Ethereum was conceived back in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin. At the time, he was 19 years old. He managed to gather a team of developers to launch the network two years later, in July of 2015. Since its launch, Ethereum has grown in popularity and market capitalization to become the second most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.
The reason behind its popularity is simple – it’s a platform. Unlike Bitcoin, anyone can launch their blockchain project on the Ethereum network. This has made it easier for individuals and companies to take advantage of blockchain technology without creating their blockchain networks. And to launch a project on Ethereum, you will need some Ether, thus making the cryptocurrency desirable and valuable in the marketplace.
This article highlights all the popular ways to buy Ethereum in 2021, including using credit/debit cards, bank transfers, PayPal, cash and exchanging them for other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin through exchange platforms.
What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is a decentralized, autonomous blockchain network on top of which smart contracts can be hosted. Smart contracts are pieces of code that execute automatically once a specific set of conditions has been met.
In addition to smart contracts, there is a native cryptocurrency also hosted within the Ethereum ecosystem. It’s called Ether or ETH for short.
The Ethereum network is controlled and governed by a community of users, miners (or soon to be stakers), and developers. All three groups have to be present for the network to function correctly.
Since the Ethereum network launch, its core developers have been working on upgrading it to a new version dubbed Ethereum 2.0. This upgrade is meant to boost the network’s security and increase its throughput to process more transactions faster.
Ethereum 2.0 differs from the original Ethereum (version 1.0) in one major aspect: the consensus mechanism. Ethereum 1.0 uses Proof of Work (PoW), in which miners have to invest in equipment and expend energy to mine Ethereum. In Ethereum 2.0, the network will now migrate to a staking model using the Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. In PoS, miners will become stakers and must stake some ETH coins to qualify to verify transactions.
Ethereum vs. Bitcoin
Ethereum as a blockchain network has borrowed heavily from Bitcoin, and because of that, the two networks have some similarities. However, Ethereum also differentiates itself in some significant ways.
Similarities between Ethereum and Bitcoin
In terms of similarities, the two networks share three main aspects:
- They both use blockchain technology – the Bitcoin network was the first successful implementation of blockchain technology, a public record of transactions. This public ledger is distributed amongst all participating nodes. A node is a computer with a complete and updated copy of the ledger. The Ethereum network, however, does more than just encode value transfer records as Bitcoin does. It is also a computing platform that hosts smart contracts.
- Native cryptocurrencies – both networks have native virtual currency assets. For Bitcoin, it’s BTC, while the Ethereum network’s native token is the ether or ETH.
- Proof of Work (PoW) mining – when it comes to block generation, both networks utilize the tried-and-tested PoW consensus mechanism mentioned earlier. However, as explained above, Ethereum is upgrading to version 2.0, which uses the PoS staking mechanism. The first implementation (Phase 0) of this migration has already launched in December 2020.
Differences between Ethereum and Bitcoin
Despite borrowing heavily from the Bitcoin network, Ethereum has both significant and subtle distinctions from Bitcoin. These include:
- Smart contracts – the Ethereum network goes beyond just value transfer which is the Bitcoin blockchain’s focus. With Ethereum, users can design and run dApps, expanding the network’s functionality further than the premier blockchain.
- Block generation – Ethereum has faster block generation times as well as smaller block sizes compared to Bitcoin. On the network, block generation time and size are around 13-14 seconds and 40-45Kb as opposed to Bitcoin’s ~10 minutes and ~1.5MB, respectively.
- Coin issuance – with Bitcoin, there can only ever be a maximum of 21 million coins in circulation once mining concludes. Ethereum, on the other hand, has no maximum cap on the number of coins that will ever be mined. However, it does limit the number of coins that can be minted in a year to 18 million.
Ethereum vs. Ethereum Classic
It is worth noting that Ethereum Classic, which is another cryptocurrency asset, is different from Ethereum. However, they do have a shared history.
Between June and July of 2016, Ethereum faced a contentious and definitive moment that saw a faction of the community split off due to a difference in opinion. The debate revolved around a major theft incident in which a hacker made away with $150 million worth of ETH. Some supported reverting the Ethereum blockchain to invalidate the theft, while others were against this action.
As a result, the network underwent a contentious hard fork, a permanent split with no backward compatibility. Hard forks are common in software development and especially so in the blockchain industry. They happen whenever a new version of a piece of software has implemented significant changes.
However, when the upgrade is contentious within a blockchain community, it often leads to a network split where a part of the community supports the changes while the other part opposes. This is what happened to Ethereum. A majority of the community which supported the changes formed the Ethereum (ETH) camp. The remaining minority who were opposing the changes renamed their blockchain Ethereum Classic (ETC).
Reasons to buy Ethereum (ETH)
Most people and institutions have invested in Ethereum because of its impressive value gains since its launch. However, there are a multitude of reasons why several are still interested in investing in it. Here are some of them:
- Network upgrade – Ethereum lead developers are upgrading the network to the highly anticipated Ethereum 2.0, which promises to increase transaction throughput and security. Ethereum should be much faster and more secure if this is achieved, attracting more users and investors.
- DeFi boom – DeFi (or Decentralized Finance) is the movement that leverages decentralized networks to transform old financial products into trustless and transparent protocols that run without intermediaries. It is a permissionless financial engineering that is majorly based on the Ehtereum network. DeFi enables investors to earn passive income. Read our “How to Earn Passive Income with DeFi” guide to know more.
- Increased blockchain adoption – blockchain is still in its infancy despite its decade-old history. More companies and individuals are discovering blockchain and its promise to decentralize the internet and bring financial freedom. Ethereum is slowly becoming a centerpiece in the whole new financial economy. With that, the value of ETH and the Ethereum ecosystem is expected to keep growing.
Ways to invest in Ethereum
There are several ways to invest in Ethereum. These include:
- Mining/staking – in cryptocurrency, mining refers to confirming transactions and partaking in a blockchain’s security and governance. To do that in Ethereum, one needs to buy expensive GPU machines suitable for mining Ethereum. The ongoing rollout of the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade will see the phasing out of miners who will then be replaced by stakers. In the new model, users are required to stake their coins in exchange for a reward in the form of newly minted ETH coins.
- Cryptocurrency trading – this is a popular way of investing in Ethereum. The premise is to buy low and sell high to make a profit.
- Holding (Hodl) – the term ‘hodl’ stands for ‘holding onto dear life.’ It means that an investor in an asset is willing to hold their investment in an asset despite sharp drops in its value. A ‘hodler’ is a long-term investor.
Risks of investing in Ethereum
Despite all the upsides to investing in Ethereum mentioned above, there are serious risks to be factored in when making the leap into the ecosystem. Some of the main ones include:
- Volatile prices – cryptocurrency prices are notorious for experiencing wild swings. It is not uncommon to see price falls of 30-50% in hours and rebounds in the same magnitudes. Remember never to invest more than you can afford to lose.
- Theft – billions of dollars in the cryptocurrency have been stolen over the years both from individuals and institutions. To protect yourself from these prevalent hacks, you need to observe strict security measures and avoid storing your Ethereum in exchanges.
- Scams – scamming of investors was prevalent in the ‘ICO-mania’ era, which happened in late 2017 and throughout 2018. ICOs (which means ‘initial coin/cryptocurrency offering’) was launched by every Tom, Dick, and Harriet, promising gullible investors quick returns once the tokens were listed on cryptocurrency exchanges. A bulk of these projects were created on the Ethereum blockchain. Unfortunately, a majority of the investors lost their money when the scammers made away with their investments.
These are not the only risks worth noting when investing in Ethereum, and depending on your chosen investment method, there are other unique risks that you will face. Do your own research (DYOR) and invest wisely.
How to buy Ethereum safely (ETH) – 6 steps
There are several ways to buy Ethereum, depending on your preferences and geographical location. Here are the six quick steps to getting your hands on some ETH:
Step 1. Choose a payment method
This is an important step that will affect how you proceed going forward. Your payment method will dictate which platform to use. The five popular payment methods available are:
- Paying with cash;
- Paying with either a debit or credit card;
- Paying with PayPal (or other online payment processors);
- Paying using a bank account through wire transfer or cheque;
- Paying with another cryptocurrency such as bitcoin (i.e., exchanging BTC for ETH).
Once you have chosen a payment method, you can then move on to the next step.
Step 2. Choose a platform
It’s not always the case that you will have to use an exchange to buy Ethereum coins. Depending on your chosen payment method, you may avoid using an exchange altogether. For instance, if you opt to buy ETH through an ATM, you won’t be needed to create an account anywhere, however, the higher fees will apply compared to other more popular buying options.
If you have to use a trading platform or just a crypto brokerage service to buy Ethereum, here are the two types of platforms you will deal with:
- Centralized exchanges – These are trading platforms controlled or run by a single entity. We will review some of the best-centralized cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the market later in this article.
- Decentralized exchanges – These platforms are not run by a single entity but instead employ smart contracts to facilitate trades between users. Several of them are hosted on the Ethereum network, making it even easier and faster to buy or exchange your coins for some Ethereum.
Step 3. Create an account
Opening an account in a centralized exchange is pretty standard and similar across all platforms. It entails the following steps:
- Sign up for an exchange account by submitting your name and email address;
- Verify email and phone number;
- Provide personal information;
- Identity verification or KYC (know your customer) procedures;
- Set up a payment method such as linking a bank account or debit card.
The process is a lot simpler when using a decentralized exchange (DEX). DEXes often dispense with the use of KYC to verify the identity of users.
Step 4. Deposit funds to your account
Once you have your account up and running, the next step is to fund the account. If your chosen payment method is a debit card or bank account, you will be required to transfer some funds to your exchange account to buy ether.
Different platforms have different procedures to perform this activity, but they all have a section to ‘Deposit’ funds. A typical ‘Deposits’ page will provide detailed instructions to transfer the funds from your bank account or debit/credit card to the account.
Step 5. Buy Ethereum
Once the funds have been deposited in your trading platform account, go ahead and buy ETH. It is that simple.
Step 6. Store your Ethereum
This is the last step in the process, but it is probably the most important. Keeping your coins secure is often neglected by most investors at their peril.
After buying your ETH coins, move them to a wallet whose keys you control. Your coins are not safe on an exchange. Even with self custody, you will need to exercise extreme security measures to ensure that your coins remain yours.
In an upcoming section, we will look at some of the best Ethereum wallets to store your coins.
Best exchanges to buy Ethereum
As the second-most popular cryptocurrency, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a crypto exchange that does not support Ethereum. However, it is safe to avoid most market platforms as they lack the liquidity to support large purchases. Other platforms have lackluster security measures.
In this section, we will highlight three of the best-centralized cryptocurrency exchanges. These are some of the most trusted and reliable platforms you can use to purchase ether.
Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trade volume. It launched in 2017, quickly becoming the fastest-growing crypto platform. Binance got so popular that at one time in 2018, it suspended new registrations due to an influx in new signups.
It was initially based in China, but due to regulatory limitations, the exchange moved to Japan briefly then ended up in Malta.
Binance launched through an ICO (initial coin offering) for its native cryptocurrency, BNB. It was hosted on the Ethereum blockchain as an ERC-20 token at the time, but it has since been migrated to the Binance blockchain.
The exchange boasts one of the broadest asset support of any crypto exchange currently, with over 100 assets and more than 500 trading pairs. Expectedly, ETH is a significant trading asset on the platform.
Initially, Binance launched as a purely crypto-to-crypto trading platform. However, it has introduced various payment methods with its expansion, allowing users to purchase crypto directly using debit and credit cards, among other gateways.
Supported payment methods
Binance supports a wide variety of payment methods whose availability is based on the users’ location.
- SEPA Bank Transfer – for residents in the UK and the wider Eurozone region;
- Faster Payments – for UK residents;
- Credit/Debit Card – supports across all countries in which Binance operates;
- PayID and Standard Bank – for residents in Australia and South Africa, respectively;
- Third-party payment channels – additional payment channels resulting from strategic partnerships include ADVcash in Russia, Flutterwave in Nigeria and Uganda, Papara for Turkish residents, Simplex, and Etana;
- Crypto to crypto conversions – if a preferred payment method is not yet available, there is still the option to convert other cryptocurrencies into ETH.
Binance is well known for being one of the cheapest exchanges in terms of trading fees. These are 0.1% of the transaction value for every trade. Additionally, if you opt to pay the trading fees using BNB, you get a 25% discount.
Deposits are free, while Ether’s withdrawals attract a 0.005 ETH (0.05%) fee per withdrawal.
Coinbase is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges in the market today. It was established in 2012 in the United States. It is fully regulated to operate in over 40 US states and supports users from over 100 countries.
Coinbase exists in two versions: a standard user interface called Coinbase and a professional-focused interface called Coinbase Pro (formerly GDAX). The latter is more advanced, offering more features and better transaction fee rates.
Coinbase now offers more services, including brokerage, staking, and crypto custody for institutional customers. You can also access the exchange through a mobile app that also doubles as a mobile wallet.
Supported payment methods
Depending on where you live, Coinbase has the following available payment methods:
- US Residents – in the US, customers have the option to fund their Coinbase account through bank transfer (ACH), wire transfer debit card, and PayPal. For large investments, customers can only use bank and wire transfers. Debit cards support only small purchases. PayPal can only be used to withdraw balances but not to deposit funds;
- UK residents – in the UK, the following payment methods are supported: Faster Payments, SEPA Transfer, 3D Secure Cards, PayPal, and Instant Card Withdrawals. Of these payment options, only the 3D Secure Cards method allows for crypto purchases. The rest can be used to deposit funds into Coinbase accounts, withdraw them or do both;
- Eurozone Residents – in the wider Eurozone region, Coinbase customers can make both deposits and withdrawals through SEPA payments, Instant Card Withdrawals, PayPal, and Ideal/Sofort. For direct purchases, they can only use 3D Secure cards;
- The rest – the exchange’s customers outside the US, the UK, and the Eurozone, including Australia and Canada, have a limited selection of payment methods. Their options vary between using 3D Secure cards for direct purchases and using PayPal for withdrawals. However, most users in other supported countries can’t even buy or sell cryptos on Coinbase. They can only exchange or convert their current assets.
The fee schedule for sell and purchase transactions on the platform ranges from $0.99 to $2.99, depending on the transaction amount. For conversions, the exchange charges a spread margin not greater than 2% of the conversion value.
LocalCryptos (formerly LocalEthereum)
LocalCryptos is a P2P (peer to peer) cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to trade with four major assets, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), and Dash (DASH). It was initially launched as LocalEthereum to support P2P trades of ETH but rebranded in 2019 in the interest of increasing support for more assets.
It is the largest P2P platform for Ethereum. LocalBitcoins is another P2P marketplace where you can buy cryptocurrency, but it focuses on Bitcoin while allowing users to buy BTC using fiat or other cryptos such as ETH.
Another thing to note about LocalCryptos is that it uses smart contracts to facilitate safe trades. The smart contracts, which run on the Ethereum network, are programmed to escrow the assets during a transaction and are only released once both parties confirm that funds have been successfully sent and received.
Supported payment methods
LocalCryptos has perhaps the widest selection of payment methods of any crypto exchange platform. Over 40 payment methods are available.
These methods include:
- Bank transfers (such as SEPA, Faster Payments in the UK, wire transfers, etc.);
- Debit/Credit card transfers;
- PayPal, Skrill, Payoneer, Venmo, Wise (formerly Transferwise), among other online payment processors;
- Western Union, Moneygram;
- Alipay, Wechat, MPesa;
- Other cryptos.
Whatever payment method is popular in your country, the chances are that you can comfortably trade on LocalCryptos as long as you get another trader willing and able to deal in your preferred payment method.
To circumvent one of the most significant faults in cryptocurrency exchanges – theft of funds – LocalCryptos introduced the concept of a non-custodial wallet solution. It means that users don’t store their coins in their exchange accounts. Instead, they are only required to deposit the coins at the time of the trade. And in the unfortunate event that the deal falters, these coins are refunded to the owner. This dispenses with deposit and withdrawal fees.
The only fees applicable on the platform are maker and taker fees. A maker is someone who posts a trade, while a taker responds to the posted trade.
Trade posters and responders are charged a 0.25% and 0.75% fee, respectively.
PayPal (US customers only)
With over 346 million active accounts on the platform, PayPal is the largest online payment processor in the world. In October 2020, it launched a new service allowing its US customers to buy, sell and hold four cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash.
PayPal launched the service in partnership with Paxos Trust Company allowing its US customers with PayPal Cash and Cash Plus accounts to purchase crypto. The company announced that the service will be expanded to select markets outside the US in 2021.
PayPal, however, does not allow for transfers of any cryptocurrency. After buying Ether, you can only hold it or sell it within your account. You cannot send it to an external wallet, crypto exchange or even transfer it to another PayPal account. Crypto balances cannot be used to pay for goods and services, either.
Fees and Limits
To use the new service, just log on to your PayPal account and select the Crypto tab. This option is only available to US customers for now (except Hawaii residents.)
Limits for Ether purchases are $20,000 per week or per single purchase. There is also a yearly limit of $50,000. Minimum purchase is $1.
Transaction fee schedule:
|1.00 – 24.99||0.50 USD|
|25.00 – 100||2.30%|
|101 – 200||2.00%|
|201 – 1000||1.80%|
There are no fees for holding your Ether coins in your PayPal account.
Best wallets to store Ethereum coins
Once you buy your Ether coins, you need a place to store them safely. As we’ve noted before, you are better off avoiding exchange wallets since they are more vulnerable to attacks. The best alternative is to have a self-custody wallet that will let you control your private keys.
The two main choices for self-custody wallets are:
- Hot wallets – these are wallets connected to the internet, meaning they can be accessed remotely. They are often free to use. They include:
- Desktop wallets;
- Mobile wallets;
- Web wallets.
- Cold wallets – these are wallets not connected to the internet and therefore cannot be accessed remotely. They offer the best protection against theft for your Ether coins. They include:
- Hardware wallets;
- Steel wallets;
- Paper wallets.
Web wallets are software applications hosted on a website providing users with the utmost convenience but often at the expense of security. They are easy to connect to the vast Ethereum network of decentralized applications making it fast to transfer funds between accounts and dApps.
The biggest flaw to these wallets is that they are highly centralized and depend on the website provider to secure the account. They are also always accessible through the internet.
Two of the most popular Ethereum web wallets are:
- Metamask – a web browser extension
- MyEtherWallet (MEW) – a free client-side interface now available as a web and mobile wallet.
Desktop and mobile Wallets
Desktop and mobile wallets are great alternatives to web wallets. Desktop wallets are designed to work on Windows OS, macOS, or Linux operating systems, while mobile wallets are designed to run on Android and iOS systems.
The mobile wallets are all ‘lite’ clients, while the desktop versions could be lite or full node clients. The latter means that the wallet downloads the complete blockchain ledger to the device in which it is installed, while the former means that the wallet does not hold the complete copy of the ledger. Instead, lite client wallets request information about the blockchain from the full nodes.
IMPORTANT: The biggest concern about desktop and mobile wallets is that they are hot wallets and are often connected to the internet. This means that they are constantly exposed to the risk of remote attacks.
Examples of common desktop wallets that support Ethereum are:
Examples of common mobile wallets that support Ethereum are:
Hardware wallets (RECOMMENDED way to store Ethereum)
Hardware wallets are physical devices that store digital assets offline, allowing users to interact with various blockchain networks without running the risk of revealing their private keys. This is possible because hardware wallets can prevent remote access to these keys.
Hardware wallets come in different shapes and sizes but often are small in size and have a display screen to facilitate interaction with the device.
As opposed to hot wallets discussed above, hardware wallets are not free. The cost is a small fortune depending on your investment amount. On the higher end, hardware wallets retail for about $500 while others cost as little as $50. It all depends on your preferences and options.
Popular hardware wallets that support Ethereum include:
Steel and Paper wallets
Steel and paper wallets apply the same concept. This method allows users to engrave or print an Ethereum account’s private keys onto a steel plate or a piece of paper, respectively. The steel plates or pieces of paper are then kept in a safe place.
The steel plates solve one major problem to which papers are vulnerable – nature’s elements. Naturally, paper can degrade or get destroyed through fire and water. Using steel avoids these possibly unfortunate occurrences.
Paper is free and easily accessible, making paper wallets the most secure and cost-effective way of storing your Ethereum coins. On the other hand, steel wallets are costly, but they help mitigate the risks inherent in using paper wallets.
Here are some of the popular steel wallets in the market you can use to store Ethereum:
There you have it—some of the best ways to buy Ethereum and how to store it safely.
To recap, we looked at what Ethereum is and why you’d want to invest in it. We highlighted some of the best ways to invest in Ethereum. We also reviewed how to choose the best platform to buy the asset and included some popular platforms to get you started.
After acquiring your coins, you need to move them to a secure place—a wallet. We looked at the different types of wallets in the market and how best to choose which one fits your investment goals. We also highlighted some popular wallet providers to consider.
Remember to always store your coins in a wallet of which you have complete control. Do not leave your Ether in an exchange wallet for too long.
FAQs about Ethereum
How to buy Ethereum with a debit/credit card?
The process is similar in most exchanges and the steps to buy ETH using a payment card are:
1. Find an exchange that accepts fiat deposits such as Coinbase and Binance;
2. Create an account and verify your identity;
3. Link your credit/debit card to your account;
4. Deposit funds from card to the account;
5. Buy Ether (ETH).
How to buy Ethereum with PayPal in the United States?
Applies to US customers with PayPal Cash and Cash Plus accounts:
1. Create PayPal account;
2. Log in to PayPal;
3. Select ‘Crypto’ from dashboard;
4. Select Ethereum;
5. Click ‘Buy’ button.
Is it worth investing in Ethereum?
The value of Ethereum fluctuates regularly making it a great asset for short-term traders. Long-term investors may also find that the possibility of increased blockchain adoption makes Ethereum a great diversification asset to include in their portfolios.
What are the best crypto exchanges to buy Ethereum?
There are several recognized cryptocurrency exchanges that allow users to buy Ethereum safely. The most popular and highly trusted are Binance, Coinbase and LocalCryptos P2P exchanges.
What is the safest wallet to store Ethereum?
The safest wallets to store Ethereum are hardware wallets. Such wallets are not connected to the internet and therefore cannot be accessed remotely by hackers.
Popular hardware wallets for Ethereum are Ledger and Trezor wallets. Paper and Steel wallets are also great alternatives to hardware wallets as those are literally almost indestructible.