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From Bitcoin and Ethereum to Dogecoin and Tether, there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies, which can make it overwhelming when you’re first getting started in the world of crypto. To help you get your bearings, these are the top 10 cryptocurrencies based on their market capitalization, or the total value of all of the coins currently in circulation.
Cryptocurrencies Available for Trade
Cryptocurrencies Available for Trade
Cryptocurrencies Available for Trade
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
- Market cap: Over $882 billion
Created in 2009 by someone under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin (BTC) is the original cryptocurrency. As with most cryptocurrencies, BTC runs on a blockchain, or a ledger logging transactions distributed across a network of thousands of computers. Because additions to the distributed ledgers must be verified by solving a cryptographic puzzle, a process called proof of work, Bitcoin is kept secure and safe from fraudsters.
Bitcoin’s price has skyrocketed as it’s become a household name. In May 2016, you could buy a Bitcoin for about $500. As of Jan. 3, 2022, a single Bitcoin’s price was over $46,000. That’s growth of about 9,200%.
Related: How To Buy Bitcoin
2. Ethereum (ETH)
- Market cap: Over $447 billion
Both a cryptocurrency and a blockchain platform, Ethereum is a favorite of program developers because of its potential applications, like so-called smart contracts that automatically execute when conditions are met and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Ethereum has also experienced tremendous growth. From April 2016 to January 2022, its price went from about $11 to over $3,700, increasing over 33,500%.
Related: How To Buy Ethereum
3. Binance Coin (BNB)
- Market cap: Over $86 billion
The Binance Coin is a form of cryptocurrency that you can use to trade and pay fees on Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world.
Since its launch in 2017, Binance Coin has expanded past merely facilitating trades on Binance’s exchange platform. Now, it can be used for trading, payment processing or even booking travel arrangements. It can also be traded or exchanged for other forms of cryptocurrency, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin.
Its price in 2017 was just $0.10; by Jan. 3, 2022, it had risen to around $520, a gain of approximately 520,000%.
Related: How To Buy Cryptocurrency
4. Tether (USDT)
- Market cap: Over $78 billion
Unlike some other forms of cryptocurrency, Tether is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by fiat currencies like U.S. dollars and the Euro and hypothetically keeps a value equal to one of those denominations. In theory, this means Tether’s value is supposed to be more consistent than other cryptocurrencies, and it’s favored by investors who are wary of the extreme volatility of other coins.
5. Solana (SOL)
- Market cap: Over $52 billion
Developed to help power decentralized finance (DeFi) uses, decentralized apps (DApps) and smart contracts, Solana runs on a unique hybrid proof-of-stake and proof-of-history mechanisms that help it process transactions quickly and securely. SOL, Solana’s native token, powers the platform.
When it launched in 2020, SOL’s price started at $0.77. By Jan. 3, 2022, its price was around $171, a gain of more than 22,000%.
6. Cardano (ADA)
- Market cap: Over $44 billion
Somewhat later to the crypto scene, Cardano is notable for its early embrace of proof-of-stake validation. This method expedites transaction time and decreases energy usage and environmental impact by removing the competitive, problem-solving aspect of transaction verification present in platforms like Bitcoin. Cardano also works like Ethereum to enable smart contracts and decentralized applications, which are powered by ADA, its native coin.
Cardano’s ADA token has had relatively modest growth compared to other major crypto coins. In 2017, ADA’s price was $0.02. As of Jan. 3, 2022, its price was at $1.34. This is an increase of 6,600%.
7. U.S. Dollar Coin (USDC)
- Market cap: Over $42 billion
Like Tether, USD Coin (USDC) is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by U.S. dollars and aims for a 1 USD to 1 USDC ratio. USDC is powered by Ethereum, and you can use USD Coin to complete global transactions.
8. XRP (XRP)
- Market cap: Over $39 billion
Created by some of the same founders as Ripple, a digital technology and payment processing company, XRP can be used on that network to facilitate exchanges of different currency types, including fiat currencies and other major cryptocurrencies.
At the beginning of 2017, the price of XRP was $0.006. As of Jan. 3, 2022, its price reached $0.83, equal to a rise of more than 13,700%.
9. Terra (LUNA)
- Market cap: Over $33 billion
Terra is a blockchain payment platform for stablecoins that relies on keeping a balance between two types of cryptocurrencies. Terra-backed stablecoins, such as TerraUSD, are tied to the value of physical currencies. Their counterweight, Luna, powers the the Terra platform and is used to mint more Terra stablecoins.
Terra stablecoins and Luna work in concert according to supply and demand: When a stablecoin’s price rises above its tied currency’s value, users are incentivized to burn their Luna to create more of that Terra stablecoin. Likewise, when its value falls compared to its base currency, this encourages users to burn their Terra stablecoins to mint more Luna. As adoption of the Terra platforms grows, so too does the value of Luna.
From Jan. 3, 2021, when its price was $0.64, Luna has risen over 14,300% to $92.64 a year later.
10. Polkadot (DOT)
- Market cap: Over $29 billion
Cryptocurrencies may use any number of blockchains; Polkadot (and its namesake crypto) aims to integrate them by creating a cryptocurrency network that connects the various blockchains so they can work together. This integration may change how cryptocurrencies are managed and has spurred impressive growth since Polkadot’s launch in 2020.
Between September 2020 and Jan. 3, 2022, its price grew about 925%, from $2.93 to $30.04.
*Market caps and pricing current as of Jan. 3, 2022.
Best Crypto Exchanges 2022
We’ve combed through the leading exchange offerings, and reams of data, to determine the best crypto exchanges.
What Are Cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrency is a form of currency that exists solely in digital form. Cryptocurrency can be used to pay for purchases online without going through an intermediary, such as a bank, or it can be held as an investment.
How Does Trading Cryptocurrencies Differ from Stocks?
While you can invest in cryptocurrencies, they differ a great deal from traditional investments, like stocks. When you buy stock, you are buying a share of ownership of a company, which means you’re entitled to do things like vote on the direction of the company. If that company goes bankrupt, you also may receive some compensation once its creditors have been paid from its liquidated assets.
Buying cryptocurrency doesn’t grant you ownership over anything except the token itself; it’s more like exchanging one form of currency for another. If the crypto loses its value, you won’t receive anything after the fact.
There are several other key differences to keep in mind:
- Trading hours: Stocks are only traded during stock exchange hours, typically 9:30 am to 4:30 pm ET, Monday through Friday. Cryptocurrency markets never close, so you can trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Regulation: Stocks are regulated financial products, meaning a governing body verifies their credentials and their finances are matters of public record. By contrast, cryptocurrencies are not regulated investment vehicles, so you may not be aware of the inner dynamics of your crypto or the developers working on it.
- Volatility: Both stocks and cryptocurrency involve risk; the money you invest can lose value. However, stocks are directly linked to companies and generally rise and fall based on those companies’ performance. Cryptocurrency prices are more speculative—no one is quite sure of their value yet. That makes them much more volatile and affected by something as small as a celebrity’s tweet.
Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Cryptocurrency?
If you buy and sell coins, it’s important to pay attention to cryptocurrency tax rules. Cryptocurrency is treated as a capital asset, like stocks, rather than cash. That means if you sell cryptocurrency at a profit, you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes. This is the case even if you use your crypto to pay for a purchase. If you receive a greater value for it than you paid, you’ll owe taxes on the difference.
Are There Cryptocurrency Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)?
Given the thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence (and the high volatility associated with most of them), it’s understandable you might want to take a diversified approach to investing in crypto to minimize the risk you lose money.
Multiple companies have proposed crypto ETFs, including Fidelity, but regulatory hurdles have slowed the launch of any consumer products. As of June 2021, there are no ETFs available to average investors on the market.
You can buy cryptocurrencies through crypto exchanges, such as Coinbase, Kraken or Gemini. In addition, some brokerages, such as WeBull and Robinhood, also allow consumers to buy cryptocurrencies.