Many investors like to trade cryptocurrency because it’s an extremely volatile asset. If you can time the market right, trading crypto can give you much higher returns than traditional investments.
Cryptocurrency traders often have one of two goals: to accumulate Bitcoin or make a profit in USD. In a crypto bull market, it’s pretty easy for your portfolio to increase in USD value, but it’s more challenging for Bitcoin value to increase. To track your portfolio’s Bitcoin value, you can trade altcoins against Bitcoin on exchanges like Coinbase Pro.
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By actively trading your cryptocurrency, you risk losing your crypto to the market. Since cryptocurrency prices are so volatile, it’s not uncommon for traders to lose money quickly trading cryptocurrencies. This is why so many crypto enthusiasts just HODL their Bitcoin.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Although there are many different types of cryptocurrencies, they all have one thing in common: they operate on blockchain technology, making them decentralized. Decentralization of financial operations through cryptocurrencies has several efficiencies over the traditional financial system, including:
Cuts out almost all the overhead costs associated with banks
Less expensive transactions that can be sent and received internationally
Inflation or finite supply that’s written into code — no need to trust the Federal Reserve
Financial derivatives like trading strategies and loans can be coded directly onto certain cryptocurrency blockchains, replacing the need for financial intermediaries.
The largest cryptocurrency is Bitcoin and it’s used as a “digital gold.” Essentially, Bitcoin is a commodity used as a store of value. Ethereum is the 2nd-largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of $210 billion. Developers can develop smart contracts on Ethereum’s blockchain to create decentralized alternatives to traditional banking functions, like lending and trading.
Selecting a Cryptocurrency
There is no single best cryptocurrency, but there are best cryptocurrencies for certain use cases. For example, Bitcoin is the best cryptocurrency to use as a reserve asset because it has the most widespread adoption and a finite supply.
Most of the best cryptocurrency projects are in the top 50 market capitalization of cryptocurrency. Most small market cap cryptocurrencies have questionable use cases or have underdelivered on their promises. Small market cap cryptos are generally riskier than larger market cap coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
It’s important to invest in cryptocurrencies that have a solid team backing the project. To get information about a cryptocurrency, it’s best to read the cryptocurrency’s whitepaper. This will give you an idea of how the crypto works and what its intended use is.
Decentralized finance (DeFi) cryptocurrencies are some of the hottest altcoins of 2021. Altcoins are a general term for any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin. DeFi tokens are typically built on Ethereum’s blockchain and replace traditional banking functions with code. Popular DeFi tokens like yearn.finance, Compound and Uniswap are up over 500% in the past 6 months.
Here are the top 5 DeFi tokens ranked by market capitalization:
- Uniswap (UNI)
- Maker (MKR)
Non-DeFi altcoins have also seen a significant increase in value over the past year. Ethereum, the largest altcoin by market cap, has risen from $90 to over $1,800 in less than 1 year. Ethereum has gained a lot of interest due to the variety of financial applications being built on its blockchain.
How Does Cryptocurrency Work?
Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that are powered on the blockchain. Blockchain technology stores a ledger of every transaction of the cryptocurrency on every node powering the blockchain. Nodes are computers that are connected to Bitcoin’s network to mine Bitcoin. If one of these miners tries to enter false transactions, it will be nullified by the correct ledger.
The correct ledger is determined by the majority of miners’ records. In theory, you could hack a blockchain by controlling 51% of the cryptocurrency’s network in a process called a 51% attack. However, this process is economically infeasible and would require an extremely choreographed hack with billions, if not trillions, of dollars worth of computer hardware.
To transact with a cryptocurrency, you need to have a set of public and private keys. These keys are like passwords generated by your cryptocurrency wallet. Your public key is connected to your wallet’s address and allows people to send you cryptocurrency. Your private key is used to approve transactions being sent from your wallet –– only you have access to your private keys.
Contrary to popular belief, many cryptocurrencies don’t have a finite supply. Bitcoin’s total supply is capped at 21 million coins, but many altcoins have a set inflation rate with no cap on total supply, like Ethereum.
Pros and Cons of Investing in Cryptocurrencies
Investors are attracted to cryptocurrency due to its high volatility. It’s not uncommon for a cryptocurrency’s price to fluctuate over 10% in a single day. This is great if you’re looking for high returns, but if you’re a risk-averse investor then investing in cryptocurrency may not be for you.
Cryptocurrency Trading Steps
Take a look at the 5 steps to trading cryptocurrency.
Step 1: Make a cryptocurrency brokerage account.
Unless you already own cryptocurrency, you’ll need to make an account with a crypto brokerage. Coinbase, Gemini and eToro are among the best crypto brokerages on the market. All 3 of these options offer a simple user interface and a variety of altcoins to choose from.
To make an account, you’ll need to provide your crypto brokerage with personal identification information, similarly to opening an account with a stock brokerage. Some common information you need to provide when setting up your account includes your Social Security number, address, date of birth and email address.
Step 2: Fund your account.
Once you’ve signed up with a crypto brokerage, you’ll need to connect your bank account. Most crypto brokerages offer bank funding through debit cards and wire transfers. Wire transfer is typically your cheapest option to fund your account –– it’s free on Coinbase and Gemini.
Step 3: Pick a crypto to invest in.
Most active cryptocurrency traders allocate most of their capital to Bitcoin and Ethereum. These cryptos move more predictably than smaller altcoins, so trading with technical indicators can be easier.
Many crypto traders allocate a portion of their capital to smaller altcoins. Although small mid-market cap cryptos are riskier than large-market cap cryptos, they offer higher upside potential. Many small altcoins have risen over 1,000% in a matter of months, making them attractive investments for risk-tolerant investors.
Step 4: Choose a strategy.
There are a plethora of trading indicators to choose from, and most traders take multiple factors into consideration when buying and selling cryptocurrency. If you’re new to investing, you may want to consider purchasing a cryptocurrency trading course.
If you’re an experienced trader, you may already have a strategy you use to trade stocks. Stock trading strategies are also commonly used for cryptocurrencies. A personal favorite trading strategy that many traders use is Elliott Wave Theory. Elliott Wave Theory focuses on the psychology behind the market sentiment, so it works particularly well for speculative assets like cryptocurrencies.
Step 5: Store your cryptocurrency.
If you’re actively trading your cryptocurrency, you’ll have to store your funds on the exchange to have access to them. If you’re buying your cryptocurrency to hold for the mid to long term, then you should get a cryptocurrency wallet.
Cryptocurrency wallets come as software wallets or hardware wallets. Both are secure, but hardware wallets offer the best security, as they store your crypto on a physical device, offline. Ledger is a great hardware wallet brand many investors trust to store their crypto assets on. If you’re looking for a software wallet, there are several options on iOS, Google Chrome and Android that are free to use.
Best Cryptocurrency Brokers
There are a ton of options when it comes to cryptocurrency brokerages. For new investors, Coinbase is a great option. Coinbase has a free cryptocurrency conversion feature where you can trade your crypto for any other token supported by Coinbase.
Other crypto brokerages that are solid options for intermediate traders are eToro, Binance and Gemini. Robinhood also supports certain cryptos but the platform only supports trading for 5 altcoins.
Cryptocurrency Trading vs Stock Trading
Cryptocurrency trading is often seen as more high risk than stock trading, but it depends what stocks or cryptocurrency you’re trading and how you’re trading it. Trading penny stocks or trading options can be equally, if not more, risky than trading cryptocurrency.
Before trading cryptocurrency, you should be aware that you risk losing your money to the market. If you really believe in the future of cryptocurrency, holding your crypto assets for the long term may be more beneficial than trying to time the markets.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was the first cryptocurrency?
The first cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, which was created by an anonymous figure named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.
Is cryptocurrency real money?
Cryptocurrency is a digital asset class of its own. Some cryptocurrencies can be used as money, but others are used for identity, governance, data storage and much more.
Can I invest $100 in Bitcoin?
If you have $100 in your bank account, you can buy $100 worth of bitcoin. Bitcoins can be split up to its 8th decimal place. The smallest unit of measurement for Bitcoin is called a Satoshi, and it’s 1/100 million of 1 bitcoin.
Gemini builds crypto products to help you buy, sell, and store your bitcoin and cryptocurrency. You can buy bitcoin and crypto instantly and access all the tools you need to understand the crypto market and start investing, all through one clear, attractive interface. Gemini Crypto Platform offers excellent account management options. You can manage your account at a glance, view your account balance 24-hour changes and percent changes. Get started with Gemini now