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What is cryptocurrency?

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

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.

Disclaimer: This page is not financial advice or an endorsement of digital assets, providers or services. Digital assets are volatile and risky, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Potential regulations or policies can affect their availability and services provided. Talk with a financial professional before making a decision. Finder or the author may own cryptocurrency discussed on this page.

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 13
Name Product Deposit methods Fiat currencies Cryptocurrencies Offer Disclaimer Link
Finder Award
Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT, ACH online banking

6

261

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
EXCLUSIVE
Paybis Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Debit card, Neteller

42

357

Finder Exclusive: Get 25% discount on all commission for 1 transaction when using promocode Finder25. There is no time limit on the validity of the promo code.
US residents: Restricted in the following states - NY, CT, NM, WA, HI, AL, VT, FL, AK, NV.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
OFFER
Uphold - Digital Asset Platform
Bank transfer, Credit card, Debit card, Bank transfer (SEPA), Apple Pay, Google Pay

27

266

Refer a friend to earn US$20 — $10 for you and $10 for the person you refer. T&Cs apply.
Terms apply. Cryptoassets are highly volatile. Your capital is at risk.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Robinhood Crypto
Bank transfer, Cash, Debit card

1

36

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
OFFER
Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer (ACH), Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT

7

152

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Public Cryptocurrency Exchange
Public Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Debit card

1

7

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
CEX.IO Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, SEPA, Faster Payments (FPS), SWIFT

4

30

Disclaimer: Highly volatile investment product. Your capital is at risk.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Coinmama Cryptocurrency Marketplace
Credit card, Fedwire, SEPA, Google Pay, SWIFT, Bank card

6

15

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
Coinbase Digital Currency Exchange
Bank transfer (ACH), Debit card, PayPal, Wire transfer, Apple Pay, Google Pay

23

248

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
Crypto.com App
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayPal, Wire transfer, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT

31

384

Capital at risk

View details
Disclaimer: Star ratings are only displayed for products with 10 or more reviews.
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1 - 5 of 70
Name Product Wallet type Supported assets Price (USD) Offer Disclaimer Link
Tangem

Hardware

60+

$54.90

Zengo wallet

Mobile

180+

Free download

NGRAVE ZERO

Hardware

2,700+

$398

OFFER
Ledger Nano X Wallet

Hardware

5,500+

$149

Free shipping
Trezor Model T Wallet

Hardware

9,000+

$179

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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.

Whether products shown are available to you is subject to individual provider sole approval and discretion in accordance with the eligibility criteria and T&Cs on the provider website.

Name Product Deposit methods Fiat currencies Cryptocurrencies Offer Disclaimer Link
eToro Cryptocurrency Trading
eToro Cryptocurrency Trading
Bank transfer, Credit card, Debit card, Neteller, Skrill

18

78

Disclaimer: Cryptoasset investing is highly volatile and unregulated in the UK and some EU countries. No consumer protection. Tax on profits may apply.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Binance Cryptocurrency Exchange (Not available to US users)
Bank transfer, Cryptocurrency

1

369

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
KuCoin Cryptocurrency Exchange
KuCoin Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayPal, P2P

50

743

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, P2P

73

279

Disclaimer: Highly volatile investment product. Your capital is at risk.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Gate.io Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card

8

1607

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT

8

222

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
OKX Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Cryptocurrency, iDEAL, PayPal, POLi, SEPA, Faster Payments (FPS)

35

338

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Uphold
Uphold
Bank transfer (ACH), Credit card, Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay

27

237

Capital at risk

View details
EXCLUSIVE
Paybis Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Debit card, Neteller

42

357

Finder Exclusive: Get 25% discount on all commission for 1 transaction when using promocode Finder25. There is no time limit on the validity of the promo code.
US residents: Restricted in the following states - NY, CT, NM, WA, HI, AL, VT, FL, AK, NV.
Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
Bitstamp Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, SEPA, Faster Payments (FPS)

3

90

Capital at risk

View details
Coinmama Cryptocurrency Marketplace
Credit card, Fedwire, SEPA, Google Pay, SWIFT, Bank card

6

15

Capital at risk

View details
OFFER
Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer (ACH), Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT

7

152

Go to site

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
Crypto.com App
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayPal, Wire transfer, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT

31

384

Capital at risk

View details
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Select an option to continue

Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange

Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange logo
  • Offers leverage and derivative trading
  • Supports EUR, GBP and CHF
  • Licensed to operate in all European countries
Go to site
Disclaimer: Highly volatile investment product. Your capital is at risk.

Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange

Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange logo
  • Large selection of cryptocurrencies
  • Low fees for active traders
  • Pleasant UI for new traders
Go to site

KuCoin Cryptocurrency Exchange

KuCoin Cryptocurrency Exchange logo
  • Buy, sell and trade over 700 crypto assets
  • Supports 10 Asian fiat currencies
  • Offers crypto futures trading
Go to site

Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange

Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange logo
  • Buy, sell and trade over 200 crypto assets
  • Licensed to operate in 17 jurisdictions in Oceania
  • Supports AUD
Go to site

Binance Cryptocurrency Exchange (Not available to US users)

Binance Cryptocurrency Exchange (Not available to US users) logo
  • Supports over 300 crypto assets
  • Binance Pay enables users spend their crypto
  • Binance P2P supports multiple African fiat currencies
Go to site

Binance Cryptocurrency Exchange (Not available to US users)

Binance Cryptocurrency Exchange (Not available to US users) logo
  • Supports over 300 crypto assets
  • Binance Pay works with Credencial Payments to support crypto payments
  • Binance P2P supports five Latin American fiat currencies
Go to site

Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange

Bybit Cryptocurrency Exchange logo
  • Supports leverage and derivative trading
  • Supports 300 spot trading pairs
  • Low-to-non-existent trading fees
Go to site
Disclaimer: Highly volatile investment product. Your capital is at risk.

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5 Responses

    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!

    Default Gravatar
    farmerMay 14, 2018

    step by step to set up an account on binance

      AvatarFinder
      JoshuaMay 14, 2018Finder

      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

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