Cryptocurrency, especially bitcoin, has proven to be a popular trading vehicle, even if legendary investors such as Warren Buffett think it’s as good as worthless. Part of cryptocurrency’s popularity is due to its volatility, since these swings allow traders to make money on the price moves.
For example, at the start of 2017, the price of bitcoin broke through the $1,000 barrier. By the end of the year, the digital currency had reached nearly $20,000. Almost a year later, bitcoin was hovering around $3,200. But it sprung back to life in 2019, rising to more than $10,000 and has continued significantly higher since then — crossing the $20,000 level toward the end of 2020.
It’s this kind of price movement that has attracted traders looking to ride the waves to profit. While some traders like to own the currency directly, others turn to the futures market. Futures may be an even more attractive way to play the volatility of digital currencies such as bitcoin, because they allow traders to use leverage to magnify their gains (but also magnify losses).
Where can you buy and sell cryptocurrencies?
Traditional brokers have the advantage of offering a wide selection of investible securities, though typically you can’t trade bitcoin directly, only futures. Meanwhile, crypto exchanges are limited to digital currencies, though you can own the currencies directly and can often buy several, rather than simply bitcoin or bitcoin futures, as you would with a general broker. And PayPal has also gotten in on the act, allowing U.S. users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.
Here are the best brokers for cryptocurrency trading, including traditional online brokers, as well as a new specialized cryptocurrency exchange. You might also want to check out which brokers offer the best bonuses for opening an account to determine where you can get a little extra.
Overview: Best brokers for cryptocurrency trading
Robinhood is a great option for buying cryptocurrency directly. Not only that, you’ll get to take advantage of the broker’s wildly popular trading commissions: $0 per trade, or commission-free. And if you’re into more than just cryptocurrency, you can stick around for stock and ETF trades for the same low price. Robinhood’s slick app makes trading so easy, though those looking for a full-featured trading experience will be disappointed.
Account minimum: $0
TD Ameritrade is one of the top full-service brokers on the market, and not only does it offer access to traditional products such as stocks and bonds, but it’s expanded its offering to include bitcoin futures. However, TD Ameritrade does not allow trading directly in the digital currency. You’ll need to meet the account minimum to get started with bitcoin futures. (Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade, and will eventually integrate the two companies.)
Commission: $2.25 per contract
Account minimum: $25,000 for futures
Interactive Brokers allows you to buy bitcoin futures rather than owning the currency directly. And in this broker’s case, you can actually buy futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, with all-in contracts costing $15.01 with five bitcoins per contract. In addition, Interactive Brokers brings its full suite of investment offerings, so you can buy almost anything that trades on an exchange.
Commission: $15.01 per contract
Account minimum: $0
Charles Schwab is routinely one of Bankrate’s picks for top broker, and this investor-friendly company offers trading in bitcoin futures. Schwab also has no account minimum, but any futures contracts you trade will require some minimum margin to hold them open. Schwab offers an attractive commission of $1.50 per contract, and if you’re able to bring big money to the table, you’ll receive a welcome bonus, too.
Commission: $1.50 per contract
Account minimum: $0, futures margin depends on contract
Traders have a couple options at this broker, which has rolled out direct currency trading via TradeStation Crypto, with commission-based pricing for traders. Pricing is based on your account balance with the broker and whether your order is directly marketable. Normally pricing ranges from 0.25 percent of your order to 1 percent. Traders can also buy and sell bitcoin futures as well as take advantage of substantial volume trading discounts.
Commission: 0.25-1 percent
Account minimum: $0, but futures margin depends on contract
Coinbase is a specialized cryptocurrency-focused platform that allows you to trade digital currencies directly, including bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash. In total, you’ll have access to more than three dozen cryptocurrencies. You’ll also be able to store your coins in a vault with time-delayed withdrawals for additional protection. The exchange’s commission structure is steep. It charges a spread markup of about 0.5 percent and adds a transaction fee depending on the size of the transaction and the funding source.
Commission: At least 1.99 percent of the transaction value
Account minimum: $0
Whenever you’re selecting a broker, it’s important to consider all of your needs. And for new traders in cryptocurrency, you’ll want to figure out whether you want to own the virtual currency directly or whether you want to trade futures, which offer higher reward, but also higher risk.
You’ll also need to consider whether you want to trade more than bitcoin, which is what the majority of traditional brokers restrict you to. If not, you may want to turn to a cryptocurrency exchange, since they offer more choice of tradable cryptocurrency.