The Down-Low on Crypto
It’s here, there and everywhere; cryptocurrencies have become the talk of the tech town with everyone from CEOs to celebrities discussing all things crypto.
To keep it brief, cryptocurrencies are any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions. One of the key reasons for the popularity of cryptocurrencies is that they don't have a central issuing or regulating authority, instead they use a decentralised system to record transactions and issue new units.
Being decentralised, transactions don't need to rely on banks for verifications but rather through a peer-to-peer system that can enable anyone anywhere to send and receive payments.
The first of many
One of the first cryptocurrencies was Bitcoin; Founded in 2009, IT remains one of the best known currencies of today, some other popular currencies include:
Developed in 2015, this blockchain platform comes with its own cryptocurrency, called Ether (ETH) or Ethereum and it is the most popular cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.
This currency is similar to bitcoin but has moved more quickly to develop new innovations, including faster payments and processes to allow more transactions.
A distributed ledger system that was founded in 2012. Ripple can be used to track all sorts of transactions as the company had previously worked with various financial institutions.
But what can I do with it?
It seems as though cryptocurrencies are nothing more than numbers on a screen, right? So what makes them so special and where could you use them? One of the most attractive features of crypto is its security. By being on the blockchain, it’s near impossible to access and edit transactions.
As for their uses, when Bitcoin first launched it was intended to be used for daily transactions, but that hasn’t quite materialised. Although the number of institutions accepting cryptocurrencies is growing, larger transactions involving it are rare, it is in fact possible to buy a wide variety of products using crypto, for example:
Technology and e-commerce sites including newegg.com, AT&T, and Microsoft, Shopify, Rakuten, Home Depot
Retailers such as Starbucks, Subway, Gucci and Off-White
Car dealers from mass-market brands to high-end luxury
Additionally, in the US, if you want to spend your hard earned crypto at a retailer that doesn’t accept it directly, you can use a cryptocurrency debit card, such as BitPay.
Where do they live? How can I get one?
Now that you know what crypto is and what you can use it for, you may be wondering how to get some cryptocurrency yourself. Well, there are typically three steps involved; Choose a Platform, Funding & Ordering. Let’s break these steps down some more:
Part 1: Choosing a platform
When deciding on a platform, you can choose between a traditional broker or dedicated cryptocurrency exchange.
Traditional brokers offer to buy and sell cryptocurrency, as well as other financial assets such as stocks, bonds, and ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds). Whilst these platforms tend to offer lower trading costs they do have fewer crypto features.
Cryptocurrency exchanges not only offer different cryptocurrencies, but also wallet storage, interest-bearing account options, and so much more (depending on your chosen platform). It is worth noting that many of these exchanges charge asset-based fees.
So when you’re comparing different platforms, you should consider: available cryptocurrencies, fees, security features, educational resources and any storage and withdrawal options.
Step 2: Funding your account
After choosing your platform, you need to fund your account to begin trading. Most crypto exchanges allow users to purchase crypto with government-issued currencies such as US Dollar, British Sterling, or Euro whilst using debit/credit cards although this varies per platform.
It should be noted that crypto purchases with credit cards are considered risky, and that some exchanges don't even support them. For example, some credit card companies don't allow for crypto transactions as they’re are highly volatile.
The most important factor to consider is fees, including potential deposit, withdrawal transaction fees and trading fees. Fees will vary by payment method and platform, so this is certainly something to research.
Step 3: Placing an order
Finally, you can place an order via your broker's / exchange's platform. Some payment services like PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo, allow users to buy, sell, or hold cryptocurrencies too.
Now whilst these steps have begun to explain just how you can go about obtaining cryptocurrencies, it is, by no means, an exclusive guide. In other words, please do some of your own additional research!
Now whilst we’ve only just explored the tip of the crypto iceberg, there are already worthy predictions on just where this revolutionary fintech will take us. Some economic analysts state that crypto needs a verified exchange traded fund (ETF) which would ensure an easier investment process for people that are looking to buy into crypo, however there must be a demandto begin the process of generating a fund.
Additionally, Harvard University Professor of Economics and Public Policy Kenneth Rogoff stated thatit’s possible we will see the total “market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies could explode over the next five years, rising to $5-10 [trillion].”
And there you have. A simple yet sophisticated exploration into the crazy world of cryptocurrencies. Whilst they seem to be a rather smart way of solving our current financial problems, crypto can’t seem to escape its paradoxes. Investors believe in regulation, yet are worried about the impacts that regulation will bring. Plus they’re eco-conscious, but crypto has a huge carbon footprint… so I guess we still have a few more years to figure out exactly where we can fit in to the world of cryptocurrencies.