Cryptocurrency is a new type of money that uses breakthrough technology to securely verify transactions without a central bank or third party. The technology is called a blockchain, and it makes it possible to make payments and transfer assets around the world that are instantly verifiable and irreversible, while also providing tight security against fraud and cybercrime.
Bitcoin is the best-known cryptocurrency. But many more are available, and new ones are created all the time. While some cryptocurrencies are designed to be a store of value or an investable asset, others have specific use cases such as paying for goods and services online. The price of a cryptocurrency is determined by supply and demand, its perceived value as a medium of exchange and/or store of value, and its utility in the future. Some cryptocurrencies are stable, with prices pegged to a real-world asset or other benchmark like the US dollar. Others fluctuate in price, depending on news about how companies plan to use them and global events.
Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government or company, and they have no intrinsic value. Their values are derived from how useful people think they will be, and the technology behind them. For example, the Bitcoin network rewards “miners” (computer programs that validate and update the blockchain) by awarding them with new coins each time they solve a complex math problem. This system encourages people to participate in maintaining the blockchain, and it saves banks and other third parties valuable time and resources.
Digital currencies also create opportunities to expand people’s economic freedom around the globe. Because they are transferable across borders with no fee, they can enable individuals to bypass oppressive government controls on their savings and spending. This could be particularly beneficial in developing countries where high inflation is a serious challenge.
As with any investment, you should understand the risks associated with investing in cryptocurrencies. These include the possibility of losing some or all of your investment, the risk of theft, and volatile price fluctuations. Also, because crypto holdings are not insured like cash in a bank account, you should only invest in cryptocurrencies with an amount that you can afford to lose completely.
If you’re interested in incorporating cryptocurrencies into your portfolio, start by diversifying the types of cryptos you buy. It’s generally best to focus on well-established, proven cryptocurrencies, rather than the fads and buzzwords that can come and go. A reputable investment firm should be able to provide you with information about the different cryptocurrencies it offers and their performance history. In addition, you can look for logos indicating which cryptocurrencies a website accepts in the same way that stores display credit card logos. It’s also a good idea to check how widely a cryptocurrency is used and to see if its creator has an established reputation in the industry. You can also find more information about a cryptocurrency by reading its “white paper” or other public documentation.