Although the digital exchange arena might seem dominated by Binance, Coinbase and the rising Huobi exchanges, there are in fact a multitude of options for digital asset traders to choose from. Cryptocurrency exchanges are akin to legacy exchanges, where assets are listed for trading against one another by individual or institutional traders.
Some digital exchanges allow users to buy in with fiat currencies, while others are strictly crypto-centric in all matters. Others offer a highly simplified swap marketplaces for P2P trading. These platforms typically don’t require much authentication and allow for greater anonymity.
Comprehensive exchanges that resemble legacy exchanges more usually do ask users to undergo extensive authentication of their personal details, compliant as they typically are with any home country’s KYC and AML legislation.
Although the following list isn’t exhaustive, it does present the current top 15 digital exchanges on offer to global users. All exchanges charge user fees somehow. Depending on exchange model and nature, fees vary, although all exchanges denote fees as a small percentage of transactions.
Malta-registered Binance is known as a dedicated trader’s ideal exchange, emulating all needed legacy tools and protocols to enable day traders and other enthusiasts. Based in Hong Kong, Binance is one of the biggest exchanges, moving some $1 billion daily.
With very low transactions fees of around one percent, Binance is ahead of the pack for serious traders, in terms of its tools and costs. The platform has no fiat dealings, however, meaning that only existing digital asset owners can partake of the exchange. There is a Basic View and Advanced View interface to enable newcomers to gradually immerse themselves in the platform.
Binance benefits can be encapsulated by pointing to their low fees, advanced tools and high liquidity. There are also hundreds of coins on offer, making for huge diversity and sophisticated trading techniques. There are no real downsides to the exchange, other than some users still associating it incorrectly with China’s draconian stance.
A well-funded project from the start, Coinbase has grown rapidly on the back of enabling fiat-crypto transactions. It pitches the platform in 32 countries from its home in San Francisco. The platform is ideal for newcomers and coin-specific enthusiasts. It allows for fiat payments to purchase digital coins and is modeled on legacy exchanges in terms of its UI. It also only supports five coins: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum Classic. For many proactive traders, this limitation precludes their involvement.
Dedicated day traders and others regular in crypto trading deride Coinbase’s high fees, and it’s true to say that they are offering a step solution. The platform enables many newcomers to enter the cryptosphere with fiat. They are, however, making users pay for the privilege.
Typically, new traders will download the app and trade via a mobile device, with seasoned traders opting for the platform’s GDAX platform (basically the same as Coinbase, but a great way to avoid fiat funding fees). Loyal users point to the massive convenience of being able to keep a foot in both currency worlds, as well as exceptional security and decent support. Some platform limitations include the limited range available for trade, a dire lack of anonymity and the exchange’s very eurocentric focus.
A project of the Huobi Group, this exchange offers a fair range of some 190 coins for traders to pair. Launched in 2013, the company has grown to offer some 190 coins to traders. The exchange has learned from the mistakes of its peers, and Huobi.pro offers a popular combination of a diverse coin offering, low fees pegged around 0.2 percent and also good support.
A midway marriage of Coinbase and Binance, but less functional in each of those entities’ individual spheres, the Huobi.pro exchange is a polished offering that can cater for all comers. A prolific app, the platform isn’t precluded from any user’s OS. On the downside, the exchange was previously accused of exaggerating trading volumes.
Since its launch in 2014, Poloniex has grown to be wildly popular among traders. A maker-taker fee structure appeals to many traders who value the benefits. Makers will pay at the most 0.15 percent of the amount traded. Takers pay a maximum of 0.25 percent in fees. The exchange has an active chat room and dynamic community.
The community can make the exchange a victim of its own success at times, with currently intermittent complaints about congestion. Poloniex pluses include low fees, simple yet elegant architecture and high liquidity. Fiats aren’t supported on the platform.
The Bitfinex exchange is arguably the most secure platform around. Indeed, the company is currently one of the most secure exchange platforms - and this security-consciousness stems from a 2016 hack that cost some $72 million. To its credit, the exchange has patched and pushed security to the top of its priorities.
The UI is sleek and geared for seasoned traders, although many newcomers find they can step onto the platform easily enough. The exchange somehow manages to present sufficient detail for experienced traders and newbies alike, although the coins offering is limited.
A digital exchange popularly called “The Peoples Exchange,” Kukoin is another Hong Kong resident and a relative newcomer to the arena. The exchange has a native currency, KuCoinShares (KCS), and users have access to a wide variety of digital currencies on the platform
As with other exchanges, there are user benefits to employing the platform’s coin and fees are competitive. Support has been recorded as decent, and the exchange has never suffered serious security breaches of any kind.
Newcomers will value the UI and opportunity to trade with more obscure coins. Seasoned traders, while broadly not opposed to trading on the exchange, bemoan the low trading volumes, unavoidable for a startup exchange.
A Washington, Seattle company, the Bittrex exchange also comes in rather high on fees, charging 0.25 percent. The exchange does support some 200 cryptocurrencies and also offers a hybrid solution to users. An account can be opened via an email address, but as soon as users need to withdraw, they’ll have to fulfil KYC and AML legislation requirements.
A Google search reveals a host of Bittrex “hacks” although they all appear to stem from user error, where users succumbed to phishing attacks. Support isn’t stellar at Bittrex and it seems to drag needlessly bad press around with it. Trading initially on the massive home population of China, Bittrex’s slightly higher fees and persistent bad rumors should warn newcomers to do their own homework.
An predominantly Korean exchange, users can where other Fiat currencies can be exchanged. The Bithumb exchange is reminiscent of Poloniex inasmuch as it also offers a maker-taker structure.
Makers and takers pay 1.5 percent commission and the exchange is one of the biggest in South Korea. Users trade and stash BTC and other currencies avidly, with the Korean population being enthusiastic on digital coins.
The benefits of Bithumb are mostly for citizens, as users need access to Korean won to be able to employ the platform. Charting omissions and other details deter day traders who find it unsuitable, although Koreans no doubt enjoy the home focus.
The Bitcoin Mercantile Exchange, BitMEX, is as its name implies a sophisticated interface for bitcoin traders who wish to trade derivatives. A more complicated trading tool, seasoned traders have made the exchange popular among former legacy traders. With its security unbreached and high-end offers, BitMEX is essentially an interface for investors to trade the financial markets using bitcoin.
The exchange offers perpetual swap contracts as well as daily and also weekly futures contracts. As opposed to trading currency pairs against one another, on this platform users are trading what are known as derivatives.
A 2013 startup, HitBTC has grown into a diverse platform that offers traders a large array of coins, including novel ICO tokens.
Very much a dynamic marketplace focused on ICO tokens and the growth of the cryptosphere, loyal users swear by the platform’s currency and expanding the range of tools. The particular point of focus for many is the exchange function of listing ICO tokens the company feels have merit, as a standard practice.
Benefits of the hitBTC exchange include comparatively low fees, fiat enabling and high liquidity. Unfortunately, although not terminal, the exchange was hacked in 2015 and has to join the ranks of those who got security wrong somewhere. In the current space of heightened security awareness, this is a liability to some users, although many more continue driving trading volumes up. Users trade on a PC, as this platform doesn’t offer a mobile app.
Billed as a “zero fee cryptocurrency exchange” by its founders, Cobinhood remains a relatively obscure platform, although it pitches a very attractive offer. Reminiscent of Coinbase’s GDAX exchange, both the interface and minimal fees have pleased users to date. Security appears tight and the platform also offers ICO underwriting, bringing the excitement of ICOs to traders.
The way the underwriting pans out is that when an ICO officially ends, the token can immediately be listed on the exchange.
Any trader familiar with and fond of GDAX will find a welcoming home here, although trading volumes remain low. The exchange’s current value lies in its fee structure and dynamism, yet it remains fairly unknown.
This exchange is focused on bitcoin, but also ETH, ETC, and LTC. Since 2011, the platform has enabled traders with not only a trading place but also a highly secure cold wallet and insured cold storage. Support is particularly good on the Bitstamp exchange, rare in the arena.
Loyal users point to a dynamic, cosmopolitan ethos, low fees - for example, a 0.5 percent fee on deposits - and tight security.
Those opposed to trading on the platform note that, even at 0.5 percent, fees are high and absent elsewhere. They also point to the fact that payments can only be made along a limited number of routes, seeming to stifle traders’ enthusiasm.
San Franciscan Kraken is exclusively bitcoin exchange. Other altcoins like ETC, LTC and others are not supported. Users can, however, trade BTC against fiats like USD, CAD, JPY, and EUR. Kraken may appear a simple offer to newcomers, but its trading intel is detailed and tools sophisticated. Seasoned BTC traders value the exchange’s focus and low fees and the security has also never been in question.
On the flip side, the exchange is not at all welcoming to newcomers who mostly find it a challenge to “get” the platform’s core focus.
Japanese QUOINEX is another fiat-crypto platform providing a step solution for new entrants. That said, it is also a lot more, being owned by the QUOINE Corporation. QUOINEX is the offshoot of fintech company QUOINE and has other blockchain-enterprise ambitions too. The company also hosts the exclusively crypto exchange QRYPTOS.
The exchange launched in 2014 and was first called the Quoine Exchange. With Japan’s wake-up legislation and forward-thinking regulatory overtures, the exchange is seen as highly secure and reputable. On September 29, 2017, the company became the first crypto company “officially licensed by the Japan Financial Services Agency.”
Both newcomers and experienced traders patronize the platform as it is sleek and polished in the extreme. The parent company’s ethos shines through, support is up to real-world standards and the UI is savvy and intuitive.
London-based CEX is a bitcoin-centric exchange that has come up in volume since 2013. the platform supports fiat-crypto interaction but attracts the same complaints of high fees as others like Coinbase.
That said, both newcomers and hale traders will find a happy home on the platform, as the project has presented essential and nuanced trading tools. The exchange’s global focus means that it, too, presents as something of a step solution, enabling fiat users to enter the cryosphere.
CEX also offers a brokerage service that sees hesitant traders being able to peg trades at current market values, a very valuable offer to some.
The platform has watertight security and a good reputation as a friendly first port of call for beginners. Fees are pricey, however, especially when funding via legacy payment methods.