best cryptocurrency exchanges

Edit: This list of cryptocurrency exchanges was updated on January 16, 2019 to include new developments.

Welcome to the most comprehensive and detailed guide to the best cryptocurrency exchanges in 2019. Choosing the best cryptocurrency exchange is an important part of your crypto journey. It might be the first place you ever buy bitcoin. Or if you’re a seasoned trader, you might use a bitcoin exchange to trade hundreds of altcoins.

But how do you differentiate between the options? CoinMarketCap lists at least 100 crypto exchanges all over the world, each tracking cryptocurrency prices and each with varying cryptocurrency exchange rates.

Block Explorer took on the challenge of narrowing down the options and compiling as much information as possible to help you decide. First…

What is a cryptocurrency exchange?

In its simplest form, a crypto exchange is a place to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. However, crypto exchanges are not all equal. Some are designed for beginners, while others have complex features for pro traders.

Some exchanges accept fiat currency like dollars and euros, while others only exchange between cryptocurrencies themselves.

Many are actually “brokers.” In other words, you’re buying directly from the exchange company itself. Others facilitate a real peer-to-peer exchange between crypto users.

best cryptocurrency exchanges

How to choose the best cryptocurrency exchange

We began this task with the aim of ranking the best cryptocurrency exchanges. But we quickly realized this wasn’t possible. There isn’t necessarily a “best exchange,” only the best option for you.

While Coinbase might be the top exchange for beginners, it’s not the best option for a pro trader or someone looking to trade lots of altcoins.

And while the Kraken exchange might be the best option for experts, it’s a poor choice for beginners.

Instead, Block Explorer gathered as much (useful) information as possible taking the following points into consideration:

Beginners or advanced? – We’ve split the entire list into two parts: beginner and advanced. The beginner group includes simple exchanges with easy-to-use functionality. There’s little jargon, and setup times are quick. The second group is for intermediates or advanced users. These exchanges are more powerful and have advanced features, but require some knowledge and experience with crypto.

Security – Crypto exchanges are the single biggest target for hackers. $1 billion was hacked and stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges in 2018 alone. We highlight security features like 2FA, cold storage, and encrypted email options.

Hacked? – We also highlight whether an exchange has been hacked and, if so, how they responded to the hack. Did keep it quiet or immediately inform users? This information is essential in deciding whether to trust your money to an exchange.

Number of trading pairs – We highlight the number of trading pairs available on each exchange. For beginners, a small handful of trading pairs is sufficient (to buy or sell bitcoin, for example). Advanced users, however, may wish to trade between various altcoins.

Volume – Volume is the measure of how much cryptocurrency is trading on the platform on a daily basis. It’s a relatively good indicator of reputation and liquidity.

Important note: Research suggests that some cryptocurrency exchanges fake their own volume in a bid to appear bigger. Where appropriate, we have highlighted the known offenders.

Fees – You should always understand the fee structure before trusting an exchange. How much will each trade cost and how are the fees calculated? We outline the fee structure for each exchange.

Without further ado, here are the best cryptocurrency exchanges in 2019 and beyond.

Please note: Block Explorer has no affiliation with the exchanges listed below.

Best Beginner Exchanges

Beginner exchanges are exchanges that offer a simple way to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with as little confusing jargon and setup time as possible.

Coinbase

Coinbase

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Number of Trading Pairs 4
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 33
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $82,496,871.00
30d Volume (BTC) $82,496,871.00
Fees Flat 0.5% + a fee based on location and amount

Coinbase is the best-known cryptocurrency exchange in the US. It is the simplest and easiest on-ramp for crypto beginners.

The user interface is intuitive, and the design is clean and simple. You can link up your bank account or pay with a card. There’s also a deep library of guides and explainers for newcomers.

Coinbase has a limited choice of cryptocurrency options to keep things simple. However, they considering the addition of more altcoins.

As for security, Coinbase stores 98% of customer funds in cold storage, in safe deposit boxes and vaults around the world, making it relatively secure. The remaining 2% is insured in case of hacks. 

Lastly, there’s a handy mobile app to buy and sell cryptocurrency on the go.

Get started on Coinbase.

ShapeShift

ShapeShift crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 940+ (Total unknown – each crypto can be traded with any other)
Hacked before? Yes, see below for transparency.
Available Countries Available to all countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
24h Volume (Fiat) No USD Trade
24h Volume (BTC) 34.12
Fees No fees applied, profit is made similar to how day trading is profitable.

Shapeshift is a crypto only exchange, which means you can’t buy cryptocurrency with dollars or euros. You can only trade between cryptocurrencies. However, due to its simplicity, we still recommend it for beginners. 

ShapeShift allows you to transfer currency between addresses of your choosing, rather than between accounts on its platform. It means ShapeShift doesn’t hold any customer deposits, making it relatively safe. 

ShapeShift has been hacked three times, which all occurred in the same month due to internal sabotage. The exchange was extremely transparent in what happened over the hack, with the CEO going so far as to write a blow-by-blow explanation of what exactly happened.

Get started on ShapeShift.

Gemini

Gemini bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 9
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 15
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, withdrawal address whitelisting
30d Volume (Fiat) $19,134,737.00
30d Volume (BTC) 4,887.00
Fees Maker / Taker: Minimum 0.0% / 0.05%, Maximum 1.0% / 1.0%. Calculated on a 30-day rolling window

Gemini was founded by the Winklevoss Twins. It’s a US-based exchange noted for being a licensed platform (Regulated by NYSDFS). Gemini gained headlines earlier this year by announcing full insurance coverage for funds on its exchange and in custody.

Gemini and the Winklevoss Twins pride themselves on being fully compliant and working within existing regulations. As such, there’s a decent amount of safety from fraud and insurance coverage on this exchange. Of course, that comes at a cost: handing over a lot of personal information.

Gemini offers a decent chunk of volume, though few trading pairs compared to other exchanges. Security wise, aside from the standard 2FA, withdrawal address whitelisting is a welcome sight.

The Gemini app is also slick and easy-to-use for beginners.

Get started on Gemini.

Changelly

Changelly bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Crypto / Fiat
Trading Pairs 200+ (Total unknown)
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All countries accepted for Crypto / Crypto trades
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Published
30d Volume (BTC) Not Published
Fees Flat 0.5% fee

Changelly is a crypto exchange similar to ShapeShift. It is address-to-address so Changelly never holds your funds.

There’s a simple frontend for buying bitcoin and converting it to whatever cryptocurrency you would like. Much like ShapeShift, changelly transfers happen between addresses you own, rather than between accounts that the exchange controls.

It’s super fast and efficient. There’s a mobile app too for making transactions on the go.

Get started on Changelly.

Luno

Luno buy bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 5
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 40
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $3,140,452.00
30d Volume (BTC) 805.06
Fees Maker / Taker. Makers are a flat 0% and takers range from 0.20% to 1.0%

Luno offers a great platform for African and European traders looking to get started. Alongside their exchange, Luno offers a wallet service with a companion mobile app. The exchange has been around since 2013 and has never been hacked, giving it a fairly solid reputation for security.

It’s designed to be as simple as possible, including an “instant buy” feature.

Get started on Luno.

Coinmama

Coinmama bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 16
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 226
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Published
30d Volume (BTC) Not Published
Fees 5.9% flat fee with an additional 5% for credit card purchases

Coinmama is a good choice for those looking to buy crypto using a credit card or other fiat sources. Coinmama is a broker so you’re buying directly from the company itself which makes transactions fast.

However, there are some things to be aware of. Coinmama is “buy only” so you cannot sell cryptocurrencies on the platform. There is also no wallet feature on the exchange, so you need to withdraw directly to a wallet. This is no bad thing as keeping your funds on an exchange is risky, but you will need a wallet set up first.

Unfortunately, Coinmama’s simplicity is offset by the incredibly high fees charged for every transaction – 5.9% flat fee and an additional 5% for credit card purchases.

Get started on Coinmama.

Best Intermediate-Advanced Crypto Exchanges

Advanced exchanges offer a lot more information and power to the trader. Unlike simpler exchanges that give you a set price, advanced exchanges allow you to control your buy and sell orders. Meaning that you can choose to create orders at whatever price you want.

Some advanced crypto exchanges also offer pro features like margin and leveraged trading. Some allow you to bet against crypto prices by “shorting” an asset, and most have expert charting tools. Most allow you to trade between cryptocurrencies, where many of the beginner exchanges do not.

Binance

binance crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 100+
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Any not on UN sanction lists
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, client-side account freezing
30d Volume (Fiat) $695,837,008.00
30d Volume (BTC) 180,701.00
Fees 0.1% flat fee

Launched in 2017, Binance quickly grew to become one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges on the planet.

Binance offers hundreds of crypto trading pairs so it’s perfect if you’re looking to get into some of the more obscure altcoins out there. It is crypto-to-crypto only, so you’ll have to load up your account with bitcoin or ethereum to get started; there’s no fiat currency option.

Edit: On January 16th, Binance launched Binance Jersey – a fiat-to-crypto exchange which allows buyers in the UK and Europe to trade with pounds and euros. 

There’s a “basic” exchange mode and an “advanced” mode, although even the basic mode requires some understanding of trading screens and cryptocurrency. Originally based in China, Binance has relocated to Malta after crypto crackdowns in China and Japan.

The 0.1% flat fee makes Binance a very competitive option.

Get started on Binance.

Kraken

Kraken exchange

Trading Type Both Fiat / Crypto and Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 72
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All but 7 countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, with the option for an additional recovery factor, PGP based email encryption and verification
30d Volume (Fiat) $92,208,762.00
30d Volume (BTC) 23,568.00
Fees Per currency Maker / Taker, low end around 0.0% / 0.25%

Based in the US and operating in Canada, Kraken is a large scale cryptocurrency exchange that serves almost the entire planet.

The Kraken exchange was recently crowned the most secure cryptocurrency exchange by cyber-security firm Group-IB. Kraken was the only exchange in the report’s top-tier group, essentially putting it in a security league of its own.

The report cited Kraken’s proof of reserves audits, private key storage, protection of customer data, and technical security details as key reasons for the ranking.

Among Kraken’s security features is the ability to have a second 2FA set up for account recovery, and the ability to use PGP to encrypt and verify email communication.

In terms of trading, Kraken offers 72 trading pairs and leveraged margin trading on bitcoin.

Get started on Kraken.

Coinbase Pro

CoinbasePro crypto exchange

Trading Type Both Fiat / Crypto and Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 25
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 31
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $93,599,262.00
30d Volume (BTC) 23,904.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on the last 30 days in a rolling window. Maker fee is always 0%, taker goes from 0.30% to 0.10%

Coinbase Pro is Coinbase’s bigger (but younger) sibling. It was recently known as GDAX until it changed to Coinbase Pro. The platform offers some very competitive low-end fees, meaning that if you expect to move a lot of crypto they are a good choice.

It comes with all the reputational clout of Coinbase, with its FDIC insurance and regulatory checklist. Coinbase Pro also features additional trading pairs not currently available on the basic Coinbase platform.

Coins like Golem (GNT), Decentraland (MANA), 0x (ZRX), and Basic Attention Token (BAT) are all available on Coinbase Pro, but not Coinbase.

Get started on Coinbase Pro.

Poloniex

Poloniex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 116
Hacked before? Yes, see below
Available Countries All but three countries and a few US states
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $27,719,009.00
30d Volume (BTC) 7,764.00
Fees Maker / Taker. Minimum 0.0% / 0.1%, Maximum 0.1%, 0.2%

Poloniex is a relatively large cryptocurrency exchange based in the USA. Poloniex offers a pretty large amount of volume on its platform and backs it up with competitive fees. A good choice for any trader looking to move mid-to-large amounts of crypto.

Poloniex’s backend has been hacked once. After it happened the then-CEO was transparent, and promised that Poloniex would cover any losses, and discussed exactly how the hack took place.

The vast majority of funds are kept in “air-gapped cold storage” and suspicious activity is monitored closely.

As for trading, Poloniex offers one of the most advanced suite of trading tools and technical indicators. It was the first exchange to offer pre-fork trading on the two Bitcoin Cash protocols, providing a crucial gauge of investor support.

Get started on Poloniex.

Bittrex

Bittrex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 288
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Almost all
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, IP and cryptocurrency address whitelisting, and client-side account freezing
30d Volume (Fiat) $42,818,083.00
30d Volume (BTC) 11,080.00
Fees 0.25% flat fee on all trades

Bittrex is a crypto exchange with decent volume, a good number of trading pairs, and above average security options. Specifically, the ability to whitelist IPs that can access your account and addresses you can withdraw to is very handy.

The exchange has never been hacked, which is the least you should expect from an exchange founded by three cybersecurity engineers! The vast majority of funds are stored in safe cold storage wallets.

Bittrex is designed for experienced traders, built with a scalable trading engine which executes orders in seconds. The flat 0.25% fee means you always know where you stand, too.

Get started on Bittrex.

Bitfinex

Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 100
Hacked before? Yes – Not that much response from Bitfinex
Security Features Almost all, none that are listed on UN sanctions
Available Security Two Factor Authentication or Universal Second Factor (Yubikey or similar), IP whitelist for accounts, PGP encrypted email
30d Volume (Fiat) 311
30d Volume (BTC) $311,032,908.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on your last 30 days volume. Maximum 0.1% / 0.2%, Minimum 0.0% / 0.055%

Bitfinex is a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange with expert-level features like spot trading and leveraged margin trading. You can leverage up to 3.3x (effectively borrowing money to increase your position). 

The charts on Bitfinex are particularly great, allowing to set your own patterns and set price alerts. The exchange also has high liquidity and large volume, meaning you can buy and sell without lag time.

Bitfinex was hacked in 2016 with $72 million worth of bitcoin stolen, but the exchange now has above-average security options. Specifically, the inclusion of U2F and PGP encryption for email is a welcome sight.

One thing we should note is that Bitfinex has been accused of artificially pumping bitcoin prices during the 2017 bull run.

Get started on Bitfinex.

Bitstamp

Bitstamp bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both, though mostly Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 14
Hacked before? Yes, employees’ credentials compromised. Bitstamp released an incident report, but it is no longer available.
Available Countries 56 for MasterCard transactions, no information otherwise.
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, a PGP key is offered for email encryption and email-based withdrawal confirmations.
30d Volume (Fiat) $93,538,791.00
30d Volume (BTC) 24,205.00
Fees Based on your last 30-day volume in USD. Ranges from 0.25% to 0.10%

Bitstamp started out in a garage, with $1,000 and two laptops in 2011. Fast forward to today, and it’s one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.

Based in London, it’s an ideal option for British crypto traders. Bitstamp was one of the first fully-licensed digital cryptocurrency exchanges. That didn’t stop hackers in 2015 stealing $5 million from the exchange. The company did release an incident report to explain the situation, but it is no longer available.

Since then, it has implemented some strong security features. Namely, PGP encrypted communication and email based withdrawal confirmations stand out here. PGP is a must to verify the identity of who you are communicating with.

Get started on Bistamp.

Bithumb

bithumb cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto (specifically Korean won)
Trading Pairs 66
Hacked before? Yes
Available Countries All countries, though still only in KRW
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $1,419,838,544.00
30d Volume (BTC) 367.00
Fees Flat 0.15% fee

Caution: A recent report found evidence of wash trading on Bithumb – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures.

According to CoinMarketCap, Bithumb is the largest exchange by reported volume (at the time of writing). But there’s a catch – the only fiat option available is Korean won (KRW).  

Bithumb is open to all countries, but traders without a connection to South Korea will struggle to trade, as it is notoriously difficult to buy and sell KRW for other fiat currencies. Though this does leave an opening to buy KRW with crypto, assuming you have the crypto-side capital for it.

Bithumb has been hacked at least twice – first in June 2017 hitting 3% of all Bithumb users. And secondly, in June 2018, when $31 million was stolen from the exchange.

Get started on Bithumb.

CEX.io

Cex.io bitcoin exchange

Trading Type Both Crypto / Crypto and Crypto / Fiat
Trading Pairs 28
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All countries aside from 24 small countries and 27 States
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $7,056,167.00
30d Volume (BTC) 1,827.00
Fees Maker / Taker based on your last 30 days volume in BTC. Maximum fee of 0.16% / 0.25%, minimum fee of 0.0% / 0.1%

CEX.io is a UK based cryptocurrency exchange that sports a low but respectable volume and very competitive fees.

It offers an impressive dashboard for expert traders with margin trading, order-matching algorithms, and high-frequency trading for scalp traders.

It’s a good choice assuming what you are looking to trade is available in their somewhat small pool of trading pairs. 

Get started on CEX.io.

Bitpanda

bitpanda crypto exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto
Trading Pairs 80
Hacked before? No
Available Countries All for buy / sell via Neteller, otherwise EU only
Security Features Two Factor Authentication, email confirmation for most account actions
30d Volume (Fiat) Not Reported
30d Volume (BTC) Not Reported
Fees Change often – Between 1% and 3%

Bitpanda is an Austrian cryptocurrency exchange and one of the most accessible options for traders in Europe. Bitpanda acts as a broker, meaning you’re purchasing the cryptocurrency from Bitpanda itself, rather than exchanging it with other users.

Bitpanda accepts euros, British pounds, Swiss francs, and US dollars and offers a decent array of cryptocurrencies. It has a slick user interface that is welcoming and relatively intuitive for users.

The only downside here is that their fees are somewhat high and they don’t report volume.

Get started on Bitpanda.

Coinsquare

Coinsquare crypto exchange

Trading Type Fiat / Crypto (Specifically CAD)
Trading Pairs 9
Hacked before? No
Available Countries 1 – Canada only
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $7,058,585.00
30d Volume (BTC) 1,804.00
Fees Flat fee for makers and takers, 0.10% and 0.20% respectively

Coinsquare is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, built to cater directly to Canadian traders, meaning that external traders will find themselves falling flat. Security, however, is a high priority. Coinsquare has never been hacked and 95% of all funds are held in cold storage. 

Its trading functionality is somewhat basic, so experts will probably look elsewhere for superior features. 

Get started on Coinsquare.

HitBTC

HitBTC cryptocurrency exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 803
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Almost all
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $222,941,259.00
30d Volume (BTC) 57,732.00
Fees Flat Maker / Taker fee structure: -0.01% / 0.1%

Caution: A recent report found some evidence of wash trading on HitBTC – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures. If correct, only 25% of reported trading volume on HitBTC is real.

HitBTC is a Chile-based cryptocurrency exchange that calls itself “the most advanced bitcoin exchange.” HitBTC offers incredibly competitive fees, a high amount of volume, and a good number of trading pairs. 

Unlike most other cryptocurrency exchanges, HitBTC offers a rebate for makers in their fee structure, meaning that makers receive 0.01% of the trade amount as a credit when a trade is made.

In terms of security, HitBTC offers 2-factor authentication, encryption technology, and cold storage. A 24-hour support team is also a nice touch.

However, the reports of manipulative wash trading should be taken into account before trading here.

Get started on HitBTC.

OKEx

OXEx crypto exchange

Trading Type Crypto / Crypto
Trading Pairs 412
Hacked before? No
Available Countries Accepts all countries
Security Features Two Factor Authentication
30d Volume (Fiat) $567,722,732.00
30d Volume (BTC) 146,920.00
Fees Complex Maker / Taker scheme

Caution: A recent report found evidence of wash trading on OKEx – a manipulative practice to exaggerate its volume figures. If correct, only 11% of reported trading volume on OXEx is real.

OKEx is a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange that offers a massive number of trading pairs with an equally large amount of liquidity to back it up.

OKEx was rated Crypto Exchange of the Year at last year’s Malta Blockchain Awards.

However, in a recent investigation, OKEx was considered “completely uninsurable” and ranked in the lowest bracket for security. Additionally, OKEx was singled out for manipulating its volume. A recent report found evidence of wash trading on at least 30 of its trading pairs.

Another downside here is a complex fee structure.

Get started on OKEx.

Conclusion

There are lots of factors to consider when picking the right crypto exchange: ease of use, security features, reputation, trading pairs and trading tools. Remember, when signing up to an exchange, you are trusting them with your funds. Always do your due diligence before you transfer any money.

Learned something new? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

coinbase

Coinbase just migrated $5 billion worth of its users’ cryptocurrency to a new storage system. The move aims to improve the security of user funds on the platform.

What is most concerning, however, is the sheer volume of cryptocurrency being held on Coinbase. The $5 billion migration reportedly included 5% of all bitcoin in circulation, 8% of ethereum, and 25% of all circulating litecoin.

There are three concerns with this.

Centralization – a huge chunk of litecoin is stored in one place and controlled by one company.

Threat of hacks – if the Coinbase custody platform were to be hacked, the attackers could theoretically steal, and therefore control, a quarter of litecoin supply.

Ownership – it means that a huge proportion of litecoin owners don’t actually own their litecoin. Coinbase holds the private keys instead.  

Admittedly, Coinbase does have strong security credentials (95% of its funds are held in cold storage and the remaining 5% is insured). The exchange is also fully regulated which should protect it against fraud and reduce the likelihood of hacks. 

However, leaving your coins on an exchange platform remains a high-risk strategy. Not to mention you are trusting a third-party to look after your cryptocurrency. If you don’t have the private key yourself, you don’t technically own it.

If you’re reading this and you have litecoin (or any cryptocurrency) sitting on Coinbase, consider moving it to a secure hardware wallet, complete with backups.

As crypto expert Andreas Antonopoulos says, “Not your keys, not your bitcoin.”

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bitcoin banks

A version of this article first appeared in our exclusive newsletter. If you’d like Block Explorer’s cutting-edge analysis before it hits our website, sign up now.

It’s funny… I was re-reading the Bitcoin white paper last week as it’s now ten years old.

Bitcoin’s founder Satoshi Nakamoto constantly refers to bitcoin as a way to avoid using a “trusted third-party,” like banks or financial institutions.

And yet it seems like all anyone can talk about right now is Wall Street adoption of crypto and banking bitcoin.

Just look at what happened in the last few weeks:

1. Coinbase is now a “qualified custodian” to hold cryptocurrencies in New York (the same designation given to banks that hold your money). (CoinDesk)

2. Mastercard filed a patent to launch a “fractional reserve” crypto bank. (CCN)

3. Bank of America filed a patent for a crypto storage system. (CCN)

3. Gemini announced full insurance for its exchange and custody service. (Block Explorer)

4. BitGo is approved as a qualified custodian to hold cryptocurrencies. (Bloomberg)

mastercard bitcoin
Credit: Cryptocoinmastery

None of these stories are groundbreaking on their own.

But it’s a very clear trajectory. Major “third party” institutions are competing to hold (or bank) cryptocurrencies on behalf of others.

What we’re talking about is the quiet emergence of bitcoin banks.

Are “Bitcoin Banks” a Good Thing?

Yes!

On the one hand, cryptocurrency institutions like Coinbase, Gemini, and Bitgo are taking storage security seriously. With almost $1 billion cryptocurrency stolen in exchange hacks this year alone, we need to provide better security and storage options for traders.

Secure custody also gives confidence to institutional investors who are looking to enter the space. Arguably, the next big influx of capital will come from institutional investors, who need trusted custody before making large investments.

No!

Bitcoin was designed to operate outside the banking system. It was created so that you don’t have to trust a bank or third-party.

Crypto evangelists (ourselves included) have always advocated keeping your cryptocurrency off exchanges entirely. Unless you’re trading large volumes of crypto every day, there’s no good reason to store your bitcoin on Coinbase, Gemini or any other exchange.

Instead, you need a safe, offline, cold-storage solution where you control the private key (with backups, of course). It might be more hassle, but it’s worth it for peace of mind and security.

Further reading: 8 Cryptocurrency Best Practices (Keep Your Crypto Safe)

It seems our newsletter subscribers agree, especially when it comes to big banks wading into crypto storage. We asked them, on a scale of 1-10, how much they would trust an institution like Bank of America to look after their cryptocurrency. Every respondent picked either one or two out of ten.

Conclusion

Like it or not, bitcoin banks are coming. It might start small with custody solutions at Gemini and Coinbase, but the big-names are slowly getting involved. While this should bring more legitimacy to the cryptocurrency world, there are worrying ramifications, too. Mastercard filing a patent for a “fractional reverse crypto bank” is a worrying precedent that pulls bitcoin towards the very system it was designed to avoid.

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bitcoin hack how to avoid

A small Canadian bitcoin exchange, MapleChange, was reportedly hacked in the early hours of Sunday morning, which they blamed on a “bug.” 

The little-known exchange says it is in “the process of a thorough investigation,” but “they cannot refund anything.”

In other words, if you trusted your money to MapleChange, you may not get that money back.

Maplechange hack

Hack or Exit Scam?

The suspicious nature of the announcement didn’t go unnoticed by commentators. Joseph Young, a contributor to Forbes and CoinTelegraph, called it an “exit scam.” 

Exit scam defined: An exit-scam is a shady technique in the crypto universe whereby a small, unregulated company lures money from people (usually through an exchange or an initial coin offering, ICO) before stealing it and removing all trace of the company.

The red flag came when MapleChange deleted all its social media accounts, an unnecessary move when depositors were desperate for more information.

While the speculation continues over the hack, we thought it best to put together three ways to make sure you never lose your money in an exchange hack or scam.

1. Don’t Keep Your Cryptocurrency on an Exchange, Period

All the biggest bitcoin hacks in recent history have taken place on an exchange. The Mt. Gox hack in 2014 was, of course, the most high-profile. $450 million was stolen by hackers before the exchange went bankrupt. At least four exchanges have been hacked this year alone.

Crypto exchanges are a prominent target for attackers, simply because they hold so much cryptocurrency. Many have security weaknesses that can be easily exploited. Many others are not regulated or protected by the governing authorities.

But most importantly, if you trust your crypto to an exchange, you have no control over those cryptocurrencies. It is entirely at the risk of the exchange and the safety precautions they have taken.

Instead, you should move your bitcoin or crypto off the exchange and into your own, personal cold storage.

Cold storage means keeping your cryptocurrencies offline, so they can’t be hacked. The best option is a specialized hardware device (Ledger or Trezor) are the best-known options.

ledger nano cold storage bitcoin wallet plugged into a laptop

Further reading: What is Cold Storage for Bitcoin?

2. Criteria for Choosing an Exchange: Reputation, Regulation, Insurance

Of course, we can’t stay clear of exchanges entirely. We need them to buy and sell cryptocurrency. But before you transfer any money, do your due diligence and research.

The first step is looking at reputation. Some quick research on MapleChange, for example, would have turned up very little information – a warning sign for investors.

On the other hand, trusting a major, high-profile exchange such as Coinbase or Gemini, while not 100% safe, is a more sensible solution. These giant exchanges are better regulated and have superior security features.

The likes of Coinbase and Gemini also go to great lengths to verify its users, which vastly reduces the likelihood of fraud or security breach.

Some exchanges are now fully insured, too. Gemini recently announced insurance coverage for its exchange and custody services. If you keep your money at Gemini, it is protected should the worst happen. 

Further reading: Cryptocurrency Insurance: What is it? (And Do You Need It?)

3. Holding Money on an Exchange? Choose One with Cold Storage

Sometimes, of course, holding money on an exchange can’t be avoided. If you are trading regularly, you may need quick, instant access to your money on an exchange.

If that’s the case, be sure the exchange keeps 95% or more of funds in cold storage. Cold storage keeps crypto offline and significantly more secure from hackers.

This advice was echoed by Binance founder, Changpeng Zhao, on Twitter in the wake of the MapleChange attack.

CZ binance cold storage advice

Coinbase, for example, holds 98% of all funds in cold storage. The remaining 2% are insured, so the risk of losing your money is much lower.

Conclusion

You’ll probably hear a lot about bitcoin’s safety and security in the wake of this hack. But it’s important to remember that bitcoin and its underlying system, blockchain, has never been hacked.

Hacking and theft only occurs through weak exchanges and poorly maintained wallets. In other words, storing your bitcoin safely is the most important decision you can make.

To sum up, always keep your cryptocurrencies offline, in cold storage, ideally on a hardware device you own, not an exchange. If you do use an exchange, ensure it is reputable, regulated, insured, and offers cold storage options.

Stay safe out there.

Note: this article was edited on 29th October. A previous version claimed that $6 million was stolen in the hack before the exchange in question re-opened communications and confirmed otherwise.

Further reading: 8 Cryptocurrency Best Practices (Keep Your Crypto Safe!)

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hooded man with hand out bitcoin regulation

Welcome to your daily Block Explorer roundup. Hope you had a great weekend! Today we’re looking at bitcoin regulation as Coinbase’s UK CEO claims we need more. But first, let’s take a glance at the markets.

All the top 20 coins are in the green today after a fairly quiet weekend.

1. Bitcoin – $6715 (+ 0.7%)
2. Ethereum – $277 (+ 1%)
3. Ripple XRP – $0.33 (+ 1.8%)

Things are strangely calm out there at the moment. In fact, bitcoin is around the least volatile it’s been all year. Historically, a period of calm is usually snapped by a wild swing upward or downward, so don’t be surprised if we see some big price movements this week.

Biggest winner and loser in the top 20

IOTA crypto logo transparent background

Biggest winner: IOTA (+ 15%)
Biggest loser: Zcash (- 0.1%)

IOTA is leading the pack today after Fujitsu said it is “well-equipped to help roll out IOTA as the new protocol standard.” IOTA aims to facilitate the ‘internet-of-things’ using blockchain technology, so a partnership with IT giant, Fujitsu, will open a lot of doors.

Does crypto need more regulation?

“[Regulation] is the best way to provide individuals and institutions a safe environment to invest.”

That’s the verdict from UK Coinbase CEO, Zeeshan Feroz. He told CCN that regulation is a good thing for the cryptocurrency market in 2018, explaining that a lack of regulation leads to risk in the market.

“We see the value in having some form of regulation for crypto exchanges as a means of ensuring due diligence and transparency in the crypto space.”

The issue of regulation in crypto is a controversial one. Many claim it will bring transparency to the market (and allow institutional investors to wade in). Others, however, see it as destroying the values and decentralized ethos on which bitcoin was built.

Where do you stand on bitcoin regulation? Do we need more to help attract  investors? Or should we keep bitcoin as decentralized as possible? Let me know in the comment section below.

Wild bitcoin price predictions 2018: from $3,000 to $20,000 +

Over the weekend we’ve had yet more wild price predictions for bitcoin.

The bull: Tom Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors doubled down on his previous prediction that bitcoin will rise above $20,000 by the year-end.

He says hedge funds are playing a bigger role in bitcoin behind the scenes which could lead to a surge in prices. He also pointed to the correlation between bitcoin and emerging market stocks.

The bear: Anthony Pompliano had originally predicted a $50,000 price tag by the end of 2018. He now says he was wrong, by about four years.

He sees bitcoin plunging to $3,000 and says the market might not bottom out until late 2019. As for a full recovery, that’s not on the cards until 2023, based on how long it took bitcoin to recover from previous spikes.

With four months left in the year, where do you see the price of bitcoin going? $3,000 or $20,000+?

That’s all for today’s roundup. We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

In case you missed it: Why do Bitcoin ETFs Keep Getting Rejected?

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