Acquiring Ether comes in two ways: mining or through an exchange.
Mining Ether can be very costly. First, you have to pick the right computer to generate as many hashes as you want per second. Then, you have to make sure it’s generating enough to gain a profit. This is a competitive field, which means your computer will constantly be running, using up endless amounts of electricity.
If you’d rather save yourself from that hassle, you can use an exchange. This is a marketplace for virtual currency that people use to trade, buy, and sell different virtual currencies including Ether. Some allow you to trade Ether with other virtual currencies, while others allow you to obtain the currency using fiat. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to easily acquire Ether.
If you don’t follow the ins and outs of Ethereum, you may have a hard time deciphering which exchange to choose. Deciding on which one to choose depends on your preferences. Do you want to buy Ether with fiat currency? Do you want to trade your virtual currency for Ether? Or would you rather buy Ether directly from someone else?
There are plenty of exchanges that allow their customers to use fiat currency. All around the world, customers deposit USD, EUR, CNY, GBP, and CAD into their accounts. Depositing your money has never been easier. One of the more popular choices is a wire transfer. Depending on the location, the transfer may take a few days to fully process. Most exchanges that accept fiat allow bank/wire transfers.
Some exchanges (Coinbase and Gemini) allow their customers to deposit straight from their bank. This is common amongst US-based exchanges. Using ACH (Automated Clearing House) deposits, customers can directly deposit their funds into the account without having to pay the hefty fees for a wire transfer. Depending on the exchange, your money will arrive instantly or take a few days for your bank’s approval.
If do not want to use your bank account, other exchanges offer the choice of a payment processor or even your credit card. Most non-US based exchanges prefer this to avoid any converting hassles. Through your desktop or mobile device you can send your money to your exchange (Kraken, Exmo, C-Cex).
Some exchanges (Poloniex, Bittrex) only allow virtual currency trading. If you already have virtual currency stored, you can send your coins to purchase Ether.
If you do not feel comfortable giving your personal information to an exchange, you can buy Ether in person. There are hundreds of meetups dedicated to Ethereum. Some offer free Ether to attendees. But most of the time, you can buy Ether with cash. In order to do this, you need a wallet to store your Ether.
Another aspect to think about is the security of an exchange. Many fear another Mt. Gox or Bitfinex hack is right around the corner, and that it will make them lose their money in the process. If you are cautious about this, you should pay attention to the security details these exchanges offer.
The best kind of security is offline storage. Most exchanges remove funds and store them in hardware that is not connected to the internet making it impossible to hack. Other exchanges suggest 2FA (2-Factor Authentication) to prevent another user from accessing your account.
Another determining factor would be how simple the interface looks. There are a few exchanges directed towards professional traders (GDAX, Bitfinex) making it a bit intimidating if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Some understand the panic and have designed a simple interface (Coinbase, CEX.io) for the non-technical user.
For more detailed information on ETH/USD exchanges, visit our Exchanges page.