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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 then significantly higher — crossing the $60,000 level in early 2021. It touched an all-time high above $68,000 in November 2021, but has since been under intense pressure.
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). But futures involve a lot more risk in exchange for that potentially higher reward.
Where you can 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 services like Cash App and PayPal have 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 in December 2022
Robinhood is a great option for buying cryptocurrency directly. You’ll also get to take advantage of Robinhood’s wildly popular trading commissions: $0 per trade, or commission-free, though you’ll still be paying a built-in spread markup on any trades. 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
Interactive Brokers lets you trade four cryptocurrencies directly, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, for one of the lowest commissions in the market. Customers can also access 24/7 crypto trading through an associated app with Paxos Trust Company. Plus, IB allows you to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum futures rather than owning the currencies directly. And in this broker’s case, you can buy Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, with contracts costing $11.02 at five coins per contract or Ethereum contracts for $9.02 at 50 coins 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: 0.12-0.18 percent of trade value; $10.02 per futures contract
Account minimum: $0
Though Webull may be less known than its rival commission-free trading app Robinhood, it provides investors with a solid offering that includes cryptocurrency trading. While you won’t pay commissions on crypto trades (or stocks and ETFs), Webull does charge a spread markup of 100 basis points (1 percent of the price) on either side of a trade. Several cryptocurrencies are available for trading, including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Cardano. Charting tools and an impressive mobile app make Webull a broker worth considering.
Account minimum: $1 to trade crypto
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 0.05 percent of your order to 0.3 percent. Traders can also buy and sell Bitcoin futures as well as take advantage of substantial volume trading discounts.
Commission: 0.025-0.60 percent
Account minimum: $0, but futures margin depends on contract
Binance is a specialized trading platform that allows you to buy and sell digital currencies, including the largest such as Bitcoin and Ethereum but also dozens of other much smaller coins, too. In total, you’ll have access to around 60 cryptocurrencies. The commission structure at Binance is low and only gets cheaper the more you trade. Trading fees start at 0.1 percent of your trade value (i.e., $10 for every $10,000 traded) and fall from there, depending on your trading volume over the prior 30 days.
Commission: 0.1 percent of the transaction value or less
Account minimum: $0
Coinbase is a specialized cryptocurrency-focused platform that allows you to trade digital currencies directly, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana and Tether. In total, you’ll have access to more than 100 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, though its Pro platform is cheaper.
Commission: At least 1.99 percent of the transaction value
Account minimum: $0
eToro offers cryptocurrency trading commission-free, but like many other brokers it charges a spread based on the cryptocurrency being traded. You’ll pay a markup of 75 basis points for Bitcoin, but more obscure cryptocurrencies can run closer to 500 basis points, or 5 percent. One major feature at eToro is CopyTrader, which allows you to follow and identify other top traders on the platform and copy their trades. Be sure to do your research before committing to this strategy.
Commission: $0 plus a spread markup based on cryptocurrency being traded
Account minimum: $50
Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange that allows you to trade in dozens of different digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as emerging ones such as Cardano and Solana. You’ll pay a 1.5 percent fee, or 0.9 percent for stablecoins, plus additional fees if you’re using a card and funding through a bank. More active traders can benefit from a premium tier called Kraken Pro, where the fee range declines to 0.16 percent to 0.26 percent. Kraken is not yet available to residents of New York and Washington state.
Commission: 1.5 percent, or 0.9 percent for stablecoins (lower with Kraken Pro)
Account minimum: $1
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
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
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 cryptocurrencies.