Crypto exchanges are where most people buy and sell bitcoin, ether, dogecoin and other types of cryptocurrency. There are plenty of reasons why, but in its rawest and most decentralized form, cryptocurrency is relatively unfriendly to obtain and use. And because of the high degree of risk involved — crypto markets remain largely unregulated, prices are hypervolatile and scams and hacks are prevalent — you’ll want a reputable, stable platform that you can trust.
That means, at minimum, using a crypto exchange that will hold your crypto securely, provide you with unfettered control over your assets and make buying, selling, sending, receiving and trading crypto simple and affordable.
Of course, crypto and bitcoin exchanges continue to evolve and expand, and some investors may desire more advanced features, including the ability to earn interest, access more esoteric forms of crypto or buy, store and display NFTs. (It’s worth noting that the safest place to hold your crypto is in a cold storage wallet that you control exclusively.)
Here, we’ll focus on the basics, highlighting the exchanges that make it easy to sign up, get started and carry out transactions without getting fleeced on fees. As with any investment, high fees can erode returns over time, and some exchanges offer more competitive fees than others.
Our top picks for the best crypto exchanges will serve a wide range of investors — whether you’re a beginner looking for an easy on-ramp to crypto, or you’re a high-volume trader looking for the lowest “maker” and “taker” fees in the market. We’ve got what you need to help you choose the best crypto exchange for you.
Note: Crypto exchanges add and delist crypto tokens on a regular basis. Our “number of supported tokens” data is based on data from each exchange’s website as of May 27, 2022.
Best crypto exchanges
- US availability: All states except Hawaii
- Number of supported tokens: 174
- Spot trading fees: $0.99 to $2.99, or 1.49% for trades over $200
- Credit/debit card fee: 3.99%
Straightforward and simple, Coinbase provides an intuitive and streamlined experience that makes it easy to buy, sell, trade and send bitcoin, ether and a variety of other cryptocurrencies. As a public company, it’s among the most established, well-capitalized and popular players — but you’ll pay for the privilege, with trading fees that are higher and somewhat more complicated than other exchanges. We think the platform’s ease of use and simplicity are worth the higher fees, only if you plan to make infrequent and relatively modest transactions.
Coinbase says it keeps 98% of its crypto assets in cold storage — a method for holding crypto tokens offline — and says that it has never lost any user funds. Balances of US dollars held in Coinbase accounts are insured by the FDIC, and Coinbase maintains a private insurance policy worth $320 million overall for crypto assets it holds. Coinbase’s first-quarter earnings report raised eyebrows with a new disclaimer stating that custodially held crypto could be used to pay creditors in the case of the company going bankrupt.
Unlike most crypto exchanges, Coinbase offers live phone support in addition to email support — which may bring new crypto investors an additional modicum of comfort – and there’s a well-written and helpful library of content for novices. Coinbase is available to residents of all US states except Hawaii.
For real-time crypto transactions (referred to as “spot trades”), Coinbase charges between $0.99 and $2.99 for trades up to $200; for transactions above $200, it’s a flat 1.49% fee. Coinbase also adds a 0.5% “spread” fee on top of that.
And purchasing crypto with a debit card adds a significant 3.99% fee. Funding your Coinbase account with an electronic ACH transfer is free, however. A wire transfer deposit costs $10.
The platform’s advancedPro version, which runs on a separate app and website, charges lower fees but features a less user-friendly interface that’s not suited for beginners.
- US availability: All states except Hawaii, New York or Washington
- Number of supported tokens: 130
- Trading fees: 0.0 to 0.2% maker; 0.0 to 0.5% taker; 1.5% instant buy
- Credit/debit card fee: No credit/debit card purchases in US
One of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges, and in business since 2013, Kraken’s low fees make it particularly attractive to high-volume traders. Kraken also offers riskier and more advanced trading features — such as margin trading and on-chain staking, with biweekly payouts.
The exchange supports transactions for about 130 crypto assets for purchase or trade in the US. It also supports more than 100 crypto pairs — two crypto tokens that can be exchanged for each other.
Kraken does not include any insurance on crypto deposits held in hot wallets, but it does claim to keep 95% of digital assets offline with enough liquidity to allow users to withdraw at any time. No hacks of the Kraken crypto exchange have ever been reported.
While Kraken is available to most US crypto investors, it’s not licensed for crypto services in New York, Washington state or Hawaii.
- US availability: All 50 states
- Number of supported tokens: 99
- Trading fees: Spot trading fees: $0.99 to $2.99, or 1.49% for trades over $200
- Credit/debit card fee: 3.49%
Gemini features competitive trading fees and support for almost 100 currencies and 20 crypto pairs, but the exchange’s educational resources are what may be most appealing to novices. It’s also one of the few exchanges operating in all 50 US states — and the only exchange on this list that does.
This crypto exchange offers strong security features, including FDIC insurance for US dollar deposits, private insurance for hot wallets — on the blockchain — crypto assets and support for U2F hardware keys. Its ActiveTrader platform for high-volume traders offers charting, multiple order types, auctions and block trading. Having acquired the NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway in 2019, Gemini also lets users buy and sell crypto collectibles and digital art.
Gemini’s educational resources are the best we found on any crypto exchange. Its Cryptopedia section provides deep knowledge about cryptocurrencies and the technology behind them. Cryptopedia contains a bounty of articles on a wide range of crypto subjects, from basic explainers on bitcoin and blockchain to more advanced topics like real-world uses for smart contracts, the NFT marketplace model for music and decentralized cloud storage.
- US availability: All states except New York
- Number of supported tokens: 220
- Trading fees: 0.04% to 0.4% maker; 0.1% to 0.4% taker
- Credit/debit card fee: 2.99%
Featuring transactional support for more than 200 cryptocurrencies, Crypto.com offers the widest range of cryptocurrencies of any exchange on this list. It also lists support for more than 60 trading pairs.
Crypto.com claims that 100% of all user cryptocurrencies are held offline in cold storage and that it has secured $750 million in crypto insurance. The exchange also says that all online funds in its custodial wallets are generated by the company itself to fund user withdrawals, meaning customer crypto assets are safe offline. US dollar balances in Crypto.com accounts are held by the Metropolitan Commercial Bank and insured by the FDIC.
Crypto.com uses multifactor authentication — including password, biometric, email, phone and authenticator verification — for all crypto transactions. Crypto.com also requires whitelisting of all external addresses via email verification. That means you’ll need to explicitly authorize any crypto wallets or bank accounts for withdrawal, which helps protect your crypto assets from accidental or manipulated withdrawals.
Along with Gemini and bitFlyer, Crypto.com is one of only 15 exchanges allowed to operate in Hawaii. Residents of every US state except for New York can use Crypto.com.
- US availability: All states except West Virginia and Nevada
- Number of supported tokens: 15
- Trading fees: 0.03% to 0.1% maker/taker fee
- Credit/debit card fee: 1.95%
BitFlyer is a private company that launched its crypto exchange first in Japan in 2014 and later expanded into the US in 2017. Though bitFlyer has much lower trading volume than the big exchanges, it ranks in the top 20 for average liquidity, per CoinMarketCap, and it supports nine different cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether, litecoin and ripple (XRP).
BitFlyer offers the lowest trading fees of any exchange on this list. There are two ways to buy and sell crypto on bitFlyer — through the instant buy/sell platform and transactions on bitFlyer’s Lightning Network.
Once you’ve verified your identity and funded your account, maker and taker fees on the bitFlyer Lightning Network max out at 0.1% for transactions less than $50,000. That’s even lower than Kraken’s baseline 0.2% fee for makers and 0.5% for takers — and far more affordable than Coinbase Pro’s 0.4% for makers and 0.6% for takers.
BitFlyer’s instant buy and sell platform doesn’t charge any transaction fees at all, which makes it a tempting proposition, but watch out for the wild range of spread fees, from 0.1% to 6%. BitFlyer will show you the spread fee for any transaction before you make it. Its 1.95% fee for credit card and debit card purchases is also the lowest on this list.
Its interface is more primitive than other exchanges, and we encountered a few minor hiccups — unexplained error messages and missing 2FA codes — during the sign-up process. It’s worth noting that the lower volume of transactions on the bitFlyer exchange may impact your ability to complete trades at the prices you want.
BitFlyer is available to all US residents except for those living in the states of West Virginia and Nevada.
Best Crypto Exchanges, Compared
|$0.99-2.99, or 1.49% for trades over $200
|0.0-0.2% maker; 0.0-0.5% taker; 1.5% instant buy
|$0.99-2.99, or 1.49% for trades over $200
|0.04-0.4% maker; 0.1-0.4% taker
|Hawaii, New York or Washington
|West Virginia and Nevada
What about Binance and Binance.US?
Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, per CoinMarketCap. The exchange launched in China in 2017 and moved its servers and operations to Japan a few months later, in advance of the Chinese ban on cryptocurrency.
In 2019, due to increased enforcement of regulations, Binance was banned in the US. The existing crypto exchange eventually spun off Binance.US as a separate company that now operates in 45 states. Binance and Binance.US are sister companies with distinct ownership structures.
Binance.US features a very similar interface and experience to Binance and also boasts some of the lowest fees of the major crypto exchanges. However, the company has a rocky past and uncertain future.
In May 2021, Bloomberg News reported that the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service were investigating Binance’s operation for possible links to money laundering and tax evasion. Bloomberg followed up in September with news that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was probing Binance’s connections to insider trading and market manipulation.
In April 2022, Reuters reported evidence that Binance had turned over data to the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, about crypto donations to Alexei Navalny, a political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Binance was hacked in 2019, with thieves getting away with 7,000 bitcoin worth about $40 million, though the exchange refunded users who lost money using its Secure Asset Fund for Users. Several investors who were locked out of trading in 2021 and suffered major losses are planning a class-action lawsuit against Binance.
Although Binance.US provides a quality experience on mobile and desktop and features low trading fees, we would not recommend using the crypto exchange until the legal investigations have been completed and Binance.US provides more transparency on its practices to regulators and users.
What is a crypto exchange?
Crypto exchanges generally let users deposit and withdraw funds in either fiat (such as US dollars) or cryptocurrencies, buy crypto with US dollars or another currency, trade one crypto for another, send crypto to another individual (or business) and sell crypto for US dollars.
What are the risks in buying, trading and selling crypto?
There are many. Cryptocurrency is decentralized, meaning that no central authority controls or oversees it. There is no central bank backing it. And your holdings have considerably less protection than you’ll find with more conventional assets like stocks, bonds and mutual funds. In fact, it’s worth repeating: Crypto markets remain largely unregulated, prices are hypervolatile and scams and hacks are prevalent
Some of the larger crypto exchanges provide FDIC insurance up to $250,000, similar to a bank account. But that insurance only covers US dollar deposits. Some crypto exchanges provide separate insurance for digital assets, though many do not.
What’s the difference between a crypto exchange and a crypto brokerage?
A crypto exchange provides a platform for individual buyers and sellers to trade crypto — or exchange tokens and fiat currency, like US dollars. Exchange rates are ostensibly based on market prices.
Similarly, a crypto brokerage serves as an intermediary for buyers and sellers, but the broker sets the prices. Brokerages often support fewer cryptocurrencies yet charge lower fees than exchanges. Robinhood, for example, supports only seven cryptocurrencies — bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, litecoin, ethereum classic, bitcoin cash and bitcoin SV — but charges no transaction fees.
How much does it cost to trade cryptocurrency?
As with any investment, it’s important to consider the cost of buying, selling and trading cryptocurrency — high fees can erode returns over time. Exchange fees are typically based on how you buy, sell or trade.
“Spot” trades, also known as “instant” transactions, involve buying from or selling to an exchange in real-time for a set price. These trades are simple to make, and most exchanges charge a relatively high fee to make them, often approximately 1.5% of the transaction value.
A more sophisticated type of trade — using “buy” and “sell” orders — is more convoluted and less user-friendly, especially for beginners. But these trades are also considerably less expensive, with “maker” and “taker” fees costing between 0.1% to 0.5% of the transaction value. With this approach, you choose the price you wish to buy or sell at, and a transaction clears only when the market finds a buyer or seller willing to buy or sell at that target price.
Where else can I purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
Along with crypto exchanges and brokerages like Robinhood, some payment services allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrency, although your options for tokens will be more limited, and you usually won’t be able to move crypto out of your account in to a private wallet.
Cash App, Venmo and PayPal all let users buy bitcoin via their payment apps. Cash App only buys and sells bitcoin, but it’s the only payment service that lets users withdraw crypto to their own private wallets. Crypto fees aren’t advertised on Cash App and will vary from trade to trade. Generally, Cash App will charge lower fees than most crypto exchanges for smaller trades, yet higher percentage fees for larger trades.
Venmo and PayPal support bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and litecoin. Both use a tiered fee structure for crypto that’s similar to Coinbase’s — $0.49 to $2.49 on transactions up to $200, a 1.8% fee on transactions between $200 and $1,000 and a 1.5% fee on transactions more than $1,000. Both sites also charge unspecified spread fees that are estimated at 0.5%. You can send crypto to other Venmo or PayPal users with each service, but you can’t move your crypto into your own wallet.
Why are so many crypto exchanges unavailable in the United States?
Regulations on cryptocurrency in the US are more stringent than other countries, and also vary from state to state.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission and crypto exchanges have clashed several times in recent years, with some exchanges facing investigations by the financial agency. The main sticking point is the SEC’s classification of virtual currencies. In 2017, the SEC announced that many crypto tokens represented investment securities, which must be registered with the SEC. The agency also argued that crypto exchanges should register with the SEC as securities trading platforms
The additional regulatory burdens and threat of lawsuits from the SEC have prompted several crypto exchanges to pull out of US markets.
CNET reviews crypto exchanges and brokerages by comparing them using an established set of criteria, including maker, taker, transaction and withdrawal fees, security features, number and type of supported crypto assets, geographical availability, number and type of supported crypto pairs, software interface and functionality, trade limits or restrictions, educational resources and customer support.
More crypto advice:
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.