After all the hype with Gamestop ($GME) this past week around investing, there is a definite need to provide some fundamental understanding around crypto (cryptocurrency). I will cover a couple of topics in this one to get you started.

  1. What is crypto?
  2. How do I purchase crypto?

What is Crypto?

Cryptocurrency, also widely referred to as “crypto,” is online currency. There are no paper bills behind it, no physical gold, and each currency can be volatile in price. There are many currencies out there, but the two that are most mainstream are Bitcoin (BTC) & Ethereum (ETH).

Cryptocurrencies are backed by new technology called blockchain, which is essentially a public ledger backed by multiple peer-to-peer computers that have no central authority. Cryptocurrency blockchains are decentralized. Meaning, no third party or government involvement, as an example.

When you enter a new transaction (buy, sell, pay) with a currency built on blockchain, the transaction is sent to computers (called nodes) scattered all over the world. The computers then validate the transaction by creating a block, which gets chained together to log the history of all transactions on that blockchain. A blockchain is meant to be created with the ability to achieve full transparency of the chains transactions, without the ability to edit.

Bringing it all together, Bitcoin, as an example, is a currency built on blockchain technology. There are no hours of operation, transactions can take seconds or minutes, and you only need your phone to make a transaction.

People also look at Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a store of value. Bitcoin is commonly compared to gold due to the fact that it has a limited amount of coins in circulation, just like the amount of gold being limited as a scarce precious metal. Both provide the scarcity factor that can help the value appreciate. Aside from bitcoin, there are many other cryptocurrency coins that aim to solve various problems. Now that you have a basic understanding, it’s time to trade.

How Do I Purchase Crypto Currencies?

First of all, before thinking to purchase crypto, be responsible. It can be regarded as a speculative asset and not backed by the government. There is potential to lose your “fiat money.” With that being said, one of the most difficult things for me at the beginning of my crypto journey was how to purchase.

Similar to stock brokerage houses like Fidelity, there are also crypto currency exchanges. I have only experienced three thus far and I believe that one of these will get you going in the right direction.

Voyager

Voyager is a public company listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) under ticker symbol VYGR. All you need to do is go to the app store on your mobile device, search Voyager, and download it to get started. Voyager will ask for your social security code for tax purposes. The fact Voyager is a public company should add to the confidence in sharing that type of information.

Voyager was a crypto exchange that took me forever to get on because I was skeptical of linking bank accounts to startup apps. Stupid, sure, but most companies use Plaid, which is a service that will link your financial accounts to your app easily through API. Also, to boost confidence around Plaid, Chamath Palihapitiya is backing it.

As for the Voyager app itself, they advertise as commission free. The only caveat is the bid and ask prices are farther apart, which means it is free, but you will have to buy at a higher price than other apps when you purchase. It is all similar in the end.

Voyager is a great option to start with. Easy to use, $5K deposit limit for new users and very fast to start trading quickly.

Gemini

Gemini is another app created by the Winklevoss twins. You know, the two guys that hate Mark Zuckerberg. Gemini is not a public company like Voyager, but prides itself “with a security-first mentality from day one.” As with Voyager, all you have to do is go to the app store for free download on your mobile device.

Gemini has been backed by major publications as has credibility due to the creators. To connect your banking, Plaid is also used as the primary service to create the link. $5K daily deposits for new users, same as Voyager.

The one thing that I had to research further was the fees for purchasing a cryptocurrency on Gemini. At first, in the mobile device, the fee was $75 on $5K as an example or 1.5%! I was shocked. However, the large fee is only on the mobile device.

What you need to do to lower fees is sign in from your computer and go into the settings to activate the active trader platform. Without that, it is ridiculous fees from the mobile device. The active trader platform is nice and although there is a smaller fee, you can get better purchase prices when comparing against Voyager above.

Robinhood

I am afraid Robinhood may become an app of the past, but this platform was the first that got me into cryptocurrencies. The mobile app is probably one of the best out there in my opinion, where you can trade both crypto and stocks. Robinhood is also available on the app store on your mobile device. Social security information will also be required due to tax purposes.

Robinhood allows for trading of cryptocurrencies, but you cannot transfer the crypto off of Robinhood itself. Not having the option to transfer is a key feature that limits Robinhood as a top cryptocurrency app. Robinhood would be similar to PayPal. Any currency purchased on the app, has to remain on the app itself.

Final Thoughts on Getting Started

Hopefully this article will get you pointed in the right direction of what cryptocurrencies are, the technology behind it, and how to trade. There are many other apps out there like Binance and Coinbase, which I did not cover. Trade responsibly. Good luck.