If you are new to the world of cryptocurrency it is likely that you are trying to figure out how to turn your fiat currency, such as the USD, into digital currency, such as Bitcoin. In order to do this, you will need to use something called a fiat to crypto exchange. These exchanges allow you to use traditional payment methods such as a debit card, credit card, or bank account in order to make your initial purchase of cryptocurrency. This is a necessity if you want to buy Bitcoin or any other altcoin. Some cryptocurrency exchanges only allow for the depositing and withdrawing of crypto assets, and not fiat currency. They are also necessary once you are ready to convert your crypto back into fiat currency.
Here we will list the best fiat to crypto exchanges and give you all the information you need to know about buying cryptocurrency with USD and other fiat currencies, what to look for in a fiat exchange, and how they work.
What is Fiat Currency?
Fiat currency, or fiat money, is government-issued currency that has no physical commodity backing it, like gold or silver, but is instead backed by the issuing government. The value of the currency then comes from supply and demand on currency markets. The US Dollar, Euro, Canadian Dollar, Japanese Yen are all examples of fiat currencies.
In the past, governments would mint coins out of a valuable physical commodity, such as gold or silver, or print paper money that was redeemable for an equivalent amount of a physical commodity. Fiat currency does not work like this anymore, it is irredeemable.
Because fiat currencies are not linked to a physical reserve of something such as gold, it risks losing value due to inflation, or even worse, becoming worthless in the event of hyperinflation. There is no intrinsic value in fiat money as there is in a commodity such as gold which would have demand for use in things such as jewelry, electronics, computers and so forth. However, fiat currency helps give governments greater control over economic variables, and when handled properly create economic strength. When mishandled, bubbles, inflation, and hyperinflation can occur because it can be printed endlessly.
What is a Crypto On-ramp/Off-ramp?
Crypto on-ramps and off-ramps are crypto exchanges that allow for deposits and withdrawals of fiat currencies. Whether you are buying or selling cryptocurrency you will at some point need these ramps.
A cryptocurrency on-ramp in necessary for you to make an initial purchase of cryptocurrency, using fiat currency, before being able to trade and invest in other crypto assets. It allows for the deposit of fiat into the system through a debit or credit card, bank transfer, or wire transfer and converts the funds into cryptocurrency. The type of fiat you can use and the cryptocurrency you can buy depends on the trading pairs offered by the exchange. Signing up for a fiat to crypto exchange requires identity verification due to the possibility of money laundering and is the most difficult part of the process.
Cryptocurrency off-ramps are exchanges that allow you to convert your crypto assets into products, services, or fiat currencies. When exchanging crypto assets for goods, services or other crypto assets there is not very much regulation and moving crypto from one exchange to another rarely requires any sort of identity verification. When you want to convert your digital assets into fiat though that is when you will need to have your identity verified, just like when converting your fiat into crypto using an on ramp. In both these instances the verification is necessary because of government regulations aiming to prevent money laundering, terrorist funding and other financial crimes.
Getting Verified Through Know Your Customer (KYC)
The process for getting verified in order to use on and off-ramps can be a bit tedious but is not difficult. The information required by the exchange depends on the government where the exchange is based. In general, you will need to provide identity documents issued by a government, such as a driver’s license or passport, and then you will need to provide documents proving your residency such as a utility bill.
Once all of this is verified you will be able to use the exchange. You can learn even more in our What is KYC for Cryptocurrency guide.
How to Use Exchanges to Convert Your Money to Crypto
Once you are verified on a trading platform that allows for fiat to crypto exchange you are able to turn your fiat into crypto. Some may only allow for fiat to Bitcoin exchange, while others may offer other assets such as Tether or Ethereum. The types of fiat they accept will vary by exchange as well, some will have a wide range of fiat currencies they accept while others may only accept one or two. In addition, some exchanges will have cryptocurrency trading on their exchange while some will solely act as a broker for you to purchase crypto, in which case you will need to send your assets to a peer to peer crypto exchange.
In any case, the process for using a fiat to crypto exchange to convert your money to crypto is fairly simple. You will be able to select from their payment method options, which can be debit card, credit card, bank transfer, or wire transfer. Each one of these options will incur various fees, though some options may have no fees and some exchanges have specials where they waive the fees. Once you pick how you would like to pay, with what fiat currency, and for what cryptocurrency, you will simply need to complete the steps on the exchange and then they will take your payment method, convert it into the asset you chose, and deposit it either into a wallet on the exchange, or in some cases send it directly to a wallet address that you have specified.
What to Look for in a Fiat Exchange
When choosing a fiat exchange there are a few factors which you will want to take into account, these are privacy, limits, trading fees, speed, and reputation.
Privacy refers to how much personal information you will need to provide to the exchange, if you are doing a fiat to crypto exchange you will almost certainly need to have your identify verified. This will mean providing photos of your ID and documents that prove where you live.
Limits refers to how much you can buy on the exchange. If you are planning on buying a large amount of crypto with your fiat you will need to make sure the exchange supports the order size. Likewise, if you are planning on withdrawing a lot of fiat after converting your crypto you will need to take into account their withdrawal limits. Otherwise you may end up having to do multiple transactions and potentially incur multiple fees for deposits or withdrawals.
Trading fees refers to how much the exchange charges you to convert your money into crypto. This fee varies by exchange and by payment method. For example, you may get charged a 3.5% fee to use a credit card, but 0% fees to send a bank transfer. You will want to research how much each exchange charges for the payment method you are likely to use in order to maximize the amount you receive and minimize fees incurred.
Speed refers to how fast your crypto will be delivered once you have paid. If the exchange takes days to deposit your assets, then you may want to use a different one. Most exchanges now have very fast deposit speeds, especially for credit card purchases, though withdrawal times are almost always at least one day.
Reputation refers to the reputation of the exchange. How long it has been around, if it is regulated, if it is safe to use. With the number of scams that have occurred in the cryptocurrency world it is paramount to make sure the exchange is reputable before depositing your money with them.
Our Favorite Fiat to Crypto Exchanges
Launched in 2012, Coinbase is one of the most popular and secure cryptocurrency services on the market. They accept debit and credit cards, along with bank and wire transfers. Credit and debit card payments are the fastest way to convert your fiat to crypto on Coinbase, as it is nearly instantaneous, while transfers will take longer but have less fees than using a card. In order to use Coinbase you will need to have your identity verified.
- Great customer service
- Low services fees
- Diverse and consistently updated choice of coins
Launched in 2017, Binance is a force to be reckoned with. They’ve become one of the most reputable and fun to use exchanges. They offer the most trading pairs of any trusted exchange. They accept debit and credit cards along with bank and wire transfers as well. As with Coinbase, using a credit card is the fastest way to turn your fiat into crypto, but incurs more fees than using a transfer. In order to use Binance you will need to have your identity verified.
- Easy sign-up process
- Lowest transaction fees of any major exchange
- 175+ different digital assets available
- Free deposits
Launched in 2015, Changelly is a reliable option. While there is no identity verification required for crypto to crypto trading through their service, if you want to buy crypto with fiat you will need to have your identity verified. They accept credit and debit card payments along with bank transfers. Once again, the fastest method is credit and debit card payments, but with higher fees, while bank transfers will have lower fees but slower deposit times.
- Extremely low fees
- No sign-up required for non-credit card transactions
- Over 150 cryptocurrencies offered including BTC, ETH, LTC
- Sends crypto directly to your wallet instead of holding it
eToro originally launched in 2006 but was not for cryptocurrency assets. Today, they offer not only traditional investment options, but fiat to crypto exchange/investment as well. One of the most reputable services on the market today, they accept credit, debit and wire transfers as payment methods. The pattern of speed and fees seen in the rest of the fiat to crypto exchanges mentioned above repeats here, and you will need to have your identity verified.
- Great for crypto beginners
- Solid crypto/general trading platform
- Reliable company with solid trust in the community
- Fully supports credit cards for deposits and withdrawals