Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure

What is cryptocurrency?

Crypto Finder's™ beginner's guide to getting started with crypto

Curious about the crypto markets? Today's top coins by market cap
Ready to buy some crypto? Learn how in 5 easy steps
Crypto price:
Bitcoin: $19,704.45 | Ethereum: $1,348.05 | Tether: $1.00 | BNB: $286.25 | USD Coin: $1.00 | XRP: $0.49 | Cardano: $0.43 | Solana: $34.06 | Luna Coin: $1.19 | Polkadot: $6.41
25-minute delay on prices.

You might have heard about Bitcoin, but there's so much more to cryptocurrency than that. Our guides make learning about cryptocurrency easy – allowing you to buy, trade, hold and earn crypto in less time than it takes to set up a new bank account.

Start investing today with our picks for the best crypto exchanges in the US or learn more about individual coins and where to buy them. Don't forget to check out our best crypto wallets guide to learn how to keep your crypto safe.

This is not an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade or use any services.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that have a value, just like a $10 note is a physical token with 10 dollars of value assigned to it.

The difference is that digital currencies are electronic – they only live on the internet. In order for a cryptocurrency to have value, its coin needs to be unique, verifiable and unreplicable. The Bitcoin blockchain was the innovation that made this possible.

Crucial to crypto is the principle of decentralization. There is no single authority or business (such as a bank or government) that controls cryptocurrencies. This idea of sovereignty over your assets and removing reliance on any sort of intermediary is something you'll hear about a lot.

Decentralization also makes crypto a powerful medium of exchange because it minimizes the costs and processing times of transactions.

Thanks to these innovations, legacy companies like Visa, PayPal and several banks have also begun adopting cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.

Learn how to get started with crypto

Crypto quick start

Skip ahead to one of our guides

How does cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrency uses cryptographic technology to secure individual assets on a database called a "blockchain". A blockchain records transactions on a network in a way that cannot be altered.

You can think of a blockchain as hundreds of connected computers sharing information with one another. This builds a ledger of data that can be used to validate that each crypto transaction is legitimate and secure.

Some blockchains use a variation of proof-of-work or proof-of-stake consensus algorithms to execute transactions. Proof of work is where the term " Bitcoin miners" comes from. Miners operate powerful computers that solve complex mathematical problems, which helps secure the blockchain.

Proof of stake is a bit different. This algorithm uses staking – the process of locking up cryptocurrency on a specified blockchain wallet in exchange for a reward. Staking protocols use "nodes" – small copies of the blockchain being run on thousands of different computers.

Understanding how a crypto's algorithm works in detail isn't essential – or easy – but it can help explain movements in price.

What are the most traded cryptocurrencies?

You might be surprised to learn that Bitcoin (BTC) is not the most traded cryptocurrency, although it usually sits in the top 3. Instead, it's the dominant crypto by market capitalization – a metric that shows the circulating supply of a coin, multiplied by its value.

Take a look at today's top 10 cryptos by market cap in the chart below.

How to buy cryptocurrency

  1. Compare crypto exchanges
    The easiest way to purchase cryptocurrency is through an exchange or trading platform. Features to look out for are low fees, supported coins and deposit methods. Registering an account with a US-based exchange will require you to provide a form of government identification.
  2. Deposit funds
    To deposit US dollars to your exchange account, first, you'll need to verify your identity in a process known as KYC. Most exchanges accept instant transfers from a bank account, while others also support credit card purchases and sometimes even cash.
  3. Choose a cryptocurrency
    There are thousands of cryptos to choose from. Thoroughly research any you're interested in, check what's trending, and keep on top of the latest crypto news before investing any money.
  4. Build your crypto portfolio
    Most exchanges allow you to instantly buy cryptocurrency with the funds deposited to your account. Some platforms also have advanced market options and trading pairs which may be useful for more experienced traders.
  5. Store your crypto
    You can choose to leave your assets in your exchange wallet, but this does come with some added risks. It's generally recommended that you transfer your crypto to a non-custodial or hardware wallet for increased security.

Where to buy, sell and store crypto in the US

Investors can now choose from a number of established and feature-rich crypto exchanges. If you're just starting out, look for exchanges registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that offer US dollar deposits with your preferred payment method.

Click the Go to Site button when you're ready to create an account with any of the providers.

1 - 10 of 24
Name Product Deposit methods Fiat Currencies Cryptocurrencies
FTX.US Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer (ACH), Cryptocurrency, Wire transfer
USD, AUD, EUR, CAD, GBP, SGD

39
cryptocurrencies

Sign up through Finder for a 5% discount on all trading fees. T&Cs apply.
FTX exchange offers a range of cryptocurrencies, up to 10x leverage, access to global liquidity, no-fee debit cards for FTX users, fee-free first ACH deposit and benefits for FTT token holders.
Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Cryptocurrency, Wire transfer, Osko, SEPA, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT
USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, CAD, CHF, AUD

151
cryptocurrencies

Buy, sell and trade a range of digital currencies on this high-liquidity exchange – suitable for beginners right through to advanced traders.
eToro USA LLC Cryptocurrency Trading
Wire transfer, Online banking
USD

25
cryptocurrencies

New customers earn up to 12% on initial deposits. The more you deposit, the more you earn.
Copy the trades of leading cryptocurrency investors on this unique social investment platform. Non-US residents can read our review of eToro's global site here.
SoFi Invest Crypto
Bank transfer
USD

21
cryptocurrencies

Win up to $100 in crypto with a qualifying first trade
Instantly purchase a handful of leading cryptocurrencies with the SoFi app, which also insures your coins against potential hacks or theft.
KuCoin Cryptocurrency Exchange
Cryptocurrency, PayPal, Wire transfer, Credit or Debit Card, SEPA
USD, EUR, GBP, RUB, CNY, AUD, KRW, JPY, TRY, VND

660
cryptocurrencies

Sign up and get up to US$10 in rewards. Make trades to get up to US$500 in rewards. T&Cs apply.
Browse a variety of coin offerings in one of the largest multi-cryptocurrency exchanges and pay in cryptocurrency.
Crypto.com App
Credit card, Cryptocurrency, PayPal, TransferWise, SEPA
USD, AUD, CAD, CHF, EUR, GBP, NZD, SGD, JPY, ZAR

287
cryptocurrencies

Buy 260+ cryptocurrencies, earn up to 14.5% p.a. on holdings, pay with your crypto for cashback at stores, get loans and more with this complete crypto-finance platform.
Bitstamp Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Cryptocurrency, Credit or Debit Card, SEPA, Faster Payments (FPS)
USD, EUR, GBP

71
cryptocurrencies

A global cryptocurrency exchange that facilitates crypto to fiat transactions, where you can use EUR or USD to buy bitcoin and popular altcoins.
Paybis Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Debit card, Neteller, Credit or Debit Card
EUR, GBP, USD, AUD, CAD, PHP, SGD, CHF, HKD, JPY & 30+ more

404
cryptocurrencies

Buy Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies with credit card or debit card on this digital cryptocurrency exchange.

US residents: Restricted in the following states - NY, CT, NM, WA, HI, AL, VT, FL, AK, NV.
Coinmama Cryptocurrency Marketplace
Credit card, Fedwire, SEPA, Google Pay, SWIFT, Bank card
USD, EUR, AUD, CAD, GBP, JPY

15
cryptocurrencies

Founded in 2013, CoinMama lets you buy and sell popular cryptos with a range of payment options and quick delivery.
Juno
Juno
Bank transfer (ACH), Card, Cheque, Cryptocurrency, Bank transfer (Direct Deposit), Plaid
USD

9
cryptocurrencies

Buy and sell crypto instantly. Use Juno coins to get discounts on trading fees every time you buy or sell crypto
Disclaimer: Star ratings are only displayed for products with 10 or more reviews.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

1 - 5 of 21
Name Product Wallet Type Supported Cryptocurrencies Price (USD) Disclaimer
Arculus
Arculus
Hardware wallet
AAVE, APE, BTC, ETH, LINK, MATIC, SHIB, UNI, USDC, XRP & 30 more
$99
The Arculus wallet is a Web3-enabled hardware wallet that syncs with your smartphone.
Ledger Nano X Wallet
Hardware wallet
BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, ADA, LTC, BNB, EOS, XTZ, XLM & 5,000+ more
$149
The Ledger Nano X comes with added Bluetooth functionality, more memory and a higher quality screen than the original Nano S.
TREZOR Model T Wallet
Hardware wallet
BTC, ETH, XRP, USDT, BCH, LTC, EOS, XTZ, LINK, XLM & 1380+ more
$250
The next generation of hardware wallet from TREZOR, the Model T includes a host of new features including a touchscreen and improved processing.
ZenGo Cryptocurrency App
Mobile wallet
BTC, ETH, BNB, DOGE, USDT, MATIC, LINK, CHZ, XTZ & 60+ more
Free download
Take advantage of ZenGo’s unique biometrics setup to buy, sell and spend and earn 70+ cryptocurrencies in your own wallet.
Ledger Nano S Plus Wallet
Hardware wallet
BTC, XRP, ETH, BCH, EOS, XLM, LTC, DOT, BNB, USDT & 5,000+ more
$79
Secure and manage coins, tokens and NFTs with the latest hardware device from Ledger.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Is cryptocurrency safe?

There are a number of risks associated with buying, storing and using digital currencies. Before jumping in, do plenty of research and make sure you understand how to keep your crypto safe. Some key risks to be aware of include:

  • Poor regulation. Cryptocurrency is still a largely unregulated market, which means you may not be protected if your funds are lost or stolen. Look for platforms that are registered with FinCEN and provide an insurance fund.
  • Volatile prices. Crypto is much more unpredictable than traditional markets and massive price fluctuations within a short window are not uncommon. Because of this, your investment can quickly lose its value.
  • Vulnerable to hacking. Several million dollars have been lost to successful hacks of crypto exchanges, wallets and blockchains. It's important to understand that without appropriate security measures like using a hardware wallet, securing your private key and enabling 2-factor authentication, your funds could be stolen.
  • Steep technical learning curve. Grasping the complex technical foundations of potential crypto investments can quickly become confusing. You'll also need to fully understand concepts like gas fees and wallet addresses before interacting with a blockchain, or else risk total loss of funds.
  • Scams. As crypto has become popular, so too have crypto scams. Be extremely wary of deals that seem too good to be true, thoroughly research all platforms or projects before putting your money in, and never disclose your private key.

FAQs

Get started with crypto

If you're just starting out in the world of crypto, it can feel overwhelming. Use our simple guides to research and compare different coins or take a look at our curated list of the best crypto exchanges and wallets to buy and secure your chosen assets.

Learn how to buy Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptos

There are now well over 10,000 cryptocurrencies and tokens, with new coins launching all the time. We've cut through the noise and written guides on how to buy some of the most traded cryptos, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as hundreds of others.

Compare crypto exchanges in the US

Compare dozens of major exchanges on features, fees, selection of cryptos and more in our comprehensive platform reviews.

Find the best crypto wallets to store your cryptos

Hardware, mobile, hot, cold… it's tricky knowing where to start with crypto storage. Our guides explain what's in a wallet to help you find your best options for convenience and security.

Get familiar with crypto trading

For more advanced investors, crypto could be a way to diversify your portfolio. Read our range of trading guides to get your bearings first.

Learn how to earn crypto returns

Crypto earning products are still in their infancy right now. Make sure you've got everything you need to make an informed decision.

Dive deeper into DeFi

From staking to smart contracts, our guides demystify DeFi and help you get your head around the new frontier of finance.

Cryptocurrency stats and predictions

Get expert insights and analysis across the crypto sector or use our forecasting tools to help predict where a coin's price might move.

Crypto research and tools

Crypto evolves at breakneck speeds, with new concepts, coins and technologies emerging all the time. Keep on top of the latest trends with our industry data, consumer research and handy tools.

Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

Read more on this topic

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

5 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    DavidJune 19, 2018

    Hi there, thanks for your reviews! I use some of already mentioned here and Bitsane as well, it’s a small platform and its trading volume is not big, but it’s a decent one and pretty reliable. Could you please add some thoughts about it too (or maybe I’m missing something out, and it is already reviewed?)?

    • Default Gravatar
      nikkiangcoJune 20, 2018

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your message! We appreciate the kind words.

      We’ll take a look at Bitsane – thanks for the tip!

      Cheers,
      Nikki

    • Default Gravatar
      DavidJune 22, 2018

      Hi Nikki! Thank you very much for a prompt response. Way to go!

  2. Default Gravatar
    farmerMay 14, 2018

    step by step to set up an account on binance

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaMay 14, 2018Staff

      Hi Farmer,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      We have a Binance review, which you can read. It tells you how to create a Binance account along with other helpful details about the exchange.

      For a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up a Binance account, you will be pleasantly surprised that it is easy to accomplish. You can read our Binance review to learn how to start.

      Alternatively, you can also download the Binance app and register.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

Go to site