The difference between cryptocurrency coins and tokens

The terms “coin” and “token” are often used interchangeably, but there are a few key differences to be aware of.

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If you’re new to the world of cryptocurrency, you’ll no doubt have found that there’s a whole lot of jargon and technical terminology to try and wrap your head around. Two terms that can be the source of much confusion are “coin” and “token”. Both of these words can be used to describe units of blockchain value and there are plenty of similarities between the two.

However, there are some important differences as well, which we’ll look at in this article.

Learn more Buy coins and tokens

Coins vs tokens

Coins are standalone cryptocurrencies based on their own blockchain. Tokens are built and hosted on existing blockchains.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade.

What is a cryptocurrency coin?

In general terms, a cryptocurrency coin is just that – an encrypted digital currency meant to be used as a form of payment. A coin is a unit of value that operates on its own blockchain, independently of any other platform. It can be used to store value and pay for services, in much the same way that you would use physical money.

Bitcoin (BTC) is easily the best-known cryptocurrency coin around the world, but it’s far from the only coin available. In fact, at the time of writing there were a total of 888 coins in existence. You may see many of these other coins referred to as altcoins, an abbreviation of alternative coins, simply because they offer an alternative to bitcoin.

Most altcoins are a fork of bitcoin and were developed using bitcoin’s open-source protocol. Examples include Litecoin (LTC), Dogecoin (DOGE) and Namecoin (NMC).

However, there’s also a long list of other altcoins that haven’t been derived from the Bitcoin protocol and have instead created their own blockchain and protocol. Some well-known examples include Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP) and Cardano (ADA).

What is a cryptocurrency token?

Tokens are used to represent digital assets that are fungible and tradeable, including everything from commodities to voting rights. However, rather than operating on their own blockchain, tokens are hosted by another platform, such as Ethereum.

While tokens are also a medium of exchange, they offer functionality above and beyond that of coins. Tokens give their holders the ability to take part in some kind of activity – for example, if you want to bet on the outcome of future events through decentralised prediction market Augur, you’ll need to use REP, the Augur platform’s native cryptocurrency token. Tokens can also offer value to buyers, for example through buybacks.

Tokens are usually created and distributed to the general public through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which are a form of crowdfunding. Some of the best-known crypto tokens include EOS (EOS), Tron (TRX) and OmiseGo (OMG), with Ethereum being the most popular platform for token development.

However, there are also plenty of other platforms which tokens can be built upon, including Omni, NEO, Waves and Qtum.

At the time of writing, there were 591 tokens listed on CoinMarketCap.

Where to buy cryptocurrency coins and tokens

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Cryptocurrency
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SWIFT
Wire transfer
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GBP, EUR, USD

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Credit card
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17
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32
cryptocurrencies

Buy, sell and trade a range of digital currencies on this high-liquidity exchange – suitable for beginners right through to advanced traders.

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148
cryptocurrencies

Trade an extensive range of reputable coins on this world-renowned exchange, popular for its high liquidity and multi-language support.

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8
cryptocurrencies

Buy coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash with credit card.
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AdvCash
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Debit card
Neteller
Payeer
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9
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Cash
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PayPal
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1
cryptocurrency

Connect with bitcoin buyers and sellers through this peer-to-peer marketplace that accepts cash, credit and more than 300 other payment methods.
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Neteller
Bank transfer (SEPA)
SOFORT
EUR, GBP, CHF, USD

34
cryptocurrencies

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Cryptocurrency
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119
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Browse a variety of coin offerings in one of the largest multi-cryptocurrency exchanges and pay in cryptocurrency.
Bank transfer
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GBP, EUR

4
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Buy and sell bitcoin in GBP or EUR with credit card, debit card and bank transfer payment options.

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