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General Question

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is digital money that can be used to buy and sell goods and services online. A technology called blockchain powers cryptocurrencies; it is a decentralized network that is spread across many computers, managing and recording transactions. People store cryptocurrency in a digital wallet device or on a computer, on a phone or in the cloud. There are thousands of digital currencies today – some of the better known cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, and Ethereum.

Beyond a method for payment, what are other functions of cryptocurrencies?

Cryptocurrency value can be pegged to underlying asset such as U.S. dollar, central bank digital currencies, privacy coins (senders and receivers are anonymous), governance tokens (gives owners the right to vote in decisions regarding blockchain’s future development), utility tokens, and non-fungible tokens (distinct characteristics from all others). This is from a developer/development side. Of course, there are also investors and speculators who are hoping for appreciation. It is very important you know the intent and functionality of cryptocurrency you own or are considering owning.

How are cryptocurrency transactions recorded?

Cryptocurrency transactions are recorded on a shared, digital ledger called a blockchain. This is decentralized technology, spread across many computers, that records every transaction.

Are blockchain and cryptocurrencies the same?

No. Blockchain is the technology that allows for cryptocurrencies to work. It is a decentralized and digital ledger of transactions used for cryptocurrencies and other assets/functions. It is important to separate the technology behind cryptocurrencies from the actual cryptocurrencies.

Help me with the lingo — crypto, coins, tokens, ICOs.

Here’s a brief glossary:

Crypto — umbrella term for all digital and/or virtual currencies
Coins — Generally, any cryptocurrency that has its own separate blockchain
Tokens — Generally, any cryptocurrency that is built on top of existing blockchain, e.g., some companies issue their own cryptocurrencies, called tokens, which can be used to purchase goods or services specifically from issuing company
ICO — Short for Initial Coin Offering, this is analogous to a privately held company going public via an initial public offering (IPO)—a way to raise funds for a new cryptocurrency or expand services for existing coins

I have U.S. dollars — how do I purchase cryptocurrency?

There are a couple of methods, but the simplest and least expensive is via an online cryptocurrency exchange. You establish an account and from there, you transfer in cash and purchase the cryptocurrency of your choice. The exchange will allow you to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency. The user experience, fees, and identification requirements all vary based on the exchange, so it is important to conduct research before you do anything. Some of the most popular are Coinbase, Gemini, and Kraken. Additionally, traditional online brokers are starting to offer services such as eToro and Robinhood. Further, fintech and technology companies are starting to offer these services

What is a crypto wallet?

Simply put, crypto wallets are places to store digital assets more securely than just on an exchange. You hold your wallet via an exchange account, custody wallet, or outside of the exchange. You can establish an online or “hot” wallet that is internet connected—to your desktop, table or mobile phone. There is also the option to store on a device that is not connected to the internet (“cold” wallet). Cold wallets are the most secure way to store your cryptocurrency, but they are meant for longer-term holdings as they are not connected to the internet. With cold storage, you must remember your private keys (identifier number for your cryptocurrency).

Are there ways to purchase outside an exchange?

Believe it or not, there are Bitcoin ATMs. You insert cash and bitcoins are transferred to your secure, digital wallet. There are also peer-to-peer (PTP) exchanges. Users post what they are hoping to buy or sell and then choose their trading partner(s).


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