Bitcoin has become the new gold rush, and all the major cryptocurrency exchanges have seen an influx of new users and traders in the past year. Some have gone through painful growing phases as they tried to cope with the sudden increase in their user bases, while others have blossomed into worldwide operations that began as regional exchanges.
Which is the best cryptocurrency exchange platform?
We’ve rounded up a list of all the major exchanges that are offering cryptocurrency trading and reviewed them based on the countries they support, payment methods, fees, and trading limits, not to mention customer support.
What You Should Know for Before Joining an Exchange
There are some basic realities that anyone looking to join the cryptocurrency trading community should be aware of:
- Lack of Regulations
Cryptocurrencies aren’t recognized as financial assets in most countries today since they aren’t issued by a national government. That means the legal safeguards you expect with other trading companies is often nonexistent in the cryptocurrency market.
Cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile, moving up and down in value in large swings. Some exchanges offer leveraged trading, but this isn’t wise in such volatile markets. You can as easily be wiped out as you can profit massively.
- It’s Rather Complicated
Cryptocurrencies aren’t like other currencies that can be transferred from one bank account to another. They are easily stolen right out of exchanges by hackers. Anyone entering this market should thoroughly understand how cryptocurrencies work and how to store them safely.
The exchange has attracted major investors and become the closest thing to a full-fledged currency exchange as any other cryptocurrency platform to date.
Because Coinbase is in the United States, fiat currencies are backed by FDIC insurance for US residents, but cryptocurrency balances are not, so it’s best to store them in a private wallet off the exchange after transactions.
Coinbase can be used to buy and sell cryptocurrencies by residents of the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, the UK, and all of the countries of the European Union except Estonia. US residents can make payments, deposit, and withdraw funds using debit cards, bank ACH, and wire transfers.
Which method you use determines how long transactions take: ACH transactions clear in 4-5 business days, wire transfers in 1-3 business days, and credit card purchases are instant.
European customers can use SEPA bank account transfers or debit cards that support 3D Secure. SEPA transactions typically clear in 2-3 business days. Purchases made with debit cards usually settle instantly.
Coinbase charges fees on the exchange by way of buy/sell price spreads between 0-200 basis points depending on the size of your trade.
They also charge a percentage fee for transactions using debit cards (3.99% for US cards), bank accounts (1.49% for ACH), and miner’s fees when transferring cryptocurrencies to private wallets (usually a fraction of 1%).
Coinbase currently uses a complex system that limits how much you can trade based on your payment method, how many trades you’ve successively completed, and your funding currency.
- Largest Bitcoin exchange in trade volume, offering good liquidity for trades
- Credit card backed purchases are instant
- Lower transaction fees that many other cryptocurrency exchanges.
- Fewer payment methods than other exchanges
- Reportedly tracks user transactions for regulatory purposes
- Only offers trading in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin
Founded in 2013, Coinmama is located in Ra’anana, Israel, but owned by NBV International in Slovakia. The platform is not actually a trading exchange because it doesn’t support selling Bitcoin or Ethereum. Rather, it is a marketplace where Bitcoin or Ethereum can be bought with credit cards.
Anyone in the world who has a major credit or debit card can conduct transactions on Coinmama, but they should check with their bank about currency conversion fees and international transactions. All transactions are converted to USD or EUR by Coinmama.
Coinmama currently only accepts credit and debit cards for transactions. They add a 5.5% spread to their cryptocurrency exchange rates in addition to a 5% processing charge for each credit and debit card transaction.
- Supports most of the world with credit card funding
- Allows buying Bitcoin and Ethereum using USD or EUR-funded credit cards
- Credit card transactions have high transaction fees
- Only sells Bitcoin and Ethereum, there’s no trading beyond that
GDAX is a cryptocurrency exchange owned by Coinbase for professional traders of all levels. Coinbase spun off GDAX in 2016 as the professional trader’s exchange while maintaining the more casual trading platform at Coinbase.
Because of their relationship with Coinbase, traders will Coinbase accounts can transfer fiat and cryptocurrencies between GDAX and Coinbase without additional charges.
GDAX supports countries in the EU, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and 49 of 52 US States. GDAX accepts USD and EUR funding for its trading accounts.
They accept bank transfers using ACH in the US or SEPA in European countries. Same-day wire transfers can be arranged for trading partners with high volume.
GDAX charges a 0.25% taker fee on most transactions, meaning that the person who fills a market order pays the fee. The person whose open order that filled the taker’s order pays nothing. Traders with high volume on the market are given rebates.
Withdrawals are limited to $10,000 per day for individuals and $50,000 per day for institutions.
- Same great service and regulatory backing as Coinbase
- You can link Coinbase and GDAX accounts and transfer between them
- Allows accounts to be funded with fiat currencies
- Trading fees are higher than some exchanges for small volume traders
- Currently supports only Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin
BitMEX is based out of Hong Kong and run by a former employee of big banks like Deutsche Bank and Citi.
BitMEX models itself on traditional currency markets, offering leveraged trading in a suite of cryptocurrencies that includes Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Monero, and many others.
Although BitMEX is based in China, they focus on international markets and allow trading in four fiat currencies.
Currently BitMEX doesn’t support deposits from the United States. Initial funding of accounts consists of depositing Bitcoin. Fiat currencies can be withdrawn but not deposited.
BitMEX charges a taker fee ranging from 0.075% to 0.25% and a maker fee rebate between 0.025% and 0.05%, depending on the currencies traded.
Unlike many cryptocurrency exchanges, BitMEX doesn’t charge deposit or withdrawal fees beyond the normal cryptocurrency transfer fees.
- Supports most countries in the world
- Allows trading in fiat currencies like USD, EUR, JPY, and CNY.
- Reasonable fees
- Doesn’t support the United States
- Doesn’t support fiat currency funding
Binance is a Chinese cryptocurrency exchange founded in 2017 by Changpeng Zhao, a former CTO of OKCoin. Like other new cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance avoids the entanglements of the traditional finance industry by not accepting fiat currencies.
Instead, the exchange uses the USD-pegged Tether cryptocurrency as a proxy for fiat valuations. This makes it necessary to convert your fiat currencies to a cryptocurrency elsewhere before you can trade on Binance.
Binance is based in China, so there may be restrictions imposed by the government there on access from some countries in the world. However, since it doesn’t involve itself with fiat currencies, anyone who can deposit cryptocurrencies can trade on the exchange.
Deposits are accepted for the whole range of cryptocurrencies, but fiat currencies are not accepted at Binance. To use fiat currencies, you’ll need to exchange them for cryptocurrencies first before depositing funds at Binance.
The trading fee at Binance is a flat 0.1% and rebates are available to those who own the BNB currency that serves as shares in the exchange. There are also a variety of withdrawal fees for each type of cryptocurrency, but deposits are free.
- Low trading fees and free deposits
- Led by experienced cryptocurrency professionals
- Based in China, so can be difficult to access from some countries
- Too new to know how reliable or safe it will be
- Doesn’t support fiat currencies
It seems Bittrex is going through some major growing pains. They continue to operate with their current clientele and claim to accept new corporate accounts on a case-by-case basis, but sign up is no longer available to the public.
However, on the chance they may open their doors again, we’ve added this review to our guide.
Bittrex uses Jumio for its ID verifications, and so the countries it supports are the same as Jumio. It seems, though, that Jumio doesn’t want to publicize which countries are officially supported. Given that Bittrex is no longer accepting new accounts, this may be a moot point.
Bittrex is a pure cryptocurrency exchange that doesn’t allow trading between fiat balances and cryptocurrencies. However, they do allow high-volume traders to buy the USD-pegged Tether cryptocurrency with wire transfers, although the minimum amount is $100,000.
Bittrex charges a flat 0.25% fee on each trade. There are no deposit fees, but Bittrex does pass on cryptocurrency network fees to their users when they make withdrawals.
The only trading limits Bittrex enforces are minimum trade sizes to 0.001 BTC in value. There also minimum trade quantities that vary with the cryptocurrency that’s traded. They also remove orders that are over 28 days old.
- Caters to large trading accounts and corporate clients
- Based in the United States
- Reasonable fees
- No longer taking new sign ups from the general public
- Many complaints about customer service from existing clients
CeX was founded in 2013 originally as a pool for Bitcoin miners and grew into a trading exchange. Being London-based, CeX is not regulated as a financial company, although they are subject to regulations related to making fiat currency payments.
The exchange has had a good track record in terms of safety, and their customer service is better than most.
CeX supports residents from most countries in the world through credit card transactions, but there are 16 countries like Iceland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and others where credit card funding is restricted.
It accepts fiat payments in US dollars, euros, Russian rubles, and British pounds. VISA and MasterCard are accepted as well as bank transfers like ACH and SEPA.
CeX charges a per trade fee that ranges from 0% to 0.25% depending on which side of the trade you’re on and your trading volume over the past 30 days.
CeX also charges 0.2% to open leveraged trades along with a 0.01% rollover fee. Deposit and withdrawal fees vary by payment method with credit card transactions getting hit with fees for both. Other banking transfers have free deposits.
- UK-based exchange that supports most countries
- Offers trading of nine cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple
- Fiat currencies supported include USD, EUR, RUB, and GBP.
- Limited selection of cryptocurrencies compared to other exchanges
- Financial transactions with fiat currencies can involve expensive fees and delays
Based in Hong Kong, Kucoin is one of the newest exchanges to launch, having opened its doors in August 2017.
This exchange is looking to become the best cryptocurrency exchange platform that doesn’t handle fiat currencies. Like other exchanges of this kind, the US dollar-pegged Tether currency is used as a proxy for fiat currency valuation on the market. Kucoin has made nearly every type of cryptocurrency in existence available for trading.
Because Kucoin doesn’t need to interface with the banking world, it’s theoretically available to the entire world. The site is primarily for the Chinese market, but it does have an English language version.
Kucoin doesn’t accept deposits of fiat currencies, so to start trading on this platform, you’ll need to own cryptocurrency or convert your local currency to a cryptocurrency like the USD-pegged Tether.
Deposits are free, but there are withdrawal fees assessed on the various assets you take out of your account. These withdrawal fees are flat fees, however, so how expensive they are depends on the size of the withdrawal.
A flat per-trade fee of 0.1% is also assessed.
- Offers trading in nearly every kind of cryptocurrency that exists today
- Has had a good track record in customer support
- A good alternative to Chinese-based exchanges for Asian traders
- New exchange that hasn’t been stress-tested by high volume
- Only available in Chinese and English
Poloniex is based in Delaware and was founded in 2014. It’s a pure cryptocurrency trading platform, meaning that it doesn’t allow fiat currency transactions.
It does, however, offer one of the most comprehensive set of alternative cryptocurrency pairs in the market, so if you are looking for a place to trade the less known alt-coins in the US, Poloniex may be an exchange to check out.
Because Poloniex doesn’t handle fiat currency transactions, the only requirement to trade on this exchange is having an internet connection, cryptocurrencies, and valid ID. There aren’t any geographical limitations.
Fiat currencies aren’t supported by Poloniex, so you’ll need to acquire cryptocurrencies to trade on the exchange. It does support USDT, the US dollar-pegged cryptocurrency Tether, but you’ll need to convert your fiat currency elsewhere.
Like other exchanges, Poloniex has a graduated fee schedule based on your 30-day volume and which side of the trade you’re on.
The per-trade fee ranges from 0% to 0.25%.
- Offers cryptocurrency trading to the entire world
- Based in the United States
- Offers a full range of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin
- Doesn’t support fiat currencies
- Has had a poor customer service track record
Based in San Francisco, California, Kraken was founded in 2011 as a European Bitcoin exchange. It has expanded rapidly in recent years both in terms of the alternative cryptocurrencies offered and the fiat currencies that it accepts for deposit.
Kraken, like many of the established exchanges, went through growing pains in 2017, but it has emerged with expanded service and continued support in the community.
Kraken doesn’t bar any countries from its service. If you can fund an account with the website in US dollars, euros, Canadian dollars, or Japanese yen, then you can trade with Kraken.
You can make deposits and withdrawals using SEPA, ACH, EFT and international wire transactions. Deposit and withdrawal fees apply depending on the method used and fiat currency involved in the transaction. Depositing with SEPA from inside Europe is free, as are wire transfers from Canada.
Trading fees are based on the currency pair, account volume, and which side of the trade you’re on. They range from 0% to 0.36%.
- Establish in 2011 and based in the United States
- Supports the major fiat currencies and many alternative cryptocurrencies
- Reasonable fee schedule
- Has had some serious customer service issues in the past year
- Mobile app support hasn’t been the best
Bitstamp is based in the UK, with offices in the United States and Luxembourg. The exchange allows you to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash using US dollars or euros, or you can trade the other cryptocurrencies against Bitcoin.
Bitstamp supports credit card funding from countries inside the EU and over 50 countries outside of Europe including the United States.
You can fund an account with Bitstamp using debit and credit cards, SEPA bank transfers, and international wire transactions. The supported currencies are US dollars and euros.
Bitstamp charges trade fees ranging from 0.1% to 0.25% of each order based on your account’s 30-day trading volume in US dollars.
There’s also numerous fees for deposits, withdrawals, and other financial transactions depending on your funding method.
- Good support for European users
- Supports credit card transactions with the United States and many other non-EU countries
- Based in the UK for regulatory safety
- Limited choice of cryptocurrencies to trade
- Only fiat currencies supported are US dollar and euros.
Exmo was created by Russian founder Pavel Lerner, but the exchange operates from the UK where it can avoid regulations and censorship.
It offers trading in many alternative cryptocurrencies in addition to Bitcoin and Ethereum, such as Litecoin, Doge, Dash, Tether, Monero, and more. The biggest complaint among users is that the trading servers are often down for maintenance.
Exmo doesn’t seem to exclude any countries from their service, so if you can deposit one of the supported currencies to their accounts in the UK, you can trade with Exmo.
Exmo accepts fiat currency deposits denominated in US dollars, euros, Russian rubles, and Ukrainian hryvinas.
Exmo charges a 0.2% flat fee for all trades. In addition to this, there are many fees tied to deposits in each of the supported currencies.
For example, there’s a 6% fee for deposits with debit and credit cards and a withdrawal fee of 3% plus $7.50 to Visa or Mastercard. A user should study Exmo’s fee schedule carefully before depositing or trading.
There are also published trade limits on Exmo which vary substantially for each trading pair.
For Bitcoins and US dollars, for example, there is a minimum of 0.001 BTC and a maximum of 100 BTC for each trade.
- Exchange is based in the UK
- Offers many funding options for each fiat currency supported
- Offers trading in many of the less-known cryptocurrencies
- Only fiat currencies supported are US dollar, euro, ruble, and hryvina
- Has had service reliability issues in the past
If not, you may want to move on. OKEx is owned by OKCoin, a Chinese cryptocurrency trading company. Similar to the relationship between GDAX and Coinbase, OKEX is designed for professional traders, while OKCoin has the general Chinese public in mind.
OKEx currently does not support residents from the United States, Hong Kong, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Kyrgyzstan.
OKEx accepts deposits and withdrawals of several cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple. Fiat currencies can be used to buy and sell these assets as well using Chinese financial accounts.
The fees charged by OKEx for spot trading range from 0.02% to 0.2% per transaction depending on the volume traded in a 30-day period and which side of the trade you were on.
Leveraged trading fees range from a rebate of 0.01% to a fee of 0.05%.
- One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world by volume
- Reasonable fees if you can operate in the Chinese market
- Closed to residents of the United States and many other countries
- Chinese regulations on cryptocurrencies are becoming strict
Huobi was a successful exchange catering to the Chinese market until China banned Bitcoin trading. This left Huobi in the lurch, and they are still reorienting themselves to other Asian countries.
Currently, they have most of their clientele in Southeast Asia, with offices in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.
If you can transfer a sufficient balance of USD-backed Tether, you can open an account and trade on Huobi. Currently, Huobi is focused on Asian countries as its market of choice.
Trading on Huobi is done against balances of USDT, which is the Tether cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar. As a result, anyone who can arrange a minimum amount of USDT can deposit and begin trading on Huobi without the complications of traditional financial accounts. You may need to acquire the USDT at another cryptocurrency exchange to get started.
There have been reports of long withdrawal wait times that have been concerning to some traders.
Huobi charges a flat 0.2% fee on all transactions.
- All transactions are in cryptocurrencies
- Trading in 20 different cryptocurrencies are supported
- Spotty security track record
- Long withdrawal wait times have been reported
- English language support lacking
Xcoins offers a peer-to-peer platform that makes it possible for borrowers and lenders to exchange Bitcoins. The exchange is based in Santa Monica, California.
Essentially, Xcoins is a secured loan marketplace where Bitcoin owners can charge interest lending their Bitcoins and hold a cash deposit until it’s paid back. Xcoins simply provides for the exchange of collateral and Bitcoins between the parties. The terms of the loan are worked out between the borrower and lender.
Theoretically, anyone who is able to make a USD payment through Paypal can use Xcoins, assuming Bitcoins is legal to own in their country of residence. Xcoins claims to support over 40 countries and counting.
Payments can be made through Paypal, so paying with bank ACH transfers, credit and debit cards, and eChecks is possible using Paypal as a pass-through. Because of the secured-loan model used by Xcoins, the first transaction typically has a wait time of only a few hours and subsequent loans are instantaneous.
The costs that you’ll encounter on Xcoins include a loan origination fee of at least 5% of the loan amount and a Bitcoin miner fee of 0.00025 BTC.
There will also be a Paypal processing fee of 2.9%. After these fixed costs, there will also be a one-time interest payment to the lender, which can vary depending on the loan terms.
- Fast transactions using Paypal
- A way for Bitcoin owners to earn loan interest
- The Bitcoin loan is secured with a cash deposit
- Only deals in Bitcoins and US Dollars
- You need to pay back the same amount of Bitcoin in USD value as you borrowed
Coinigy wants to bring all the cryptocurrency exchanges together on one platform. Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this trading platform avoids all the hassles of handling financial accounts by letting traders tie their existing cryptocurrency exchange accounts together into a web app.
If you need to manage more than a couple accounts, it may be a productivity app worth looking into. Not only can you see your accounts all in one place, but Coinigy uses the public APIs provided by other exchanges to execute trades and other functions inside of its own platform.
What does it cost?
Coinigy charges a monthly subscription of $18.66 to use their service. That’s in addition to the fees and charges you’ll incur with your existing exchange accounts, but it may be worth it to high volume traders.
Using a service like Coinigy avoids the headache of manually trading on multiple exchanges at the same time.
- Makes trading on several cryptocurrency exchanges easy
- US-based service is more trustworthy for US residents
- Excellent charting tools that you can use with any of your exchange accounts
- The monthly subscription may be too expensive for small traders
- You still have to battle the red tape on the various exchanges you have accounts
Which platform is the top Bitcoin Exchange?
Coinbase is the number two Bitcoin exchange and serves the American market primarily, while OKEx is the leader in the Chinese and Asian markets for Bitcoin trading.
How are cryptocurrency exchanges different from traditional futures trading exchanges?
While these companies call themselves exchanges and mimic traditional exchanges, in many ways they are not exchanges. They are not recognized as financial institutions in many countries and as a result are not subject to the same regulations and laws that make traditional exchanges more trustworthy.
Why does it take so long to withdraw, deposit, and settle trades at some exchanges?
Financial transactions in the cryptocurrency market are often used as a cover for money laundering, and if you are sending fiat currencies across national borders, the exchange must contend with the regulations of your country of origin and their own country of residence. The result is many ID verification checks to ensure you and your trading partners are legitimate.
The best cryptocurrency exchange platform in our opinion today is Coinbase and their professional trading sister platform, GDAX.
Between the two, you get the best of consumer and speculative trading with the backing of US regulations and professionalism.
Coinbase doesn’t support trading in the plethora of alternative cryptocurrencies, but if you’re looking for a place to safely trade Bitcoins and its close competitors, Coinbase and GDAX are the winners in our book.