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How to buy Ethereum (ETH)
A beginner's guide to buying and trading Ether in the US.
Updated . What changed?
As the native asset of the Ethereum network and one of the best known digital currencies, Ether (ETH) can be traded on a huge range of crypto exchanges. If you want to acquire some of this popular cryptocurrency for your portfolio but don’t know how, you’re in the right place.
Quick guide: How to buy ETH
- Register for an account on an exchange like eToro
- Enable two factor authentication
- Choose your deposit method
- Enter your deposit amount and initiate the payment
- Once your account has been credited, go to the trading page
- Choose the cryptocurrency you want to buy
- Enter the amount you want to purchase
- Check the transaction details and confirm the purchase
This is our quick guide to just one way to buy ETH. Compare some other options in the table below.
What's in this guide?
Where to buy Ethereum (ETH)
You can find and compare Ethereum exchanges on deposit methods, fiat currencies and more. After you’ve found the right fit, click Go to site to start trading ETH, or skip ahead to our curated list of top ETH exchanges.
Best Ethereum exchanges
It’s typical to find trading fees of about 0.25% to 0.5% per trade on US cryptocurrency exchanges, while brokers will typically charge even more. They may also sell above market rates, or charge deposit and withdrawal fees, which results in extra “hidden fees”. Low-liquidity exchanges experience similar problems, with price slippage representing a major potential cost.
By contrast, the upper end of Kraken’s trading fees are at the lower end of the market average, presenting a competitive option even before you apply any discounts.
Its USD to crypto markets are also liquid enough that price slippage isn’t a major concern for most people, and there are also a range of USD deposit options with low, flat fees. Note, however, that even though these flat deposit fees are cost-effective on large transfers, they’re much less cost-effective for small deposits.
Overall, in this way, Kraken offers solid value for money for someone who just wants to get started buying cryptocurrency, as well as good value for more active traders who want to take advantage of its highly liquid markets and volume-based trading fee discounts.
There are two main things that can slow down buying cryptocurrency.
- Verification times. This is when the exchange checks your identification. It will often take at least 24 hours, or even a full week.
- Money transfer speeds. It can take another week to make an international bank transfer, to deposit your funds.
On the other end of the spectrum, some exchanges can get you signed up, verified and buying cryptocurrency in just a few minutes.
Coinmama is one of these. Verification times may vary, but at the lower end it can take just a few minutes to complete the initial tier 1 verification, assuming you have your documentation (driver’s licence, a clear selfie and personal information) ready.
It’s also one of relatively few exchanges to support credit card payments, which facilitates instant cryptocurrency purchases.
Coinmama isn’t the cheapest option, but it is fast.
Buying cryptocurrency for the first time can be overwhelming and complicated.
Coinbase isn’t. It’s become one of the biggest names in Bitcoin by focusing specifically on making it as easy as possible to buy cryptocurrency for the first time.
It works on both mobile and desktop, it offers a range of payment methods to suit almost anyone, and it walks buyers through each step to making their first purchase.
Coinbase gives users their own wallets and has an active customer service team. Visually, it delivers a much more soothing and uncluttered interface than other exchanges.
Among other beginner-friendly features are the ability to send money to someone (as Bitcoin) through just their email address, and an expansive educational section which slowly unfolds for users.
Coinbase is designed for people who want to gradually wade into cryptocurrency instead of diving into the deep end.
Our methodology for finding the best Ethereum exchanges
You can read the full methodology for a more comprehensive explanation of how we compare exchanges, but here’s the short version:
To find the cheapest exchange, we looked at overall cost-effectiveness when buying ETH with fiat currency, including exchange commission fees, deposit and withdrawal fees, exchange costs and any other applicable fees. We also considered whether a typical buyer is likely to lose money due to slippage in low-liquidity markets.
To find the fastest exchange, we looked at how quickly most customers can sign up, get verified and buy ETH.
We defined the easiest exchange as the ETH exchange that’s closest to being usable by anyone without any prior experience in cryptocurrency, technology or finance. An exchange-provided wallet and customer service team are required for a platform to be considered in this categoryBack to top Ether is the native token of Ethereum, a smart contracts platform which developers can use to build and deploy decentralized applications. However, despite this fact, it’s quite common to see the platform’s currency also referred to as Ethereum across crypto exchanges and online.
Must read: Ethereum vs Ether: What’s the difference?
Ether is the native token of Ethereum, a smart contracts platform which developers can use to build and deploy decentralized applications. However, despite this fact, it’s quite common to see the platform’s currency also referred to as Ethereum across crypto exchanges and online.
A step-by-step guide to buying Ethereum
If you’re new to the world of cryptocurrency, you’ll most likely find that buying ETH directly with US dollars is the easiest option. However, we’ve also included instructions on how to buy ETH using another cryptocurrency (in this case bitcoin) if that’s your preferred approach.
Buying Ether with USD
There are several exchanges that allow you to buy Ether with US dollars, so make sure you compare the features and fees of a range of platforms before deciding which one you’d like to use.
For this example, we’ll show you how to buy ETH with USD on Coinbase.
Step 1. Register for a Coinbase account
If you choose to open an account with Coinbase, you can register by providing:
- Your name
- Your email address
- Your phone number
- Proof of ID
We recommend that you also enable two-factor authentication on your account before proceeding to step 2.
Step 2. Deposit USD into your account
Next, click on the “Settings” tab at the top of the page, navigate to “Linked Accounts” and click “Link a New Account.” There are three ways you can make a deposit:
- Wire transfer
- Debit card
- Directly from your bank account
Step 3. Buy Ether
Once your deposit has cleared, click on the “Buy/Sell” tab at the top of the screen and click on Ethereum. You can then type in either the amount of ETH you want to buy or the amount of USD you want to spend. Make sure you review the details and total cost of your transaction before clicking “Buy Ethereum.”
Buying Ether with another cryptocurrency
If you want to exchange another cryptocurrency for ETH, there are myriad exchanges that allow you to do so. Make sure you compare the features and fees of a range of platforms before deciding which one you’d like to use.
To provide a clear example of exactly how to buy ETH with another cryptocurrency, let’s look at how to complete this transaction.
Step 1. Buy BTC
While Ether can be purchased using a number of popular cryptocurrencies, bitcoin is the easiest to acquire and trade.
If you already have some BTC, skip ahead to step 2. If you don’t, you can find step-by-step instructions on how to acquire some in our guide to buying bitcoin.
Step 2. Register for a account
You can sign up for an account by entering your email address and creating a password. Remember to activate two-factor authentication before proceeding to step 3.
In addition, please be aware that if you want a higher account withdrawal limit than 2 BTC, you’ll need to provide proof of ID.
Step 3. Deposit BTC into your account
If your bitcoin is already stored, skip ahead to step 4.
However, if your BTC is stored on another exchange or in a bitcoin wallet, you’ll need to find the address of your wallet so you can transfer the BTC into your trading account.
To do this, you’ll need to log in to your account, click the “Funds” drop-down menu and then select “Deposits.” Choose bitcoin from the list of supported currencies and copy the wallet address or scan the QR code provided.
Step 4. Buy Ether
Now it’s time to click the “Exchange” tab near the top left of screen and choose the “Basic” trading view. Use the search box provided to find the BTC/ETH trading pair and then choose a limit, market or stop-limit order.
Enter the amount of Ether you want to purchase, but remember to review all the details of the transaction before clicking “Buy ETH.”
How to sell Ether
If you want to sell your ETH tokens, the good news is that they can be exchanged for an extensive range of digital and fiat currencies on many different exchanges.
The selling process is similar to the buying process outlined above in step 4, except for the key difference that you’ll need to enter your transaction details in the “Sell” field.
Which wallets can I use to hold Ether?
While some people choose to store their crypto tokens in their exchange account, this is not recommended. As exchanges are regular targets for hackers and thieves, it’s generally considered a much safer option to move your ETH tokens into a wallet which allows you to retain full control of your private keys.
Happily, there are heaps of choices available when searching for an Ethereum wallet. Options you might like to consider include:
- Web wallets like MyEtherWallet
- Web browser extensions like MetaMask
How Ethereum works
Launched in 2015, Ethereum is an open-source blockchain platform which developers can use to build and run decentralised applications (dapps). Its key feature is that it allows developers to create smart contracts, which are self-executing contracts that automatically complete tasks when specific conditions are met. As an example, a basic smart contract could say, “Pay John $50 if he emails me a 10-page report on pet obesity by November 30, 2018.”
These smart contracts are executed by the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which is powered by a decentralized international network of nodes. In the real world, Ethereum can be used to power dapps and smart contracts across a diverse range of industries, including everything from finance and insurance to supply chain management, betting and file storage.
Ether is the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network. It is used by developers to pay for transaction fees and services on Ethereum, and can also be traded on a wide range of crypto exchanges.Back to top
What to consider before you buy Ether
Cryptocurrencies are complicated and volatile assets, and buying any digital coin or token comes with a high level of risk attached. Before you buy, make sure you do plenty of research and that you recognize the factors that could potentially drive the price of a crypto asset either up or down.
If you’re thinking of buying Ether, consider the following factors first:
- Supply. According to CoinMarketCap, at time of writing (October 2018) the circulating supply of ETH was 102,883,734. Unlike bitcoin, Ether does not have a maximum supply cap limit but instead an annual issuance capped at 18,000,000 ETH per year. Find out more in our guide to the ETH inflation rate.
- Move to proof-of-stake. Though it started life as a proof-of-work cryptocurrency, Ethereum will soon be shifting to a proof-of-stake system as part of the Casper update. Designed to improve scalability and tackle centralisation, Casper’s success (or otherwise) will have a big impact on the future of Ethereum.
- Market leader. As it stands, Ethereum has the biggest profile of all the dapps platforms currently in existence. Thanks to its early-mover advantage, Ether is the world’s second largest digital currency in terms of market cap and the Ethereum platform is synonymous with the development of dapps.
- Competition. However, Ethereum is also operating in an increasingly competitive market sector. NEO, Lisk, EOS and Cardano are just some of the dapp platforms that look set to compete with Ethereum in the future.
- Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The EEA is a non-profit corporation that aims to accelerate the adoption of Ethereum’s blockchain technology by businesses. If it can successfully drive increased use of Ethereum, this could potentially lead to increased demand for ETH.
Frequently asked questions
Can I buy Ethereum with cash?
Yes. There are a limited number of exchange platforms that list ETH in trading pairs and also accept cash deposits. For example, Cancoin allows you to purchase ETH with cash directly from a seller.
Can I buy Ethereum with a credit card?
Yes, some exchanges such as Coinbase and Coinmama allow you to purchase crypto with a debit card.
Can I buy Ethereum using my bank account?
Yes. There are several crypto exchanges that list ETH and allow you to deposit USD from a bank account. To find the right fit, compare a variety of exchanges on cryptocurrency support and more.
Can I buy Ether anonymously?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to acquire cryptocurrency without providing ID. However, you may be able to trade ETH on a decentralized exchange that doesn’t require customers to provide any personal details, or by using a peer-to-peer marketplace like Localethereum.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ADA, ICX, IOTA and XLM.
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