Cryptocurrencies have become more and more successful as time passes, continuing beyond just Bitcoin to become an entire body of investments. Some have speculated that it will continue to evolve into a new form of currency, while others will suspect that it will be a specialized asset class for a limited set of commercial interactions.
However, you don’t need to know higher-order cryptocurrency theory to invest in this asset class, just as you don’t need to know high-level economics to invest in other asset classes. You only need to know which exchanges do the best job at protecting and growing your investment — without charging too much for the service.
Best Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency Exchanges
These are the best cryptocurrency exchanges available right now. Each excels at one or more things, and our top overall pick offers the best all-around value to the broadest array of crypto investors.
Best Overall: TradeStation
Open an Account With TradeStation
TradeStation is an all-in-one investment platform that offers exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, options, and countless other investment assets — including crypto. It’s the best overall value for everyday crypto investors thanks to selling points like:
- 99.999% platform uptime for their platform
- No minimum balance required for crypto investors
- Free deposits and withdrawals
- Average interest rate of about 0.5% on crypto balances
- Trading fees under 0.30% for larger accounts
Best for Bitcoin and Ethereum: Coinbase
Open an Account With Coinbase
Coinbase is another novice-friendly, high-volume platform that has mastered the basics of crypto trading. That makes it ideal for people seeking exposure to — and easy trading of — mainstream coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
- Access to more than two dozen altcoins
- Built-in crypto wallet that’s easy to access and use
- Coinbase Pro platform appeals to more advanced traders seeking lower fees
- 2% transaction fee on the standard Coinbase platform — higher than some competitors
Best for Diversified Investments: SoFi Invest
Open an Account With SoFi Invest
SoFi Invest is a one-stop shop for investors of all stripes, from risk-loving DIY stock traders who love mixing and matching equities to build finely tuned portfolios to set-it-and-forget-it types who prefer a more passive approach.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, SoFi Invest makes it easy to add crypto to your portfolio. It has more than 20 available coins right now, with more on the way.
- No trading commissions on most types of trades
- No minimum deposit or balance requirements
- No account management fees for robo-advisor clients
Best for Beginners: Gemini
Open an Account With Gemini
Gemini is a beginner-friendly exchange with lots of support and educational resources for novices. Its Active Trader platform holds less experienced traders’ hands a bit, though it’s still plenty sophisticated for users who know what they’re doing. And value-adds like a crypto rewards credit card and comprehensive insurance coverage offer additional incentives.
- Earn up to 8.05% interest (subject to change) on eligible crypto balances through Gemini Earn
- Access to stablecoins like Gemini dollar
- Available in all U.S. states
- No minimums
- No asset transfer or withdrawal fees
- Earn up to 3% crypto rewards on purchases with the Gemini credit card
- Insurance covers balances held on the exchange and in cold storage
Best for Sophisticated Traders: Kraken
Open an Account with Kraken
Kraken has an unusually large selection of altcoins (more than 50 in all) and a suite of powerful research and trading tools in its Kraken Pro platform. That makes it appropriate for people who make a living off crypto trading (or day trading in general) and for business users seeking exposure to crypto.
- Transaction fees as low as 0% for large accounts
- Retail transaction fees between 0.9% and 1.5%
- Crypto futures contracts available — still rare in the space
- Unlimited deposit allowance before identity verification — get a head start on trading
- Withdrawals on demand
Best for Security: Bittrex
Open an Account With Bittrex
Bittrex doesn’t exactly compromise the trading experience in favor of enterprise-grade account security. But it does take security very seriously, to the point that trader protection is its principal selling point.
- Instantly buy and sell Bitcoin
- Access to several dozen altcoins and stablecoins
- TradingView charts feature real-time data
- Earn crypto rewards by referring friends
Best for Selection: CEX.io
Open an Account With CEX.io
CEX.io has more cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin and other heavy hitters, altcoins, and stablecoins — than just about any other crypto platform. More come online every month thanks to a steady flow of initial coin offerings (ICOs).
- Highly liquid markets for less-common coins
- Advanced execution strategies increase speed and accuracy of order fulfillment
- Multiple funds transfer options, including ACH and SWIFT
- 24/7 customer support
Best for Low Overall Cost: Robinhood
Open an Account With Robinhood
Robinhood is the original commission-free trading platform for stocks and ETFs. It stayed true to tradition when it added cryptocurrency with a strict 0% trading fee policy for all crypto trades on the platform. You won’t find a ton of coins here, but what is available is totally free.
- No minimums
- No withdrawal or transfer fees
- Upgrade to Robinhood Gold ($5/mo) for access to premium research, Level II market data, bigger instant deposits, and more
Methodology: How We Select the Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges
We use 6 key metrics to assess cryptocurrency exchanges and trading platforms. We pay special attention to how these metrics affect the cost, safety, and overall user experience of each institution.
Coin selection is a critical consideration for anyone but the most casual crypto dabblers. The platforms that excel on this metric typically allow trading in dozens of different coins, including newer and/or lower-volume altcoins.
Bonus points go to exchanges with relatively liquid altcoin trading. Of course, liquidity isn’t entirely in exchanges’ control. When coins fall out of favor and investor interest declines, there’s only so much exchanges can do to sustain the market.
Exchange Fees and Expenses
Many but not all cryptocurrency exchanges charge trading fees to buy and sell coins. Other direct fees may apply as well, such as fees for debit or credit card purchases. The transaction spread — the difference between the cost to the end-user and the cost borne by the trading platform — is a de facto fee as well, albeit less direct.
A growing number of crypto exchanges, including diversified platforms like Robinhood, don’t charge trading commissions or other fees. More accurately, they absorb the cost of brokering crypto transactions. These no-fee platforms usually have other drawbacks, like thin coin selections or poor trader support, but those tradeoffs may be acceptable to cost-conscious users.
Other Crypto-Related Financial Products Available
Innovation is in full bloom in the crypto industry. From interest-bearing crypto accounts to credit cards that earn cryptocurrency rewards, derivative products and services abound here. If you want to do more with your crypto than simply “hold on for dear life,” tailor your search for exchanges accordingly.
Other Investments Available
Many crypto exchanges cater exclusively to crypto enthusiasts. Not all do though — some offer access to other asset classes. And a growing number of online stock brokers and trading platforms have added crypto, albeit usually not with the same level of coin selection or user support as old-school exchanges.
User Experience and Resources
Every would-be cryptocurrency investor should consider how their preferred platform treats them. That means asking and answering questions like:
- Is this platform appropriate for beginners?
- How much technical and customer service support does it provide?
- How secure is it?
- How good is its trading environment — can it execute trades rapidly and accurately?
- Does it have a user community where users can learn from one another, or is everyone on their own?
- Can I withdraw crypto holdings to a cryptocurrency wallet, or must they remain on the exchange?
U.S.-chartered banks are required to carry deposit insurance. This is a type of indemnity that protects customers’ account balances up to a predetermined limit per account type — currently $250,000 for FDIC-insured accounts.
There’s no such deposit insurance requirement for crypto exchanges. However, many exchanges do carry insurance that may protect investors from loss due to hacking, theft, or certain other covered events.
These risks are not theoretical. Crypto exchanges regularly suffer cyberattacks, and their customers suffer the consequences (lost coins). If you want to protect your investment, limit your search to exchanges with adequate insurance.
Your Questions Answered: Cryptocurrency Exchange FAQs
You have questions about cryptocurrency wallets. We have answers.
What Is a Cryptocurrency Exchange?
A cryptocurrency exchange (or digital currency exchange) is a place to buy or sell crypto online. In other words, a crypto exchange allows you to exchange fiat currency (like U.S. dollars) for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.
Some cryptocurrency exchanges are trading platforms only. They allow you to buy and sell cryptocurrencies and keep safe custody of your holdings between transactions, but they don’t have built-in crypto wallets or allow you to withdraw your holdings to an offsite wallet. If it’s important to you to be able to withdraw crypto from the exchange where you purchased it, look for platforms that offer this capability.
How Much Does It Cost to Trade Crypto?
That depends on the exchange. Most exchanges charge transaction fees, usually between 0.25% and 4% of the total transaction amount. Spreads, convenience fees, and debit/credit card surcharges can add to the total cost of crypto trading.
If avoiding crypto trading fees is important to you, look to platforms that waive these fees entirely. This is more common on platforms that offer access to other asset classes, such as Robinhood.
Are Cryptocurrency Exchanges Safe?
That depends on your definition of “safe.” No financial platform is 100% safe from external attack, insider theft, or insolvency. The fact that there’s no crypto equivalent to FDIC insurance (yet) is sure to give risk-averse investors pause, though many exchanges do have private insurance that protects users from certain types of loss.
If you’re really concerned about protecting your holdings, use crypto exchanges that let you withdraw to external wallets — preferably “cold” wallets that aren’t always connected to the Internet and that only you can access. Use your preferred crypto exchange only to buy or sell, and keep your holdings offline the rest of the time.
Are Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Good Investments?
As asset classes go, cryptocurrency hasn’t been around for very long. For better or worse, it lacks the long track record of assets like precious metals, stocks, bonds, and fiat currencies. So it’s a bit premature to make grand pronouncements about whether crypto is a “good investment.”
That said, we do know that some cryptocurrencies hold value better than others. Heavily traded coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum are comparatively stable next to low-volume altcoins, some of which are downright scammy. Likewise, stablecoins — coins that tie their value to fiat currencies — tend to be less volatile than non-stablecoins.
How to Choose the Best Trading Platform for Your Bitcoin or Cryptocurrency
You have no shortage of cryptocurrency trading options. How do you choose the best for your needs?
Start by considering the factors you find most important.
If you’re new to crypto, you’ll want a platform that provides at least some hand-holding and plenty of education. You might prefer an exchange that lets you dabble at low or no cost, such as Robinhood.
Maybe you’re looking to build the most diverse crypto portfolio possible. In that case, you need a platform with lots of different available coins, including lesser-known ones that might be difficult to find elsewhere. That platform should consistently add new coins as they become available.
Or maybe you’re concerned about security above all else. You’re okay with a less friendly user experience if it reduces the risk of catastrophic loss.
Whatever your preferences and priorities, there’s a crypto exchange with your name on it. And there’s a good chance you’ll find it on this list.