What is an altcoin exchange
At first sight, an altcoin exchange is no different than a regular cryptocurrency exchange. Users can use multiple order types as limit and market order to execute their vision on further price movements. Payment methods, depositing, and withdrawing funds are no different either. All of the platforms are also focusing on some sort of digital asset trading, however, the difference between lays in the available crypto pairs to trade with sufficient trading volume and liquidity.
All exchanges reviewed here are secure and we won’t be including any exchanges that are not trustworthy. It is rather important to see if you are taking all the necessary steps to protect yourself. Start with connecting to a secure site (https://) and protect your account with 2-factor authentication.
How to buy altcoins
In the best altcoin exchange comparison, it is probably reasonable to establish similar parameters as in our overall best bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange review. If you are looking for a “home” exchange I suggest giving this one a read.
Lets first find out what do you want to achieve. I suggest to start wide and narrow it down:
- Are you looking to buy altcoins directly from fiat currency?
- Are you looking for crypto to crypto exchanges?
- Are you looking to trade altcoins?
- Are you looking for a best altcoin exchange for everything?
Does all this really matter? I believe It does as this is a competitive field where everyone is trying to find a niche to fit in and you could potentially save a lot of money by making correct decisions from the get-go. Let’s get started and tear down the walls of first-page marketing gimmicks.
Where to buy altcoins with fiat currency
This depends on the region you are from. If you are from the US I see no reason for you to use Bitstamp over Coinbase or Binance US. If you are from Europe there is no reason to use Coinbase etc. There are also regulatory differences hence the reason why, for example, Binance opened an exchange meant for the US customers only.
Not going into details and offering advice on this, but for you, it could mean less potential taxation issues as the exchange is operating under the financial service regulation of your region. This also means more secure transactions and communication. Let’s propose a hypothetical case where your account was compromised and you lost all your funds. Would it be easier for you to deal with an appropriate US agency and US regulated exchange or with an exchange that has been registered in common tax havens like Malta?
I also see a political risk here. How many times have we heard one or another country either banning or hardening its grip on cryptocurrencies. This can happen quickly and without much previous warning.
However, none of this is never a black and white situation and your own due diligence is always needed.
Lets now have look how to be be sure you are selecting an exchange best suited for your needs.
Where to buy altcoins with USD
COINBASE and COINBASE PRO
Coinbase and Coinbase PRO difference is in functionality and fees. Simply said Coinbase is for great for beginners and Coinbase PRO for more advanced users. If you are already interested in buying altcoins I suggest you go with Coinbase PRO as this gives you not only better fees but better (more optioned) user interface to execute from as well. Although if you are interested in instant credit and debit card purchases Coinbase is the way to go.
There is also a difference in supported countries and for the US case different states too. Look out for supported payment methods, however, being an US citizen your preferred method is highly likely supported.
Supported cryptocurrencies vary between the two trading platforms. Both support well know altcoins like ETH, BCH, LTC, ETC, XLM, XRP but if your interest is in a more specific niche as XTZ, DASH, MNR, or MANA I suggest you to go through available trading pairs.
- Great liquidity
- Most trusted and secure
- Great trading volume
- Good fees in Coinbase Pro
- Wide range of supported cryptocurrencies
- Not great for instant buys
- Precise control over origin of funds
Kraken is one of the most reputable exchange since 2011. They have 33 fiat-to-crypto trading pairs available for the altcoin market, including TOP 10 listed Ethereum, Litecoin, EOS, Tezos, Ripple, and Bitcoin Cash. Kraken is also offering some of the crypto community favorites ADA, LINK, ICX, OMG, XMR, NANO, XLM and TRX.
For most of the altcoins, the quote currency is Bitcoin. Some pairs are available to trade with Ethereum as well. Something to keep in mind is that trading volume and therefore liquidity is higher between fiat currency and preferred altcoin and could be significantly less for example between Ethereum and preferred altcoin. This may not be a downside as greater volatility (if one seeks that) could be available in pairs that have lower liquidity.
2-5x margin trading is another a great functionality that Kraken has. In my opinion, 2-5x leverage is a great range to be able to control your risk. Bitcoin and especially in our case altcoins can be extremely volatile and high leveraged exchanges will be proun to stop hunting which means the “wicks” can stop out the ones with tight risk management.
Kraken is a good choice for US-based traders, offering one of the best trading fees in the business. Taker fees starting from 0.26% and for someone with high trading frequency, 0.10% could be achieved. Maker fees are starting from 0.10% and with $10,000,000+ trading volume over a period of 30 days your fees could be 0%. Margin trading fees are 0.01% for Bitcoin and 0.02% for the altcoin market.
USD (US dollar) deposit options are limited to wire transfer and will take anywhere between instant to 5 business days. From personal experience, deposits and withdrawing funds from or to bank account have been quick and without any trouble.
- Several 2-factor authentication levels
- Low trading fees
- Great margin trading platform
- Trusted exchange
- Reports of slow customer support
Since 2019 Binance directs all its U.S customers to Binance.US (link). Be aware that some major states like New York, Texas, or Washington are still not supported due to federal law and regulations. In regards to USD trading pairs, 30 different crypto to USD pairs are available, including the most popular cryptos: BTC, ETH, XRP, LTC, VET, XTZ etc.
Liquidity for Bitcoin/US dollar is great, however, you are probably more interested in altcoins. Let’s take Ethereum or VeChain. Ethereum is currently at an acceptable 0.11% spread level while VeChain is at the other end of the spectrum with 2.27% spread. This is not ideal if your interest was in VeChain, but keep in mind that this is the current state of the spread and obviously this can change either better or worse depending on the volatility. This is just something to keep in mind while choosing your markets. You would ideally like to see high volume on the pair you are interested in.
Payment methods and trading fees
Spot trading fee for Binance Global and Binance US is the same – 0.1%. This makes crypto trading super acceptable, one of the lowest in the business. Combine this with native BNB token and you will shave off an additional 25%. Just get some BNB and your trading fees are automatically deducted from your BNB balance. Instant buy/sell fees are 0.5%.
Binance US has 4 different verification levels: Basic, Advanced, Fiat and Corporate.
Basic has quite strict buying limits. You can withdraw or deposit only crypto and trade only crypto-crypto pairs. Withdrawing crypto is also limited to $5,000 in crypto. Basic does not let you make deposits in fiat and in order to have this option you need to be verified to advanced and fiat levels.
Advanced verification level lets you deposit up to $5,000 and withdraw up to $1,000,000 in crypto. In order to go from basic to advanced includes 1 additional step of providing a Proof of Address documents (e.g bank statement or utility bill).
Fiat process involves a questionnaire and opens your account up for USD deposits and withdrawals. $5,000 can be withdrawn via ACH or $1,000,000 via wire transfer. The corporate process is for businesses only.
How to buy altcoins with USD (step-by-step guide)
For this purpose we will use US favorite and world most well known broker exchange Coinbase.
Step 1: Navigate to get started and create an account. After filling all the details you will be asked additional questions based on your location. Verify your e-mail and log in!
Step 2: Set up two-factor authentication. Navigate under settings to have more options. Default way to set up your two-step verification (2FA) is to use a SMS code, more common approach is to use Google Authenticator.
Be sure that you have saved the 2FA secret code in a secure place. If you ever lose your device you need that code to recover your account.
Step 3: Verify your identity. There are 3 options for this: passport, drivers license or a national ID card.
After completing these steps you will need to add your preferred payments methods: wire transfer, paypal, debit card, bank account.
Keep in mind that verification might take up to 5 business days. Even if you plan to buy your altcoins later I strongly suggest doing the verification as soon as you sign up. Usually the need to buy coins comes urgently as the price is probably favorable. You would be miles ahead at the time of purchase if you verify yourself early. Avoid using a credit card that has much higher fees.
How to buy altcoins with EUR
Bitstamp was the first licensed crypto exchange in Europe. What makes Bitstamp great is its proven history of being reliable. They have been around since 2011 and never encountered major hacks or scams.
What you always have to consider is the unfortunate fact that your base currency is in EUR. This simply means a less liquid market. I will give you an example. Bitstamp is considered an EU exchange, but 75% of the volume is done in USD. This probably won’t affect you much if you are just looking to buy some altcoins. Liquidity is definitely more than decent for that.
However, if you are timing your selling/buying for critical turning points, you might be in for a ride using EUR. This can be interpreted positively (more volatility, larger moves) or negatively (stops been triggered). What is important is to consider the fact and trade/buy accordingly. This does not apply to Bitstamp only and is largely similar across all exchanges.
Fees are good – 0.5% for maker and taker fees. Higher volume will give you a cut in fees.
Bitstamp has fairly limited markets for altcoins (ETH, XRP, BCH, LTC), but keeping the options limited will give you markets that are marketed better. If any of the listed altcoins are on your radar, Bitstamp is definitely the way to go.
- Designed for EU customers
- Clear fee structure
- Trusted and reliable
- Fast transactions
- Limited altcoin markets
Kraken is well known in Europe and makes the list as easily as Bitstamp. In fact, out of all well-known exchanges, Kraken matches their BTC/EUR volume with BTC/USD. Comparing total Bitcoin USD volume with total EUR volume shows us that Kraken is the preferred exchange for EUR trading.
Looking more closely at altcoin pairs we can see that EUR volume is matching or even exceeding USD volume. This is great news for someone who is interested to trade or buy your coins in EUR as usually, all liquidity is in the USD pairs.
Best liquidity and volume is done in ETH/EUR. Followed by XTZ/EUR, XRP/EUR, DAI/EUR, ADA/EUR, LTC/EUR, BCH/EUR, LINK/EUR, XMR/EUR, EOS/EUR, WAVES/EUR, XLM/EUR, DASH/EUR, ICX/EUR, SC/EUR, OMG/EUR, ALGO/EUR, ETC/EUR, ZEC/EUR, QTUM/EUR, NANO/EUR, LSK/EUR, TRX/EUR, and BAT/EUR.
You will have plenty of EUR trading pairs to work with on Kraken. I wouldn’t even care to look somewhere else for more “exclusive” coins to trade as there will be literally no volatility or volume. Even if you manage to find lower fees on not so well known exchanges, consider liquidity. Low fees mean nothing if you don’t have enough liquidity to execute your size.
And the fees are great! Maker fees are starting from 0.16% and can only go lower from there. The same story for taker fees, we are looking at 0.26% and below if your 30-day trading volume increases above a certain threshold.
- Low trading fees
- Large altcoin market
- Great liquidity/trading volume
- Multiple levels of 2-factor authenticators
- Reports of slow customer support
Best altcoin to altcoin exchanges
We have covered Changelly before under the best of the best crypto exchanges in 2020. The reason they are here again is the innovation and security that they bring to the market. Changelly is non-custodial instant crypto exchange which essentially means that your funds are never put into service like on a traditional exchange. You are always forced to be secure.
They act as an intermediary between the exchanges. They get you the best quote across multiple platforms and give you the option to use either floating or a fixed fee to confirm your transactions. The floating fee can be lower or higher than a fixed fee. A floating fee is something that you would use in a rising crypto-to-fiat pair, but in my perspective, not really worth a gamble. Their fixed fee (fixed for 30 seconds) is a flat 0.25% and this rate is very good.
You can obviously trade different altcoin pairs on regular exchanges, but getting the best rate can be difficult. It can be also difficult to find suitable pairs to trade in your preferred exchange. This is the exact problem Changelly is solving. They currently have access to over 150+ cryptocurrencies so you shouldn’t be in shortage of finding a preferred pair for a quick swap.
They do offer instant purchases with credit/debit card, but be smart and create your account before you actually want to buy something as KYC can take time.
- 150+ altcoin pairs
- Clear fee structure
- Excellent user interface
- Great customer service
- Trusted by clients (4.4/5)
- No trading functionality
Simpleswap offers instant service to exchange your cryptocurrency without even signing up for the platform. They operate similarly to any other non-custodial crypto-to-crypto platform making the process fast and secure. Secure in this case means that no funds are stored on the exchange at any moment. If large funds are not pooled together hackers won’t be interested as the potential revenue won’t be high.
Their trading system is integrated into the majority of crypto exchanges (i.e Kraken, Binance, OKEX) which allows them to offer you the best exchange rate possible. There are 2 types of rates: floating and fixed. Again, very similar to other non-custodial exchanges.
The floating rate is an estimated receiving amount. Depending on the market volatility, it could be more or less than an estimate. The question is how the scale actually skewed. There is no data to show if customers are actually doing better or worse going with the floating rate.
Fixed rate is a reasonable option for a conservative trader. You know instantly how much you are getting and you are getting it faster (5-60min) as the floating system needs to do more market-making to search for the best price.
There are no limits on the floating exchange amount which means you can swap as many altcoins as you want. Simpleswap is supporting a staggering 300+ different cryptocurrencies so you shouldn’t be in short of finding yourself a desired altcoin.
There is also no KYC. However, they collaborate with European AML which means they can ask for an ID and the origin of your coins. If you are do not want to provide this information the coins will be sent back to the original address.
- 300+ altcoins
- No sign-up or KYC
- 24/7 cutomer support
- Highly rated by customers
- Quick and easy
- Fees structure could be clearer
ShapeShift was founded in 2014 by one of the crypto pioneers Erik Voorhees. Some prominent names as Roger Ver and Barry Silbert were among the first to invest in the project. Later down the road, Lakestar, and Blockchain capital joined. I like that the whole team, with enough backstory, can be easily found on the website. The user interface is great too and this adds transparency.
You get around 50+ supported assets to trade between. Including the most popular ones like BTC, LTC, BCH, ETH and XRP. As per usual, you will not be able to change your altcoins to USD or any other fiat currency.
Shapeshift also has its own utility token FOX which enables zero-fee trading between cryptocurrencies. FOX was introduced after the platform launched its new KYC requirements and all users that go through full verification will receive 100 FOX tokens. Each token that users hold on the platform gives that user $10 of free trading volume, every 30 days.
Its worth to mention that full verification is only needed when you want to trade or buy cryptocurrencies. Sending and receiving could be still done without verification.
Fees are a bit of a mystery. Not as transparent as Changellys but not as murky as Simpleswaps. As it first seems, trading is free but as we all know this cant be the case. As per their FAQ, you will get no slippage on your orders and you will get exactly the rate that you are displayed on the website. This does not mean that fees are not included in the rate that you are being displayed.
There is something called the miner fee, which is an interesting concept. As you can see from the link, every coin has its own miner fees. This, however, makes it harder for you to determine the actual rate charged. This can be obviously calculated, but it’s just not straight forward. I was able to find a good explanation under on their helpdesk in case you want to dig further.
- Great customer reviews
- Transparent ownership
- 50+ supported assets
- Hard to determine exact fees
Where to trade altcoins
Since the beginning, Bitmex has been the “go-to” platform if you want to actively trade (long or short) Bitcoin or altcoins on leverage. If you didn’t know it yet Bitmex is founded by Arthur Hayes who himself was a derivatives trader. He was also the market-maker for Deutsche Bank and Citibank’s Exchange Traded Funds and has had plenty of experience in other markets.
Bitmex was first of its kind offering up to 100x leverage for their XBTUSD perpetual swap. It is a revolutionary solution as it trades similarly to the traditional futures contract, but without expiry. All this is achieved by funding, shorts pay longs, or longs pay shorts. Their perpetual swap trades like spot following different data sources from Binance, Kraken, Bitstamp, etc. If you are interested in further detail I strongly suggest reading their overview and FAQ.
Without going into too much detail Bitmex offers 3 perpetual contracts: BTC, ETH, and XRP. In fee division, we are looking at -0.0250% maker fee and 0.0750% taker fee, and those are great rates in the crypto world. Worth mentioning that XRP and ETH respectively have a maximum of 50x leverage. This should be plenty enough for anyone who is interested in actual trading and not just playing the lottery.
Traditional futures are available for BCH (Bitcoin Cash), ADA (Cardano), EOS (EOS Token), ETH (Ethereum), LTC (Litecoin), XRP (Ripple), and TRX (Tron). Available leverage is ranging from 20 to 50x. Maker fee for all the above-listed products is -0.0500%, and taker fee 0.2500%.
I feel like an important point to emphasize is Bitmex order execution. If you decide to google Bitmex you will find a lot of complaints about order execution/submission errors/order delays etc. This is something that has been known for ages and Bitmex is always working on upgrading its matching engine. I hate to break it for you, but it will never be perfect.
- First, you need to understand that this problem could be used to your advantage and should be 100% considered while executing trades
- Second, you need to realize/compare the orders/volume Bitmex is processing
- Third, none of the competitors are perfect. They all have their own issues whether its wash trading, fake liquidity, no liquidity, poor UI, poor market-making, poor fees, etc.
Obviously, this here only scratches the very surface of Bitmex and basically just states that the exchange is legit and safe to trade on. This is definitely a big step up and needs serious commitment. The rewards of being able to trade with margin could be life-changing in both ways.
I sincerely suggest reading and understanding contract descriptions, different order types, liquidation mechanism, and margins. Doing just this puts you way ahead of the majority of the participants on Bitmex.
- Up to 100x leverage
- High liquidity
- Professional trading platform
- API integration
- Different order types
- Occasional system overload
- Compliacted for beginners
Bybit is fairly similar to other margin trading platforms such as Bitmex and Binance. Bybit offers up to 100x leverage for their perpetual contracts and is safe to trade from. As per their words, they have an industry-leading cold wallet system. All users have assigned a cold wallet deposit address, and withdrawals are done via offline signatures.
Don’t forget to set up 2-factor authentication as soon as you sign up. One thing is to be protected from the exchange side and trust the exchange with your funds. Another thing is to be protected yourself – this is how the majority of the funds are actually lost.
Withdrawals are quick, conducted 3 times per day. This is an important factor as this is not a FIAT supported exchange (similarly to other platforms focusing on margin trading). In case you decide to sell your altcoins to FIAT currency you need quick access and this need usually develops quickly.
The platform offers BTC/USD, ETH/USD, XRP/USD, and EOS/USD trading products. This is a good selection for margin trading products as it’s not easy to manage and market make high leveraged products like these.
The user interface is great. You can minimize/expand and toggle around different features and set it up exactly as you want it. Charting is offered via Tradingview and this gives you access to numerous indicators and charting features. You can also set up your trading desktop with separate Tradingview tabs for higher/lower timeframe reference. This is a great addition to have without sacrificing precious screen space with irrelevant/duplicated information.
Again, a similar story to other sophisticated trading platforms. You will surely want to do some extra reading about contract rules, order types, funding, and liquidation process. This gives you an undeniable advantage against if not others, then definitely yourself.
An example. If you know how funding works you maybe won’t cut your trade because you know that this is a move is initiated by traders who don’t want to pay funding. Obviously, this depends on what the funding rate is and maybe you actually want to cut it as the rate is too high. Understanding something as basic as funding can already help you make more educated decisions.
Another thing to consider is trading fees. Makers, in other words, liquidity providers are getting rebates from the trading platform (-0.025%). Takers, the ones who take liquidity are looking at (0.075%). These fees are considerably better than on Bitmex, however, the liquidity is roughly 10 times less. A very important factor to consider. Most likely it comes down to your clip size.
- Low trading fees
- Multiple altcoin products
- Quick withdrawals
- Great user interface
- Could use more liquidity
- Complicated for beginners
Binance should be no stranger to anyone. Simply one of the most advanced, largest, and really the best places to trade altcoins daily. Their platform features excellent user interface combined with state of the art trading engine. Overload has been a major issue for many high leveraged trading platforms, but for Binance, things are different.
There used to be an argument that volume processed by their futures contracts is low and this is the reason for great execution. We can now disregard the speculation and say that Binance really has the best execution. Data is showing that BTCUSDT trading volume is 1.5x larger than on its nearest competitor while still allowing orders to be entered without rejection. Just this alone could make a significant difference in your PnL (profit and loss).
You are looking at a maximum of 125x leverage and altcoins/USDT contracts. You are pretty much guaranteed to find your TOP 10 altcoins like ETH, LTC, XRP, EOS, TRX, BCH, and many more. What you will also find from the same link are the maximum/minimum contract sizes, tick values, and leverage. This is essential knowledge about the contracts you will be trading and is strongly recommended to understand before taking any positions.
Another hugely important factor is the fee structure, especially for active daytraders. Are you a scalper who is in position for a rather short period of time or are you more of a swing trader with wider stops? Binance is taking a different route here too. Their taker fees are extremely good compared to not so good maker fees. What you can read out of it is that Binance is preferring discretionary trading to system trading. Simply said they encourage human traders to make their own decisions.
It’s also worth looking past the complex futures trading and trade altcoins on the spot market. You will be looking at endless pairs to trade accompanied with the best liquidity possible. Binance is the go-to place if you can’t find a preferred pair to trade.
The only thing you need to keep in mind is that FIAT markets are limited, and you cannot directly deposit FIAT. Your gateway to Binance is either stable coins or BTC and you will be greeted with the best altcoin exchange of them all.
- The best overall altcoin exchange
- Most trading pairs
- The best liquidity
- The best fees
- Fiat currency deposit not available
Overall best altcoin exchange 2020
The saturation of crypto exchanges is quite high and even the smallest niches are filled. This means that there could be an exchange that is specifically tailored to your needs. However, looking at things from a wider spectrum there is no substitute for Binance. There are a few simple reasons.
Binance has the best liquidity. You will need liquidity to get your orders submitted without slippage. Lets hypothetically say that there is an exchange with negative fees (they are paying on top for you to make a trade) and the spread is 10 ticks. You probably see where this is going… You would get torn apart with however good the fees are. This is why liquidity comes before fees and actually, before anything else.
The next big factor is the fee structure. Is it transparent? Do you understand everything or do you have to search for answers? This is where it can get a bit complicated, especially with not so well-known platforms. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of those are great exchanges. Just that the niche is tight and the competition is high. This means there can be marketing conversion points that can distract you from the actual fees. Free is rarely free.
For Binance, things are different once again. The fees for the spot market, margin trading, deposit, and withdrawals are brought out crystal clear. However, they are on top of the list not because of transparency (other exchanges on the list here are transparent too) but because of how good the fees actually are. They are unmatched for someone who wants to trade altcoins. If you are a market maker, swinger, or an algorithmic trader then Bitmex or other alternatives might be better for you as their maker fees are lower.
These two factors above determine the winner. They are by far the most important factors. Security is too, but none of the exchanges have any issues with that. Usually, a person gets hacked from his side, not the exchange side. Make sure that you at least use 2-factor authentication, better of Yubico, or something similar to protect yourself.
Binance is progressing at an incredible rate. What was merely a spot exchange a year ago now trades over 1B daily on their single futures contract. Their UI is great, trading engine almost seamless and the features endless.
Progress can be seen daily. They recently came out with staking, loans, and savings. The interest they are paying for you there is exceeding 10 times the rate I’m getting from my home bank – this is just awesome.
If we can bring out negatives it would be that no direct fiat currency deposits or withdrawals are available. If you are not very keen holding stable coins, BTC, or other altcoins you won’t be able to access Binance awesomeness that easily. Binance has launched Binance Singapore and Binance U.S to combat this hurdle, but these exchanges are still with limited features. Little bird on my shoulder is saying that something similar is coming out for the EU too. Let’s wait and see.
However, always consider your specific needs. Other exchanges and this review would be pointless if Binance would be the best for everything. Bitstamp is good for businesses, Kraken is good for EU traders. Changelly is good for swapping and instant buying. Coinbase is the best for the US and so forth. Binance just has the largest user base and is a clear leader in the biggest part of cryptocurrency trading overall.