Bitstamp built a solid reputation by integrating with EU’s financial system. With a limited selection of cryptocurrencies and only a few types of trades available, now may be the time to test the waters in the wider pool of Bitstamp alternatives. Check out this list of 11 crypto exchanges to see if they may better fit your trading needs.
Bitstamp: A Conservative Choice
Founded by Slovenian bitcoin enthusiasts in 2011, cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp is now headquartered in Luxembourg with trading operations in London. The move reflects both the stronger infrastructure in London for fintech startups as well as the desire of Bitstamps’ founders to make their exchange part of the European financial system.
Related: Bitstamp Review: Trusted Exchange but Few Coins
“We are aware of the key role we play in regulating this sector of the financial industry,” Bitstamp co-founder and CEO Nejc Kodrič told potential investors, adding that one of his core commitments is “providing the oversight and reassurance that customers, investors and the financial industry need from a digital asset exchange.”
The desire for legitimacy drove the move to Luxembourg where Bitstamp became the first crypto company to receive a license as a financial institution.
Replicating the fiat world’s best practices helped make Bitstamp the largest bitcoin exchange in Europe by trading volume. Bitstamp’s reputation took a hit, however, in 2015 when hackers used phishing techniques to breach the exchange’s security system. The nearly 19,000 bitcoins stolen from the exchange, worth $5.2 million at the time, would be worth nearly $1 billion today.
Bitstamp did not keep pace with the rise of Asian trading giants. This was due to Bitstamp’s inability to handle the hyper-growth in 2017’s crypto markets. Customer support, fiat transactions and verifications nearly ground to a halt.
Despite these issues, CoinMarketCap regularly ranks Bitstamp among the 20 largest-trading crypto exchanges.
One reason Bitstamp’s popularity has waned compared to other exchanges is it’s limited listing of five cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ripple, litecoin, ether and bitcoin cash. You can also deposit, withdraw and trade both euros and US dollars.
Bitstamp’s trading options include market, limit and stop orders, but you can’t make leveraged trades. Bitstamp does make it easier for experienced traders to apply different trading strategies through the creation of sub-accounts. Transaction fees vary from 0.25% down to 0.1% depending on your 30-day average trading volume.
If you’re looking for more choice in altcoins than Bitstamp provides, you’ll find plenty of other exchanges you can take your business to. The main question to ask is whether or not the exchange accepts your euros, dollars, or pounds.
Best options if you want fiat support
Although supporting fiat deposits and withdrawals means an exchange must submit to regulatory oversight, several exchanges consider the burden worth the trouble. The world is still at the earliest stages of crypto adoption. Many potential customers need an easy way to cross the gap between the fiat and crypto worlds. The following exchanges provide that bridge.
At one of the oldest exchanges in the cryptocurrency industry, the people running Bitfinex have seen just about everything. Unstable servers crashed the trading platform in its early years. Hackers stole 120,000 bitcoin in 2016. And in 2018, America’s U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission subpoenaed Bitfinex and its leadership as part of an inquiry into the stablecoin Tether.
This history hasn’t phased Bitfinex’s customers whose activities regularly drive the exchange close to CoinMarketCap’s top-ten in trading volume.
Bitfinex has base markets in US dollars, euros, British pounds and Japanese yen. Although crypto-to-crypto trading is limited to base markets in bitcoin and ether, both of those markets have more than 70 trading pairs.
The trading options include market and limit orders and half a dozen other ways to manage risks and rewards. More aggressive traders can take advantage of Bitfinex’s peer-to-peer lending system to place margin orders.
Driven by its founder’s experience with the Mt.Gox debacle, American crypto exchange Kraken developed a reputation for stability and security. Kraken offers a selective range of altcoins and advanced trading features as well as a hack-free history.
You can place market and limit orders for 5 fiat currencies and 17 cryptocurrencies in Kraken’s markets. Leveraged trading is limited to select crypto-to-crypto trading pairs. Fees on those trades start at 0.16% for market-makers and 0.24% for market-takers, but they fall quickly as your average trading volume increases.
Decentralized trading platforms
Several innovative platforms have sprung up over the past few years that avoid the pitfalls of centralized exchanges. Using the power of peer-to-peer technology, these decentralized trading platforms never hold your crypto assets. Without a fat juicy target to go after, crypto hackers are less likely to take your pool of coins.
Abra built its trading platform on the smart contract capabilities of the Litecoin blockchain. When you deposit coins into your Abra app, they are actually converted to litecoin. A smart contract locks your balance at a fixed exchange rate. Whenever you make a trade within the Abra app, more smart contracts document the amounts and rates. All of this happens under the hood. To all outward appearances, Abra looks like a multi-coin wallet and exchange all in one.
Within Abra, you can hold balances in 20 cryptocurrencies and 50 fiat currencies. You never get charged a discrete fee when you make a trade. However, the exchange rate Abra quotes you also includes a small bump for its profits.
There is one drawback to Abra. Even though you can trade in 70 fiat and crypto currencies within the app, the only currencies that you can deposit or withdraw are bitcoin and litecoin. Since everything runs on Litecoin smart contracts, you never actually own any of the listed currencies.
Bisq is not your typical exchange, either. Manfred Karrer, the platform’s original developer, is a passionate believer in the Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision of decentralized, peer-to-peer financial systems. Rather than create yet another centralized crypto exchange, Karrer wanted to build a trading platform that let individuals connect with each other directly.
Karrer outlined his vision in his original announcement: “[Bisq] is designed for those who want to exchange a national currency for bitcoin and do not want to forfeit control or privacy to a central authority in order to trade with other individuals.”
Using peer-to-peer technology, the Bisq app helps traders find and trade with each other. Crypto and fiat changes hands directly rather than through any centralized service. There is no verification process. Bisq does not collect your personal information — not even your email address.
Despite still being a beta project, Bisq has about 750,000 users who exchange more than 70 altcoins amongst each other. Trading in any fiat currency is just a matter of finding someone willing to be on the other end of the deal.
The Bisq app calculates trading fees using a complicated formula based on offer price, market price, size of the trade and other factors. That makes the fees less predictable than at traditional exchanges.
Bisq is only available to download to Linux, macOS and Windows computers.
Changelly acts on your behalf to place trades on the world’s largest exchanges, such as Kraken. Let’s say you want to buy ether with bitcoin. You enter the amount of bitcoin you want to trade and give Changelly the address of your ether wallet. Changelly gives you an address to send your bitcoin.
Once the bitcoins arrive in Changelly’s wallet, the service scans its exchange partners and places the order on the exchange with the best bitcoin/ether exchange rate and sends you the resulting ether deposit. All of that activity, however, is hidden behind Changelly’s simple, convenient interface.
Available worldwide, this web-only trading platform does not require verification mainly because it only deals in crypto. You do, however, have an option to buy bitcoin with a credit card through a seamless third-party integration.
Changelly lets you trade between any of 90 cryptocurrencies. The price of all of that convenience becomes apparent when you look at the transaction fee: 0.5%
ShapeShift is another platform that has taken an innovative approach to simplifying the exchange of cryptocurrencies. As CEO Erik Voorhees explained to Forbes, “It’s sort of like a vending machine where you just visit the website, send one kind of digital currency, and we send you a different kind of digital currency.”
The most popular aspect of ShapeShift’s vending machine is that you can trade any cryptocurrency with any other cryptocurrency. This lets you skip the two-step process centralized exchanges force you to take. Rather that trading bitcoin for ether and ether for ripple, ShapeShift lets you trade bitcoin for ripple directly.
ShapeShift has more than 50 cryptocurrencies in its listing, but deactivates some of them based on where you live. This lets ShapeShift adjust its offerings to fit within local regulations rather than simply walk away from an over-regulated market.
Of course, there is a catch. The exchange rates ShapeShift quotes you include a 0.5% commission, making this another relatively expensive option.
Many of the world’s largest exchanges have forsworn support for fiat currencies, preferring to avoid the regulatory hassles that fiat support creates. Instead, these exchanges focus on the diversity of their altcoin listings. You can also find more advanced trading tools in these exchanges than at their more conservative counterparts.
After new regulations forced it to leave first China and then Japan, Asian crypto exchange Binance became European with a new home in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta. The EU country has decided to become Europe’s center for cryptocurrency by offering a lightly-regulated business environment.
The move hasn’t hurt Binance which regularly competes for the number one ranking on CoinMarketCap.
Binance has base markets in bitcoin, ether and tether. Each market lists more than 110 crypto-to-crypto trading pairs. You can place market, limit, stop-loss and stop-limit orders on any of those trading pairs. However, only the website supports all of those options. The mobile apps only let you track your portfolio’s status and place market orders.
Although Binance does not offer volume discounts or breaks for market makers, the flat 0.1% trading fee is still competitive for many traders.
The American exchange Bittrex was founded by software developers with experience building scalable enterprise-class applications. Even as trading volumes peaked at $3 billion last year, the Azure-based cloud trading platform handled things without blinking. The people side of things didn’t work out so well, but Bittrex has worked through the backlog in service and verification requests.
Bittrex lists more than 190 altcoins in its bitcoin base market. The ether base market has only a third as many. And then there’s the tether market which has a dozen trading pairs for die-hard tether fans.
If there is any downside to Bittrex, it is its poor support for advanced traders. The exchange does not discount fees for high-volume traders or market makers. At a flat 0.25%, the trading fee is one of the highest among centralized exchanges. The trading options themselves only let you place market or limit orders.
New Zealand’s businesses are used to punching above their weight class and Cryptopia is no different. It is the smallest centralized exchange we’ll discuss here, but it has the largest altcoin listing.
Related: Cryptopia Review: Hundreds of Altcoins but Small Volume
Available worldwide through its website (there aren’t any Cryptopia apps), Cryptopia lists 400 cryptocurrencies in its bitcoin, dogecoin and litecoin base markets. Like Bittrex, Cryptopia has a tether market with a token number of trading pairs.
If you’re looking for an obscure, recently-released coin, Cryptopia’s flat 0.2% transaction fee may be worth the price.
One of the largest exchanges in the world is Hong Kong’s OKEx. With more than a billion dollars in trades clearing the exchange every day, it’s a great option for people wanting altcoin selection and market liquidity.
Available in more than 100 countries (not the United States), OKEx has more than 120 cryptocurrencies listed in its bitcoin, ether, tether and bitcoin cash base markets. Even more attractive for traders with an appetite for risk, OKEx lets you place margin trades, index trades and futures trades.
The volume-based maker/taker fee structure is only 0.15% for market-makers and 0.2% for market-takers for low-volume traders.
At one point, America’s Poloniex was the world’s largest crypto exchange. After the flood of new customers in 2017 brought the exchange to its knees, a Wall Street-backed crypto firm bought the owners out in early 2018. With better resources and a larger staff, Poloniex has gradually dug itself out from under its outstanding support tickets and verification requests.
Poloniex lists more than 60 cryptocurrencies on its bitcoin base market. Base markets in ether and tether have only about a dozen coins listed. The ripple base market gets even less respect than tether with only 8 trading pairs.
However, the features that made Poloniex popular in the first place are still there, including the peer-to-peer lending system for leveraged trading.
Poloniex’s new owners made a goodwill gesture to the exchange’s customers by cutting the trading fees dramatically. Even the lowest-volume traders will only pay 0.1% or 0.2% in the new maker/trader structure. Volume discounts quickly take the fees lower.
If you’ve outgrown Bitstamp’s limited number of cryptocurrencies and trading options, you have many exchanges to choose from. Which Bitstamp alternative you should choose will depend on your specific needs.
People who like the security that comes with Bitstamp’s integration in the EU financial system may prefer the American exchanges Kraken and Bittrex.
ShapeShift and Changelly are convenient for occasional traders, but their steep fees won’t make sense for more frequent trading activities.
People who want the most altcoin choices they can get should take a close look at Cryptopia’s liquidity before jumping in. OKEx and Binance may be better options despite their relatively smaller listings.