Last Updated On November 14th, 2018

The total value of the crypto market is now more than $200 billion. Investors all over the world are opening their eyes to the potential in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Many people, though, find themselves asking a single question when they tried to get into the market. What’s the best cryptocurrency exchange for buying bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?

There’s no one answer to this question, but we’ve done our best to review the top exchanges and help you figure out where to trade cryptocurrency. We’ve also included our picks for best beginner exchange, most secure cryptocurrency exchange, lowest fees, and our overall pick.

Contents

What are Cryptocurrency Exchanges?

A cryptocurrency exchange is a website that allows you to buy and sell different cryptocurrencies. Some operate like stock trading sites while others resemble a foreign currency exchange. Others even allow direct trading between individuals, a lot like Craigslist.

There are four broad categories that the bulk of these fall under. These are peer-to-peer, centralized, decentralized, and cryptocurrency brokers.

Peer to Peer Exchanges

These allow sellers to match with buyers directly. It lets you negotiate everything from price to payment type with the other party. This kind of exchange usually charges a flat fee for each transaction rather than a percentage.

Centralized Exchanges

They function like a stock trading site. You place a buy or sell order based on the price you’re willing to accept. As soon as your conditions are met, the order is filled by the exchange. They also offer advanced features like margin trading, lending, and placing of stop-loss orders.

The downsides to these type of exchanges are that they hold your funds while you trade. If they’re hacked, you could find your funds gone.

Decentralized Exchanges

These allow users to buy and sell similarly to a stock site but in a trustless manner. In a decentralized exchange, your funds don’t leave your wallet unless a deal is agreed to. This is great from a security standpoint but does limit functionality. You can’t trade on margins or perform many other features you would expect from a stock trading site.

Broker Exchanges

They are the most similar to foreign currency exchanges. The exchange is willing to sell you a specific currency at an agreed upon price. That’s basically it. They don’t have any advanced features and are usually just used as a starting point.

Things to Look for in Top Cryptocurrency Exchanges

traders looking at computer screens

There are more than 500 exchanges now in operation, each with different features and types of users. However, there are some things that you should look for in any quality cryptocurrency trading platform. The big ones are:

  • Supported Coins and Trades
  • Ease of Use
  • Accepted Payments and Charges
  • Security and Support

Supported Coins and Trades

The first thing to consider is what coins an exchange currently supports. There are almost 2,000 different cryptocurrencies in existence.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful an exchange is if it doesn’t allow you to trade in the coins you want.

Ease of Use

Another big one is how user-friendly an exchange is. There are a lot of low-quality exchanges out there that barely function on a good day. Look for high-quality web development and a shallow learning curve. An exchange with a working mobile app is even better.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Decide how you want to fund your account. If you don’t already own some crypto, you’re going to need an exchange that allows fiat transactions. Many only permit you to exchange crypto pairs.

Check out the exchange’s fee structure. Every exchange will charge you for trades but some also charge for deposits, withdrawals, and even wallet services. The cheapest cryptocurrency exchange won’t always be the best one but you need to make sure you aren’t needlessly overpaying.

Security and Support

Security is huge in the crypto world. There have been several major breaches that have cost users millions of dollars in assets. Make sure that any exchange you use has rock-solid security and is upfront about how they protect your money. The minimum for this is an end-to-end data encryption and offline ‘cold storage’ of at least 95% of user funds.

Support is just as important as security. Let’s be honest, things go wrong. Even the best app will have hiccups now and then. Having an effective support system set up really helps to limit long-term damage. A major part of this is where an exchange is based. If you’re located in London, an exchange based in Singapore could be difficult to get a hold of in case of problems.

It’s an excellent idea to look at cryptocurrency exchange reviews from previous users. You can learn a lot from comparison articles but the best way to get a feel for any company is to listen to their customer feedback.

Top 10 List of Cryptocurrency Exchanges

1. Binance

Binance

Binance was founded in 2017 by Changpeng Zhao. In early 2018 they moved their international headquarters to Malta to take advantage of favorable regulations.

It is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges by trading volume, seeing more than a billion dollars of activity every day. They currently operate as a centralized exchange.

Supported Coins and Trades

It supports all major cryptocurrencies and a wide range of altcoins. Although, it doesn’t currently support margin trades but do allow you to place maker/taker orders.

Ease of Use

It is available in two modes, basic and advanced. Both offer an array of information including sales history, candlestick valuation charts, and comparative pricing with a number of trading pairs. Advanced mode offers more informational depth and is designed for sophisticated traders.

It also offers both an Android and an iOS app. Word to the wise though, their iOS app is not currently listed on the App Store and must be downloaded directly from their website.

Accepted Payments and Charges

The platform doesn’t currently accept fiat currency but is in the process of adding it. Recently, they announced they are opening a fiat exchange service based out of Singapore.

It uses trading pairs of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and BNB coin. Using these, you can purchase a wide variety of altcoins.

Its fee structure is quite favorable. It starts at .1% per trade and drops as low as .015% for high volume users or those who hold significant quantities of the BNB coin. Deposits are free but there is a charge for withdrawals. It varies wildly depending on the type of crypto you’re trying to withdraw.

Security and Support

It doesn’t score great here. This isn’t due to major issues, just a lack of available information. It doesn’t currently publish information about their security practices. It’s known that they have a dedicated security team and that they have actively resisted hacking attempts in the past.

They do better in support. This is because they have both a large library of support articles and their own educational courses. They have a help request system in place but no support phone number.

Check out our full Binance review to learn more.

2. Coinbase

CoinbaseCoinbase is a brokerage bitcoin and crypto exchange and is widely seen as the most user-friendly and easy to use exchange. It was one of the earliest ones and was founded in 2012 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Its currently based in San Francisco and has traded more than $50 billion in crypto.

Supported Coins and Trades

Coinbase only supports five cryptocurrencies. These are Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin.

It only allows direct purchases and sales of cryptocurrencies using fiat currency. Coinbase doesn’t support any fancy trades such as stop-loss or margin trading.

Interface

Coinbase’s interface is extremely user-friendly. It’s designed from the ground up to get you started as soon as you create an account. It has both an iOS and Android app available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Coinbase supports account funding through credit cards and bank transfers. Their fee structure varies from 1.49-3.99% per trade depending on payment method.

Security and Support

Coinbase is completely transparent about Its security setup. It protects all sensitive information using AES 256-bit encryption and only transfers data over SSL connections. Coinbase stores 98% of user funds offline in secure, geographically separate facilities. It also requires all accounts to use two-factor authentication and strong passwords.

Coinbase support leaves something to be desired. While it has both a help email and a support number available, response times are reported to be lengthy.

Check out our full Coinbase review to learn more.

3. CEX.io

cex.ioCEX.io is a London, UK based exchange established in 2013 as a mining cloud provider. Since then, they have transitioned completely into the exchange market and now operates as a centralized exchange. They provide individual and institutional services.

Supported Coins and Trades

CEX.io currently supports a selection of the highest valuation altcoins as well as Bitcoin and Ethereum. They allow trading pairs with both fiat currency and other cryptocurrencies.

CEX.io supports standard ask/buy, stop-loss orders, limits, API trading for advanced users, and margin trading up to 3x.

Interface

CEX.io uses a cross-platform approach. They have a web-based platform as well as Android and iOS apps. The interface varies between a simplified buy/sell screen displaying the current prices and a full trading screen. It’s designed to be an intuitive setup that lets you quickly begin.

Accepted Payments and Charges

CEX.io allows purchases of cryptocurrencies using Euros, U.S. Dollars, Indian Rupee, and British Pounds. It allows you to use either credit cards or a bank transfer. There is a 2.99% to 5% fee charged on all credit card transactions.

It has a sliding fee schedule based on your 30-day trading volume. They start at .25% and drop down to .1% for accounts with more than 6000 trades. Also, they allow limited margin trading with specified coin/currency pairs. The current amounts for these are .2% for opening a margin and .01% for a rollover.

Security and Support

CEX.io has a clearly posted security policy that lays out how it protects your funds. It uses encryption at rest and in motion and supports two-factor authentication. CEX.io uses offline cold storage for funds but doesn’t post the exact percentage stored.

Its customer service receives reasonable reviews from the crypto space. It has both an online ticket system and a monitored email address at support@cex.io. CEX.io also has a dedicated email set up for complaints.

Check out our full CEX.io review to learn more.

4. Kucoin

kucoin review homepageKucoin is a Chinese exchange created in August of 2017. It tries to distinguish itself from other by using a variety of promotions and giveaways. The most significant of these is the Kucoin Bonus. Every month a portion of transaction amount is paid out to all active users.

Supported Coins and Trades

Kucoin supports a large number of altcoins as well as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Available trade types include standard ask/buy and limit orders.

Interface

Kucoin uses both a basic and detailed view that allows users to choose the amount of information they receive. It also has both an Android and iOS app.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Kucoin does not support any fiat currencies. It has a flat fee of .1% for all transactions, with a 30% discount if you hold their own crypto. Withdrawal fees vary significantly depending on the currency being withdrawn.

Security and Support

Kucoin stores a major percentage of user funds offline and all online funds are kept constantly encrypted. It also has an internal risk management department that constantly monitors practices for signs of abuse.

Kucoin really stands out for its support. It offers 24/7 customer support over the phone, through email, and through an online support system.

Check out our full Kucoin review to learn more.

5. Bibox

Bibox reviewBibox is a Chinese crypto exchange. It describes itself as an AI-enhanced encrypted digital asset exchange. In theory, this means that Bibox provides greater analytical tools to use, but so far these haven’t appeared.

Supported Coins and Trades

Currently, Bibox supports a wide range of altcoins and allows direct fiat purchase of major cryptocurrencies. You can post taker and maker orders and set limits. Margin trading is also available at up to 3x. One of the features that set Bibox apart from the others is its support of margin lending. This allows sophisticated traders to borrow against their existing portfolio to purchase more crypto.

Interface

Bibox is available in basic and full-screen mode. Similar to the Binance setup each view includes very similar information, just presented in different formats. Bibox also has Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac apps available.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Bibox allows purchases using a variety of fiat currencies. Once purchased there are multiple crypto trading pairs available, including its own coin, BIX. Its fee structure is a straight .1% unless you’re using its coin, then it drops to .05%. Withdrawal fees vary depending on the currency you’re withdrawing and current market conditions.

Security and Support

Bibox requires two-factor authentication when you create your account but doesn’t publicize anything else about their security measures. It’s known that they’ve partnered with Sentinel Protocol to provide security services but not the exact services provided.

Its support is rather rudimentary. It only has a few basic articles concerning the use of its service. As far as real-time support goes, it’s basically nonexistent. It has a support ticket system and a Chinese and English language Telegram account.

Check out our full Bibox review to learn more.

6. LocalBitcoins

localbitcoins review homepageLocalBitcoins is a Finnish peer-to-peer exchange. It allows users to post-sale ads and directly sell to others.

It’s the largest peer-to-peer crypto exchange in the world and has a massive and very loyal user base.

Supported Coins and Trades

LocalBitcoins is completely decentralized. They allow the purchase or sale of Bitcoin using just about any form of payment. Furthermore, they do offer escrow services to users to guarantee the transfer of funds both ways.

Interface

The interface on LocalBitcoins looks just like a classified listing on a website. There is a list of ads showing Bitcoin prices and those that are offering them for sale. They currently don’t have any mobile applications available.

Accepted Payments and Charges

The only fee charged by LocalBitcoins is 1% of a transaction for creating an ad and .5% for the use of their merchant invoicing services. You can negotiate whatever form of payment you wish with the seller including PayPal, other crypto or some other arrangement.

Security and Support

Since LocalBitcoins never touches your funds, security is less of an issue. For their accounts themselves, they offer two-factor authentication and encrypted storage. They do offer security bounties for anyone who locates vulnerabilities within their software.

Their support is described as responsive and effective. They have a reported two-day turnaround time for requests submitted through their online system.

Check out our full LocalBitcoins review to learn more.

7. Bitstamp

BitstampLandingBitstamp is a centralized exchange based in the United Kingdom.

It was one of the first exchanges founded and has proven itself trustworthy over time. Additionally, it is a long-standing member of the top ten exchanges by volume online.

Supported Coins and Trades

Bitstamp is a very focused exchange and only offers Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ripple, and Ethereum. It does offer several trade options, including limit, stop, market, and trailing stop orders. Currently, Bitstamp doesn’t offer margin trading.

Interface

The Bitstamp interface is uncluttered and easy to follow. It shows current pricing, price history, and bid/ask live order books. Also, it allows you to choose what pair you wish to compare in real time.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Bitstamp accepts credit and debit cards as well as direct bank transfers of Euro and Dollars. Within the EU it also allows SEPA deposits. Its fee schedule starts at .25% and drops down to .1% for extremely active traders. We’re talking $20 million per 30 days active traders. Bitstamp also has a range of additional fees depending on your payment type.

Credit card purchases are at a flat 5% while debit cards vary significantly depending on how you use them. Withdrawals of cryptocurrencies themselves are fee free.

Security and Support

Bitstamp has declared that it keeps 98% of all user funds in offline cold storage. It backs this up with a yearly audit by a ‘Big Four’ accounting firm. Accounts are encrypted and two-factor authentication is encouraged.

Bitstamp has some of the best support options available in the crypto market. Not only does it offer a support email and ticket system, but it also has a 24/7 customer care phone number available.

Check out our full Bitstamp review to learn more.

8. Gemini

Gemini homepageGemini describes itself as a digital asset exchange and custodian. It was created in 2015 by the Winklevoss twins and based its name on the concept of twins. Gemini is a licensed New York trust company and is based in New York state.

Supported Coins and Trades

Gemini supports several of the highest value cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. They also provide the Gemini dollar, a stable coin pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar and used for seamless transfers of currency.

It doesn’t currently support margin trading but does offer market, limit, immediate limit, and maker orders.

Interface

Gemini has a fairly basic setup but does work well for newer investors. Institutional investors will find more advanced features available to them than individuals.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Gemini allows account funding using a bank transfer or a direct deposit of Bitcoin or Ethereum. There is no fee charged for depositing funds and the first ten withdrawals a month are also free. After that, you’re charged either .002 Bitcoin or .001 Ethereum depending on which currency you withdraw.

Trading fees are, surprise, based on 30-day volume. They start at .25% and drop as low as 0% for extremely high volume traders.

Security and Support

Gemini provides a detailed description of its security measures. A majority of funds are stored in offline storage divided into cold and cryo storage. These funds are kept on high-security storage devices distributed over a wide geographical area. Active funds are stored using Amazon Web Services and benefit from the proven security track record of Amazon.

Gemini offers four methods of contact for support. You can submit a request to their help center, call them at a toll-free number, direct message on Twitter or write to them and send it to their mailing address. As far as support goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Check out our full Gemini review to learn more.

9. Bittrex

Bittrex homepageBittrex is a U.S. based crypto exchange with headquarters in Seattle, WA. It is a trading platform exchange that was founded in 2014 by Bill Shahara and Richie Lai. Its focus is on trading high-quality altcoins. It has an intensive vetting process that it uses to help weed out scams and low-quality offerings.

Supported Coins and Trades

It supports more than 190 altcoins with at least 450 trading pairs and lots of purchase options. Also, it supports 11 Tether cryptocurrencies that can be exchanged directly for USD. It includes lots of complicated order types for sophisticated traders. These include stop-loss, trailing loss, and condition loss orders.

Interface

It has one of the most adaptable interfaces among U.S. based ones. The basic setup includes standard bid/ask and market information. Beyond that, you can modify the appearance and depicted trading pairs for your needs. If you have the experience you can also set things up using the Bittrex API algorithm.

Accepted Payments and Charges

It does not currently accept any fiat currencies. In order to fund your account, you must purchase a major crypto such as Bitcoin or Ethereum and transfer them into your wallet.

It has just about the easiest to understand fee setup for any crypto exchange. All trades are assessed a flat .25%. No sliding schedule, no sweetheart deals, just a single amount for everything. It does charge various withdrawal fees depending upon which crypto you’re trying to withdraw and the market conditions at the time of withdrawal.

Security and Support

It holds a BitLicense from the New York State Department of Financial Services. This requires them to have significantly stronger and more transparent security procedures than most and makes it one of the safest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. These include end-to-end encryption, mandatory two-factor authentication, and offline cold storage of 90+% of funds.

Its support can best be described as unresponsive. This is nothing new for the crypto space but theirs stand out even here. It doesn’t have any available support number but does have a live chat option and submittable support tickets. Be warned though, response times are reported to take a long time.

Check out our full Bittrex review to learn more.

10. Shapeshift

shapeshift review homepageShapeshift is different from the other exchanges listed here. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a trading platform at all. Shapeshift allows direct peer-to-peer exchange of cryptocurrencies and even the purchase of other items using cryptocurrencies.

Supported Coins and Trades

Shapeshift supports just about every existing crypto. Because it’s set up as a peer-to-peer exchange rather than a centralized one it has almost none of the functionality of a stock trading site. Users simply offer the amount of one currency they have and receive the prevailing market value of another.

Interface

Shapeshift has two modes, quick and precise. A quick trade doesn’t have any time constraints and will accept whatever portion of a total order is available. On the other hand, a precise order is set up with a specific time limit and requires an exact amount to be traded. If the amount requested isn’t provided within the time limit the entire trade will fail.

Accepted Payments and Charges

Shapeshift only allows the trading of cryptocurrencies. No fiat currencies whatsoever are allowed. Unlike a centralized exchange shapeshift only assesses ‘miner fees’ for transactions. These are based on the cost to process a trade and fluctuate frequently. There is also a penalty charged for any missent funds in a trade.

Security and Support

Shapeshift doesn’t ever handle user funds so it doesn’t have the same security needs like the others. It does offer two-factor authentication for user accounts and provide advice on the proper way to enter a wallet address for trades. Since you are completely responsible for the success or failure of your trade, it’s important to double check your entered information.

Like most. Shapeshift doesn’t have the greatest customer service. Its support options are limited to an online helpdesk and a ticket system that allows users to submit a help request.

Check out our full Shapeshift review to learn more.

Best for Beginners: Coinbase

Coinbase wins best cryptocurrency exchange for beginners because their accounts are easy to set up, simple to use, and don’t offer any complicated options to confuse entry level traders. It’s possible to create and fund an account in minutes and start soon after.

This applies even though it has the highest fee schedules of any exchange here. A lot of crypto newbies and casual traders aren’t looking to actively buy and sell coins. They heard about cryptocurrency on the radio, or from a friend and want to buy a few. Coinbase is an easy way to dip your toes into the crypto market without a steep learning curve.

Best for Security: Gemini

Bittrex ran a close race for the best crypto exchange for security but Gemini beat them out with the depth of information they provided. Gemini is covered under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act. This requires it to meet strict reporting and security requirements others can’t touch.

It went a step beyond this for the physical security of user currency. Gemini has a well thought out and professionally executed security setup that really gets down into the nitty-gritty of securing user funds. It uses top of the line hardware, industry best practices, and high-quality software to guarantee the safety of your cryptocurrency.

Best for Fees: Binance

It dominates the category best cryptocurrency exchange for fees. Its fee schedule starts where most others end theirs. From there it just gets better and better. Gemini gets an honorable mention due to its 0% trading fees for extremely high volume investors but Binance will be much more affordable for the average trader. It starts off at .1% and drops down as low as .015%. For the majority of traders, the .1% is where they’ll sit, and that’s not a bad place to be.

Their withdrawal fees aren’t the greatest overall, but they still beat out the other top cryptocurrency exchanges.

Our Overall Pick: Binance

Binance is the clear winner among cryptocurrency trading sites. Here’s why.

It is the best cryptocurrency exchange because it supports a massive selection of altcoins and has the most favorable fees in the crypto market. Its interface is set up to allow experienced traders to hit the ground running, but its educational programs and easy to follow guides make it easy for newbies to learn the ropes. It could definitely report on its security practices better but given its size and trading volume, it would have suffered a major attack if it wasn’t doing something right. With the addition of fiat to crypto trading, it has rounded off its rough edges and taken its place as the best place to buy cryptocurrency in the world.

Additional Resources