The 5 Best Bitcoin Exchanges in 2018

When choosing a bitcoin exchange, make sure to choose the right one as some have turned out to be scams. There are dozens and dozens of exchanges out there. We have reviewed some of the most used, reputable and safest exchanges. 

Bitcoin exchanges are still not regulated to the same extent that other business areas are, and the industry still has some issues with security. Further down on this page, you can learn more useful things about bitcoin exchanges and how they work. Our recommendation is not to use any of the Swedish bitcoin exchanges, read why here.

In our review, we have compared large western bitcoin exchanges with good liquidity (that have enough activity on the market to allow you to buy and sell when you want) and that have a reputation for good security. More about our how we conducted our review here.

Disclosure: The links to the companies in this article are partner-links which means that BlockBull Review gets a small reward for purchases made through the links, without any additional cost to you. The small partner-rewards are the reason why we can cover our costs and continue to produce free high-quality content for our readers. 

ExchangeOverall RatingCryptocurrenciesPayment MethodWebsite
Coinbase Bitcoin, Ether, LitecoinBank Transfer, Credit Card
BitPanda Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Dash,Bank Transfer, Credit Card
Exmo review star review star Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin +7 moreBank Transfer, Credit Card
Bitstamp Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, RippleBank Transfer, Credit Card
Kraken Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin +9 moreBank Transfer


Our choice for beginners

Coinbase

    review star review star review star review star review star
  • Safety100%
  • Low Fees75%
  • User Friendliness90%
  • Customer Service100%
  • Feature Richness70%

Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, Coinbase is the world's largest bitcoin exchange, serving more than 9 million customers, so the liquidity is excellent. Focusing on security and customer service, it's one of very few exchanges offering phone-support. Link to website.

Pros

  • All digital currencies are fully insured for cyber-attacks.
  • Only big-name exchange giving customers access to their private keys, meaning the customers are in full control of their funds. Read more about private keys here.
  • Great customer support. Only big-name exchange offering phone-support.

Cons

  • Limited selection of cryptocurrencies.
  • Higher buy/sell fees than most other big exchanges, although credit card and bank transfer fees are good. 
  • Much too sensitive software for personal verification. Getting a Swedish passport verified can be difficult.

Great pick for beginners

BitPanda

    review star review star review star review star review star
  • Safety90%
  • Low Fees60%
  • User Friendliness100%
  • Customer Service90%
  • Feature Richness60%

This award-winning Austrian-based exchange (started in 2014) is not among the very largest exchanges, but is up and coming. BitPanda has a state of the art user interface, features, and verification process. Link to the website.

Pros

  • Fully automated which means fast transactions.
  • Impressive frustration-free verification via live video chat with a real person who guides you, even during weekends.
  • Many useful features. For example, you can exchange cryptocurrencies for gift cards at Amazon.de.

Cons

  • Don't disclose fees, but our calculations show that they are higher than many other exchanges.

Our choice for experienced traders

Exmo

    review star review star review star review star review star
  • Safety90%
  • Low Fees90%
  • User Friendliness90%
  • Customer Service80%
  • Feature Richness90%

This high-security British cryptocurrency exchange offers wallets and exchanges for 10+ cryptocurrencies. Exmo has two trading modes, one simple, and one more complex. Link to the website here.

Pros

  • Over 10 different cryptocurrencies and will be adding more during the fall of 2017.
  • Low fees and loyalty program paying back some of the commissions to users.
  • Fun chat forum with over 8,000 online users when we tried it.

Cons

  • Not among the largest exchanges, which hampers liquidity. Learn more about liquidity here.
  • There is a lot of information on the exchange which is a bit confusing at first, but then you realize it's useful.

A Large Exchange

Bitstamp

    review star review star review star review star
  • Safety70%
  • Low Fees65%
  • User Friendliness70%
  • Customer Service50%
  • Feature Richness70%

This UK-based exchange started in 2011 is one of the oldest and largest in the industry, so liquidity is good. We found Bitstamp to fair average compared to other exchanges. Link to the website here.

Pros

  • Large with good liquidity.
  • Two interfaces, one that is easy to understand and one more elaborate trader view.
  • Option to send text message alerts to yourself when exchange rates have gone past limits that you set.

Cons

  • Fees are among the highest in our comparison. 
  • Only customer support option is an online form and response times were very long when we tried it.

A large exchange

Kraken

    review star review star review star review star
  • Safety65%
  • Low Fees100%
  • User Friendliness60%
  • Customer Service50%
  • Feature Richness60%

This San Francisco-based exchange is also one of the oldest and largest ones, dating back to 2011. Although prices are low, Kraken fairs average on most other things. Link to the website here.

Pros

  • No less than 12 different cryptocurrencies are offered for trade.
  • High-risk margin trading is possible. Learn more about margin trading here.

Cons

  • There is more to desire in regard to user experience and trading information.
  • The only option for customer support is a web-form. The response times can be very long and many customers find the level of customer support insufficient.

 Avoid Swedish Exchanges

We recommend not using any of the Swedish exchanges (BTCX, FYBSE, BitCurrency and Safello). They are the equivalent of old Wall Street stock brokers. You know… the men in ties, frantically waving their hands with corded phone on their shoulders, screaming out their customers bidding prices. The difference between the Swedish exchanges and the old Wall Street guys is that the Swedish exchanges don’t try to get the best price for their customers (so… no screaming, sweat and all that). All the Swedish exchanges do is handle the transaction and add an extra cost for that service.

One would think that if you use Swish to instantly send 1,000 SEK to one of the Swedish exchanges, you would get BTC shortly thereafter. You could reason that it’s the Internet-age, you are buying high-tech assets, we have rigorous consumer laws about consumer information in Sweden, etc. etc. But no, you do not always get BTC shortly after the Swedish exchanges receive your money. In fact, the Swedish exchanges (which , by the way, are not exchanges in the correct meaning of the word but brokers) buy BTC on your behalf when they find time to do so. If you sent money via Swish during the weekend or evening you can be sure you won’t get any BTC until their staff is back in the office.

Because the price of BTC is so volatile (has such extreme price-swings), we find it very inappropriate to buy BTC through the Swedish exchanges as you simply have no way of knowing what price you will get. Also, their fees are higher than international exchanges. 

Here is an easy guide on how to buy bitcoin from international exchanges.

 

How do Bitcoin Exchanges work?

An exchange is a marketplace where buyers and sellers meet and exchange whatever it is they want to exchange, in this case bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. When thinking of a bitcoin exchange, a Stock Exchange may come to mind and you may assume that a bitcoin exchange will work in the same way. And at the most basic level yes, stock- and cryptocurrency exchanges do work in the same way, but there is an important difference.

A modern Stock Exchange has all kinds of fancy mechanisms in place to ensure that their customers (the buyers and sellers) have access to all the sell- and purchase bids of a particular security. Bitcoin exchanges, however, function like old-school Stock Exchanges where only the sell- and purchase bids that are submitted to that particular exchange are available to the exchanges’ customers.

This means that investors only have access to buying the BTC that other investors on their particular exchange want to sell. So the bitcoin price usually varies between exchanges, and is the reason why the price you see on your exchange is usually not the same as the price you see on other sites such as CoinGecko, a public comparison site.

Generally speaking (or rather, statistically speaking) if you choose a large exchange you should get closer to the average market price because there are many buyers and sellers.

If you really want to be able to access the best prices, you may want to open accounts in several exchanges.

 

It Will Take Some Time to Buy Your First Bitcoin

When trading with bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, be advised that it will take some time to get started and to exchange your cryptocurrencies back to fiat (government issued) money.

Opening an account at an exchange is usually free and fast, but in order to transfer money and start trading, serious exchanges require verification of your identity. This typically involves sending copies of your passport and utility bills to the exchanges and can take up to a few days to verify, even if it is usually faster.

If you transfer fiat money from your bank account to the bank account of your exchange, it usually takes a few days for the funds to arrive. There is currently no exchange that has a Swedish deposit account, so you need to wait the 3-5 days that it usually takes to make an international bank transfer. Read more about how to buy bitcoin here.

Also, the bitcoin technology itself has a problem (that is currently being worked on, which you can read more about here); not enough verifications can be made each second. For this reason, a bitcoin transaction will take anywhere between a few seconds to many hours before it goes through, depending on how many people are trading at the same time as you are.

The problem of long transaction times can be quite scary in times of big sell-offs and extreme price-falls in the market. At these times, high volumes of transactions are common, and it can be nerve-wracking to see the prices fall as you are waiting for hours for your transaction to clear. But this is all part of the deal. When investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, you are investing in high-risk emerging technology where everything isn’t fully developed yet. And that is the very reason why the opportunities for investors are so large. Read this to learn how to handle the high risk.

 

Sometimes it takes longer than expected for transactions to go through

Also, the bitcoin technology itself has a problem (that is currently being worked on, which you can read more about here), not enough verifications can be made each second. For this reason, a bitcoin transaction will take anywhere between a few seconds to many hours before it goes through, depending on how many people are trading at the same time as you are.

The problem of the long transaction times can be quite scary in times of big sell-offs and extreme price-falls in the market. At these times, high volumes of transactions are common, and it can be nerve-wracking to see the prices fall as you are waiting for hours for your transaction to clear. But this is all part of the deal. When investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, you are investing in high-risk emerging technology where everything isn’t fully developed yet. And that is the very reason why the opportunities for investors are so large. Read this to learn how to handle the high risk.

 

About this Review

There are at least 60 cryptocurrency exchanges out there. We have evaluated the biggest ones and some smaller up and coming ones with great features and reputation. Large exchanges have a lot of buyers and sellers, so on a large exchange, you are more likely to trade when you want to.

Although safety is the most important thing to assess (in our view), it’s not possible for us to do a complete and accurate assessment. The exchanges don’t disclose everything about their safety measures (for safety reasons). We have looked at things such as off-line storage, 2FA verification, email security, password requirements, personal verification, auto-logouts etc. Whether the exchange has been hacked or not is also a factor for us. Even if past hacks doesn't determine future hacks, in our view it means something to be a large company who has never been hacked, such as Coinbase.

It took us a long time to be able to compare fees because different terminology is used and because some exchanges simply do not disclose it(!). Here are our findings:

ExchangeBuy / SellCredit / Debit CardBank Deposite / Withdrawal
Coinbase1.49%3.99%Free / € 0.15
BitPandaN/A*7.7%Free
Exmo0.2%**3% + € 61% + € 15 / € 20
Bitstamp0,25%***8%***
Free / € 0,9
Kraken0,16 - 0,25%
Don't offerFree / € 0,09

* The fee is baked into the exchange rate and not disclosed.

** Also has loyalty program paying back some of the fees.

*** Discount if you buy/sell for >100,000 EUR, by debet/credit card >1,000 EUR

We have cross-checked our findings with other users’ experiences. However, when doing so we found that many users slammed exchanges for the wrong reasons. For example, one angry user believed that one of the oldest exchanges CEX was about to go under because they didn’t answer his customer support request within a reasonable time-frame. Although we agree that CEX and several other exchanges really need to up their customer support, the reason for the slow response is more likely due to extreme workloads. Many exchanges have struggled to keep up with customer support due to a strong increase in interest for buying bitcoin.

2017-09-20

Disclaimer: The information in this article, as all content on BlockBull Review, is not and should not be seen as investment advice. The information is for educational and/or entertainment purposes only, so use it at your own risk. It is possible to lose money when engaging in any investment including cryptocurrencies and past performance does not indicate future performance. Any opinions expressed are those of BlockBull Review's writers who are not broker-dealers or advisors of any kind.


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