chinese cryptocurrency exchange specializing in a wide variety of coins.
By far, OKEx’s major feature is the large number of cryptocurrencies available on its platform: over 400. OKEx also features low trading fees, high liquidity, and offers Bitcoin and Litecoin futures. It is also one of the few cryptocurrency exchanges that has never been hacked.
OKEx falters in its limited funding options and the fact that its trading platform is only available in Mandarin.
For Chinese traders, OKEx is a strong option, and non-Chinese users may get use out of it, too.
9. Bithumb 🇰🇷
Bithumb is a South Korea-based exchange that offers a wide variety of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum, and more.
Bithumb’s major advantages are its large number of coins available for trading and its low fees, some of the lowest in the industry. Bithumb is also distinguished by the different types of orders it has available, making it a strong option for experienced traders.
Where Bithumb falters is in its laser focus on South Korean clients; it only allows South Korean wons for fiat buys. Bithumb also has relatively limited funding options.
Bithumb is a good choice for a cryptocurrency exchange, though South Koreans are the ones who will benefit the most by using it.
10. CoinMama 🇮🇱
CoinMama is an exchange specializing in using credit cards to purchase Bitcoin and Ethereum.
CoinMama’s primary advantage is its flexibility when it comes to accepting fiat currencies. Users can fund their accounts using U.S. dollars, British pounds, euros, and a wide variety of other currencies. This makes it an appealing option for first-time investors.
However, CoinMama lacks many of the features that are common among cryptocurrency exchanges. For example, it does not have its own wallets, meaning that users must store their holdings off-site. While this is good for security, it is a major inconvenience for traders. CoinMama also has only two coins available—Bitcoin and Ethereum—and does not allow selling cryptocurrency, only buying it.
11. Gemini 🇺🇸
Gemini is a U.S.-based exchange owned and operated by the Winklevoss twins, specializing in Bitcoin and Ethereum trading.
Gemini’s main upside is its transparency and adherence to formal financial regulations. The exchange makes a point of being in full compliance with U.S. law, which makes it a reassuring option for newbie traders. The site also accepts bank transfers for funding user accounts and offers auctions.
However, Gemini’s strict adherence to financial law means it only operates in a few countries; indeed, it doesn’t even operate in all 50 U.S. states. The site is also severely limited in terms of coins, with only Bitcoin and Ethereum currently available.
Newcomers to cryptocurrency will likely enjoy Gemini for its security and ease of use, though more hardcore users will find it wanting.
12. HitBTC 🇺🇸
HitBTC is one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges on the Internet, specializing in trading in a wide variety of coins, including major ones like Bitcoin and more obscure altcoins.
HitBTC’s major pluses are its support for a large number of altcoins, making it a good one-stop shop for traders interested in diversifying their portfolios. It also has a comprehensive, easy-to-use trading platform and very good commission rates.
However, HitBTC has been the subject of a large number of negative user reviews as of late. While some of them may be fake, the sheer number of them means that they can’t be ignored. HitBTC has also been suspected of faking its trading volume.
Bisq (formerly known as BitSquare) is a decentralized, peer-to-peer exchange specializing in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Dash, and several other major altcoins.
Bisq’s unique nature as a decentralized exchange gives it a security and privacy that most other crypto exchanges lack. Bisq also offers a large amount of options for funding your account and a large number of coins to trade, and also features an arbitration mechanism that allows users to easily settle disputes.
However, Bisq is a poor choice for active traders due to its low trading volume and slow transaction time, meaning that it is difficult to take advantage of sudden dips and rises in the market.
For long-term crypto investors and those concerned with security, Bisq is a strong choice, but active traders will want to look elsewhere.
14. ShapeShift 🇨🇭
ShapeShift is a Switzerland-based exchange specializing in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, and over fifty other coins.
ShapeShift is noteworthy for its speed, security, and anonymity. Buying and selling are almost instantaneous compared to other exchanges, and the site does not require any verification, ID, or even creating an account. It also features a robust trading platform for hardcore users.
Where ShapeShift falters is its relatively high fees, a side effect of its fast transaction times. It also lacks fiat currency support and is not likely to add it given its nature as an anonymous crypto trading platform.
However, traders who value their anonymity online and don’t mind the high fees will be able to get use out of ShapeShift.
15. BitFlyer 🇯🇵
BitFlyer is a Japan-based exchange that specializes in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum.
BitFlyer is primarily targeted to Japanese and Asian traders, as its trading is primarily done against the Japanese yen. However, traders all over the world will find a lot to like about its margin and futures trading, its clean and attractive interface, and its strong security.
BitFlyer’s demerits are its limited funding options: the site does not allow non-Japanese credit card buys. Additionally, the site is lacking when it comes to available cryptocurrencies to buy and sell.
For Japanese traders, BitFlyer is one of the best exchanges out there. Traders from other countries will find it less useful but are still advised to give it a shot.
16. Vaultoro 🇬🇧
Vaultoro is a U.K.-based cryptocurrency exchange that specializes in trading Bitcoin for physical gold and vice versa. It is the only exchange we’ve found that offers direct trades for cryptocurrencies and precious metals, making it quite unique.
Due to its status as a precious metals exchange, Vaultoro places extra emphasis on security. Vaultoro keeps all of its users’ Bitcoin in cold storage, insulating it against hackers, and the company’s gold reserves are kept in vaults in Switzerland.
Vaultoro’s main downside is that it has little to offer outside of its service of allowing users to trade Bitcoin for gold. It offers no other cryptocurrencies, nor does it allow fiat buys.
For users who are looking to invest in both cryptocurrencies and gold, Vaultoro is worth a look.
17. CEX.io 🇬🇧
CEX.io is a London-based cryptocurrency exchange with a wide variety of coins available for trade, including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ripple, and many more.
CEX.io is an appealing option for day traders and other investors looking to make frequent profits, as the site offers negative balance protection for margin trading and competitive commissions. It also allows credit card and bank transfer buys.
Where CEX.io falters is in its obtuse interface, which newbies might find confusing. Additionally, while CEX.io has a wider selection of cryptocurrencies than many exchanges, it lacks many newer and less popular altcoins.
However, for day traders who are looking for easy, fast buys and strong protections, CEX.io is worth a look.
18. Coinfloor 🇬🇧
Coinfloor is a U.K.-based cryptocurrency exchange specializing in Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
Much like Gatecoin, Coinfloor is best-known for its strong security protocols. Coinfloor keeps 100 percent of its users’ funds in cold storage (hardware-based wallets), making them extremely resistant to hackers.
Coinfloor is not recommended for casual traders due to the fact that it has a high minimum initial deposit of $1,000, £1,000, or €1,000. It also has a limited portfolio at the moment, only featuring Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. However, hardcore users who value security above all else will get use out of Coinfloor’s solid cold storage policy.
19. itBit 🇺🇸
itBit is a New York-based exchange specializing in trading services for both large and small traders, with a specific focus on Bitcoin.
Large-volume traders will particularly enjoy itBit’s suite of features. Its specific platform for large buyers is called the “OTC Trading Desk” and features a robust interface for buying and selling Bitcoin.
itBit also has strong security and boasts that it was the first cryptocurrency exchange to obtain a charter from the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Downsides to itBit include its lack of cryptocurrencies aside from Bitcoin and the fact that it doesn’t accept credit cards. However, if you’re a large-volume trader, itBit’s array of features make it worth your consideration.
20. Gatecoin 🇭🇰
Gatecoin is a the Hong Kong-based exchange specializing in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin trading. The “Coinbase” of Hong Kong.
Gatecoin is primarily notable for its strict security and vetting procedures, storing the bulk of its users’ funds in offline hardware wallets for further security against hackers.
Gatecoin’s downsides include a limited portfolio, strict security requirements for large withdrawals (requiring users to physically mail proof of their identities to Gatecoin’s offices), and not accepting credit cards.
Cryptocurrency exchange FAQ
1. What is a cryptocurrency exchange? A place to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.
2. Which exchange should I use first? Probably Coinbase or GDAX or any exchange that allows you to deposit or wire cash. Assuming you don’t own any bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, you’ll need to start where you can use credit card, bank deposits or a wire transfer to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. From there, you can move your crypto into other exchanges that offer more coins to buy or sell.
3. Are there other options to buy bitcoin? There are, but they’re not regulated and caution is advised. Some bigger cities have bitcoin ATMs, and some websites like localbitcoin.com arrange bitcoin sellers with buyers, where you meet and pay in cash (5). Sellers have a ratings score (like an Ebay rating) so it is effective, but you should always use caution. You’ll also pay more than most crpyotocurrency exchanges.
4. What are the cryptocurrency exchange trading fees? They vary from free (Square app, Robinhood app), to 0.25% (GDAX) to 1% (Binance) to 1.49% (Coinbase). Fees can change.
5. Are there other fees involved? There might be deposit fees (depending on the bank, credit card or other fiat options like Paypal) and withdrawal fees when you transfer your coins back into fiat money.
6. What are the best platforms for technical trading? Binance, GDAX and Poloniex.
7. What are the best exchanges for alt coins? For the more popular alt coins like Ripple and Stellar, most of the above exchanges will list them. If there is a particular alt coin you want to buy, you can search for it at coinmarketcap.com and click the “Markets” tab to see where the alt coin is listed (6).
8. Is it safe to hold my crypto assets on the exchanges? Although most exchanges are safe, hacks can happen. It’s better to keep the bulk of your assets in a private hardware wallet, especially large amounts.
9. Should I register with multiple exchanges? If you intend on being a cryptocurrency trader, its a good idea to have options. Your accessibility to more alt coins can be huge if you’re a trader. If you plan on buying and sitting on your crypto (HODL) then having access to several exchanges is not necessary. However, with more exchanges comes more responsibility. Track everything. Millions of bitcoin have been lost already (7).
10. Are there limitations on how much cryptocurrency I can buy? The short answer: yes, usually. Depending on the exchange and your verification level (proof of identity, residence, drivers license), there are usually limitations, especially if you’re new to the exchange. Bank deposits usually have lower fees, but usually have more limitations than a bank wire. Bank wires move the most money, but fees are also higher. Credit cards usually have the most limitations and fees are high, too.
11. Are cryptocurrency prices the same across all exchanges? No. Prices can fluctuate between exchanges for any particular coin. Always check the market price of a coin from a site like coinmarketcap.com (which averages out the price of a coin from all exchanges) to the price of the coin at the exchange you’re looking at buying.
Cryptocurrency exchanges can seem confusing for the first-timers.
With their dizzying features, rules and limitations on purchases and withdrawals and potential security issues, there’s a lot for newcomers to take in.
Remember that even with the most trusted exchanges on this list, if you have large quantities of Bitcoin or other valuable coins, you’re best off keeping them on a private wallet instead of on the exchange itself. This will protect you against hackers and unscrupulous business practices.