The Best Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges in 2021
Making Crypto Simple
As you surely know by now, cryptocurrency exchanges are the best marketplaces for digital assets, which is why we’ve seen a surge in these platforms in the last ten years. However, despite their number, all of them can easily fall into one of these two categories: centralized exchanges (CCEs or CEXs) and decentralized exchanges (DEXs).
The main difference between the two is in the way they’re governed – either through a central authority or peer-to-peer. While there’s no doubt that centralized exchanges are more popular than decentralized ones, in this guide, we’re going to tell you why.
After this close comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of these two types of platforms, we’ve provided informative crypto exchange reviews on the ten best centralized crypto exchanges to help you get started.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
|Exchange Website||Rating||Currencies||Available Cryptocurrencies||Fees||Our Review||Visit Site|
|5/5||42+ Currencies||100+ Cryptocurrencies||0.1%||Binance Review||Visit Site|
|4/5||USD||30+ Cryptocurrencies||Varies||Coinbase Review||Visit Site|
|3.5/5||USD||5+ Cryptocurrencies||1%||Gemini Review||Visit Site|
|3/5||USD & Others||50+ Cryptocurrencies||0.26%||Kraken Review||Visit Site|
|3/5||USD & Others||70+ Cryptocurrencies||3.5%||CEX.io Review||Visit Site|
|2.5/5||USD & Others||190+ Cryptocurrencies||0.2%||Bittrex Review||Visit Site|
|2.5/5||USD & EUR||6+ Cryptocurrencies||0.5%||Bitstamp Review||Visit Site|
|2/5||USD & Others||100+ Cryptocurrencies||0.2%||Bitfinex Review||Visit Site|
|2/5||USD & 20 others||150+ Cryptocurrencies||0.1%||Kucoin Review||Visit Site|
|2/5||USD & EUR||7 Cryptocurrencies||6%||Coinmama Review||Visit Site|
The Best Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges – Reviews 2021
1. Binance Exchange
Binance joined the crypto scene in 2017 as a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange founded by trading software developer Changpeng Zhao, known as CZ, who had previously worked for Blockchain.info. The company itself is called Binance Holding Ltd. and was first headquartered in China, then Japan, before relocating to its new offices in Malta and Taiwan.
This platform is great for beginners and experienced traders alike as you have the option to choose between a Basic and an Advanced trading interface based on your previous experience in the field. Whichever one you choose, you’ll still be able to buy and sell over 100 crypto assets.
If you like speculating on crypto prices, this altcoin platform has over 400 trading pairs for crypto-to-crypto exchanges and supports trading on leverage. Apart from its amazing cryptocurrency offer, Binance has very low fees as well. The rate is fixed regardless of the trading amount and set at 0.1% per transaction. But that’s not all! In case you own Binance’s native token, the Binance Coin (BNB), you can get a 25% discount if you use it to cover your fees.
On the other hand, if you’re only interested in instant buy/sell orders, you can deposit USD, EUR, or GBP via Binance’s partner Simplex, a reliable third-party payment provider, and place your first order.
As if all this wasn’t enough to earn Binance our number one spot, the platform provides above-average customer support and high-level security methods that make crypto trading a lot more stress-free.
2. Coinbase Exchange
The second centralized crypto exchange on our list is Coinbase, an American-run and San Francisco-based brokerage co-founded by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. Coinbase is a real industry veteran, serving clients since 2012, both locally and internationally (the latter proved to be a real challenge).
Today, you can access Coinbase all over the world – in 103 countries to be precise. However, not every location is eligible for the same services. In some countries, you can only buy cryptocurrencies but not sell them, in others you can only use Coinbase to convert or store your assets in its secure online vault. The full span of its trading products is available in 32 countries, including European countries and the United States.
Unlike some other crypto exchanges that provide order books with buying and selling orders, with Coinbase, you’re directly buying the assets from the platform itself. Coinbase supports only the market’s centerpieces: Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Litecoin (LTC). The brokerage buys these assets from Coinbase Pro, its advanced trading platform, which plays the role of an in-house liquidity provider. Clever, right?
Some traders have trouble getting their way around Coinbase’s pricing and trading fees. We advise you to read their explanation carefully but, in short, the platform charges a flat fee (between $0.99 and $2.99) that depends on the trade amount and a variable percentage fee (up to 3.99%) based on the payment method.
Finally, another reason why we beat the drum for Coinbase is that this exchange is fully compliant with US financial laws and adheres to their KYC and AML policies laws. So, if your priority is keeping your funds safe from cyberthreats (as we think it should be), you’ll have no problem showing Coinbase your ID.
3. Gemini Exchange
Gemini is another American-based exchange on our list. The platform was founded by the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who became a household name in the financial sector after winning a lawsuit against Zuckerberg. The brothers claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea for a social networking site.
However, we can’t really say that the Winklevoss twins have been down on their luck as thanks to the money they won from the settlement, they could invest in Bitcoin early on and become millionaires themselves. The logical step forward for these Bitcoin aficionados was to launch their own Bitcoin (and cryptocurrency) exchange.
Gemini has quickly climbed to the top of the charts thanks to its decent cryptocurrency offer of over 20 cryptocurrencies, its affordable fees (or no fees when it comes to withdrawals and deposits!), smooth user interface, and a stellar customer support team. You can purchase crypto via a bank or wire transfer or trade cryptocurrency for a variable fee (between 1.00% and 0.10%).
Finally, another advantage of using Gemini is the fact that the exchange has passed both the SOC 1 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2 security compliance exams. These exams are internationally accepted proofs of regulatory compliance and state-of-the-art security measures. On top of that, Gemini performs regular security audits.
4. Kraken Exchange
Kraken is a crypto-industry giant founded in 2013 by cybersecurity expert Jesse Powell. It’s available all across the globe except for some blacklisted countries like Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan, and several others.
The fact that Kraken is one of the leaders in the crypto world has been acknowledged by institutional investors like Hummingbird Ventures, Blockchain Capital, Money Partners Group, Digital Currency Group, etc., who’ve invested in the platform as a result of its representability and reliability.
In 2014, Kraken was one of the few selected companies that worked with the Japanese government on creating the first Bitcoin regulatory body and framework backed by the government. This financial regulator is now known as the Japan Authority of Digital Assets (JADA).
Kraken is great for altcoin trading and supports a variety of payment methods once you link your bank account to your trading profile. The most popular ones are bank transfers and wire transfers via SEPA, SWIFT, or FedWire. The wait times vary depending on the bank in charge of the transfer but they take no more than 5 business days.
Kraken is an extraordinary centralized exchange for advanced users who like challenging themselves with staking, futures, and margin trading. However, if you want to place advanced order types or trade big, you’ll have to verify your account to an Intermediate or Pro level as this exchange doesn’t take security lightly.
Apart from the common two-factor authentication method that users need to activate when creating their accounts, Kraken stores 95% of all funds in cold storage, and features high-level user protection measures such as a withdrawal whitelist, Global settings time lock, and a Master Key. You can read all about their security features here.
5. CEX Exchange
CEX.io is a popular cryptocurrency platform that started off as a cloud mining provider for other companies but changed its focus and started providing cryptocurrency trading services exclusively. We liked its ease-of-use and overall performance so much that we’ve included it in our “Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges in the UK” guide.
The fact that CEX.io is a local platform, headquartered in London, was not the main reason it caught our attention. This exchange supports a great selection of digital assets: Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Gold (BTG), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), Dash (DASH), Stellar (XLM), Tron (TRON), BitTorrent (BTT), MetaHash (MHC), and ZCash (ZEC). You can purchase them with USD, EUR, GBP, or RUB.
If you’re interested in trading rather than buying/selling crypto, you can simply fund your account with the tokens you own and choose one of CEX.io’s crypto-to-crypto or fiat-to-crypto trading pairs. Seasoned professionals are welcome to place a margin trading order with up to 10x leverage or give cross-platform trading a try.
The only drawback of this platform is that its fees are on the higher end of the scale. The deposit commission fee for card purchases is 2.99%, 3.9%% for Skrill, 0.5% for SWIFT, etc. The withdrawal fees are even higher. As for trading fees, they’re just a tad above the industry average. Namely, CEX.io charges 0.25% for takers and 0.16% for makers but these fees get scaled-down in proportion to the trading volume.
6. Bittrex Exchange
Bittrex is a beginner-friendly cryptocurrency exchange located in Seattle, Washington. It was co-founded a couple of years back, in 2014, by Rami Kawach, Bill Shihara, and Richie Lai. Their intuitive command of the crypto market and dedication to transparency and security is the main reason why Bittrex has climbed the charts in terms of its trading volume.
When joining Bittrex, most traders are positively overwhelmed by the vast array of cryptocurrencies on offer. Bittrex supports over 200 tokens and twice as many trading pairs. Recently, Bittrex has added a fiat gateway to give its clients the opportunity to purchase crypto with fiat (USD, EUR, JPY, and GBP).
Trading on Bittrex is sure to cut your losses as the platform charges a flat 0.25% fee on all orders (for both makers and takers). Moreover, fiat deposits and withdrawals don’t cost a penny, compared to some of the outrageous fees you’ll come across on other exchanges.
Bittrex has three categories for user accounts: New/Unverified Accounts (not eligible for BTC withdrawals), Basic Accounts (can withdraw up to 4 BTC daily), and Enhanced Accounts (up to 100 BTC per day). In short, we recommend verifying your account (with your full name, address, phone number, and legitimate ID) to enjoy the full scope of Bittrex’s services.
7. Bitstamp Exchange
Bitstamp is an established crypto exchange, offering its services to millions of traders around the world since 2011. It’s also the first crypto platform to earn a national license in the EU which means that it adheres to the same rules that apply to regular financial institutions in the Union.
Precisely because of that, Bitstamp chooses the cryptocurrencies it supports very carefully. So far, the platform has given the green light to five crypto assets only: BTC, ETH, BCH, LTC, and XRP. Bitstamp has announced that it’s reviewing the following ones as well: ETC, Basic Attention Token (BAT), Paxos Standard (PAX), USDC, XLM, ZEC, and 0x (ZRX). This shows that Bitstamp is aware of the growing interest in defi tokens and stablecoins.
If you want to make direct crypto purchases with fiat, you can do that by making USD and EUR deposits. While GBP and CHF are accepted as well, Bitstamp automatically converts them into USD/EUR. European users prefer making SEPA deposits as they’re free but the withdrawals cost 3€ per transaction.
To be completely honest with you, Bitstamp had some serious security issues, most notably the successful hack in 2015. The fraudsters managed to compromise the system with malware and steal $5 million worth of Bitcoin in just a few minutes. Luckily, these issues are in the past now, as Bitstamp has made every possible effort to make its servers impregnable, so there’s simply no reason for EU residents in particular to give Bitstamp a miss.
8. Bitfinex Exchange
Bitfinex was launched in 2012 and is located in Hong Kong. This platform is most popular among advanced crypto traders as it allows them to trade margin, futures, derivatives, and place large orders without slippage through its separate OTC desk.
Another high point of this platform is Bitfinex’s unique API that allows traders to customize and optimize their trading strategies and increase their gains. Moreover, Bitfinex offers an open source library where software developers can become familiar with some trending projects and partake in their development.
Bitfinex joins Binance, Kraken, and Bittrex with its excellent cryptocurrency offer. In order to buy these coins with USD, EUR, JPY, or GBP, your account has to be verified. This also makes a difference in the waiting times for withdrawal and order completion in general. Fans of contactless payments will be happy to learn that Bitfinex supports both credit cards and debit cards.
Despite all these features aimed at tech-savvy crypto enthusiasts, Bitfinex offers a less intimidating paper trading feature for the novices among our readers who can try most of the platform’s features through this demo account.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your funds, let us assure you that you’re in good hands. Bitfinex stores 95.5% of both user and operational funds in cold storage (offline wallets) and includes options like locking your withdrawal requests for unauthorized IP addresses or setting a withdrawal confirmation phrase.
9. KuCoin Exchange
The team behind the next platform on our list worked on this project for 6 long years before finally launching the crypto exchange that’s now known as KuCoin.
Launched in 2017, among fierce competitors, KuCoin’s way to catch the traders’ attention was to add support for underrepresented crypto tokens. You have two options when using KuCoin: you can either make crypto-to-crypto trades via its regular trading platform or purchase crypto with fiat through its separate peer-to-peer exchange.
This distinguished KuCoin from the rest of the exchanges on our list by making it a bit less centralized. On the P2P exchange, users can agree on the payment method themselves. KuCoin also has some advanced options like margin trading, futures trading with up to 100x, staking, and lending.
Together with Binance, KuCoin offers the lowest trading fee of 0.1% per transaction. Also, KuCoin applies a buyback system for holders of its native token called KuCoin Shares (KCS). On a daily level, 50% of all transaction fees are distributed among users owning KCS as a bonus. Out of the remaining 50%, 40% are allocated as a referral bonus and only 10% go to KuCoin itself.
Based on your verification level, your account can be eligible for different withdrawals. For example, if your account is unverified, you can only withdraw 2 BTC per day. Verified accounts, on the other hand, have a withdrawal limit of 100 BTC per day. KuCoin also has a mobile app available on iOS and Android devices for those who benefit from the option of trading on the go.
10. Coinmama Exchange
Coinmama is an Israeli-based digital currency platform that belongs to NBV International, a subsidiary of the original New Bit Ventures company. The exchange is licensed and compliant with FinCEN and registered in Slovakia.
If we were to compare Coinmama to another exchange on our list it would probably be Coinbase as both platforms are beginner-friendly, highly secure, strict in their cryptocurrency support, and offer brokerage services only. Coinmama has limited its list of assets to BTC, BCH, ETH, ETC, XRP, QTUM, LTC, and ADA.
On the bright side, this means that you can trust Coinmama in providing liquidity for all your orders. Plus, you can choose different payment methods based on your preference. For example, if you’re living in the UK, you might prefer Faster Payments as there are no additional fees for this type of payment and the whole transfer will be completed in one day.
Other traders might prefer paying with plastic, even at the expense of paying an extra 5% momentum fee. Other payment options are ApplePay, SEPA, SWIFT, FedWire, and Sofort. However, if you want to sell crypto assets, on Coinmama you can do that with BTC only.
Lastly, keep in mind that Coinmama doesn’t provide a cryptocurrency wallet or a mobile app.
What’s a Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchange?
To put it simply, centralized cryptocurrency exchanges have a single authority in charge of their operations. Usually, these platforms are either one of the many products/services provided by a larger company or the co-founders of the exchange itself register their platform as a legal entity and Money Service Business.
Anyhow, these platforms function as intermediaries between crypto buyers and sellers (or provide liquidity themselves). To better understand how they work, try to think of a centralized exchange as a bank. When you’re making a money transfer, your bank acts as a third-party or a middleman that oversees the transaction and makes sure your funds arrive safely at their destination.
However, in return for finding the assets to complete your order and safely transferring your funds, centralized exchanges charge variable service fees and ask you to disclose personal information, including your full name, address, phone number, government-issued ID, etc, in order to verify your identity and let you use their platforms.
Centralized vs Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges
So, how do decentralized crypto exchanges work then? These platforms typically provide an order book with all sorts of buying and selling offers. Users create an account (usually using their email address only) and browse through the orders to find the perfect match. Next, they contact the other party and agree on the payment method amongst themselves.
Some DEXs provide escrow services, meaning that the trade is executed via smart contracts. These are coded and secure blockchain-based contracts between the buyers and sellers with pre-configured sets of rules. In short, the smart contract makes sure that the seller won’t get the funds before the buyer gets their assets.
Now, all this sounds too good to be true, especially the fact that you have more privacy, autonomy, and a variety of payment methods with DEXs. However, decentralized crypto exchanges are non-custodial which means that the security of your funds becomes your own responsibility. You’re in charge of your funds but also to be blamed if you forget or lose your private keys by storing them someplace unsafe. Also, apart from some DEXs with escrow services, the majority offer zero user protection.
Frequently Asked Questions
The popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has enticed many fraudsters into launching fake exchanges and tricking novices to join their platform. The best way to stay safe is to stick to reputable crypto exchanges like the ones mentioned in this guide. Another great indicator of the trustworthiness of the exchange is to take a look at its market prices. If it offers incredulously cheap prices that significantly differ from the ones offered by regular platforms, you might be looking at a scam.
Looking for the best Bitcoin exchange? Whichever exchange from our list of best centralized exchanges you choose, you won’t end up short of bitcoins. With that being said, it’s true that some platforms have better offers than others. Our top pick is Coinbase, as this Bitcoin exchange has been a staple in the industry for years. Regardless of your expertise, you’ll find Coinbase very easy-to-use but, more importantly, you’ll get one of the best offers on BTC thanks to the platform’s deep liquidity.
Liquidity measures how easily you can exchange crypto for fiat currencies and vice versa. According to CoinMarketCap, Binance has both the highest score as a cryptocurrency exchange and the highest daily trading volume (over $24 billion at the time of writing). These are strong indicators that an exchange provides high liquidity as they attest to its large turnover.
Blockchain, the digital ledger that records and stores the transactions of a given cryptocurrency, is a public database that you can easily access online. While you can look up transactions and see the block they were added to, the transaction hash, transaction history, and the encrypted address it was sent from are just a string of letters and digits and won’t give away the individual’s identity.