Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular, and the number of investors across the globe has grown enormously over the last few years.
There is a good reason behind this; cryptocurrencies have been able to revolutionize the way we do business online, and they can be used as an investment vehicle too.
The cryptocurrency market is still in its nascent stage, with many new coins being launched every day, and it can be difficult for beginners to know which ones to invest in, or how to get started with cryptocurrency in the first place.
In this guide, we will help you understand what cryptocurrencies are, how they work, and why investing in them could be beneficial for your future financial security.
What Is Cryptocurrency?
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography (a process for securing information) to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds.
It is not regulated by any government or central bank; instead, cryptocurrencies use peer-to-peer technology to operate with no middleman or trusted third party – this means all transactions take place directly between two parties without an intermediary.
The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies makes them ideal for use as alternative forms of payment on the Internet.
They also offer greater privacy than traditional banking methods since personal data is not stored in one location.
What Is A Wallet?
A wallet is a secure digital location for storing your coins. Wallets range from free software available through websites to desktop apps to mobile apps.
The best wallets offer both offline storage and online access via web browsers.
Offline storage makes accessing your coins easy no matter what computer you’re using.
Online access lets you move your coins between different devices without having to worry about losing coins due to hard drive failures.
A few popular options include Blockchain (a website), Mycelium (desktop app), Electrum (desktop app), and Copay (mobile app).
Can You Invest In Cryptocurrency?
Now that we have taken a closer look at cryptocurrency more generally, you may also want to know if you can invest in cryptocurrency – and the answer is yes.
While most people think that only large companies and banks (see also ‘How Do Investment Banks Make Money?’) can invest in crypto, this isn’t true at all.
Anyone who has access to capital can invest in cryptocurrency.
If you do decide to invest in cryptocurrency, however, you should remember that investing in any asset class comes with risks.
So before you start buying into cryptocurrency, you need to consider your own personal risk tolerance as well as how much you’re willing to lose.
How Do I Get Started With Investing In Cryptocurrency?
So, now that we have taken a closer look at cryptocurrency more generally, it is time to discuss the best ways to kick off your cryptocurrency investment.
This begins with deciding whether you will opt for direct or indirect investment, choosing your cryptocurrency, and making a purchase.
What Are The Stages Of Investing In Cryptocurrency?
Before we take a closer look at the details of investing in cryptocurrency, we will take a moment to consider the stages involved.
This will offer you a clear overview of the process, as well as offer context to the detailed elements that we will take a closer look at shortly.
There are three stages of investing in cryptocurrency: research, buying, and holding.
Each stage requires different levels of knowledge and skill, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Before you invest in cryptocurrency, you need to learn about it. This means reading up on how blockchain technology works, learning about the various types of coins available, and understanding what risks and rewards are associated with each coin.
Once you’ve done some research, you’re ready to start investing.
Buying cryptocurrency involves two steps: finding an exchange where you can purchase your desired coin, and then transferring funds into your account.
To find an exchange, we recommend starting with CoinMarketCap.com – you can use this site to search for popular cryptocurrencies based on market capitalization, price, volume, and other factors.
After you’ve found a few potential exchanges, compare their fees and security features.
Some exchanges offer free signups, while others charge a fee. If you decide to go with an exchange that charges a fee, make sure you understand how much money you will lose if the exchange gets hacked.
Also consider whether the exchange offers 2FA authentication, which adds another layer of security.
Finally, check out reviews from reputable websites like TrustPilot.com, Google Reviews, and Facebook Reviews.
Once you’ve purchased your first cryptocurrency, you should hold onto it until you see a significant increase in value.
You may want to wait a few months before selling your cryptocurrency, but don’t let it sit around indefinitely.
It’s important to remember that cryptocurrencies are highly volatile; even small fluctuations in prices can cause large losses.
The best strategy for long-term investment success is to diversify your portfolio across multiple cryptocurrencies.
Diversification helps reduce risk and allows you to capitalize on any gains made by individual coins without having to sell off your entire portfolio.
What Is Blockchain Technology And How Does It Work?
Blockchain technology is a decentralized database that allows people to make secure payments without having to trust each other.
It was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, and since then, many companies have developed blockchain solutions for various industries.
In this section, we will explain what blockchain technology is, how it works, and why it matters.
What Is Blockchain Technology?
A blockchain is a public ledger that records every single Bitcoin transaction ever made.
Every computer connected to the network stores a copy of the ledger, which means all transactions are visible to everyone. Because of this transparency, blockchains are considered tamperproof.
How Does Blockchain Technology Work?
The basic idea behind blockchain technology is simple: instead of relying on intermediaries like banks or clearinghouses to record transactions, everyone involved in a transaction keeps a permanent record of it.
This record is called a “block” because it contains information about previous blocks.
Each block includes details such as who sent the transaction, when it took place, and how much cryptocurrency was transferred.
The first block in the chain is always created by a trusted source, such as a government agency or a major corporation.
As soon as the first block is added to the chain, it becomes immutable—meaning no changes can be made to it after it is published.
Once a block is added to the blockchain, anyone else can verify that the data inside matches the original version.
If someone tries to change the contents of a block, the entire system notices and alerts others immediately.
This prevents fraudsters from creating fake versions of the blockchain.
Why Does Blockchain Matter?
Today, most financial institutions rely on third parties to process transactions.
Banks and credit card companies charge fees for their services, and they often keep part of the funds customers send them. These middlemen add cost and risk to the process of sending money around the world.
With blockchain technology, however, there is no need for these middlemen.
Instead, users can connect directly with one another through peer-to-peer networks.
This eliminates the need for centralized servers, which makes it easier to maintain security and prevent hacking. The result is cheaper, faster, and safer transfers of value.
What Types Of Coins Are Available In Cryptocurrency?
There are many different types of cryptocurrency available today.
Some are based on existing currencies like USD, EUR, GBP, etc. while others are completely new. Each type of coin has its own unique properties, which we’ll explore below.
Bitcoin was the first decentralized cryptocurrency to emerge. It was created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 and launched in 2010.
The original idea was to create a form of electronic cash that would allow people to make payments anonymously and securely.
To achieve this goal, Nakamoto designed a system where users hold their own private keys, rather than relying on a third party to validate transactions.
This allows users to send and receive bitcoins through a network of computers known as miners.
Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate without the support of any central authority.
All transactions taking place with Bitcoin are recorded in public distributed ledgers called blockchains.
Miners keep the blockchain secure by verifying transactions and recording them into blocks.
Once a block is verified, it becomes part of the chain, creating a record of all previous blocks.
The miner who verifies the transaction gets rewarded with newly minted bitcoins.
As we have mentioned, the blockchain serves as proof of concept for all future cryptocurrencies.
It allows each user to independently verify the validity of every transaction.
As long as the majority of users agree on the accuracy of the ledger, no single entity can manipulate the system.
The most important property of Bitcoin is its limited supply.
Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin does not rely on mining to produce new units.
Instead, it relies on “mining” to validate transactions. Miners compete against each other to solve complex math problems using specialized hardware.
The first miner to find a solution gets rewarded with newly minted coins.
To date, over 100 million bitcoins have been mined. That means there will eventually be 21 million bitcoins in existence.
Once these coins are gone, the network will become unworkable.
Unlike traditional currencies, Bitcoin isn’t backed by anything tangible. Its value fluctuates based on demand.
If people start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment, then the value of Bitcoin increases.
Conversely, if fewer people accept Bitcoin, then the value of Bitcoins decreases.
Because Bitcoin is so volatile, it makes sense to hold onto your coins until they reach their maximum potential value. You can buy low and sell high when you want to make a profit.
Bitcoin is currently the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, but other major currencies such as Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and Dash have also gained significant traction in recent times.
Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap. It was developed by Vitalik Buterin and launched in 2015.
Like Bitcoin, Ethereum operates without a central authority. However, unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum runs smart contracts.
Essentially, Ethereum is a smart contract platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to write and deploy applications using the same programming languages as Ethereum.
It offers much higher levels of functionality than Bitcoin, allowing developers to build anything from decentralized autonomous organizations to complex distributed applications.
Smart contracts allow two parties to enter into a legally binding agreement without having to trust each other.
This eliminates the need for third-party intermediaries such as lawyers, bankers, and escrow agents.
Smart contracts also eliminate fraud because they automatically enforce terms agreed upon by both parties.
In addition to eliminating middlemen, smart contracts provide an immutable audit trail.
This means that once a contract has been executed, nobody can change or delete the data stored within it.
Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is decentralized, meaning that there is no centralized governing body that controls the creation of new Ethers. Instead, miners compete against one another to create new Ethers.
Miners receive rewards in the form of Ethers for validating transactions. These rewards are used to pay for computing power.
The pros of Ethereum include its ability to run code automatically when certain conditions occur, which can be used to create trustless contracts, as well as its support for Turing-complete virtual machines.
These features enable developers to create highly flexible programs that can adapt to changing circumstances.
Cons of Ethereum include its high energy consumption and slow transaction speed.
The latter issue is due to the fact that every time someone sends money to someone else, the network must validate all the information associated with the transaction.
Litecoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency that was created in 2011 as a cheaper and less centralized version of Bitcoin.
It uses open source cryptographic protocols similar to those employed by Bitcoin, but with a key difference.
Unlike Bitcoin, however, Litecoin does not use proof-of-work consensus algorithms.
Instead, it relies on a proof-of-stake system called “scrypt”, and this algorithm requires users to lock up their coins before they can spend them.
Once locked up, these coins cannot be moved until a specified amount of time passes.
As a result, people who own large amounts of Litecoins tend to hoard them rather than spend them. This makes Litecoin less attractive to merchants than Bitcoin.
Pros of Litecoin include its faster transaction times and lower fees compared to Bitcoin, while cons of Litecoin include its low-security level and lack of anonymity, as well as a similarity to Bitcoin making it more vulnerable to hacks and scams.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Bitcoin cash is a hard fork of Bitcoin that occurred in August 2017. It was created after a group of developers disagreed over how to scale Bitcoin’s underlying protocol.
This disagreement resulted in a split between the original Bitcoin community and a separate group of developers.
As a result, the two groups developed different versions of Bitcoin, with the original version becoming known as Bitcoin and the new version becoming known as Bitcoin cash.
The main differences between Bitcoin and Bitcoin cash are:
- Bitcoin cash allows for larger blocks, which increases the number of transactions that can take place per second.
- Bitcoin cash uses a different hashing algorithm, which results in faster block generation.
- Bitcoin cash supports SegWit, which enables it to process more transactions at any given time.
- Bitcoin cash has a higher maximum supply limit than Bitcoin.
Pros of Bitcoin Cash include its increased capacity to handle more transactions, as well as its faster block generation rate, while cons include its lower security level and lack of privacy, as well as the possibility of double spending.
Ripple is an open-source cryptocurrency that was founded in 2012.
Its primary goal is to provide financial institutions with a fast, secure, and cheap way to send money around the world.
It achieves this through a distributed ledger technology known as the xRapid platform. This platform consists of three components:
- A payment gateway that connects banks and other financial institutions to Ripple’s blockchain.
- An escrow service that holds funds from both parties involved in a transaction until all payments have been made.
- The XRP token, which acts as a bridge currency used to make payments across the network.
Ripple is one of the most popular cryptocurrencies due to its ability to facilitate cross-border transfers quickly and cheaply.
However, it also has some drawbacks, including high transaction costs and slow confirmation times.
Pros of Ripple include its ability to transfer money internationally quickly and cheaply, as well as its ability to support multiple currencies, while downsides include its high transaction costs and slow confirmations.
Dash is a peer-to-peer digital currency designed to be easy to use and inexpensive to transact.
It was launched in 2014 by Evan Duffield, who wanted to create a decentralized alternative to PayPal.
Duffield’s vision was to develop a system where anyone could become a merchant or vendor without having to rely on third-party intermediaries like credit card companies.
To achieve this, he built Dash into a self-funding project, meaning that no central authority controls the creation of new coins.
Instead, each coin is generated using a cryptographic function called “proof of work”.
In order to prevent fraud, Dash also includes a set of features called PrivateSend, which enables users to send coins anonymously.
Pros of Dash include its low fees, anonymous transactions, and self-funding nature, while cons include its limited functionality and centralized development team.
What Is A Cryptocurrency Exchange?
A cryptocurrency exchange is a website that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies. These sites act as middlemen, connecting buyers, and sellers who want to transact directly.
There are two main types of exchanges: centralized and decentralized.
Centralized exchanges store user funds in offline cold storage, while decentralized exchanges operate without storing user funds.
Centralized exchanges tend to be safer because they handle user funds.
But they also limit how many transactions can occur per second, which can cause long delays when there is heavy demand.
Decentralized exchanges allow for faster transaction speeds, but they lack the security of traditional banking systems.
If someone hacks a decentralized exchange, all of their customer funds could be stolen.
As we have mentioned, centralized exchanges are generally safer than decentralized ones, since they keep user funds in offline cold wallets.
These exchanges usually provide 24/7 support, and most will let you deposit and withdraw using any major credit card.
Some even allow you to wire transfer funds directly from your bank account.
However, central exchanges still have drawbacks. One big one is high fees. Fees vary depending on the type of transaction, but they can add up quickly.
Another drawback is that centralized exchanges aren’t always available in every country or region. And if an exchange shuts down, it’s gone forever.
Unlike centralized exchanges, decentralized exchanges don’t hold user funds.
This means that if hackers get access to a decentralized exchange, they won’t be able to steal anyone’s funds.
But this also means that decentralized exchanges are less secure than centralized ones.
Hackers could potentially gain control of a decentralized exchange by compromising its servers.
In addition, decentralized exchanges are only available through specialized software called blockchain explorers.
So if you’re not tech-savvy, you may need some extra training before you start trading.
What Are The Best Options For Investing In Cryptocurrency?
There are two ways to invest in cryptocurrency: directly and indirectly. Direct investment involves purchasing individual units of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or Ethereum.
Indirect investment refers to investments made in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which allow investors to gain exposure to various types of assets, including cryptocurrency.
The best way to buy direct investment is via exchanges. Exchanges are platforms where users can purchase cryptocurrency using fiat currencies like USD or GBP.
Some popular exchanges include Coinbase, Gemini, Kraken, Bitfinex, Binance, etc.
An ETF is essentially a fund that tracks an index, allowing investors to gain exposure to a basket of assets.
These baskets typically consist of stocks, bonds, commodities, and other financial instruments.
There are several different types of ETFs available, each offering slightly different levels of diversification.
Once you’ve decided whether you want to invest in cryptocurrency directly or indirectly, you will need to find a platform that allows you to do so. Here are some of the top options for both types of investment:
Coinbase is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. While it doesn’t offer direct investment, it does provide services such as wallet storage, trading, and margin lending.
Gemini is another major cryptocurrency exchange based in New York.
It offers its own native coin called GUSD but also supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Stellar Lumens, EOS, Dash, Zcash, Monero, and others.
Bittrex is a relatively small cryptocurrency exchange based in Seattle.
It focuses on supporting a wide range of coins, including BTC, ETH, LTC, DASH, XRP, XLM, EOS, STEEM, NANO, and MANA.
Kraken is a global digital currency exchange headquartered in San Francisco. Its focus is on providing fast, secure, and reliable trades.
Bitstamp is an independent bitcoin exchange founded in 2011. It has offices in Slovenia and Poland and is regulated by the European Union.
CEX.IO is a leading global spot FX and CFD broker. CEX.IO provides trading across multiple asset classes including forex, indices, commodities, crypto, stocks, ETFs, and more.
What Is Bitcoin Mining?
Bitcoin mining is how new bitcoins enter circulation. When you run a bitcoin miner, you “stake” some computing power to validate transactions. If you succeed, you get rewarded with freshly minted bitcoins.
Mining requires specialized equipment and technical expertise to operate.
And while running a full-time bitcoin miner might sound appealing, it’s not recommended until you fully understand both the technology behind cryptocurrency and the economics of miners.
Where Can I Buy Cryptocurrency?
Once you have chosen your investment type, the next step in your journey is to buy cryptocurrency- and this is relatively easy.
You can either use a credit card or bank account to make purchases, or you can use an online payment service like PayPal.
Once you have purchased your cryptocurrency, you can store it in a number of wallets, depending on what type of security you prefer – we touched on this briefly earlier, but will now consider wallets in greater detail.
How To Buy Cryptocurrency With An Exchange
Buying Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency is fairly simple – all you need is a few minutes, a reliable internet connection, and a wallet.
Download A Wallet
Downloading a wallet means creating a secure place to store your private keys.
Wallets range from simple apps on your phone to desktop programs installed on your computer. Some even come preloaded onto hardware devices like USB sticks.
Create An Account With A Cryptocurrency Exchange
Once you have downloaded a wallet, you will want to create an account with a reputable exchange.
Exchanges act as middlemen between buyers and sellers. By providing a platform for transactions, they allow users to buy and sell bitcoins securely and easily.
Deposit Funds Into Your Wallet
Once you have created an account with an exchange, you will be asked to deposit funds into your new wallet.
You can either transfer funds from your existing wallet or fund your account using a credit card.
Now that you have deposited funds into your wallet, you can start purchasing bitcoins.
The process varies depending on the exchange. Most exchanges let you purchase bitcoins through a web form.
Once you complete the transaction, the exchange will send you a receipt showing the amount of BTC you purchased.
Sell Your Coins
After you have purchased your first batch of coins, you can begin selling them.
Selling involves sending your newly acquired bitcoins to another user who wants to purchase them. This person will then add your coins to their own wallet.
How To Buy Bitcoin And Other Cryptocurrencies With Credit Card
The easiest way to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are using a credit card. Here’s how to get started.
Find A Wallet That Supports Your Payment Method
If you have a debit card or bank account, you can transfer funds directly to a digital wallet.
But if you prefer not to store your private keys online, you can still buy bitcoins through a third-party service.
These services act as middlemen between buyers and sellers, allowing them to process transactions quickly and securely.
They typically require users to create an account and verify their identity via email or text message. Once verified, they will provide instructions on how to access your wallet.
Transfer Funds From Your Bank Account Or Debit Card
Next, you’ll need to send the payment to the seller. Most exchanges allow you to do this instantly, so there won’t be any additional costs.
However, Coinbase requires its customers to complete verification procedures before they can link their bank accounts to their wallets.
The company says this step takes only a couple of minutes, but it could take longer depending on your financial institution.
After linking your bank account, you’ll receive a notification when the transaction has been completed.
Wait For The Seller To Send You Bitcoins
Now that you’re ready to purchase some crypto, you’ll need to wait for the seller to confirm your order.
This usually happens within one business day, though it can take up to four days during high traffic periods.
When the seller confirms your order, you’ll receive a receipt showing the amount of BTC you paid along with the current market price.
Sell Your Coins For Cash
Now that you’ve bought some crypto, it’s time to convert those coins into fiat currency.
There are several ways to do this, including buying a prepaid debit card at a local retailer, exchanging your coins for cash at an ATM, or transferring your coins to another exchange where you can use your bank account to withdraw money.
Use Your New Money To Invest In More Crypto
You now have enough cash to invest in more cryptos. Buying more coins is easy: just repeat steps 1-4 above!
Other ways to buy cryptocurrency include:
- Over-The-Counter Trading Desks
Over-The-Counter (OTC) trading desks are a popular way to purchase cryptocurrency, especially among institutional investors. OTC desks offer large blocks of crypto at once, which makes them ideal for larger purchases. They work by matching buyers and sellers based on certain criteria, such as price, volume, and location. Unlike exchanges, OTC desks don’t charge fees for trades. Instead, they make money from spreads — the difference between what they pay out to buyers and what they collect from sellers.
- Investment Banks
An investment bank acts much like a broker, except instead of helping people find stocks, bonds, commodities, etc., banks help clients buy and sell digital currencies. Like brokers, banks often require personal information like ID and proof of address. They also typically charge higher commissions than online platforms.
What Does It Mean To Hold My Cryptocurrency?
When you hold your cryptocurrencies, you own them. That means you can move them around, trade them, and even sell them without giving anyone else control over them.
However, you should never keep all your cryptocurrency in one place. Doing so leaves you vulnerable to hacking attacks and other threats.
How Can I Keep My Cryptocurrencies Safe?
You can store your cryptocurrency in a variety of places, including hardware devices, software applications, and even paper wallets.
Hardware wallets are physical devices that store private keys securely offline. They come in many forms, from USB sticks to smart cards.
The most common form is a hard drive-sized device known as a “wallet.”
Software wallets are programs that run on your computer or mobile phone. Paper wallets are simply printed-out documents that contain public and private keys.
Hardware wallets are designed to be used with computers and smartphones.
They allow you to store your cryptocurrency safely offline without exposing your private key to hackers.
Popular hardware wallets include Trezor, Ledger Nano S, KeepKey, and the recently released Ledger Blue.
Software wallets are programs that run entirely on your computer or smartphone.
They don’t require any additional hardware, which makes them convenient if you already have access to a computer or mobile device.
Popular software wallets include MyEtherWallet (MEOW), Jaxx, MetaMask, and Exodus.
Paper wallets are just pieces of paper containing public and private keys.
The advantage of using a paper wallet is that they are very simple to create and store.
However, they aren’t considered safe by many people because there’s no way to verify that the private key hasn’t been stolen.
Online Payment Services
If you’re not comfortable storing your cryptocurrency in a hardware or software wallet, you can still buy cryptocurrencies through online payment services.
These services act as middlemen between buyers and sellers, allowing users to pay each other in their preferred currencies. Popular online payment services include Coinbase, BitPay, and Circle Internet Financial Ltd.
How Do I Make Money From Cryptocurrency?
There are two main ways to make money from cryptocurrency: mining and trading.
As we have briefly mentioned, mining involves solving complex mathematical problems for rewards.
Most cryptocurrencies use an algorithm called Proof of Work (PoW) to determine who gets rewarded first.
PoW algorithms reward miners based on how fast they solve cryptographic puzzles.
Trading involves buying low and selling high. You’ll need to find someone willing to buy your coins at a lower price than what you want to sell them for.
This person will then give you cash in exchange for your cryptocurrency.
What Are The Advantages Of Investing In Cryptocurrency?
Investing in cryptocurrency has become increasingly popular over the past few years.
There are several reasons why investing in cryptocurrency could be beneficial to you.
One of the biggest advantages of investing in cryptocurrency is that it typically comes with much lower fees than traditional investments.
Many exchanges charge only fractions of a penny per transaction, while some offer free transactions.
Another benefit of investing in cryptocurrency is the fact that it doesn’t involve any third party.
With traditional investments, you must go through brokers or banks to complete trades.
Some countries offer tax benefits to investors who invest in certain types of assets. For example, US citizens may be able to deduct capital gains when they sell their cryptocurrency holdings.
The Disadvantages Of Investing In Crypto Currency
While investing in cryptocurrency does come with its own set of pros and cons, most people agree that it’s one of the best investment options available today.
Here are some disadvantages to keep in mind before making the jump into cryptocurrency investing.
While cryptocurrency is generally perceived as being safer than fiat currency, this perception isn’t always accurate.
Due to the volatile nature of cryptocurrency prices, you could lose all of your money if you don’t do your research.
Limited Investment Options
Many cryptocurrency exchanges allow you to purchase only a small percentage of the total supply of a particular coin.
If you decide to invest in more than what’s offered, you won’t be able to liquidate your position until the market stabilizes.
Lack Of Regulation
Unlike traditional financial markets, cryptocurrency is unregulated. As such, there are no government agencies overseeing the industry.
If you are interested in learning about cryptocurrency but aren’t sure where to start, our guide should help you get started.
We’ve provided a brief overview of different types of cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Monero, and many others.
We also explain how these cryptocurrencies work, and provide information on how to safely store your digital assets, as well as the steps you can take to start earning.
With a little research and some hard work, you could be enjoying the benefits of crypto in next to no time.