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.
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.