What are Cryptocurrencies?

Uncover the significance of cryptocurrencies with us.
Explore how these digital currencies are reshaping
the way we think about money and finance

Welcome to the world of digital finance!
Cryptocurrency, as the name suggests, is a form of digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security.
But what does that mean? Simply put, it's like your regular dollars, euros, or yen, but instead of being a physical piece of paper or coin you can hold in your hand, it exists only in the digital realm.
The 'crypto' part refers to the complex coding techniques that encrypt your transactions and keep them secure.
This digital money can be used to buy goods and services online, or you can trade it, hoping its value goes up.
It's a whole new way of thinking about money, and it's changing the world of finance as we know it.


How Does Cryptocurrency Work?

Now that we know what cryptocurrency is, let's dive into how it works. The magic behind cryptocurrencies lies in a technology called 'Blockchain.' Imagine a digital ledger, open for everyone to see, where every transaction ever made is recorded. That's blockchain for you. It's transparent, secure, and decentralised, meaning it's not controlled by any single entity like a bank or government.


'Mining' and 'staking' are two ways new cryptocurrency coins are created and transactions are confirmed.

  • Mining - involves solving complex mathematical problems to add new transactions to the blockchain. It's like a race where the first one to solve the problem gets rewarded with new coins.
  • Staking - on the other hand, involves holding and locking up a certain amount of cryptocurrency in a network to support operations like transaction validation and network security. In return, participants may receive additional coins.
  • Storing - Unlike traditional money that you store in a wallet or a bank, cryptocurrencies are stored in digital wallets. These can be online, on your computer, or even on a special hardware device. They keep your digital coins safe and allow you to make transactions or trade on exchanges.

So, in essence, cryptocurrencies offer a new, secure, and exciting way to conduct transactions and store value in the digital world.

Types of Cryptocurrency

Most Popular Cryptocurrencies

In the vast universe of cryptocurrencies, some stars shine brighter than others. Here's a quick rundown of the top five cryptocurrencies by market cap:

  • Bitcoin (BTC): The pioneer of the crypto world, Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin's promise of lower transaction fees than traditional online payment mechanisms and its operation through a decentralised authority make it a standout.
  • Ethereum (ETH): Ethereum, conceived in 2013 by programmer Vitalik Buterin, is a decentralised, open-source blockchain featuring smart contract functionality. Its native cryptocurrency, Ether, is second only to Bitcoin in market capitalisation.
  • Tether (USDT): Tether is a stablecoin, a type of cryptocurrency designed to minimise price volatility. Tether maintains a 1-to-1 ratio with the US dollar, making it stable in the often turbulent crypto market.
  • Binance Coin (BNB): Binance Coin is the native cryptocurrency of the Binance exchange, used for transactions within the platform. It has seen significant growth in both value and market cap.
  • Ripple (XRP): Ripple is both a digital payment protocol and a cryptocurrency. XRP, the cryptocurrency, is used to facilitate transfers of money between different fiat currencies.

In addition to these, there are hundreds of Altcoins and various Stablecoins. Each offers unique features and uses, contributing to the diverse and dynamic world of cryptocurrencies.


The term 'altcoin' is short for 'alternative coin,' used to represent all cryptocurrencies that aren't Bitcoin. Altcoins are more than just alternatives to Bitcoin; they are innovative platforms that seek to improve or modify the Bitcoin protocol.

There are thousands of altcoins available, each with its unique features, use cases, and transaction mechanisms. Some popular altcoins include Litecoin, Ethereum, and Ripple. Many altcoins aim to provide solutions for the perceived limitations of Bitcoin, such as offering faster transaction speeds, improved security features, or a more equitable mining system.

While some altcoins have gained traction and have substantial communities, none have yet matched Bitcoin's level of widespread recognition and acceptance.


Stablecoins are a special breed of cryptocurrencies designed to combat the notorious volatility of the crypto market. They achieve this stability by pegging their value to a reserve of assets.

These assets can be a specific fiat currency like the US dollar, a basket of different fiat currencies, or even other types of assets like gold or other cryptocurrencies.

The idea is to combine the stability of traditional assets with the benefits of cryptocurrencies, such as speed, security, and low transaction costs.

Some well-known stablecoins include Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), and Binance USD (BUSD). Stablecoins play a crucial role in the crypto ecosystem, providing a safe haven during volatile market conditions and facilitating transactions on crypto exchanges.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Like any financial system, cryptocurrencies come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at both sides of the coin:



  • Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies operate on a decentralised network based on blockchain technology. This means they are not controlled by a central authority like a government or financial institution, giving users more control over their money.
  • Security: Thanks to cryptography, transactions made with cryptocurrencies are secure and cannot be easily tampered with. This can help reduce fraud and theft.
  • Transparency: All transactions made with cryptocurrencies are recorded on the blockchain, providing transparency and allowing for easy tracking of transactions.
  • Accessibility: Cryptocurrencies can be accessed and used by anyone with an internet connection, providing financial services to people who are unbanked or underbanked.
  • Speed and Cost: Cryptocurrency transactions can be processed quickly, often in just a few minutes, regardless of the amount or the geographical location of the sender and receiver. Transaction fees are also typically lower than traditional banking systems and money transfers.


  • Volatility: Cryptocurrency prices can be extremely volatile. While this can lead to high returns, it can also result in significant losses.
  • Lack of Regulation: The lack of regulation in the cryptocurrency market can make it a risky investment. It also means that if you lose access to your cryptocurrency (for example, if you forget your wallet password), there is no way to recover it.
  • Limited Acceptance: While the use of cryptocurrencies is becoming more widespread, it is still not accepted by all businesses or countries.
  • Environmental Impact: Mining cryptocurrencies requires a lot of computational power, which can consume a significant amount of electricity and have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Potential for Misuse: Due to their anonymous nature, cryptocurrencies can be used for illegal activities, such as money laundering or purchasing illegal goods.

Remember, while cryptocurrencies offer a new way of handling money, they also come with their own set of risks. Always do your due diligence and consider your financial status before getting involved in cryptocurrency.

What is Cryptocurrency Trading?

Cryptocurrency trading involves speculating on price movements of various digital currencies. As a trader, you can take advantage of the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies to potentially make a profit. There are two main methods to trade cryptocurrencies: buying them on a cryptocurrency exchange or trading cryptocurrency CFDs (Contracts for Difference).

Trading Cryptos on Exchanges

This method involves buying actual cryptocurrencies and selling them later when their prices rise. However, trading on an exchange can be a bit complex.

Firstly, you would need to purchase Bitcoin, which is often used as the gateway to other cryptocurrencies.

Secondly, many exchanges primarily facilitate crypto-to-crypto trades, limiting your ability to cash out your gains into fiat currency.

Lastly, exchanges typically don't offer an option to short sell, which can limit your trading strategies. Plus, you'll need to manage a digital wallet and bear the responsibility of keeping your digital assets safe from potential hacks.

Trading Cryptocurrencies CFDs

On the other hand, trading cryptocurrency CFDs is a more straightforward and flexible approach. When you trade CFDs, you're speculating on the price movement of the cryptocurrency without needing to own the coins themselves.

This method allows you to profit from both rising and falling markets potentially, and it eliminates the need for a digital wallet. Plus, you can trade directly in fiat currency, making the process simpler and more familiar if you've traded other assets before.

In conclusion, while trading on exchanges might be suitable for those who wish to own the actual cryptocurrencies and are prepared for the complexities involved, trading crypto CFDs can be a more accessible and flexible option, especially for those interested in short-term trading. As always, it's essential to understand the risks involved and to trade responsibly. 

Grow Your Cryptocurrency Trading Skills! Ready for the next level in crypto trading?

Our "How to Trade Cryptocurrencies" guide explains how cryptocurrencies can be traded, their fundamental price drivers, and gives you practical strategies, tips, and steps that are easy to follow and apply.

Final Words

As we conclude our exploration of cryptocurrencies, it's evident that this dynamic digital landscape offers a wealth of opportunities. The knowledge you've gained here is your first step towards navigating this exciting realm.

AvaTrade invites you to deepen your understanding and practical skills in cryptocurrency trading. Our platform offers a risk-free demo account for practice, and when you're ready, you can transition to a real money account to trade crypto CFDs. With AvaTrade, you gain access to comprehensive tools and resources tailored to both novice and experienced traders.

Embrace the future of finance. Begin your cryptocurrency trading journey with AvaTrade today.

What Are Cryptocurrencies FAQs

What is the difference between Bitcoin and altcoins?

Bitcoin is the first and most well-known cryptocurrency, while altcoins (short for "alternative coins") are all other cryptocurrencies that came after it. Each altcoin has its own unique features and uses.

What is a blockchain and why is it important in cryptocurrency?

A blockchain is a decentralised and transparent ledger that records all transactions of a cryptocurrency. It's important because it ensures the security and integrity of cryptocurrency transactions.

What is cryptocurrency mining?

Cryptocurrency mining is the process by which new cryptocurrency coins are created and transactions are verified. It involves solving complex mathematical problems using computer hardware.

Are Cryptocurrencies Legal?

The legality of cryptocurrencies varies from country to country. While some countries have embraced cryptocurrencies, others have restricted or banned them. It's important to check the legal status of cryptocurrencies in your country before getting involved in cryptocurrency trading.

How is cryptocurrency taxed?

Tax laws regarding cryptocurrencies also vary by country. In many places, cryptocurrencies are treated as property for tax purposes, so you may be liable for capital gains tax when you sell them. It's recommended to consult with a tax professional or do your own research to understand the tax implications of cryptocurrency trading in your jurisdiction.