12 Most Popular Types Of Cryptocurrency | Bankrate

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Bitcoin gets all the headlines when people talk about cryptocurrencies, but there are literally thousands of other options when it comes to these digital currencies. In fact, cryptos that aren’t Bitcoin are usually considered an “also ran” – what are called “altcoins,” or alternatives to Bitcoin.

While Bitcoin may have been the first major cryptocurrency to hit the market – it debuted in 2009 – many others have become highly popular, even if not quite as large as the original.

Here are the largest cryptocurrencies by the total dollar value of the coins in existence, that is, the market capitalization, or market cap. (Data is from CoinMarketCap.com, as of May 3, 2024.)

As the harbinger of the cryptocurrency era, Bitcoin is still the coin people generally reference when they talk about digital currency. Its mysterious creator — allegedly Satoshi Nakamoto — debuted the currency in 2009 and it’s been on a roller-coaster ride since then. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that the cryptocurrency broke into popular consciousness. In 2024, the SEC approved the trading of ETFs that invest directly in Bitcoin, giving investors a simple way to bet on Bitcoin.

Ethereum — the name for the cryptocurrency platform — is the second name you’re most likely to recognize in the crypto space. The system allows you to use ether (the currency) to perform a number of functions, but the smart contract aspect of Ethereum helps make it a popular currency.

Tether’s price is anchored at $1 per coin. That’s because it is what’s called a stablecoin. Stablecoins are tied to the value of a specific asset, in Tether’s case, the U.S. Dollar. Tether often acts as a medium when traders move from one cryptocurrency to another. Rather than move back to dollars, they use Tether. However, some people are concerned that Tether isn’t safely backed by dollars held in reserve but instead uses a short-term form of unsecured debt.

BNB is the cryptocurrency issued by Binance, among the largest crypto exchanges in the world. While originally created as a token to pay for discounted trades, Binance Coin can now be used for payments as well as purchasing various goods and services.

Launched in March 2020, Solana is a newer cryptocurrency and it touts its speed at completing transactions and the overall robustness of its “web-scale” platform. The issuance of the currency, called SOL, is capped at 480 million coins.

Like Tether, USD Coin is a stablecoin pegged to the dollar, meaning that its value should not fluctuate. The currency’s founders say that it’s backed by fully reserved assets or those with “equivalent fair value” and those assets are held in accounts with regulated U.S. institutions.

Formerly known as Ripple and created in 2012, XRP offers a way to pay in many different real-world currencies. Ripple can be useful in cross-border transactions and uses a trust-less mechanism to facilitate payments.

Originally created as a joke after the run-up in Bitcoin, Dogecoin takes its name from an internet meme featuring a Shiba Inu dog. Unlike many digital currencies limiting the number of coins in existence, Dogecoin has unlimited issuance. It can be used for payments or sending money.

Launched in 2018, Toncoin was developed by Telegram, the encrypted messaging platform. Telegram abandoned the project, which was taken over by the TON Foundation. Toncoin’s price spiked in 2023 after Telegram announced it would integrate a TON-based wallet into its platform.

Cardano is the cryptocurrency platform behind ada, the name of the currency. Created by the co-founder of Ethereum, Cardano also uses smart contracts, enabling identity management.

Shiba Inu is an Ethereum-based altcoin that was anonymously created in August 2020 featuring a Shiba Inu dog as its mascot. Shiba Inu is widely considered to be an alternative to Dogecoin. Its price peaked in the fall of 2021 after a meteoric rise, but fell more than 90 percent before spiking again in early 2024.

Avalanche is a blockchain that was launched in 2020 and competes with Ethereum as one of the most popular blockchains for smart contracts. AVAX is the native currency of the Avalanche blockchain.

The cryptocurrency market is a Wild West (although the U.S. government is taking a more active role in overseeing the crypto space), so those speculating in these digital assets should not put in more money than they can afford to lose. Crypto assets faced downward pressure for much of 2022 and trading remained volatile in 2023. It’s also important to note that individual investors often trade against highly sophisticated players, making it a fraught experience for novices. In 2024, the SEC approved several spot Bitcoin ETFs for trading, giving investors a simple way to bet on Bitcoin’s rise.

Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.

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