What Is Cryptocurrency? The Beginner’s Guide


Did you know the total value of all cryptocurrencies is over $1.32 trillion? This shows how big digital money is now. It changes how we think about paying and saving. Cryptocurrency is different from regular money.

It doesn’t need any government or bank to support it. Instead, it works on a big network that checks transactions all on its own. If you want to learn more about how cryptocurrency works, you can take a course from the University of Michigan. This course is for beginners and takes about nine hours to complete.

The main idea behind digital money is blockchain technology. This tech makes a safe and clear record of every transaction. It keeps this record on many computers connected all over the world. Because of this, you don’t need a bank to say if a payment is good or not.

This gives digital money two big pluses: privacy and the ability to use it anywhere in the world. If you’re interested, there are many different types of digital money to learn about or maybe invest in, like Bitcoin or Dogecoin.

Key Takeaways

  • Cryptocurrency can be understood in just nine hours with the University of Michigan’s course.
  • It operates on blockchain technology, ensuring a secure and distributed ledger.
  • Cryptocurrency provides privacy and global accessibility.
  • The market capitalization of cryptocurrencies exceeds $1.32 trillion.
  • Popular cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Cardano.

Introduction to Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a new type of digital money that’s changing how we see financial deals. It doesn’t need a bank for transactions, making it key in the DeFi world. This shows both the good points and issues of using digital money.

Definition and Key Features

Cryptocurrencies are online assets used for trading. They work without a central control, meaning the government can’t change them. They have less fees, quicker transactions, and are harder to fail at one point.

The money is kept safe by special codes, which means you can pay online without third parties.

Brief History and Evolution

Bitcoin kick-started cryptocurrencies in 2009. Since then, many new kinds like Ethereum and Ripple have emerged. They each bring something new to the table. Innovations like ICOs and companies using blockchain show how far cryptocurrency has come.

Common Misconceptions

Many think cryptocurrency is only for illegal deals. But, it’s actually a great way to transfer money. It’s true, issues like tax and different rules by place might make it tricky.

People also worry about how much energy mining uses, and how prices change fast. Despite these concerns, cryptocurrency brings important changes. It makes financial systems and technology more open and free.

How Does Cryptocurrency Work?

To step into the world of crypto trading, it’s vital to grasp how cryptocurrency works. You need to understand the basics: peer-to-peer trades, keeping transactions safe, and the idea of being decentralized.

Peer-to-Peer Transactions

Crypto transactions happen directly between users on a shared network. This means no middlemen, unlike regular banking. The system is designed for safety and speed. Transactions get noted in an online ledger that’s both unchangeable and open to everyone. This makes the process trustworthy for all involved.

Crypto Security Measures

In the crypto world, security comes first. Cryptocurrencies are safeguarded by complex math, known as cryptography. This makes sure all transactions are safe. Storing your digital money is made secure by blockchain wallets. Depending on how often you use your crypto, these wallets can be hot or cold. A mix of both is often the safest route.

crypto security measures

Decentralization Explained

Cryptocurrency is all about breaking away from central control. Unlike our usual banks, it does not rely on one authority. This decentralized way of handling money is what makes it safe and fair for everyone. With cryptocurrency, you are in full control of your funds. This means less reliance on big institutions.

Understanding Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology is the key behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It uses a digital ledger across many databases. This method boosts security and transparency. It allows fast and safe direct transactions without needing traditional authorities.

digital ledger

Its key feature is that transaction records are unchangeable. Once recorded, information is hard to tamper with. This unchangeability makes blockchain trustworthy for various uses, including buying and selling with cryptocurrencies.


Knowing about the data in blockchain tech is key. It shows us the wide benefits and uses.

This system uses cryptography for safety. It makes it hard to do things like spend the same money twice or manipulate the system by being the majority. This kind of protection makes blockchain dependable, not only for money but for securing votes too.

Also, blockchain uses digital signatures for extra security. This ensures transactions are honest and untouched. It’s changing how we handle money and might even make voting and contracts safer in the future.

  1. Digital ledger structure
  2. Transaction records across a network
  3. Use of cryptographic keys

Here’s a look at how much blockchain jobs pay in the U.S. It shows how valuable these skills are:

Job Role Average Annual Base Salary
Blockchain Developer $90,942
Blockchain Legal Consultant $73,739
Blockchain Project Manager $79,974

The high salaries of blockchain jobs prove they are in big demand. Skills like using cryptographic keys and digital signatures make transactions safe. They also change how trust in information is built.

Types of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies have come a long way since the launch of Bitcoin. This part will look at the different digital coins and tokens. By the end, you’ll have a good grasp of the cryptocurrency market.


Bitcoin, created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, launched the cryptocurrency world. It’s still the top player with a market cap of $325 billion. Many see Bitcoin as a digital form of gold, making it a top pick for investors.


Besides Bitcoin, there are many alternative coins, or altcoins, each with its own benefits. Take Ethereum, for instance. It allows for complex deals thanks to smart contracts and has a market cap of $150 billion.

Here are some other important altcoins:

  • Cardano (ADA): It innovates with a “third-generation” blockchain that speeds up transactions.
  • Solana (SOL): Known for handling 50,000 transactions each second, some think it might outdo Ethereum.
  • Dogecoin (DOGE): It started as a joke but has become quite popular, despite a recent 10% value drop.
  • XRP: This cryptocurrency, which has a market cap of around $39.3 billion, is great for fast and cheap international payments.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are all about owning something unique online. They’ve opened doors for owning digital art, collectibles, and more. NFTs are changing how we see digital ownership and DeFi.

Types of Cryptocurrency

The cryptocurrency market is worth $1.1 trillion. It has over 22,932 different cryptocurrencies ready to be traded. Places like eToro, Crypto.com, and Uphold allow you to trade with a variety of digital coins. The cryptocurrency world keeps growing, with new assets and uses.

Crypto Mining: How Cryptocurrency is Created

Crypto mining creates new cryptocurrency tokens and checks transactions. It does this by solving tough puzzles using the proof of work method. This makes sure that all transactions are safe and real.

Miners are the people who do this work. They use special computers to mine. These computers can be very expensive but are needed to mine well. If mining gets harder, these computers might not work as well.

With Bitcoin mining, the rewards get smaller every four years. For example, what started at 50 BTC will be 3.125 BTC by April 2024. The rewards for mining can be very valuable, such as 6.25 BTC worth over $426,781.25 in March 2024.

Most of the hard work mining Bitcoin comes from big mining groups. These work together to have a better chance of getting rewards. They keep trying different possibilities to find the right one, which can be very time-consuming.

Bitcoin is set to produce a new block every 10 minutes. It changes its difficulty to keep this schedule. There is talk about making blocks bigger to help process transactions faster. Yet, the current method helps keep the network safe.

Crypto mining rules differ all over the world. Some places like Canada and the U.S. have clear laws. But others, like India, are not sure what to do. Many places don’t say if mining is right or wrong.

Year BTC Reward Bitcoin Price Reward Value
2009 50 BTC $0.09 $4.50
2012 25 BTC $12.00 $300.00
2016 12.5 BTC $4000.00 $50,000.00
2020 6.25 BTC $10,000.00 $62,500.00
2024 3.125 BTC $70,000.00 $218,906.25

Blockchain vs Traditional Banking Systems

Blockchain technology is changing how we do financial transactions today. It’s a big change from how things used to work in traditional banking. Now, we’re seeing how blockchain frameworks make transactions faster and more secure.

Difference in Transaction Verification

Traditionally, banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup check and approve our transactions. This system makes sure our money moves safely. But, sometimes it can be slow and costly. On the other hand, blockchain works in a different way without a central authority. It uses a shared digital record to make our transactions quicker and more precise. For example, while stock exchanges may take two days, blockchain makes it happen in just ten minutes.

Security and Privacy

Keeping our money safe is always a top concern. Traditional banking is known for its solid security. But, it has its downfalls like fraud. Blockchain tackles these issues head-on with strong digital locks. This makes our transactions private and almost fraud-proof. A bank like Banco Santander even sees blockchain as a way to save billions, cutting costs and running more efficiently.

Global Accessibility

Blockchain is all about breaking global boundaries. It does away with the need for changing currencies and local banking rules. This means anyone from anywhere can take part in financial deals without the usual hassles. It’s a step towards making the world financially coexist more smoothly.

Big names in finance, such as BNP Paribas, Barclays, and The Bank of England, are very interested in blockchain. Their jump into the blockchain world shows how serious the shift to blockchain for security and making global transactions is. This is a clear sign that blockchain is becoming a key player in the financial sector.

Crypto Wallets: Storing Your Digital Currency

Digital wallets are key for keeping your cryptocurrency safe and easy to reach. There are two main types: hot wallets and cold wallets. We’ll look at each type and help you find the best one for you.

Hot Wallets

Hot wallets keep your coins online for easy access anytime. Options like Exodus, MetaMask, and Trust Wallet are easy to use and hold many assets. Coinbase Wallet, for example, can store over 100,000 digital assets, which is great for new users. But, they can fall victim to cyber-attacks because they’re always online. These wallets are free, aside from some blockchain fees.

Cold Wallets

Cold wallets keep coins offline, making them safe from online threats. They are stored on things like USB drives. Ledger Nano X can hold over 5,500 coins, and Trezor Model T works with over 1,800. They are pricier, from $50 to $255, but they’re very secure. This makes them perfect for holding onto big amounts for a long time.

Choosing the Right Wallet

Selecting between hot and cold wallets depends on your needs for security and accessibility. Are you trading often and need easy access? Hot wallets like Exodus or MetaMask could be best. For those who worry most about security, cold wallets like Ledger Nano X or Trezor Model T are better. Always try out with a small amount first to make sure it’s right. Look for multi-signature and two-factor authentication in a wallet for more security.

Getting Started with Cryptocurrency

First, set up an account on a trustworthy cryptocurrency exchange. As of May 2024, there are over 2.4 million cryptocurrencies. It’s important to pick the right ones for your investment plan. The top ones right now are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether. Experts say not to invest more than 1% to 5% of what you own in these digital assets, because they often change in value.

After choosing your coins, the next step is finding a good exchange. Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken are some of the respected ones. Always pick an exchange that is known for protecting your money and has a clean record. Unfortunately, fraud can happen, as shown when the founder of FTX was jailed for 25 years for fraud in March 2024. So, it’s crucial to check everything carefully before you trust an exchange.

Next, you need to think about how to keep your cryptocurrency safe. You can use hot wallets, which are online, or cold wallets, which are offline. The decision between the two depends on if you want quick access to your money or more security. Stash suggests that you keep no more than 2% of your investment in any single cryptocurrency. This is to lower the risks.

To truly understand crypto, you must know about blockchain. Blockchain is like a big, strong book that records every transaction made. It helps keep cryptocurrency safe and stops people from cheating.

The crypto world is always growing. New coins appear all the time, each designed for different uses. For example, Ethereum lets you make smart agreements, while Dogecoin was started for fun but became very popular. Meanwhile, Cardano and Solana have their special features too. Before you invest, make sure to research well to choose wisely.

For those who want to increase their investment potential, Bitcoin futures trading can lead to bigger profits but also can be risky. Another way to invest without directly owning Bitcoin is through SEC-approved ETFs. You can also invest in companies like Coinbase or Robinhood to take advantage of the growing interest in crypto trading.

Keep in mind that cryptocurrency prices can change quickly. Have clear rules for when you’ll sell your investments. And most importantly, never invest more than you can afford to lose.


Market Cap (USD)

Bitcoin Over $1 Trillion
Ethereum $500 Billion
Tether $74 Billion
BNB $45 Billion
Solana $43 Billion
USDC $35 Billion
XRP $30 Billion
Dogecoin $28 Billion
Toncoin $25 Billion
Cardano $22 Billion

Crypto Trading for Beginners

Start your crypto journey by picking a trustworthy exchange. Well-known ones include eToro and Coinbase. They have easy-to-use designs, strong security, and low charges. To start, you’ll need to fund your account from your bank using debit cards, wire transfers, or ACH. These are the cheaper methods. These platforms support many currencies, like BTC and ETH, giving you plenty of options.

Setting Up an Account

Registering on a top crypto exchange means going through a security check. You’ll need verification for safety. They allow easy funding with debit cards, wires, or ACH. Coinbase treats its users with rewards up to $200, making it even better to join.

Buying and Selling Crypto

With your account good to go, you can now trade cryptos. Pick what you want to buy or sell, then do the trade on the platform. There are tools, like stop-loss orders, to help limit risk. While crypto can offer big returns, its prices can change fast due to its volatile nature.

Common Trading Strategies

You’ll find many ways to trade crypto. You can be active, like in day trading or swing trading. Or be more hands-off, with HODLing or index investing. It’s key to read market trends and keep an eye on what big players are doing. Bots can also help by making the process automatic, trying to get you more profit and less risk.

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About the author

Nathan Tarrant

Nathan has worked in financial services, marketing, and strategic business growth for over 30 years. He was the founder and COO of a Queens award-winning financial services company based in the UK, and a capital investment company in Virginia USA..

He operated as a financial & alternative investment advisor to delegates of the UN, World Health Organization, and senior managers of Fortune 500 companies in Geneva, Switzerland, after the 2008 financial crash.

As an avid investor, especially in alternative investments, he runs this blog Altinvestor.net, sharing his growing experience and views on alternative investments. You can see Nathan's full profile at his personal website nathantarrant.com
You can read his full bio on our about us page

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