Early last year, cryptocurrency was having a real moment and hitting once unthinkable highs. Now, it's hitting some major lows.
One crypto that has fallen particularly far is Ethereum. Though its value didn't approach $20,000 like Bitcoin did, ETH has long been considered the next big cryptocurrency, and breaking past $1,200 in early January 2018 looked to be a step in that direction. But the price cratered the rest of the year; as of this writing the current price of Ethereum is hovering around $210.
Where does that leave the investor still interested in cryptocurrency? Ethereum is much more affordable than it was 10 months ago, but is also in utter freefall. No one is certain if it will rebound or continue to fall. Anyone deciding they should buy low should know that cryptocurrency can lead to huge losses, as it has for many cryptocurrency holders this year.
If you still want to take the risk of purchasing Ethereum, here is how you can do it and where you can find it.
Where to Buy Ethereum
To purchase Ether, the cryptocurrency within Ethereum, you'll need to know not only where to find it for purchase but where you can even store it.
The most basic explanation is that Ethereum, like most cryptocurrencies, can be found on cryptocurrency exchanges, and they are stored in cryptocurrency wallets.
Cryptocurrency wallets store your crypto with a public and private key in the blockchain. Several forms of wallets have been developed in the past decade since cryptocurrency has gained popularity; mobile wallets, desktop wallets, hardware wallets, software wallets and paper wallets are all options.
The creators of Ethereum's decentralized blockchain system also created an Ethereum-centric wallet, available for Windows, Mac and Linux. This wallet holds not just ETH, but other assets, like contracts, that are created in the Ethereum blockchain. MyEtherWallet also generates Ethereum-friendly wallets.
Those who are purchasing Ethereum but have or are interested in other cryptocurrencies may instead prefer to look into a wallet that can store multiple cryptos. Hardware wallets like Trezor include Ethereum in the list of currencies they claim to be able to store, as do desktop and mobile wallets like Jaxx and Exodus.
Look into the pros and cons of any wallet or type of wallet you research. Certain ones have different qualities you may prefer - hardware wallets, for example, allow for offline storage, while some desktop wallets are attached to cryptocurrency exchanges.
Exchanges are where cryptocurrencies are bought and sold. If you thought you needed to do thorough research into wallets, wait until you read about what has happened to some of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges over the past several years. Double and triple check the security and history of an exchange before deciding that's where you want to purchase Ethereum.
Many exchanges will have Ether available to purchase. It has the second largest market cap of any cryptocurrency on the market, although XRP, aka Ripple, is closing in on that honor. Anyone looking into some of the biggest crypto exchanges, like Coinbase or Binance, will find Ethereum. Other exchanges that have Ethereum include Kraken, Gemini, Bitstamp and Bitfinex.
How to Buy Ethereum
Another part of cryptocurrency exchanges that you'll need to consider before picking one and buying your Ether: how do you plan on paying for it?
Whether you pay with a debit or credit card or whether you pay with cash can determine what exchange you will use. Many of the biggest exchanges only accept card payments, but if you feel that information is too risky to put into an exchange, finding a way to pay with fiat currency or other cryptocurrency may be the way to go.
How to Buy Ether with Coinbase
Coinbase, as one of the largest exchanges to sell Ether, requires a credit/debit card and bank account from you before you even buy any cryptocurrency.
Here are the steps to buying Ether on Coinbase:
Sign up for a Coinbase account. This will involve creating a password and giving your email address for verification.
Add your phone number and upload a form of identification for additional verification and set up two-factor authentication for additional security when logging in. This can be done via an SMS message or Google Authenticator.
Add a payment method by linking a bank account and/or credit card to your account.
Now you can start! Click "Buy/Sell" at the top of the page.
On the next page, make sure you're using the option to buy and not sell. Click on Ethereum to specify it as your planned purchase.
Input the amount of money you wish to spend on Ether, and the calculator onsite will tell you how much Ether that amount will get you.
Confirm that you are buying your desired amount and using your preferred payment method, and make your purchase.
And just like that, you have Ether. Coinbase is also a wallet in addition to an exchange, so it will be stored there as well.
How to Buy Ether with USD
If you don't want to use your credit or debit card to purchase any cryptocurrency, finding an exchange that allows you to use a wire transfer to send money may be your best bet.
One exchange that allows you to use wire transfers to pay for crypto is Bitstamp. Here are the steps to buying Ether on Bitstamp:
Register an account with Bitstamp, using your email. They will send you a username and password.
Log in with provided information, change your password to something unique, and enable two-factor authentication.
Fill in verification information, submit, and wait to be verified.
Click "Deposit" once everything has been verified, and then specify "International Wire Transfer."
Fill out necessary information about your bank and, using Bitstamp's banking details, transfer the desired amount of money to Bitstamp.
When the transfer is complete, return to the exchange, click the market indicating you want to buy Ethereum, input the amount you wish to spend on it and the type of order you want.
Confirm your information and make your purchase.
Why Buy Ethereum?
You may still believe there is hope for the decentralized platform and its purpose, but the way the value has cratered, you couldn't be blamed for no longer trusting it.
People who believe in Ethereum are fascinated by how it differentiates itself from other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, for example, is predominately a currency; Ethereum and its network are much bigger than that, and people who have spent years talking about how blockchain is the future of technology are naturally drawn to that.
Or maybe you think that now Ethereum actually has hit rock bottom, and is about to stabilize and go up. But that's a risky thought for any investment, no less cryptocurrency.
How is Ethereum Different?
Ethereum really is more blockchain than cryptocurrency. By decentralizing networks instead of storing files in servers or cloud networks, blockchains are designed to be significantly more secure than what is typically used for online storage.
Ethereum chose to focus more on that layer of online security as opposed to Bitcoin using blockchain to focus on currency. People can create applications on the decentralized network.