Guide Trading Cryptocurrency for Beginners

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Everything You Need to Know to Start Trading Cryptocurrencies Like Bitcoin and Ethereum
We explain how to trade cryptocurrency for beginners. To start trading cryptocurrency you need to choose a cryptocurrency wallet and an exchange to trade on.

From there it is as simple as getting verified with the exchange and funding your account (a process that can take a few days).

Once you are verified and have your account funded, the only thing left to do is to buy or sell crypto using limit, stop, and/or market orders.

In other words, if you want to trade cryptocurrency you need:

A cryptocurrency wallet (or two). For example, Atomic Wallet, MetaMask, Trezor, or even the wallets offered on exchanges.
A cryptocurrency exchange (or two) to trade on. For example Coinbase, Bittrex, or Binance.
The next step is trading. When trading, you can:

Trade dollars to crypto (for example US dollars to Bitcoin, or Litecoin to US dollars).
Trade crypto to crypto (for example Bitcoin to Ethereum, or Ethereum to Litecoin).
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Coinbase and Other Crypto Exchanges
One solution for all the above is Coinbase/Coinbase Pro.

Coinbase is a good choice because it acts as a wallet, exchange, and place to trade dollars for crypto and crypto to crypto. In other words, Coinbase is an all-in-one solution for everything noted above!

What Coinbase looks like.

With that said, Coinbase has a limited amount of “altcoins” (Bitcoin alternatives like Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin), and thus many traders also use popular crypto-to-crypto focused exchanges like Binance, Bittrex, and Kraken to access a wider array of crypto assets.

To get access to a wider range of coins, a trader or investor may use more than one exchange, doing something like buying Bitcoin on Coinbase using USD, and then sending their Bitcoin to Binance to trade Bitcoin for other cryptos (converting back to Bitcoin to sell on Coinbase when they are done).

TIP: If you want to get into DeFi and get the full experience of Ethereum, you’ll likely want to buy ETH on Coinbase and then use MetaMask for your wallet and Uniswap for your exchange to start. Watch out for fees though! Gas prices can be expensive.

Cash App, PayPal, and Other Solutions For Trading Cryptocurrency
Of course, not every trader/investor is going to want to or be able to deal with traditional crypto exchanges. Luckily there are some indirect options as well. These include:

An app like Square’s Cash App, PayPal, or Robinhood (TIP: For those who don’t want to go the Coinbase route, Square’s Cash App is a particularly good starting point for newcomers who just want to buy/sell Bitcoin and otherwise keep things simple).
The GBTC trust, ETHE trust, ETCG trust, or another Grayscale Trust as sold on the stock market (these are solid choices, but watch out for the “premium“).
A cryptocurrency IRA (these have drawbacks like fees, but they can be valid choices for long-term investing).
A stock that is related to cryptocurrency such as MicroStrategy, Bakkt, Coinbase, or Riot Blockchain (these offer indirect exposure to cryptocurrency).
FTX, Bakkt, and Solutions for Seasoned Traders New to Crypto
Some traders are going to be familiar with more technical types of trading and/or won’t be US-based. These traders may want to try using leverage, for example on Coinbase Pro or Kraken, or may even consider crypto “derivatives” like futures and options offered by platforms like Bakkt, CME, FTX, or BitMEX. Leverage and derivatives aren’t beginner-friendly, but for seasoned traders new to crypto, they can make sense.

Each option has its pros and cons, but notably, only an exchange-broker-wallet hybrid like Coinbase/Coinbase Pro allows one to trade, invest, store, send, and receive coins directly using a single platform.

Given the above, this page will focus on getting you started with Coinbase due to its ease of use for beginners and its usefulness for advanced users too.

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Our Suggestion on where to trade crypto for a newcomer: Use Cash App if you want to keep things simple and just buy Bitcoin, use PayPal or Robinhood if you want a wider but limited selection, use Coinbase if you are ready for real cryptocurrency investing and trading, and lastly once you have mastered Coinbase move onto Coinbase Pro, Binance, and Bittrex to get a wider selection of crypto assets. From there maybe you’ll want to check out Uniswap and dive fully into the world of crypto, but for now the aforementioned is enough to start. Later down the road, if feel like you have mastered trading and risk management strategies, then you may want to consider leverage and derivatives trading, but there is no reason to start there. Trying to do this out of order can lead to real issues, so we strongly suggest learning to walk before you run here. Lastly, at any point in this process, we suggest getting a hardware wallet like Trezor and storing your long-term holdings in your own wallet. Also, once you learn the ropes, educating yourself on other aspects of crypto like mining and how blockchain and smart contracts work is a good idea too!

Square Cash App Bitcoin
Buying and selling Bitcoin using Square’s Cash App.

What You Should Know Before You Start Trading Cryptocurrency
If all you know about crypto trading is the above, you know enough to get started trading cryptocurrency.

However, there are a few things to know about trading cryptocurrency beyond what was noted above that can help you go into crypto trading prepared:

Trading on an exchange means you need to understand order types. Unless you are using a broker service like Cash App or Coinbase.com, you are going to have to understand the difference between a limit order and market order. And, on some exchanges, you’ll also need to understand how stops work. If you are trading on an exchange, also make sure you brush up on the concept of slippage. Crypto markets can lack “liquidity,” so please be very careful placing big market orders! Learn more about order types.
Securing your accounts is really important. In crypto if your account gets hacked, or if you lose access to your wallet, you lose everything. There is no way to recover in many situations, so security is super important. A strong password, 2FA, and other good practices are a must. For exchange protection, I suggest 2fa on a Coinbase account with whitelisting turned on in Coinbase Pro (this would force a hacker to not only get past your 2fa, but to spend time turning your whitelisting off to steal your coins). For wallet protection, you MUST write copy your seed/pin/etc onto a device kept offline, best to have a backup and to have them both encrypted (but make sure not to lose that password either). Lastly, secure password programs like Last Pass help. Learn more about securing your crypto accounts.
The cryptocurrency market is insanely volatile, but TA Can Help. You can make a fortune in a moment and lose it in the next whether you trade Bitcoin, another coin, or even a stock like the GBTC Bitcoin Trust. Consider mitigating risks, hedging, learning some TA (support and resistance and trend trading are good things to learn about for example), and not “going long” with all your investable funds. TIP: If you trade only the top coins by market cap (that is coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum), or GBTC, then the chances of losing everything overnight are slim (not impossible, but slim). Other cryptocurrencies are riskier (but can offer quick gains on a good day). In general, coins with lower market caps and volumes tend to offer a greater risk/reward.
Trading on margin doesn’t make sense for newcomers. Newcomers likely want to stick to major coins with good liquidity and avoid margin trading. No better way to blow up your account than to leverage altcoins, but some who dive deep into crypto culture will come along the temptation quickly. Common sense says don’t do this out of the gate, so here is your warning!
Derivatives have their own rule-sets. You can’t just HODL an options contract because you’ve mistimed the market, and holding a perpetual long or short contract can cost money in fees. The chance to maximize gains can be attractive, but the risk you take and skill you need make derivatives ill-suited for beginners.
Cryptocurrency trading is a taxable event. If you don’t understand the tax implications of trading cryptocurrency tread very carefully. There are some nasty traps you could fall into when trading coins. For one, they are not necessarily considered “like-kind assets.” If that is confusing, then consider sticking with trading USD for coins in Coinbase until you grasp the concept. Learn about cryptocurrency and taxes.
A cryptocurrency exchange is not part of the regular stock exchange. Below we will suggest using an exchange/broker Coinbase, but you can also use the related Coinbase Pro (the pro version of Coinbase with lower fees) once you sign up for a Coinbase account. Neither of these is the same as Wall Street and its exchanges (same general mechanics, different specifics, and different entities).
In other words, if you understand order types, security, and what you are trading, you are ready to start trading.

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