Cryptocurrency Statistics 2024: Investing In Crypto | Bankrate

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Over the last decade, cryptocurrency has gone from an obscure asset to a wildly popular investment before falling significantly amid increasing interest rates. Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital currency secured through cryptography and computer networks. These currencies are not overseen by traditional central institutions, like a government or bank, and transactions are performed while maintaining the semi-anonymity of buyers and sellers.

How cryptocurrencies work can sometimes be complex. Below is an easy-to-follow guide on the most important things to know about digital currencies and new developments in the crypto market.

Although cryptocurrencies have created a new, alternative method of payment, the production of cryptocurrency has been mired in controversy because of the energy required to produce it.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “mined” on decentralized computer networks that act much like a large ledger. This ledger tracks each transaction of cryptocurrency, and computers throughout the network verify and process each transaction through a blockchain database.

Think of it like a long receipt that records every transaction in a cryptocurrency. As transactions are processed and verified, new bitcoins are created, or mined. Mining is the process of adding another entry onto the receipt, or another block to the chain.

This process requires high-powered and sophisticated computers – and a lot of electricity. Bitcoin alone used an estimated 158 terawatt-hours of electricity annualized as of May 2024 – more than Ukraine and Pakistan – according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

Bitcoin mining consumes so much electricity that it accounts for 0.62 percent of the entire world’s electricity consumption as of May 2024, according to the Cambridge index. Mining for Bitcoin alone is estimated to create 80.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, comparable to those created by Greece, according to the Cambridge index.

When cryptocurrencies were first created, it was nearly impossible for government tax agencies to track them. The hallmark of blockchain transactions is anonymity, meaning one could not prove the identity of the buyer or the seller.

In 2014, the IRS stated that cryptocurrency was to be treated as property for federal income tax purposes. Although the agency itself has not released official estimates yet, an analysis from Barclays Bank figures that the IRS loses an estimated $50 billion per year from taxes that should be paid on cryptocurrency assets.

Buying and holding cryptocurrency is not considered a taxable event. You can buy and hold the crypto for as long as you want, though you do have to disclose that on your tax return, but once you decide to sell (or realize the gain or loss) you will need to report the amount of profit or loss from the sale.

The popularity of cryptocurrency has grown in recent years as access to crypto has become easier. The asset is still incredibly volatile, and in 2022 rising interest rates caused selloffs in Bitcoin, as skittish investors offloaded speculative assets. Bitcoin recovered somewhat in 2023, and reached a new high in March 2024.

The volatility of major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin makes them difficult, if not impossible, to use as currencies. Major currencies need to be mostly stable in order to act as a medium of exchange. So the ideas that cryptocurrencies can be both trading vehicles for profit and functional currencies to transact are at odds with each other.

Governments around the world, including the United States, have also started to analyze how to regulate cryptocurrency. On March 9, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a broad review of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies. Federal agencies are reviewing digital currencies and assessing the risk they pose to overall financial stability, among other considerations.

The difficulties of tax reporting and the controversy surrounding crypto have resulted in the digital asset being entirely banned in more than a dozen countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and China. China, which used to account for the majority of the world’s Bitcoin mining, has now outlawed cryptocurrencies altogether as well.

So far, El Salvador and the Central African Republic accept crypto as legal tender, although both countries have had significant problems with its implementation.

Cryptocurrency, although available as a method of payment for some companies scattered throughout the world, has not made the official leap as a widely available currency. Several major companies already accept cryptocurrency as a form of currency or payment, but the list is relatively limited:

However, many other companies have introduced the ability to pay with cryptocurrency but then rescinded it when customers failed to actually use it.

You can get into serious trouble with the IRS if you don’t declare all your income and pay taxes on it, including stiff financial penalties and potential criminal penalties such as prison time. You may need to respond to a couple items on your annual tax return, depending on your activities.

For all taxpayers, the IRS asks you whether you’ve transacted in cryptocurrency each year on your Form 1040 tax form. So if you’ve bought or sold cryptocurrency during the tax year, you’ll need to declare that on your taxes – or risk lying on your return.

In addition, if you’ve turned a profit on your crypto trades, you’ll need to report that capital gain and pay taxes on it. Alternatively, if you’ve lost money on your trades, you can claim a loss as well as a tax break.

Cryptocurrency’s volatile nature, the fact that it is not based on a hard asset or cash flow of an underlying entity and the controversy surrounding its climate impact make it a very speculative investment. Even a more established coin like Bitcoin is risky. All cryptocurrencies are fairly new, and it is difficult to compare asset-backed investments like stocks to digital currencies that are backed purely by investor sentiment.

Beginners should only make crypto a small part (less than 5 percent) of a diversified portfolio that includes stocks and other established wealth-building assets. Investors need to understand exactly how cryptocurrency works – and here’s what else you need to know.

Crypto mining is the process of creating new coins on a given blockchain such as Bitcoin’s. Computers operating these decentralized blockchain networks solve complex mathematical problems to try to earn bitcoins. These high-powered computers compete with one another to solve the problems in the hope that they are rewarded with the bitcoins up for grabs.

Mining is extremely energy-intensive and creates significant carbon emissions, among other negatives. Here are further details into how it all works.

Traders can buy cryptocurrency at many places nowadays, including traditional payment apps such as PayPal and Venmo, investing apps such as Robinhood and Webull, crypto exchanges such as Coinbase as well as a few traditional brokerages such as Interactive Brokers.

If you’re looking to buy crypto, here are some of the top exchanges and apps to consider.

Mercedes Barba is a seasoned editorial leader and video producer, with an Emmy nomination to her credit. Presently, she is the senior investing editor at Bankrate, leading the team’s coverage of all things investments and retirement. Prior to this, Mercedes served as a senior editor at NextAdvisor.

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