Hong Kong- and Tokyo-based Binance is an excellent exchange for seasoned crypto traders looking to move cryptocurrencies at a low cost. It has some of the lowest fees in the industry, while its platform is capable of handling a large volume of trades without suffering a significant slowdown in transaction times. It doesn’t offer fiat currency trades, but it does list over 100 cryptocurrencies, giving customers plenty of choice. The only question mark against its name is its security, since it doesn’t make clear just what measures it takes to keep funds safe and its system secure.
Coinbase is the world’s biggest bitcoin broker. It exchanges bitcoin, ether, litecoin and bitcoin cash for 32 fiat currencies, and can be used in 190 countries. It’s quick and easy to use, secure, and comes with relatively low exchange fees (although not the lowest). Yet its use by over ten million customers can sometimes mean that, at times of heavy activity, its website goes down temporarily (as it did several times in December 2017).
HitBTC is an exchange for the experienced cryptocurrency trader. It focuses more on trades in paired cryptocurrencies than on buying, say, bitcoin or litecoin with euros or dollars. Yet despite its initially dizzying layout of graphs and tables, its basic workings make it easy to use. Its harnessing of two-factor authentication also makes it a secure exchange, while the ability to trade between a pair of currencies can help users make bigger gains than usual. However, there are question marks surrounding its ownership and location, which aren’t currently clear. There are also reports from forums regarding reliability, with some users having difficulties withdrawing their funds.
Bitfinex is targeted at professional cryptocurrency traders. It requires a balance of USD 10,000 to begin trading, and in addition to allowing straightforward market-value exchanges of, say, US dollars for bitcoins, it also enables a wide variety of special trades. These include limit and stop orders, margin trading and lending, and over the counter (OTC) trades (i.e. direct trades between two parties that don’t go on the order book). While there is a wide array of different options available, everything is laid out in an impressively intuitive fashion, with easy to navigate dashboards and menus. Yet despite the robustness of its day-to-day security measures, Bitfinex has been hacked twice (in 2015 and 2016), casting a shadow over what is otherwise a very slick platform.
bitFlyer is Japan’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, and one of the biggest in the world. It launched in 2014, and added separate US- and EU-based operations at the end of 2017. It enables a variety of advanced trading options, but despite catering for intermediate and experienced traders it’s also highly suited to beginners, owing to its simple dashboards and strong level of security. It also lets customers trade either euros or US dollars for bitcoin, something that isn’t always possible with Asian exchanges. However, bitcoin is currently the only cryptocurrency it offers at the time of writing, so people who want ethereum, ripple or monero will need to look elsewhere for the time being. Otherwise, it’s a secure and reliable exchange.
Founded in 2011 and focused on experienced traders, US-based Kraken is the largest crypto exchange when it comes to trading in euros. It’s also one of the most secure, given the comprehensive range of safety measures the exchange takes, such as keeping the vast majority of user funds in offline wallets. Another big plus is that its fees are among the lowest in the industry, with free deposits and very competitive withdrawals and trades. Yet despite these advantages, its support team can take long to respond to queries, with some customers waiting weeks for help.
GDAX is an advanced cryptocurrency trading platform owned and operated by Coinbase. Launched in early 2015 as Coinbase Exchange, it benefits from many of the same advantages held by Coinbase itself, including ease of use, solid security measures, and good liquidity. That said, it is focused on experienced, high-volume traders and therefore allows a range of advanced trades, from stop and limit orders to good ‘til cancelled and fill or kill orders. Its trading fees are competitively low, while it doesn’t charge anything for cryptocurrency deposits or withdrawals. This makes it a very good exchange overall, even if its customer support can be slow, and even though it supports only four cryptocurrencies and doesn’t allow margin trading.
Registered in Luxembourg and headquartered in the UK, Bitstamp is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges still in operation. It caters to beginner and more experienced traders alike, and allows users to exchange bitcoin, ripple, ether, litecoin and bitcoin cash with each other or with fiat currencies (USD, EUR, GBP). It’s also one of the few advanced exchanges to let customers deposit and withdraw fiat currencies using their credit and debit cards. Although it was hacked in January 2015, its security has improved markedly since then, with it now following such practices as multi-signature authentication for transactions. And while its trading and currency dashboards are spread across a number of separate pages, these are clearly laid out and generally easy to use.
Poloniex is a US-based exchange suited to the experienced trader. Founded in 2014, it now offers dozens of cryptocurrencies with which to trade, although it doesn’t allow any trades using fiat currencies. It has relatively low trading fees, while its withdrawal fees are among the very lowest in the industry. However, despite offering a clean interface and plenty of trading options, its security isn’t quite as good as some of its rivals. It suffered a hack in March 2014, and doesn’t offer any concrete information on the security measures it takes to reinforce its system. Another issue is that customer support gets a little unresponsive at peak times, although this problem certainly isn’t exclusive to Poloniex.
Bittrex is another exchange focusing on more experienced traders. Based in Las Vegas, it doesn’t enable direct purchases of cryptocurrencies using fiat currencies such as euros and US dollars. Instead, it focuses on paired trades between cryptocurrencies, providing a sleek interface and quick transaction times. It also has a set of its own APIs, which can be used for automated trading with bots. Having been launched by former employees of Microsoft and Amazon, another one of its biggest draws is its robust security (it has never been hacked). That said, the exchange’s security and compliance efforts have resulted recently in a small number of users having their accounts disabled.