Purchasing Ethereum can be done easily at any of the Ethereum exchanges below. Once Ether has been purchased for fiat currency (USD, EUR, GBP etc), the funds can be stored on the exchange itself or in your own secure wallet. For small purchases of Ethereum, users may wish to store their crypto on the exchange for ease-of-use. For larger purchases it is recommended that the funds are moved into a secure wallet. Alternatively, investors can trade Ethereum without having to buy and secure the currency through a “CFD trading” platform, some of which are listed below.
The process of purchasing Ethereum through an exchange is simple. Register a free account with an exchange below, deposit US dollars, Euros, British Pounds etc and purchase Ether through the platform.
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Coinbase is recognized as one of the most popular exchanges for users to buy and sell Ethereum. The exchange is open to many countries in Europe as well as the United Kingdom and USA. Residents in Australia are able to purchase Ether at Coinbase, but another exchange must be used to sell the cryptoasset for AUD.
localethereum is an anonymous marketplace for buyers and sellers of Ether powered by smart contracts. Launched on October 20th 2017, localethereum is a new but popular place to purchase Ether from anywhere in the world.
Binance is a cryptocurrency exchange with a daily trading volume that regularly exceeds 2.5 billion US dollars with a membership in excess of 10 million users
Changelly is a rapidly growing exchange which allows users to buy dozens of cryptocurrencies using a credit/debit card or other cryptocurrencies.
If you would prefer to just speculate on the price of Ether without purchasing the cryptoasset (and thus not requiring any of the associated security precautions), see this section on CFD trading for Ethereum.
The process of buying Ether will vary from one exchange to another, however the principles are very much the same. Those new to cryptocurrency purchases need not be alarmed, many exchange platforms make it as easy as sending a single online payment.
Once your fiat currency has arrived in your exchange account, you can use this currency to purchase Ether. Beginner friendly platforms such as Coinbase have made this process very simple. Exchanges which make purchases easy have been marked above with a tick symbol under “Beginner Friendly”.
Ethereum is a blockchain – a ledger containing a history of all transactions – that is secured by a distributed network of machines, each working to process and validate transactions. Ether is the currency of the Ethereum blockchain (although “Ethereum” is used interchangeably to describe both the currency and the blockchain) and is issued to those machines that carry out this work. Ether can then be traded easily for fiat currencies like US dollars or Euros, or it can be held as a speculative asset or for its utility. The Ethereum network now has many thousands of participants who are able to transact with anyone in the world without middlemen.
Transactions on Ethereum are final and immutable. If a transaction is invalid (for example, the user does not have enough funds), then the transaction is not included in the blockchain. The entire history of all valid transactions is stored by many different machines in thousands of physical locations, each copy being identical to the other. The blockchain is a global agreement of the history of every transaction ever made. Due to this distributed nature of the Ethereum blockchain, there is no central point of failure and no possibility of being shut down.
The Ethereum blockchain was launched in July 2015 with a price of less than a dollar and climbed slowly until March 2017 when the cryptoasset experienced an enormous surge in value. The price of Ether peaked in January 2018 at an all time high of over $1400 before crashing to $85 several months later. This guide to buying Ethereum will explain why Ether has value, whether the currency is a good investment and what risks and considerations should be taken into account when looking to buy Ether.
To first understand Ethereum’s value proposition and whether you as an investor should consider purchasing Ether, it is best to consider the unique benefits that cryptoassets offer and why they attract the attention of such a broad range of investors, from VCs through to retail.
Cash buying Ethereum is a popular route for users who live in countries where banking is either restricted or inaccessible. This is particularly true for users in places such as Venezuela, China and Russia, where access to cryptocurrencies like Ethereum can be restricted. Fortunately for users looking to buy Ethereum with cash, there is a decentralized marketplace to do just – LocalEthereum.com. LocalEthereum is an anonymous marketplace where users can buy and sell Ethereum using several different payment methods including cash. Sellers are verified by both email and phone, and buyers are able to rate the seller on each trade, helping to build a trusted profile for future buyers. Trades can happen immediately with over 100 countries being catered for. There are very few exchanges which will facilitate cash trades for Ethereum, but LocalEthereum is undoubtedly the most secure.
Some may prefer a “peer to peer” route to purchasing Ethereum, avoiding KYC and AML and in many cases, purchasing larger quantities. Whilst this activity may be frowned upon by your country’s regulators, it is possible to do so – at your own risk – through an online peer to peer exchange like LocalEthereum.com as mentioned above.
Ethereum can also be bought anonymously by using another cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. In this case, a user must first purchase Bitcoin before then exchanging it with Ether anonymously through a marketplace like LocalBitcoins.com.
Before discussing Ethereum as an alternative investment vehicle and its many benefits, risks and rewards, it is best to list a handful of definitions which should help make this article easier to follow.
Unlike other assets, Ethereum is not backed by gold or promised by government. To understand whether Ethereum is worth buying, it is first best to examine the fundamental value of the Ethereum blockchain itself. For the sake of simplicity, this section will look at the Ethereum blockchain only.
The Ethereum blockchain is a protocol that operates on the laws of mathematics. Unlike a central bank or government, who can quickly and unexpectedly adjust money supply, Ethereum’s coin distribution is written into immutable code that is publicly available and agreed by consensus. It is the blockchain’s unbreakable encryption and mathematical truths which back this digital asset, as opposed to gold or government promise.
Ethereum is an inflationary currency; 2 new Ether coins enter the system whenever the next valid block in the blockchain is found (a block is found roughly every 15 seconds). The process of finding blocks is a separate topic but the key point is that – unlike Bitcoin, whose supply is capped at 21 million coins – there is no limit on the amount of Ether that will be issued over time. However, this rate of inflation will decrease over time as the aforementioned issuance of 2 Ether becomes a smaller percentage of the overall coin supply.
Furthermore, the planned network transition from proof of work (mining) to proof of stake will remove the role of miners, replacing them with a low-energy and low-cost alternative that requires a smaller block reward. While the exact supply inflation rate of ETH in 2 years time is not known, it is extremely likely to be lower than it is today.
Credit: Eric Conner
Transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are valid based on a few factors, but the most obvious is that the user must have a balance greater than the amount they are sending. The purpose for which they are sending or receiving coins is irrelevant. Any user of the Ethereum blockchain – regardless of location – is able to decide how to spend their value without authorization. Having sovereignty over one’s wealth may seem unnecessary for many in the West but for those in developing nations, or countries experiencing hyper inflation and strict money controls, the ability to untether from their fiat currency system serves as an enormous benefit. Unlike the traditional fiat system, Ethereum offers users full sovereignty if they wish. Of course users can choose to trust 3rd parties if they would like to, but that is not a requirement as it is in the traditional banking space today.
Ethereum transactions are low cost and fast, capable of handling 15 transactions per second with protocol upgrades in the next 12 months that are anticipated to increase this figure to 1000+. To put that into perspective, VISA handles an estimated average of 2,000 transactions per second. Furthermore, 3rd party payment channels such as the Loom Network and FunFair’s “fate channels” have been developed which take transactions off of the Ethereum blockchain with only a small trade-off in security. These “off-chain” scaling solutions also help to reduce fees – increasing the capacity of the network by several orders of magnitude.
Ether has real-world value that is in demand. Major Ethereum exchanges will complete large million dollar sell orders within seconds without moving the price. Liquidity could certainly be higher and brief “flash crashes” have been noted in the past, however for the vast majority of users and investors, Ethereum’s liquidity allows for fast exchange to and from fiat currency.
Up until now this article has focused on the fundamentals of the Ethereum blockchain and its use case as a currency for transacting value. While Ether serves well as a medium of exchange, the real value of this network is in its ability to operate “smart contracts” on the EVM, furthering its investment case as an alternative asset. Smart contracts are still in their infancy, however a number of industries are on the cusp of major disruption thanks to this technology:
Much like gold, Ethereum and others are being used as a hedge against economic uncertainty. However unlike gold, Ether can also be transacted globally and near-instantaneously through the internet with minimal fees and unlimited amounts. The supply of Ethereum is also transparent and predictable through its open source code which is publicly auditable. In the case of gold, supply shocks are not uncommon.
There are several reasons why a user might choose to buy or invest in Ethereum, here a handful of examples.
Decentralized Finance or “DeFi” is a term used to describe financial applications which run on the Ethereum blockchain. These applications are capable of performing traditional financial tasks but without the need for a middleman or third party. Instead, DeFi applications operate as a collection of smart contracts built on Ethereum, moving value from wallet to wallet using a set of predefined instructions that cannot be altered. The number of decentralized financial applications are currently very limited, however a handful are currently already live on the Ethereum main net and have received a great deal of attention in recent months.
The most promising of these DeFi apps is MakerDAO’s DAI. DAI is a stablecoin ERC20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain and is pegged to the US Dollar: 1 DAI is equal to 1 USD. The token is capable of holding a stable value due to the way in which the DAI token is issued.
In order to mint DAI, a user must first put up some collateral in the form of Ether. To reclaim the collateral, the minted DAI is simply returned to its associated smart contract. As the price of DAI fluctuates around its 1 dollar peg, users are incentivized (through a stability fee) to burn or mint tokens in order as a mechanism to ensure its price stability.
The system is far more complex than this basic explanation; it involves not only some sophisticated economic games but a system to govern each colletaralized position, liquidating those positions which became overdrawn should the price of Ether fall. The main takeaway as a potential investor is that MakerDAO is one of a number of DeFi applications that are rapidly gaining traction in the space. Over 1.8M Ethereum tokens were locked as collateral in MakerDAO at the beginning of 2019 – over 1% of the total supply of Ethereum.
Other DeFi applications including Uniswap, Compound.finance and Augur-based applications like Veil.co and Guesser.io, with many of these attracting significant liquidity. Users are increasingly buying Ethereum to take advantage of these DeFi applications and investors would do well to pay attention to this trend.
Investment strategies vary, and suitability is subject to your own personal risk tolerance. This guide is for information purposes only and if in any doubt, consult a financial adviser.
Buy and hold
One of the most common investment strategies for Ethereum is “buy and hold”. If Ethereum is to replace even a fraction of fiat currency, its value will be far greater than it is today. The same can be said if Ethereum becomes the currency of choice for the “machine payable web” which will enable billions of devices and AIs to transact value autonomously with each other with unprecedented efficiency.
Given the volatility of Ethereum, those looking to buy may want to consider “dollar cost averaging”. With this approach, an investor would split their total investment into chunks, acquiring Ether over a chosen length of time and buying in at an average price. Dollar cost averaging can reduce the level of volatility that an investor is exposed to in the short term.
Buy and diversify
It is safe to say that predicting the future price of Ethereum is much like predicting the weather in 5 years time. It is unlikely that Ethereum will disappear anytime soon but as Ethereum has shown Bitcoin, it is possible for a little-known cryptoasset to become a dominant force in a short period of time. Purchasing Ethereum to exchange for other cryptoassets like Ripple (XRP) and Ethereum Classic (ETC) is a good way to hedge against the unexpected failure of any given coin. Whilst one coin may fail, many VCs and technologists are in agreement that cryptoassets of some nature will become ubiquitous in the future.
Some investors choose to day trade cryptoassets on exchanges like Poloniex and GDAX. This type of trading compounds risk on an already volatile asset and should be treated with caution. Let’s not go there.
If Ethereum was to become ubiquitous as a digital currency – enabling micropayments among machines and borderless/trustless transactions between people – then it is quite obviously not too late to buy Ethereum. The price of Ethereum in 10 years time is likely to either be $0.00 or an uncapped amount that can only be imagined. It is my personal expectation that Ethereum’s value will only stabalize (i.e. stop increasing) once the currency has achieved its goal of being a globally decentralized platform with billions of devices and humans interacting with it. Of course, the value of the currency will experience enormous highs and lows as investors join and whales leave, but if the technology is to succeed, then the long run price will be much greater than today.
Major network upgrades for the Ethereum blockchain are yet to be released. These upgrades will reduce the supply of Ether tokens while also increasing the capacity of the network by many orders of magnitude. These network upgrades work in both directions; the risk of a failure in any software update could be catastrophic, however the reward of a successful upgrade could be enormous. For this reason, it would be sensible to consider Ethereum a more risky investment than that of Bitcoin, however the upside is considerably greater.
From the content on this page, it should also become apparent just how challenging it can be to purchase Ether, and that in and of itself is one reason why it is unlikely to be too late.
Those who choose to secure their Ether “the easy way” – as described further below – can skip this section.
Before purchasing Ether, it’s essential to become familiar with wallet software and transactions in general. Ethereum – as with any cryptoasset – is extremely unforgiving. One false move when sending or receiving a transaction can result in the loss of an entire bankroll. However, this risk can be somewhat mitigated by following our simple security guide below. The risk can be further mitigated by learning a basic understanding of the technology in this section (it’s not complex) and using caution. Further advice on how best to transact Ethereum can be found immediately below.
An Ethereum wallet is a piece of software that “stores” your Ether funds. Ethereum wallets could be a desktop application, a mobile/web app, a hardware/paper wallet or an online exchange. The official Ethereum wallet can be downloaded at Ethereum.org.
New users may find themselves downloading a “full node”. Full nodes can be used as a wallet, however they require the user to download the entire Ethereum blockchain (many gigabytes in size) and remaining in sync with all new transactions. If you are new to Ethereum, then it is recommended that you use a “light client” as they do not require the full blockchain to operate.
Light client Ethereum wallets:
Now that you have chosen a particular Ethereum wallet, it is important to understand the private key that will be generated with it before depositing any funds. The private key is the key to your wallet; if anyone else has your private key then they also have full access to your wallet and its associated funds. When creating a wallet, you will be asked to take a copy of your private key. The above wallets generate your private key offline, ensuring that it is never sent to a server and therefore cannot be intercepted by a malicious attacker. It is up to the individual to decide how to store and backup their private key. Many users choose secure cloud storage with 2-factor authentication or offline prints of their private key. For larger sums of Ethereum, extra security measures can be taken with “hardware wallets” described further below.
You have now downloaded an Ethereum wallet and secured your private key. Before funding your wallet with Ether, it’s important to become familiar with the make-up of a simple Ethereum transaction.
Your Ethereum wallet will automatically generate a handful of receiving addresses (also known as “public keys”) which are a function of your private key. Unlike the private key, receiving addresses can be distributed freely without risk of theft, and payments to these receiving addresses will add funds to your private key (wallet). For those interested in cryptography, see the Bitcoin wiki on “public key cryptography”.
All transactions on the Ethereum blockchain are publicly visible through a “block explorer” such as Etherscan.io. As an example, we are going to look at this arbitrary transaction of 0.2 ETH. In this transaction you can see 2 public keys:
Using MyEtherWallet as our example software, the above transaction is simply the input of the address we wish to send funds to, the amount, and the gas limit (fee). The latter is set automatically by the software – but it’s prudent to double check the cost as miscalculations have been known to occur.
The from address does not need to be specified. This address is chosen automatically based on the balance of each address.
Once a transaction has been sent, a transaction hash is created and shown to you in the software. This transaction hash can then be put into a block explorer and the same details we have just looked at can be found for your new transaction.
Block height and confirmations
This is the mined block which your transaction was included in. It takes roughly 15 seconds to mine a block. The period between your transaction being broadcast (i.e. sent to a receiving address) to when it is first included in a block is a period in which your transaction will be “pending”. Inclusion in a block is called a confirmation, and every subsequently mined block adds another confirmation. The more confirmations a transaction has, the more “finality” it has. Transactions with 30+ confirmations are generally considered final – they will persist in the blockchain for all eternity.
Block height can also be thought of as the block number since the creation of the blockchain. In our example’s case, the transaction was included in the 3,804,203rd block to be mined.
Now that you are familiar with sending Ether, the same idea can be applied to receiving it. In the case of purchasing Ethereum, once it has been bought from an exchange, the exchange’s withdrawal function will ask for your wallet address. Input your address along with the amount of Ether you wish to withdraw to your wallet and then once confirmed, a transaction hash will be shown. The Ether will immediately show as being “pending” in your wallet and you can follow the number of confirmations by searching for the transaction hash (or receiving address) on Etherscan.io.
Whilst rare, there have been several horror stories of users losing thousands of dollars in Ether from poor due diligence. Here are a few of the key items to check off when making a transaction of a significant sum.
Copy and paste the address
Never type in a wallet address by hand. Addresses are long and case-sensitive, a single mistake will result in the funds being lost forever. There is no charge back or customer support number in Ethereum.
Check the transaction fee
A good Ethereum wallet will show you the calculated transaction fee in dollars and cents. Always double check that the transaction fee is reasonable.
Check, double and triple check the address
Once you’ve copied and pasted the address which you wish to send or receive Ether to, check it over and over until you’re certain it’s correct. Looking at the first and last several letters/numbers will ensure it’s been pasted correctly.
Good wallet software will also confirm the address that you are sending or receiving to. This mitigates the risk of malware intercepting and replacing the address you input.
Test your transaction
One of the driving forces behind Ethereum adoption is the low transaction fees. There is no harm in sending a negligible amount of Ether in order to test your understanding of the process and that all of the details are correct. This will ensure that everything goes smoothly when sending larger amounts.
This section of the guide intends to simplify the process of securing Ethereum for non-technical users. This method of security hands over management to the exchange with which you purchased Ether.
In this instance, users can secure their newly purchased Ethereum by leaving it in their wallet on the exchange itself. This introduces some risks, including platform risk (the platform may fail as has been seen before with the MtGox Bitcoin exchange) as well as the risk of digital theft, as has been seen with Bitfinex. Ultimately, some users choose to secure large sums of Ether by leaving it on an exchange, but in doing so they give up their ability to audit and ensure its security. The decision to do this is a personal one – how much do you trust the exchange, and how much wealth are you willing to leave in the hands of that exchange? Whilst it is unlikely that your coins will be stolen or that the platform will become insolvent, it is a possibility that should be accounted for.
Securing Ether on an exchange is a legitimate approach to security, particularly if the funds stored are relatively small in size compared to an investor’s overall portfolio. However, when storing coins on an exchange, you do not own the private key. Essentially, you have handed over responsibility of your Ether to the exchange. Exchanges are not the same as a bank and the same financial regulations do not apply. Insolvency or theft may result in lost funds.
Securing Ether is a critical step in ensuring that your investment is safe. Unlike many developed countries, the banks will not protect your cryptoassets like they protect your cash. As mentioned, investing in cryptocurrencies is unforgiving and securing Ether properly is critical. Those looking for an easier security option may wish to hand over their wallet management to a 3rd party – details of which can be found above.
Hardware wallets are one of the safest ways to secure your Ether. Hardware wallets generate and store your private key offline and at no point is the private key exposed to your connected device (PC). Storing your coins offline in this way mitigates the risk of digital theft – one of the most common attack vectors for cryptoasset holders. As with other Ethereum wallets, a recovery seed is provided on creation and a PIN is chosen to secure access to the device itself. It is the PIN and the recovery seed that must then be secured extremely well as access to either by a malicious individual may result in loss of funds. Further protection can also be taken in the form of 2-factor authentication and multi-signature wallets as discussed below.
The two most respected hardware wallets for Ethereum (and other cryptoassets) are Trezor and the Ledger Nano S. Those storing Ethereum on a Trezor device will need to use it in combination with MyEtherWallet (see the full guide here). For that reason, many users opt for the ease of use that comes with the Ledger Nano S.
Whether you choose to store your coins on an exchange, desktop/mobile or hardware wallet, 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) is a highly recommended additional security layer. The 2FA process requires that the user inputs a one time password (OTP) before being able to login to a wallet or send Ether. Google Authenticator is one of the most popular interfaces for 2FA and is used by a range of Ethereum wallets.
Different wallets and exchanges will implement 2FA in different ways, however the additional security that it provides remains the same. A potential thief would not only require your password to steal your Ether, but access to the physical device from which the OTP is generated as well.
Making a decision to buy Ether today requires a great deal of knowledge about the value of the Ethereum network tomorrow. The future of Ethereum is by no means certain, however there are a number of important developments that are likely to have a positive impact on the demand and price of ETH. The following upgrades all apply to “Layer 1” (infrastructure) in the Ethereum stack. While developers are working on all layers of the stack across countless different teams, it is the infrastructure layer that will unleash the blockchain’s potential in the future. These categories aim to improve capacity and security on the network.
|Ethereum 2.0||In 2018, a number of protocol upgrades were combined together under the umbrella term Ethereum 2.0. This term describes the implementation of Proof of Stake and Sharding as well as a number of other key concepts to help improve the capacity and scalability of Ethereum. Ethereum 2.0 is expected to begin its Phase 0 in the summer of 2019. The Ethereum 2.0 spec can be found here.|
|Ethereum 1.x||While Phase 0 of Ethereum 2.0 is expected to begin shortly, there are a number of teams working on improving the existing Ethereum referred to as “Ethereum 1.x”. Most interestingly among the 1.x improvements is “state rent”, a requirement for all contracts and addresses on Ethereum to pay a rent fee to remain accessible (with the ability for recovery of course). Should the proposal be successful, state rent is expected to drastically reduce the amount of “garbage” which would otherwise persist indefinitely on the network, enabling more nodes to sync to an otherwise unsyncable network.|
|Vyper Programming Language||The Solidity programming language, created by Gavin Wood specifically for Ethereum, has been hugely effective in building the first generation of Ethereum smart contracts. However, in being the first of its kind, it also revealed a number of unexpected challenges with smart contract programming. Vyper is a new smart contract programming language which aims to resolves a long list of issues faced by Solidity. Vyper is a “pythonic” (Python-style) programming language with numerous benefits for security, auditability and simplicity. Vyper documentation can be found here.|
|eWasm||Ethereum WebAssembly (eWasm), is a subset of WebAssembly, a low-level instruction set which is not yet widely in use. WebAssembly is incredibly fast, drastically improving the speed at which operations are executed and in the case of Ethereum, will enable developers to build smart contracts in popular programming languages like C, C++ and Rust.|
2FA through an app like Google Authenticator has so far proven extremely secure. However, some platforms choose to bypass the use of an app and instead send an OTP over SMS. SMS 2FA should be avoided entirely, as the OTP can – in many cases – be observed without needing to unlock a phone. More catastrophically, social engineering has been used to convince telecoms staff to port a phone number to a new SIM. If an attacker is able to do this, then the phone number alone can be used to gain access to any Ethereum exchange “protected” by SMS 2FA.
A multi-signature wallet allows the user to secure their Ethereum by requiring multiple participants to sign each transaction. Typically a multi-signature wallet is “2 of 3”, meaning that 2 of a total of 3 private keys must sign the transaction for it to be successfully broadcast to the network. In these instances the 3 private keys can be split across different physical locations along with their own physical security to ensure that there is no single point of attack.
Different wallets will have their own implementations of multi-signature security.
Ultimately, the security options that you choose should be based around your risk tolerance. The above information should serve as some inspiration for how best to secure your Ethereum but should not be considered comprehensive. Cryptoasset security practices are being developed on an ongoing basis, consult your wallet of choice for their own recommendations.
Ethereum and Bitcoin are two separate cryptocurrencies. They are often compared to each other due to their popularity but there are actually very few similarities. Bitcoin is used for payments while Ethereum is used for payments and smart contracts. Bitcoin is limited to 21 million coins while Ethereum has a supply of coins that will expand indefinitely (currently at 2 ETH every 15 seconds). There are many more differences between the two and both have very different investment potentials.
When comparing cryptocurrencies, it is advisable to compare coins within a category. For example, comparing Ethereum to another smart contract platform like EOS would be far more relevant than comparing Ethereum to Bitcoin.
Buying Ethereum can range from a few clicks in a webapp to a major networking effort, the choice is yours. The content on this page will go a long way to helping you get started, however the recommendation for new users is to begin with a simple exchange like Coinbase.com. Coinbase makes buying Ether a very straightforward process and from there you can experiment with small transactions before eventually setting up an Ethereum wallet of your own.
This is the million dollar question that is asked not just in the cryptocurrency space but across all financial instruments. The best time to buy is the moment you’ve decided that the fundamental value of Ethereum will grow in the future. Some investors prefer to avoid short term volatility by “dollar cost averaging“.
Investors of Ethereum will be interested primarily in the future value of the cryptocurrency. Is now the right time to buy? One of the many metrics that can be used to gauge market sentiment is the Ethereum price predictions that we feature on the link below. Our price predictions are sourced from Augur, a “prediction market” built on the Ethereum blockchain. Augur allows users to ask questions like, “will the price of ETH be greater than $1,000 on January 1st 2021?” and other users can then bet on either “yes” or “no”. The platform has so far attracted millions of dollars worth of bets, across markets ranging from cryptocurrency prices through to sports and presidential elections.