How to buy cryptocurrency

There’s lots to consider when buying cryptocurrency. Here’s your step-by-step guide.

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From the countless ways to buy cryptocurrency to the difficulty of managing it, crypto can be pretty overwhelming. Especially if you’re a crypto newbie. However, this guide breaks it down so you can start buying crypto in no time.

What is cryptocurrency?

There are many misconceptions about what cryptocurrency is and what it isn’t. In its simplest terms, cryptocurrency is a digital asset stored on a blockchain that can be transferred between participants.

There is a range of uses for cryptocurrencies, including as a means of payment, to vote on the direction of a blockchain project, to serve a specific purpose (such as paying transaction fees), or to make holders a part of a community.

How to buy cryptocurrency

When it comes to buying crypto, there are a couple of routes you can take. For most beginner users, using a centralised exchange (CEX) is the easiest way to get started.

  1. Choose your cryptocurrency exchange. Compare an exchange’s fees, features, number of coins and customer support – and when you’re happy create an account.
  2. Verify your identity. Most exchanges require you to verify your identity to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.
  3. Add fiat to your account. You can connect your bank account to the exchange and add funds in a fiat currency like pounds sterling.
  4. Purchase cryptocurrency. You’re ready to go. Now you can exchange fiat for crypto on your exchange.

How much do I need to buy cryptocurrency?

The minimum amount needed to invest differs between exchanges. It can range from as little as £1 up to £10.

The amount you should invest depends on your risk tolerance and timeline. Since cryptocurrencies are volatile, you should only invest what you can afford to lose.

That said, the longer your timeline, the less you could invest and still see notable returns. While a coin might increase 10-50% within 12 months, the same asset could climb multiple hundred percents in a couple of years. However, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

Where can I buy cryptocurrencies?

Most crypto users purchase crypto from either a centralised or decentralised exchange. Both options have pros and cons.

Centralised exchanges

Centralised exchanges (CEX) provide a seamless user experience that’s much better suited to beginner investors. Users will likely find centralised exchanges easier to use and similar to a traditional online broker. However, when you purchase crypto on a centralised exchange, the platform stores it in its exchange wallet. This comes with a degree of risk.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Lower transaction fees
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Trusting a third party with your crypto
  • Know You Customer (KYC) requirements can prevent users from getting started straight away

Decentralised Exchanges

Decentralised exchanges (DEX) offer an opposing experience to centralised exchanges. Firstly, they provide a complicated user experience.

To begin using them, users must have a solid grasp of crypto terminology and a good idea of how blockchains work. For example, different cryptos are only compatible with specific blockchains.

This means users must understand which blockchain a specific coin is on and then create a compatible wallet to buy it. Users will also face many other complexities, from managing gas fees to adding networks to their wallets.

That said, they also provide a range of benefits not accessible to CEX users. Unlike CEXs, DEXs are hosted on the distributed blockchain, meaning one entity does not have control over it.

Therefore, DEXs enable peer-to-peer transactions, where users always keep custody of their crypto without an intermediary 3rd party.

Pros

  • Offers the core benefits of blockchain.
  • Users don’t need to hand over custody of their crypto to trade.
  • Access to a broader range of coins.

Cons

  • Complicated user experience.
  • Transaction fees can become unaffordable.
  • Users may need to manage wallets for different blockchains.

How to choose what cryptocurrency to buy

There are thousands of different cryptos you could buy, so how can you choose the best one? We have come up with some key considerations that will help you decide which crypto is right for you.

Firstly, you must identify your risk tolerance. While it is essential only to invest what you can afford to lose, you might have a better chance at protecting against losses by investing in “blue chip” coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

However, these coins already have much of their value priced in, so many investors turn to lesser-known coins to maximise their gains. Typically, the smaller the coin’s market cap, the more risky the investment.

Finally, coins that can solve a real-world issue generally have more long-term potential. Take Bitcoin, for example; while its origins are still disputed, we know that it was created to enable secure peer-to-peer payments, sighting issues within the traditional banking and finance sector.

Platforms to buy cryptocurrency

When learning how to buy crypto, one of the primary considerations is where will you buy it. Since each decentralised exchange is specific to one or a couple of blockchains, we’ll stick to explaining the best centralised exchange platforms to buy cryptocurrency.

As a starting point, we’ve pulled together our picks for the best crypto exchanges in the UK for you to look at.

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.

1 - 6 of 6
Name Product Deposit methods Fiat Currencies Cryptocurrencies Offer Disclaimer Link
Finder Award
eToro UK Cryptoasset Investing
Bank transfer, Debit card, eToro Money
EUR, GBP, NZD, USD, AUD, CAD, HKD, SGD, CHF, NOK, RMB, THB, IDR, MYR, VND, PHP, SEK, DKK, NOK, PLN, CZK, PEN, MXN, QAR, BHD, OMR, AED

76
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
Kraken Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT
USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, CAD, CHF, AUD

229
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
Uphold - Digital Asset Platform
Bank transfer (ACH), Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay
USD, GBP, AUD, EUR, CAD, CNY, JPY, SGD, INR, NZD

214
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
Finder Award
CoinJar Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, SEPA, Faster Payments (FPS), Apple Pay, Google Pay
GBP, EUR, AUD, USD

63
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
Coinpass Cryptocurrency Exchange
Bank transfer, Cryptocurrency
GBP, EUR

13
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange
Debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SWIFT
GBP, EUR

106
cryptocurrencies

Capital at risk

View details
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How do I buy cryptocurrency in the UK?

A centralised crypto exchange is the easiest way to purchase crypto in the UK.

Once you decide on the right exchange, follow the 4 steps in our “How to buy cryptocurrency” section to complete your purchase.

Tips on how to buy cryptocurrency

We’ve listed our top 3 tips to remember when buying crypto below.

  1. Know your fees. It’s important to understand the fees involved in buying crypto. For example, if you use a centralised exchange, you’ll be charged transaction fees as well as deposit and withdrawal fees. When it comes to fees, we recommend shopping around so you get the most Bitcoin for your buck!
  2. Not your keys, not your crypto. We recommend moving your crypto off centralised exchanges as soon as you know how. Learn about cold storage and think about sending your long-term investments there as quickly as possible. However, as discussed, using blockchain applications and managing wallets can be complicated, so if you are brand new to crypto, it is best to remain on centralised exchanges at first.
  3. Set it and forget it. Crypto is volatile. It’s not uncommon to see large price fluctuations in a single day. However, try to stick to your strategy. If you’re a long-term investor, avoid panic selling. It can be easy to throw your strategy out the window each time the markets move, but as Warren Buffet says, “time in the market is better than timing the market”.

Mistakes to avoid when buying cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is the industry where finance, cryptography and computing intersect. Therefore, things can get pretty tricky. We’ve listed some of the most common mistakes we often see beginners fall victim to below.

  • Fear of missing out. You’ll likely see brand new trending coins you missed out on continue to climb daily. However, don’t purchase just because of hype and fear of missing out (FOMO); many of these coins fall as quickly as they go up. This is one of the quickest ways to see your crypto portfolio evaporate.
  • Not accounting for gas fees. As mentioned earlier, when the Ethereum chain is in high demand, transaction fees can reach over £100. It’s important to consider this when purchasing coins, as the gas fees could make it impractical to sell them later.
  • Sending coins to the wrong blockchain. Before moving coins off exchanges, it’s important to understand the different blockchains and which tokens they accept. Before you send the coin, be sure you know which network it’s on, and only send it to a wallet address compatible with that network.

Pros and cons of buying cryptocurrency

Pros

  • Diversification. If you’ve invested in other asset classes like equities, bonds or commodities, cryptocurrency provides an alternative asset class to boost your portfolio diversification.
  • Invest in a forward-thinking industry. The crypto industry is constantly growing and innovating.
  • Own your assets. Unlike traditional investing, buying cryptocurrency and storing it in a hardware wallet means you (and only you) can manage and control your assets without needing a third party.

Cons

  • Price volatility. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, and thousands of coins have lost all their value or discontinued in the past.
  • Steep learning curve. Considering all the technical jargon required to use blockchain, new investors face a steep learning curve.
  • High risk. Not only is there a risk from price volatility, there’s also a security risk from hacking, phishing or bad actors in the sector.

Bottom line

Overall, there are several ways how to buy cryptocurrency. The one that’s right for you depends on your experience and personal preferences. That said, while centralised exchanges offer an excellent user experience, it’s best to consider moving your crypto to a hardware wallet in order to protect your assets.

Frequently asked questions

*Cryptocurrencies aren't regulated in the UK and there's no protection from the Financial Ombudsman or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Your capital is at risk. Capital gains tax on profits may apply.

Cryptocurrencies are speculative and investing in them involves significant risks - they're highly volatile, vulnerable to hacking and sensitive to secondary activity. The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content shouldn't be interpreted as a recommendation to invest. Before you invest, you should get advice and decide whether the potential return outweighs the risks. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

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