In this post we cover all the basics that you need to start your crypto journey, from creating an exchange account to using DeFi (Decentralized Finance). There are a lot of things in crypto that seem self-evident to those that have spent some time in the space. Whether it’s trading on exchanges or creating non-custodial wallets and dabbling in the newest DeFi protocols, these are all skills that become as ingrained as knowing how to ride a bicycle, but they’re far from obvious for new market participants, and this entry barrier is precisely what we aim to address with this post, by giving you the basic introductory information as well as a number of links to other resources that cover specific aspects of crypto in-depth. This is a very wide topic, of course, so it’s best to dive right in: if you’re completely new to crypto, how should you start your crypto journey?
Before you start trading, the number one thing to do is, of course, to make sure you have a decent grasp of how crypto works - understanding an asset before you buy it is the difference between investing and blind gambling, so this is not something that you can leave out. The ideal starting point for this is our Academy, and this is where you should at least learn the basics of blockchain and crypto. Then, assuming that you have a good theoretical understanding and know what you want to buy, you need to get to the actual practical steps of buying crypto for the first time, which will be the focus of this post.
To start, you need something that’s called a fiat on-ramp, i.e. a service that allows you to use fiat currency (e.g. USD, EUR etc.) to buy crypto. Luckily, most centralized exchanges offer a very convenient way to do this by simply paying for crypto with any credit card. You can see a list of popular exchanges here, and we do recommend going with one of the larger exchanges when you’re first starting out, because they tend to be the most trusted and offer the simplest user interface options.
If you want to buy a specific coin, you can often do that directly by buying it with your card on the exchange, but if you want to have more flexibility, it’s better to first buy some stablecoins, crypto tokens that represent fiat currency and are used across different platforms (for example USDC, USDT, DAI etc.). Stablecoins are what you’ll use for trading: for example, if you want to sell a cryptocurrency you hold, you’ll sell it for USDC or USDT rather than selling it directly for USD, and you can use your stablecoins to buy any new tokens that you want. This means that the process of moving between fiat and crypto is something you only need to do very rarely, since you can always store your funds in the form of stablecoins and have them ready to use.
Once you have some funds on an exchange, you can trade right there (refer to the Crypto Trading section of the Academy for more on this), or you can move it to a non-custodial wallet, i.e. a wallet where you yourself have control over your private keys, unlike an exchange wallet, which is custodial (meaning that the exchange has the private keys to your funds). When you get to this point, you can check out our previous How-to Crypto post on wallets to learn about different types of non-custodial wallets, as well as the DeFi section of our Academy to learn about trading on DEXes (decentralized exchanges) and using DeFi lending and borrowing protocols.
Finally, an extremely important thing to mention - one that can never be overstated - is the importance of security. Wherever there are plenty of financial opportunities, there are also even more scams, and this is especially true for crypto. Luckily, protecting your funds is simple; all you need to do in the beginning is follow a few very simple and yet absolutely crucial rules. First, never give your credentials (your email, password, private key or recovery phrase) or any personal information to anyone that contacts you. It’s very likely that you’ll receive emails from scammers that will look like legitimate exchange emails, and they’ll often tell you that you need to act fast and give them your info or access to your account, or else you’ll lose your funds. This is always a scam, no exchange will ever ask for any private info, your secret keys or a payment. The second rule is to assume that every email or Telegram message is a scam, and only then try to verify if it is legitimate or not. If you get an email with a withdrawal code from an exchange right after you requested a withdrawal, that is of course legitimate, but if the email - even if it looks like the real deal - contains a request for your personal data or a payment, then it is invariably a scam. Last but not least, make sure to use strong and secure passwords, and never reuse the same password on multiple websites. That way, even if one of the services you use gets hacked, the hackers won’t be able to do anything with your data.
To make your security really top-notch, you can check out our previous posts that go in-depth into security and scams, as well as many related topics in the How-to Crypto section of our blog. That’s it for now and we wish you a pleasant - and most importantly safe - crypto journey!