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The biggest hurdle with crypto in the US is that all states can vary in their regulations surrounding digital currencies. Generally, states require you to use a licensed exchange, some restrict specific coins and many allow for Bitcoin ATMs. The good news is that when you learn about your home state’s regulations and how to navigate them, you can more easily navigate the crypto investment space.
Cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency exchanges are legal in the USA. However, there are state-specific regulations that may apply to you.
Although, know your customer (KYC) requirements are universal across the country. When purchasing cryptocurrency in the states, exchanges are required to make customers complete KYC forms — which means you’re required to verify your identity with date of birth, full name, address, social security number and more. These regulations are in place to prevent money laundering and other money-related crimes.
Buying cryptocurrency in the US boils down to three basic steps.
The first step in buying cryptocurrency is choosing a licensed cryptocurrency exchange in your state.
A crypto exchange is a site or platform that allows you to buy and trade cryptocurrencies, or coins. The large majority of exchanges allow you to trade one coin for another, such as Bitcoin for Litecoin. Exchanges can support a variety of deposit methods, such as bank deposits, credit or debit card deposits and sometimes even Apple Pay.
Not every exchange does business in every state. And there are a handful of crypto exchanges — such as Gemini — that are available in multiple states and countries. Gemini is available in more than 60 countries, 49 US states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
Some exchanges aren’t legal in the USA at all, such as KuCoin and Binance. For Binance, you must use their US site (Binance.us). While looking for an exchange, first make sure it’s legal in the United States and licensed in your state.
After you’ve found an exchange you can use in your home state, choose a compatible crypto wallet to store your digital assets.
A crypto wallet — sometimes called a digital wallet or a Web3 wallet — is where you store your cryptocurrency and tokens. Your wallet also serves as proof of ownership, with your wallet’s public address tied to your owned digital assets. Having your assets in your personal crypto wallet proves that it’s yours.
Choosing a digital wallet starts with your preferences. For many, a software wallet with a browser extension is the easiest way to manage and store assets. MetaMask and WalletConnect are popular software crypto wallets that are supported on various crypto exchanges, NFT marketplaces and blockchain applications.
There are also hardware wallets, like Ledger, that plug into your computer and are only online when they’re on, making them a little more secure than software options.
The wallet you choose depends on your answer to three main questions:
There are thousands of cryptocurrencies in the world — currently an estimated 19,000 in circulation with more in development.
Of course, there are big-name coins that you may have already heard of, such as the original Bitcoin (BTC), the widely accepted and popular ether (ETH), and the lord of memecoins Dogecoin (DOGE). But just because these are the most well-known coins doesn’t mean you have to invest in them.
Some other top market cap coins include:
Here are four things to keep in mind while researching coins:
To learn more about cryptocurrency, check out our guide on cryptocurrency and what it can be used for.
Cryptocurrency can be bought at cryptocurrency exchanges, brokerages or Bitcoin ATMs in the US.
Cryptocurrency exchanges and brokerages are plentiful and can vary in fees, coin listings, deposit methods and supported wallets.
Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange
Based in the United States and founded in 2011, Kraken is a popular choice for many crypto enthusiasts Lists 87 cryptocurrencies, including BTC, ETH, DOGE and ADA. You can expect these fees:
Using the Buy Crypto Widget incurs a 1.5% fee per transaction. Using Kraken Pro can result in lower fees.
eToro USA LLC Cryptocurrency Trading
eToro is a multi-asset investment platform. Started in 2007, the platform is built on social collaboration and lets customers copy the trades of popular investors. The exchange offers a range of cryptocurrencies, including Polkadot (DOT) and Filecoin (FIL). Users can also trade with a demo account, allowing them to learn the platform and practice crypto-trading strategies without risking real money.
The eToro exchange charges 'round-trip' spreads when buying crypto assets. The spread covers the buy-and-sell side of the transaction and varies based on the asset being purchased. Current spreads vary between .75% and 2.90%
SoFi Invest Crypto
Founded in 2011, this popular fintech offers multiple options for investing, including crypto. Lists 22 cryptocurrencies that include BTC, ETH, DOGE, LTC, SOL and ADA. No account minimum, and free financial counseling. Charges 1.25% markup on crypto transactions, supporting purchases of $10 to $50,000, with limits on select coins. You can't transfer crypto to external wallets or accounts.
Crypto.com bills itself as the world's fastest-growing app and includes a large selection of cryptocurrencies. The exchange launched under the name Monaco in 2016 and changed to crypto.com in 2018. Its native token, Crypto.com Coin (CRO), can be used to lower fees on the exchange.
Crypto.com charges maker and taker fees for cryptocurrency trades. The fees vary depending on customer tier levels. Tiers are adjusted daily and are based on a customer's individual trading volumes incurred over the past 30 days.
Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange
Gemini was founded in 2015 and operates as a global digital asset exchange and New York trust company. The platform is available in all 50 states and boasts a number of security features, including insurance against exchange hacks. Gemini carries over 90 cryptocurrencies. Some altcoins available are Cosmos (ATOM), Maker (MKR) and Dogecoin (DOGE).
Gemini's fees are somewhat higher than those charged on other exchanges. The platform charges as much as 1.49% on transactions over $200.
Okcoin Cryptocurrency Exchange
|Minimum deposits||No minimum|
Paybis Cryptocurrency Exchange
Uphold - Digital Asset Platform
Founded in 2013 as a traditional investment app, you can now buy up to seven cryptocurrencies through Robinhood, including BTC, ETH, LTC and DOGE. No fees to buy and sell crypto and no account minimum. But you can't withdraw crypto funds from your Robinhood account.
Coinbase Digital Currency Exchange
Started in 2012, Coinbase aims to build the crypto-economy with its beginner friendly platform. Over 70 million users from over 100 countries use Coinbase.
Coinbase has over 80 cryptocurrencies available, including Dogecoin (DOGE) and Shiba Inu (SHIB). Transaction fees are calculated using a combination of factors, including your payment method, the order size and varying market conditions, like volatility.
Sell your cryptocurrency in the US in two ways: through peer-to-peer transactions, or more commonly, at licensed cryptocurrency exchanges.
Crypto exchanges can also allow you to trade your owned crypto for another, called pairs. On an exchange, trading pairs look like this: USDT/ETH or BNB/WBNB.
There are many coins available to US residents, each carrying different uses and availability. The coins available to you depend on your home state and what exchanges are licensed.
For example, if you live in Hawaii or New York, these states both have hefty restrictions on what exchanges you can use, therefore restricting the coins available to you.
You can buy Bitcoin (BTC) in the US on multiple exchanges. BTC is often called the original cryptocurrency. It’s one of the most widely available coins and is listed on nearly every cryptocurrency exchange. Popular exchanges include Crypto.com, Binance.US, Gemini and Coinbase. However, Binance.US is not available in a few states like California and Hawaii.
You can buy the open-source memecoin Dogecoin (DOGE) in the US on multiple exchanges, such as Binance.us, Coinbase and Gemini. DOGE originally started as a joke and is based on the popular meme featuring a Shiba Inu dog — and the coin has an unlimited supply.
Ether (ETH), Etheruem’s native asset, is available on most exchanges licensed in the US. Ethereum is one of the most popular blockchains currently with multiple blockchain applications being built on it, including NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible and dozens of blockchain games. You can buy ETH on most exchanges and brokerages including eToro, Gemini, Crypto.com and Kraken. Know that the exchange Kraken isn’t licensed in New York state.
You can buy Ripple (XRP) on a handful of US-licensed exchanges. XRP is the native currency of the Ripple network. You can buy XRP on Bitstamp and Crypto.com. XRP is a little harder to find on popular exchanges (compared to ETH and BTC), and even Gemini doesn’t list XRP at the time of writing. Additionally, Crypto.com is not licensed in the state of New York.
Uniswap (UNI) can be bought in the US. Uniswap is a cryptocurrency exchange, and UNI is the platform’s native governance token. US residents can buy it from exchanges such as Uniswap, Kraken and Gemini.
US residents are required to verify their identity through KYC requirements, and cryptocurrency exchanges must get their state-level money transmitter licensing, also known as MTL.
For an exchange to get its MTL, it must have a minimum net worth and surety bond — a contract that ensures the exchange can meet its obligations. Essentially, crypto exchanges must prove they have enough net worth and be able to meet client obligations before they can get their MTL and allow customers to buy and sell crypto in the state.
Other states or territories, such as New York, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, have additional requirements for crypto businesses. For example, New York requires cryptocurrency exchanges and some crypto businesses to get a BitLicense, instated in 2015.
The good news is as a consumer, if you visit a cryptocurrency exchange that’s not licensed in the USA or your state, the platform is likely to notify you of that based on your IP address, usually in the form of a pop-up window. For example, if you were to visit Binance on its main site, the platform would offer to redirect you to the US-licensed platform.
Cryptocurrency is considered property and is taxed as such. The IRS issued Notice 2014-21, 2014-16 I.R.B. 938 which states that cryptocurrency (referred to as virtual currency) is treated as property.
When you sell your crypto, you must “recognize any capital gain or loss on the sale, subject to any limitations on the deductibility of capital losses,” according to the IRS.
When you file your taxes, you have to report your crypto with Form 1099-NEC.
If you’re unsure that a cryptocurrency exchange is legal in your home state, or if you’re feeling iffy around crypto in general, here are some quick tips:
Are you visiting from outside the US?
How to start buying and investing in cryptocurrency in Puerto Rico.
Wyoming may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in Wyoming.
West Virginia may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in West Virginia.
Wisconsin may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in Wisconsin.
Washington may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in Washington.
Virginia may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in Virginia.
Vermont may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in Vermont.
South Dakota may have regulations on crypto, learn how to buy cryptocurrency legally in South Dakota.
The Aloha State restricts crypto somewhat, but Hawaiians still have plenty of exchanges to choose from.
New York has regulations surrounding crypto, but you can still buy cryptocurrency.
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