If youre like me, you think you missed out on the boom of the cryptocurrency industry. Youve probably heard stories of Bitcoin millionaires - regular, working class people who turned one months paycheck into a fortune that will keep them from ever having to work again.
Im here to tell you that the industry is still booming and its not too late to turn your own profit.
This is The Definitive Guide to Trading Cryptocurrency in 2018. By no means is this a guide to becoming a millionaire overnight, but by the end, you will know everything you need to know to begin trading, as well as some of the techniques and strategies that have proven to provide consistent gains.
What Is a Cryptocurrency?
There Are Some Risks With Cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrencies Are Taxable In Most Countries
There Are Other Ways To Invest In Bitcoin
Begin Your Path To Crypto Trading
Trading Techniques That Will Grow Your Investment
When To Buy and Sell?
Build a Strategy and Stick To It
Common Mistakes And How To Avoid Them
Pro Tips & Extra Resources
Before we jump right into trading, there are are a few things that we need to cover.
You should have a general understanding of what a cryptocurrency is because knowing the functional use of a coin can give you an edge when deciding your investments. There are hundreds of coins ranging from major players like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), to smaller coins that we refer to as altcoins. Each coin is unique and offers their own flunctional use cases. If youre feeling unclear about what a cryptocurrency is, check out some of the resources below. They give great explanations of Bitcoin and Ethereum, and blockchain, the underlying technology of which cryptocurrencies are built upon.
What is Bitcoin
How Bitcoin works
Explain Ethereum like Im five
TED Talk on blockchain
More technical view on how blockchain works
Huge collection of extra reading material on blockchain & Ethereum
Like any investment, you should be aware that there are risks with cryptocurrencies. Its going to take some work to protect your investment and some more work to grow it. Much about the direction that cryptocurrencies will take in the future is in turmoil, and this creates a very volatile market.
Trading is all about taking advantage of this volatility; the key is being smart about your investments, and patient enough to stick to your strategy.
The other major risk to be aware of is that hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. One example is the more than $30 million worth of Tether coins that were stolen. The most surefire way to ensure the safety of your coins is by using a hardware wallet such as these by Ledger. Keep in mind that this will slow down your ability to trade those coins, as you will be transferring them between the device and your exchange accounts (more on wallets and exchanges soon).
If all of this sounds daunting, dont worry. As promised, well discuss more of what you need to know soon enough.
In 2014, the IRS declared cryptocurrencies a capital asset, thus making it subject to capital gains tax. This handy guide, breaks down how taxation works for each country.
With the booming industry that cryptocurrency has become, it is recommended to be aware of, and follow tax regulations.
As you know, the focus of this guide is all about trading cryptocurrencies, but there are other ways to get a hand in the pot. Some people choose to buy a cryptocurrency and forget about it, much like you would do with some stock in say, Amazon. Others are actually investing through the stock market via the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC). If you are a firm believer in the future of Bitcoin, both are perfectly fine ways to go about it.
The advantage that trading has over these options is in the power of compounding.
In other words, our initial investments have the potential to grow exponentially, compared to those that sit on a flat amount of coins or stock.
Now that we have that stuff out of the way, lets work on making our first trade. The first things well need is to learn about are exchanges and wallets.
These are what allow us to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. There are a handful of popular crypto exchanges, some of them have advantages over others. For example, some exchanges dont allow us to deposit and withdraw using fiat currency like the U.S. dollar and euro; others arent available in certain countries. In this guide we will focus on two very popular exchanges, GDAX and Poloniex. GDAX gives us the ability to use our fiat currency to buy Bitcoin. Poloniex does not, but does give us a wide array of altcoins to trade. There, well be using major coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum to buy the altcoins, and vice versa. Other popular exchanges such as Kraken and Bittrex offer even more coins.
Keep in mind that keeping the number coins that you are trying to follow to a manageable amount is going to make trading a lot easier.
A manageable amount is obviously subjective and will vary for each person based on things such as time available to dedicate to trading. Feel free to do your own research to find the right exchange for you. I tend to value user experience of an exchange over the amount of coins on it. Ultimately, what exchanges you use is going to depend on your own personal preferences. GDAX and Poloniex will provide sufficient resources needed to be a successful trader, so they are definitely a good place to start.
No matter which you choose you will need to go through a verification process when signing up for your accounts. This sometimes involves submitting a picture of your id. All in all its usually a pretty straightforward process and shouldnt take more than a few minutes.
The next thing well need to do is deposit fiat currency into our account. The easiest way to do this is by adding a bank account. Once youve initiated the deposit, it will take 4 business days to appear in your account. Kind of a bummer, I know; but the idea is to only need to do this once, as well be growing this initial investment day by day with our trades.
When buying or selling on crypto exchanges, you have 3 different types of order at your disposal. You should be comfortable with each of them in order to be a successful trader.
Note that all orders have fees on them, though they are relatively small.
Market orders allow us to exchange any amount of coin right away at the current market price. Orders are filled using the best available price in the exchanges order book. For example, if you placed a market buy order for $100, it would buy from the lowest priced sell order(s) until you had used that $100. The advantage is that this transaction is always completed immediately; the disadvantage is that we dont know exactly what price we are going to get.
Limits orders allow us to place an order at a specific price. We can specify the amount of coin that we want to buy or sell, at the price that we want this to happen at. You may have noticed that the order book is always full of sell orders that are a little higher than the current price and buy orders that are a little lower. The advantage with limit orders is that we can do do the same with our orders. The disadvantage is that our transaction likely will not be filled immediately and will count on the market price to make its way towards us.
Stop limit orders are really only useful when selling coins. They allow us to set a condition: we specify a price, and if the price becomes less than or equal to that price, a market order is automatically placed for us. The advantage here is that if we need to step away and will not be able to watch the price, we have some protection if the market begins to plummet. The disadvantage is that we are counting on there being good buy orders available to fulfill our sells. If a massive amount of market sell orders were to be executed right before your stop is triggered, its technically possible to be left with the bottom of the barrel. This has happened before, but is not common.
I cant emphasize this enough: Trading cryptocurrencies is all about minimizing losses and maximizing gains. Were not going to win every time.
Well need to utilize all of these order types to do that to the fullest.
Once our GDAX account has been verified, and weve deposited some fiat currency we can finally make our first Bitcoin trade!
Here we are placing a market order. Notice that $100 would get us about 1% of a Bitcoin. Remember than with a market order, the amount of Bitcoin may differ slightly from the estimate here because the price of Bitcoin is constantly fluctuating.
Now imagine weve seen some indication that we are ready to sell.
A small loss, but perhaps the price was about to fall, in which case we got out just in time, minimizing our loss.
Weve made our first trade, simple as that!
We mentioned the various exchanges and now we need a way to transfer our Bitcoin between them. Wallets allow us to send and receive Bitcoins. If youre interested in a more technical explanation of wallets, you can check this out, but its certainly not required knowledge.
Creating accounts on GDAX and Poloniex gives us wallets that we can send Bitcoins between. Lets walk through sending Bitcoin from GDAX to Poloniex.
First, we need the deposit address of our Poloniex wallet. Find this by going to Balances, and then Deposits & Withdrawals:
Next well go to GDAX and initiate a withdrawal.
Fill in the amount of Bitcoin youll be transferring, and paste the address that you copied from your Poloniex wallet in as the destination.
Be careful to put the correct address because theres no getting your Bitcoin back if sent to the wrong address.
Once the transfer is initiated, it could take some time for it to be verified on the blockchain. Its not uncommon for it to take 15 minutes or more. Scaling and faster transaction speed is one of the major technical issues that Bitcoin and others are trying to solve.
There are several proven ways to make money trading cryptocurrencies. A lot of these techniques have been proven by their use on the traditional stock market. But the thing with traditional stocks is that youd be hardpressed to find the same kind of price swings as we see everyday with cryptocurrencies.
Consistent, significant price fluctuations mean more opportunities for us.
To use these techniques, we need to understand how to read charts.
If youve already opened up GDAX or some other exchange and you were overwhelmed at first, dont worry; you werent alone. Theyre called candlestick charts, and theres a quick video that explains the fundamentals really well.
Soon, well learn what you can do to perform a more technical analysis on these charts, and some things that you can look for to make informed decisions during your trading. For now lets go over some of those techniques we were talking about before.
Now that weve learned about bullish candlesticks in the chart reading video above, lets take a look at a bull run.
Trailing a bull run using stop orders is one of the most important techniques you can learn.
Lets do a case study. Here, Ive taken a 24 hour chart for Ethereum:
Notice the small bull run. Now imagine we had decided to buy Ethereum somewhere around that dotted line and just before 8pm. We saw it tick up after a string of bearish candles, and for whatever reason, thought it might continue its way upward. To minimize our losses (remember our goal is minimize losses and maximize gains), we set a stop order right away. Well set it near the bottom of those last couple bearish candles (about $474). Now as we watched the price work its way up, we would continue to raise our stop price. To do this, we would go to our open orders (every exchange will show this), and click cancel on the stop limit that we had just set. Shortly after 8pm, we mightve had a stop at $480 that wouldve been triggered. If youre stop limit is triggered and the signs point to the trend continuing youre able to buy back in with a profit already in your pocket.
We were protected, setting ourselves up for a quick profit, while at the same time being prepared for a huge profit if the price continued skyrocketing. This is the idea behind what can be a very powerful technique.
When buying cryptocurrencies, specifically altcoins, it is important to know a few details about them.
A major thing to note when evaluating a coin, are its functional use cases. Most coins will have some form of mission statement on their homepage. By understanding what purpose a coin serves in the real world, we will have a better idea of how to evaluate it further.
For example, there are cryptocurrencies, such as Litecoin, with the same goal as Bitcoin. In this case, it would be a good idea to compare its market capitalization with Bitcoin. This site ranks coins by market cap. Always be sure to check there when evaluating a new coin. If you notice a large shift in market cap on a certain date, it may be worth it to check for any news that day to see what may have caused it.
On the other hand, some coins serve a very unique function in the real world. For example, Power Ledger is a fairly new and interesting cryptocurrency. The goal of this project is to provide a system for consumers to trade electricity with one another. For a young project such as this, the best thing you can do is first decide whether you believe in the technology and the team behind it. The second thing you can do is read news surrounding the project. All of that information, along with a look at the coins market cap, is going to ultimately determine whether you think the technology might reach mainstream adoption, thus making an investment worth your while.
Now that we have an idea on how to get started evaluating a coin, we are better equipped to profit using another popular technique among traders.
ICOs, as you may have guessed, are much like IPOs. This is where coins are offered for the first time to the public. ICOs are not offered through exchanges, but rather you buy them directly from the creators of the project. Usually (its different for each project) you will send them Bitcoin or Ethereum that they will use to fund their project; in turn you receive a certain amount of their new coin.
One of the best resources for finding out about current or upcoming ICOs is here. If you see a coin that peaks your interest, be sure to be extra diligent when evaluating it. Since we have no historical data to gauge how the coin might perform, its very important to understand the real-world purpose of the coin. Another thing to note is whether the ICO is capped or not. Some ICOs will be capped at a certain number, meaning that people who are late to the part, will need to wait for the coin to be offered on exchanges.
Make sure to read up on all this information that you can find, including the coins white paper. Its common practice for coins to have one up on their site, explaining the technical details on how they plan to accomplish their goal. As you read it, see if you can determine whether you think those goals can be accomplished by the team or not.
The reason that we, as traders, would want to invest in these coins at their cheap initial price is simple: Once these coins do become available on exchanges, all of those people who missed out on the ICO, will want to buy in right away. This can lead to the price to skyrocket in a very short amount of time.
As traders, we will take a 10% quick profit any day of the week.
So far, everything weve discussed has involved taking a long position on a coin. That is, our focus has been buying a coin at a lower price than what we think we will be able to sell it at later. What if we have some indication that leads us to believe that the value of a coin is about to decrease? In this case, we could take a short position, which is the same technique that made some people boatloads of money during the 2008-2009 housing bubble.
To be able to take short positions, we need to understand margin trading. Trading on margin means we are trading with borrowed money. On exchanges like Poloniex, we can trade Bitcoin with a handful of coins (there are fewer coins offered for margin trading) with 2.5x leverage. That is, if we own 1 BTC, we can borrow up to 2.5 BTC to trade with. To be clear, this is not 2.5 BTC that we own. Now, on a trade that nets us 10% profit, we are bringing home .25 BTC instead of .1 BTC.
Like any other loan, this borrowed Bitcoin must be paid back with interest. On losses, you will need to pay back the loss and the interest. Poloniex offers up a great guide to margin trading that explains everything you need to know. Its worth reiterating that the estimated liquidation price is the price at which a forced exit from our position would occur, costing us all of the Bitcoin in our margin account so that it may be used to pay back the borrowed coin. Utilizing stop limits to avoid this is almost always a good idea.
It is NOT recommended to be taking long positions on a margin trade as an inexperienced trader.
So lets take our hypothetical 1 BTC from before and take a short position on Ethereum. We are able to borrow 2.5 BTC worth of ETH and sell it. 30 minutes later, the price of ETH has plummeted 10%. Now we can close our short position, buying back 2.5 BTC worth of ETH; except now, since the price has dropped, we are buying more ETH than what we sold. Our borrowed coin can be payed back and we take the rest as profit!
The idea here is simple: were going to buy a cryptocurrency on one exchange, and sell it on another. You may have noticed that the price of a cryptocurrency is often not the exact same on each exchange. How to take advantage of this is best described in this post.
Sure, it can be difficult to have a constant eye on the price of a coin on every exchange. Luckily traders have already built bots that can help and open sourced them for others to use.
Weve come a long ways in our path to becoming crypto traders, but there are still some very important things to learn. So far, weve learned how to do a fundamental analysis of a cryptocurrency, and that its important to do this so that we fully understand them before investing. But as traders, we need to understand what kinds of things tell us when should buy or sell. We need to understand technical analysis.
Technical analysis is the study of past price patterns. This will allow us to identify opportunities for profit. The cryptocurrency market, maybe more than any other market, has a herd mentality. The tendency, especially with inexperienced traders, is to buy when the price is raising, and sell when the price is dropping. We can take advantage of this with technical analysis.
This skill is much tougher to nail down that fundamental analysis. In todays world, everyone should be able to read up on a cryptocurrency and stay up to date with news because all the information is at our fingertips. To become a truly successful trader, we need to be using both fundamental and technical analysis all the time.
Bottom line: technical analysis is not a strategy. It is one of the tools we will use to help execute our strategy.
Identifying an opportunity does not mean you should dump 100% of your funds into a coin.
Coinigy is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone who is serious about crypto trading. This video from their team explains exactly what it can do for you, but to put it in laymans terms: It makes technical analysis a breeze and really simplifies the process of trading across several exchanges. It costs $15 a month and is at least worth trying out the the free 1 month trial to see how you like it.
TradingView offers the best chart reading software there is. Its also free (with ads that will go away with a paid plan). It helps out a ton with technical analysis, but does not connect with your exchange accounts to allow trading like Coinigy.
Remember those candlestick charts we see on every exchange? By studying them, we can find indicators, and understanding what these indicators mean can help us better predict the future price of the chart. There are tons of indicators and they can take some practice to become adept at identifying. You may find it easier to focus on practicing to identify them one by one until you become comfortable with them, slowly building your repertoire until you feel youre ready to go full boar with your trading career.
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