Cryptocurrency comparison

Compare cryptocurrencies against each other and start trading cryptocurrency CFDs with IG. We offer nine of the most popular cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether, litecoin, ripple, EOS, stellar (XLM) and NEO. The differences between each cryptocurrency can offer insights into how the value of each coin will change over time.

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Cryptocurrency comparison table

The table below shows how the cryptocurrencies IG offers compare. Further down we explain how these factors may influence the cryptocurrencies’ valuations, and why they matter to traders.

Bitcoin (BTC)1 Bitcoin cash (BCH)1 Ether (ETH)1 Litecoin (LTC)1 Ripple (XRP)2 EOS (EOS)3 Stellar (XLM)4 NEO (NEO)5
Launch 2009 2017 2015 2011 2012 2018 2014 2014
Circulating supply >17 million >17 million >102 million >58 million >40 billion >906 million >18 billion 65 million
Maximum supply 21 million 21 million No upper limit 84 million 100 billion (pre-mined) No upper limit No upper limit 100 million
Current mining/release rate 12.5 per block 12.5 per block 3 per block 25 per block 1 billion per month Up to 5% inflation per year Up to 1% inflation per year Up to 15 million per year
Transactions per second
(maximum)
7 60 20 56 1500 2800 1000 1000
Network n/a n/a Ethereum n/a RippleNet EOS.IO Stellar NEO
Block time (approximate) 10 minutes 10 minutes 15 seconds 2 minutes 30 seconds Near instant 0.5 seconds 5 seconds 15 seconds

Bitcoin vs other major cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are virtual currencies which operate independently of banks and governments but can still be exchanged – or speculated on – just like any physical currency. Launched in 2009, bitcoin was the first decentralised cryptocurrency. Since then, thousands more cryptocurrencies, known as altcoins, have launched.

While bitcoin remains the market leader, cryptocurrencies including bitcoin cash, bitcoin gold, ether, litecoin, ripple, EOS, stellar (XLM) and NEO could challenge in the future because of rising demand, expanded applications, and technological advances.

Bitcoin (BTC)

The original, and (for now) the biggest by market capitalisation. It was launched in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for the mysterious person or group who created it, to secure payments across a peer-to-peer network. It aims to eliminate the need for a trusted third party, democratise money and ensure that transactions are anonymous.

Biggest pro: best known cryptocurrency
Biggest con: slow transaction speeds, requires specialist mining equipment

Bitcoin cash (BCH)

Bitcoin cash is a standalone digital currency, created as an offshoot of bitcoin in August 2017 by a ‘hard fork’. This was in response to the slowdown in bitcoin transaction speeds and the network’s inability to reach consensus on proposed upgrades. Bitcoin cash’s maximum block size is 8mb, compared to 1mb for bitcoin, enabling it to process more transactions each second.

Biggest pro: faster transaction times than bitcoin
Biggest con: requires specialist mining equipment

Ripple (XRP)

Ripple is a cryptocurrency that underpins a payment network called RippleNet – used by major banks and financial institutions including Santander and American Express. Ripple operates in a very different way to other digital currencies, which has led some to question its credentials as a true decentralised cryptocurrency.

Biggest pro: lightning fast transaction speeds
Biggest con: RippleNet can be used without its underlying cryptocurrency, ripple

Stellar (XLM)

Stellar is a payment network that operates in a similar way to RippleNet and can process transactions in multiple currencies. It is underpinned by a cryptocurrency called lumens (XLM), which is commonly referred to as ‘stellar’ (including on the IG platform). Lumens can be used for payments on the network but also play an anti-spam role, as each transaction requires a small transaction fee, which is paid for in the cryptocurrency.

Biggest pro: integrates with banks, used to process transactions in multiple currencies
Biggest con: cryptocurrency not as widely recognised as some other

Ether (ETH)

Ether is the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, which enables users to code and release their own 'decentralised applications (dapps)' and create ‘smart’ contracts that automatically enforce their clauses. Small amounts of ether are destroyed as transactions are processed, preventing hackers from spamming the network.

Biggest pro: use beyond cryptocurrency on the Ethereum network, fast transaction speeds
Biggest con: uncapped supply means that it could be inflationary

Litecoin (LTC)

Litecoin is designed to be ‘silver to bitcoin’s gold’, according to its founder Charlie Lee. And just as the supply of silver outstrips the supply of gold, Litecoin’s maximum supply of 84 million coins is four times greater than bitcoin’s. There are also some fundamental technological differences between the two.

Biggest pro: fast transaction speeds
Biggest con: low market capitalisation compared to bitcoin

EOS (EOS)

EOS is the cryptocurrency of EOS.IO, a blockchain platform that is said to replicate the key functionality of a computer’s hardware and operating system. It provides tools and services for developers to build dapps, including user accounts, authentication and databases. Responsibility for processing and other operations is distributed across the network, which its designers claim will enable it to scale to millions of transactions per second in the future.

Biggest pro: integrated with the EOS.IO network, fast transaction speeds
Biggest con: uncapped supply means that it could be inflationary

NEO (NEO)

NEO is the name of both the cryptocurrency and the network it runs on. This network is like Ethereum in that it enables users to create decentralised apps and smart contracts. However, what sets NEO apart is that its network is currently tightly controlled by ‘NEO Team’, who require users to have a verifiable identity on the network.

Biggest pro: integrated with the NEO network, compliant with regulations in many jurisdictions
Biggest con: may not be truly decentralised

Why do differences between cryptocurrencies matter to traders?

The differences between cryptocurrencies matter to traders because they give vital clues as to how supply and demand for each coin may change over time, in turn influencing market prices and how cryptocurrencies are traded.

Supply

Circulating supply and upper limit

The supply of coins plays an important role in setting market prices. All other things being equal, the scarcer the coin, the more valuable it should be. Bitcoin and bitcoin cash each have an upper limit of 21 million coins, while Litecoin and ripple have expanded maximum supplies of 84 million and 100 billion respectively. These coins will be deflationary once all the coins have been mined or released, while coins like ether – with no fixed limit – have the potential to be inflationary, depending on how much is ‘burnt’ or lost.

Cryptocurrency mining and release rates

The supply of coins changes over time as new coins are mined or released. Mining is the process by which ‘blocks’ of transactions are verified, and new coins released. Bitcoin is currently mined at a rate of 12.5 new coins for every verified block, with the reward halving roughly every four years (the final bitcoins will be mined around the year 2140). Ripple coins, on the other hand, were pre-mined by its founders and are currently being released at a rate of one billion per month.

Demand

Reputation

Despite having fewer applications than many of its newer competitors, Bitcoin’s value has soared over the last few years, and it remains the biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation. This suggests that reputation remains an important factor in cryptocurrency valuations. Press coverage is likely to be an important factor here, with negative press – for example following a major wallet hack – tending to have a negative impact on prices.

Decentralised applications

While bitcoin, bitcoin cash, and litecoin are standalone cryptocurrencies, ether and ripple exist as part of wider networks with expanded applications. If the popularity of these networks increases or they are adopted by mainstream businesses, demand for their underlying cryptocurrencies could surge.

Transaction speed and scalability

As adoption of cryptocurrencies accelerates, transaction speeds and their ability to handle a high volume of transactions is likely to come under increased scrutiny. Scalability could also be influenced by blockchain size and security, as these factors will affect the profitability of mining, speed of the associated network, and willingness of users to buy and use coins. Traders should therefore pay attention to software updates and forks to see how scaling technology evolves.

FAQs

What is the difference between cryptocurrency trading and forex trading?

The difference between cryptocurrency trading and forex trading is primarily the level of volatility and the time available to trade. Cryptocurrencies have a reputation for being extremely volatile, while major price swings in the forex market are less frequent.

With IG, cryptocurrency CFD trading is available from 3.00pm on Saturday to 9.00am on Saturday (AEDT), while forex trading is available from 8.00am on a Monday to 9.00am on a Saturday (AEDT).

Where are cryptocurrencies used?

Cryptocurrencies are mostly used for speculating (trading) on price movements. While the intended use was originally for online payments, uptake has been slow and few retailers accept them. There are many reasons why this is the case, including strict regulations, accessibility of the coins, infrastructure, and stability – cryptocurrencies are very volatile. This could change in future, especially if ‘stablecoins’ prove to be successful. A stablecoin is a crypto that is pegged to an asset (for example, USD), making it less volatile.

What is an initial coin offering (ICO)?

An initial coin offering (ICO) is a way for founders of a new cryptocurrency to raise capital for their project, in exchange for their currency’s tokens. The project may solely be devoted to their new cryptocurrency or may span multiple blockchain applications.

ICOs are quickly becoming the preferred way to launch a new cryptocurrency onto the market. Those buying the coin hope that the new cryptocurrency will turn out to be the next big thing and rise in value. However, ICOs are unregulated and therefore very risky ventures: unlike companies which float on the stock market, new cryptocurrencies are unproven in the marketplace, which makes them almost wholly speculative.

How long does it take to mine a block?

The time it takes to mine a block is different for each cryptocurrency. Bitcoin takes about 10 minutes, while others do it almost instantly. The key factor is the way in which blocks are verified by the network. Bitcoin, for example, uses a ‘proof-of-work’ algorithm, which is very energy intensive.

What is cold storage for a cryptocurrency?

Cold storage is a way to store and secure cryptocurrencies in an offline environment. An example of this is a USB device or paper wallet. The benefit is that the user can keep private keys (essentially passwords that give access to cryptocurrency tokens) offline, where they cannot be hacked. However, it can be much easier to lose a USB stick or piece of paper than access to a private key stored on a digital device.

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1 Coin Market Cap, 2018; Medium, 2018; How Much, 2018; BitInfoCharts, 2018.
2 Coin Market Cap, 2018; Medium, 2018; How Much, 2018; BitInfoCharts, 2018; Ripple, 2017.
3Coin Market Cap, 2018; Medium, 2018; Cryptocurrency News, 2018.
4 Coin Market Cap, 2018; Stellar, 2018; Lumenauts, 2018.
5 Coin Market Cap, 2018; NEO Whitepaper, 2018; NEO Contract Whitepaper, 2018; Store of Value Blog, 2018.