With all of the cryptocurrencies available, how does an investor decide which one to invest in? ICOs can be problematic and some coins simply vanish. In fact, the SEC has really started cracking down on ICOs and the companies that offer them.
Even with the huge fluctuations in price, people are still interested in investing in cryptocurrencies. It's risky - you could lose everything or see your value sliced 90% overnight. But it can also pay off handsomely.
In this article, we vetted 10 of the most popular cryptocurrencies by current use and potential. These cryptocurrencies have been around for a while as well. It doesn’t mean they can’t disappear at some point but they don't appear to be fly-by-night scams either.
Before we dive in, it's important to note that to look at, use, and transact in crytpo, you need a digital wallet. We recommend Coinbase because it's free, has a great app, and they give you a bonus for making your first trade. Check it out. Or, check out this list of the most popular crypto investing platforms.
Still dominating in market cap and popularity, Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere soon. It still makes all the headlines and is what most people think about when they hear the word cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin has turned into the go to cryptocurrency for traders. But for investors, who can hold through the volatility, they see advantages to bitcoin as well. Once 21 million bitcoins have been mined, no new coins will be created ever.
Looking at it from a supply/demand stand point, long-term investors stand to gain. Plus, Bitcoin is the base currency that you need to purchase if you want to end up getting some of the other currencies on this list. You can't simply buy many of these others with USD - you need BTC.
Bitcoin is one of the easiest cryptocurrencies to invest in. Just open a Coinbase account and get started >>
Ethereum was initially seen as the cryptocurrency that could shove bitcoin off of its thrown as the dominant currency. It didn’t work out that way but Ethereum holds a solid #2 by market cap.
Ethereum did provide a few enhancements over bitcoin. Namely smart contracts and 5X higher transactions per second (TPS) than bitcoin.
3. Tether (USDT)
Tether is a stablecoin that has grown to be one of the most popular cryptocurrency options out there. Unlike other coins and tokens on this list, Tether is always pegged to be $1. However, it does fluctuate and has been known to drop below a dollar for short periods of time.
What makes Tether popular is that it can earn interest rewards via staking, which not only allows you to have a stablecoin, but earn a little interest.
Litecoin has similarities in its infrastructure to bitcoin. Litecoin’s transaction fees are far less, at around $0.35 per transaction. Just like Ethereum, Litecoin also has higher TPS than bitcoin.
Litecoin has an $81 million cap on coins that can be mined. This means Litecoin could potentially see steady increases in price, depending on future demand. Litecoin is currently ranked at #5 by marketcap so it isn’t a slouch by any means.
5. Ripple (XRP)
Ripple is more than just an exchange of value. It helps make cross border financial transactions more efficient. By working with financial institutions, Ripple lowers currency exchange rates and provides for real-time exchange rates.
Before Ripple, banks often had to use intermediaries for cross border transactions. These were expensive and could takes days to complete. Ripple has greatly improved efficiencies in how cross border transactions operate.
For an investor, this shows that Ripple is providing real value in the world beyond the basic store or exchange of value premise.
BNB is the token created by Binance to facilitate transactions on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC). Beyond being a governance token, BNB allows you to cheaply facilitate BSC transactions.
But beyond the transactions fees for the BSC, BNB coin also is tradable and can be used for collateral for different projects and services.
Solana is a growing competitor to Ethereum with hundreds of projects relating to DeFi and Web3 emerging on the platform. It's focusing on being a faster and cheaper alternative to ETH, while still allowing smart contracts and other features.
Solana also has been growing in popularity for use in NFTs and other projects online. However, as it's use and applications have improved, so has the price.
Check out our guide on How To Invest in Solana.
8. Polygon (MATIC)
Polygon is a Layer 2 solution to Ethereum that makes transactions both faster and cheaper. Polygon is built on top of Ethereum, and is designed to help it scale. It supports payments, NFTs, and more.
The Polygon Token trades under MATIC. This token is used to govern the network, as well as pay transaction fees.
Unlike ETH or BTC, Polygon transactions are very low cost, which is one of the biggest benefits of the platform.
Almost every major cryptocurrency exchange supports Polygon.
Like Zcash, Monero focuses on anonymity of transactions in the blockchain. Both cryptocurrencies use different algorithms to accomplish this. Of the two, Monero is more technically advanced when it comes to completely hiding any trace of a transaction.
Monero is also older than Zcash and wasn’t derived from bitcoin. Monero has a large following among users wanting to keep their transactions private, even from regulators.
For investors, they’ll need to stay on top of how Monero handles future regulations. If it can successfully navigate regulation, it stands to come out on top of the privacy cryptocurrencies.
Check out our guide on How To Invest In Monero here.
Cardano allows for sending and receiving of digital funds. It’s more than just a cryptocurrency though, it’s also a platform for decentralized apps. It was built by a global team and has the goal of providing broad scale use of financial transactions (think VISA).
Cardano is currently ranked #6 by market cap. This shows great interest in the cryptocurrency. For investors, Cardano has a big mission but also lots of developers, which bode well for its future.
Check out our guide on How To Invest In Cardano here.
Remember, investing in any cryptocurrency is highly speculative. All of these currencies provide some value, but at the end of the day, you're only betting on price. You're hoping that someone else will pay more for the investment than you did.
Be sure that you are only committing funds that you are comfortable losing.
If you're interested in any other cryptocurrencies, we'd love to hear about. Share your picks, and more importantly the "why", in the comments.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared toward anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.