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What Is Cryptocurrency? Here’s What You Should Know
Cryptocurrencies let you purchase products and services, or trade them for profit. Here’s more about what cryptocurrency is, how to buy it and how to safeguard yourself.

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A cryptocurrency (or “crypto”) is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services, however uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to protect online transactions. Much of the interest in these unregulated currencies is to trade for profit, with speculators sometimes driving rates skyward.

Here are seven things to ask about cryptocurrency, and what to look out for.

1. What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a form of payment that can be exchanged online for items and services. Lots of business have issued their own currencies, typically called tokens, and these can be traded specifically for the good or service that the company supplies. Think of them as you would arcade tokens or gambling establishment chips. You’ll need to exchange real currency for the cryptocurrency to access the excellent or service.

Cryptocurrencies work utilizing a technology called blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized technology spread across lots of computers that manages and tapes deals. Part of the appeal of this innovation is its security.

2. The number of cryptocurrencies are there? What are they worth?

More than 6,700 different cryptocurrencies are traded openly, according to CoinMarketCap.com, a marketing research website. And cryptocurrencies continue to multiply, raising money through initial coin offerings, or ICOs. The overall worth of all cryptocurrencies on Dec. 18, 2020, was more than $645.7 billion, according to CoinMarketCap, and the total value of all bitcoins, the most popular digital currency, was pegged at about $421.7 billion. (You can check the current rate to purchase Bitcoin here

3. Why are cryptocurrencies so popular?

Cryptocurrencies appeal to their supporters for a range of reasons. Here are a few of the most popular:

Supporters see cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as the currency of the future and are racing to buy them now, probably before they end up being better Some fans like the reality that cryptocurrency gets rid of reserve banks from handling the money supply, since with time these banks tend to decrease the worth of cash via inflation Other advocates like the innovation behind cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, because it’s a decentralized processing and recording system and can be more protected than conventional payment systems Some speculators like cryptocurrencies due to the fact that they’re going up in value and have no interest in the currencies’ long-term acceptance as a way to move money

4. Are cryptocurrencies an excellent financial investment?

Cryptocurrencies may go up in worth, however many investors see them as simple speculations, not real financial investments. The reason? Similar to real currencies, cryptocurrencies create no capital, so for you to profit, someone needs to pay more for the currency than you did.

That’s what’s called “the greater fool” theory of investment. Contrast that to a well-managed service, which increases its value gradually by growing the profitability and capital of the operation.

For those who see cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as the currency of the future, it should be kept in mind that a currency requires stability.” As NerdWallet authors have kept in mind, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin may not be that safe, and some noteworthy voices in the investment community have actually encouraged prospective financiers to steer clear of them. Of specific note, famous investor Warren Buffett compared Bitcoin to paper checks: “It’s a really efficient way of transferring money and you can do it anonymously and all that. A check is a way of sending money too. Are checks worth a whole lot of money? Even if they can transfer money?” For those who see cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as the currency of the future, it needs to be noted that a currency requires stability so that merchants and customers can determine what a fair cost is for products. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been anything however stable through much of their history. While Bitcoin traded at close to $20,000 in December 2017, its value then dropped to as low as about $3,200 a year later. By December 2020, it was trading at record levels once again.

This price volatility creates a conundrum. If bitcoins might be worth a lot more in the future, people are less likely to spend and circulate them today, making them less feasible as a currency. Why invest a bitcoin when it could be worth 3 times the value next year?

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