I am not a financial advisor within or outside the cryptocurrency space. All decisions are your own. You understand that investing in crypocurrencies is a RISK, and there is potential you can use your entire investment. DO NOT INVEST WHAT YOU ARE NOT WILING TO LOSE!
I can’t cover everything you need to know about crypocurrencies or digital assets in one post, so my goal with this post is to provide a high level overview and point you in the right direction for learning more.
Let’s start with Bitcoin (BTC) since that’s the highest profile digital asset.
Bitcoin decentralized digital currency with a finite supply. The fact that it’s decentralized means that no single entity controls it in the way that governments/central banks control a nation currency like the US dollar or GBP. These are known as “fiat” currencies.
I’m not even going to try explaining what Bitcoin is here. It would take too long for me to do it any justice, and there are plenty of other places to read all the pros and cons, but here’s a good (relatively simple) article about it: https://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-bitcoin/
Here’s another good one: https://www.investinblockchain.com/what-is-bitcoin
If you want to learn more, I suggest you search for videos by Andreas Antonopoulos. He does an amazing job of explaining the true benefits of Bitcoin.
The second best known digital asset is Ether (ETH). ETH runs on what’s called the Ethereum blockchain and is capable of running programs. So while Bitcoin is really only capable of being a currency, the Ethereum blockchain can create applications. ETH is the “currency” that is used to pay for transaction fees / services on the network. The amazing thing is that 3rd party developers can build applications on the Ethereum network, launching tokens of their own.
I know this is probably very confusing, so think about it like an iPhone. The Ethereum network would be the phone, and 3rd party developers can similarly build apps on it.
That brings me to the next point - “alt coins”. These are basically the tokens used by the 3rd party apps I just mentioned. These tokens usually represent rights to profit/revenue generated by the app, or serve as an actual utility. I don’t want to get into too much detail here, again, because I want to keep things simple. Just know that when you hear the term “alt coin”, this is what it refers to.
Where to Buy Bitcoin or ETH
There are a few different exchanges, but Coinbase is the most popular and user friendly. Gemini is another good one. Be warned that you have to confirm your identity, so it can take a few days to set up an account before you can start buying anything. If you think you might want to buy cryptocurrencies at some point, I’d recommend you at least set up a Coinbase account today.
You can’t buy alt coins on either of these exchanges. You have to buy them elsewhere, but it’s generally not where beginners should start out. I recommend you first get comfortable with Bitcoin and/or ETH, then continue the learning process from there.