I frequently get asked about how to trade crypto currencies. Aspiring traders see the daily swings in the bitcoin price and wonder whether they should take up trying to pick the highs and lows by trading. This post will describe some trading methods and provide you with a list of venues where you can trade.
The first thing to understand about crypto currencies such at bitcoin, ether, and litecoins, is their value is represented by their market price which is simply set by the powers of supply and demand. There is no central authority that determines their market price, so if you want to profit from the daily price swings, you’ll need to have a trading strategy that takes advantage of this volatility.
You’ll also need to choose your trading venue(s). Where you trade will be based on your trading strategy, but also on your legal/tax jurisdiction. Since you’ll need to comply with the laws of your local government, you should choose exchanges that are compliant for you. The place where you trade will be different if you’re American, Canadian, European, Japanese, etc. And sub-state governments such as provinces and states will also have their own laws. It’s common today for each US and European state to regulate bitcoin differently so do careful research to ensure you are trading in a tax compliant way.
The place(s) where you trade will also depend on your strategy. If you are arbitraging the bitcoin price between different exchanges you’ll need to hold accounts at more than one place, and also have wallets that serve as conduits/transfer nodes for cash, if you’re making your trades manually you’ll be more concerned about the trading dashboard and other human readable analytics, but if you’re using a bot to conduct your trades you’ll need the best API access with easy to use functionality.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to trade on QuadrigaCX, a Canadian based bitcoin exchange. Once you open your account, you can fund it with Canadian dollars using Interac if you verify your account. You can also fund your QuadrigaCX account with bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin without verification.
Once logged into QuadrigaCX, choose the “trade” tab from the header menu near the top of the page. As the image below shows, you’ll arrive at a page that shows the current market for CAD/BTC with a simple interface you can use to buy and sell. You’ll notice the best bids are listed on the left side in green, and the best offers are listed on the right side in red. These prices are bids and offers from other users on QuadrigaCX just like yourself who are buying and selling. You might be familiar with a market like this since it operates just like a stock market such as the TSX and NASDAQ.
You’ll notice on the image above, the current market has a best bid of $9,995.01 and a best offer of $10,000.06. This means another user is willing to buy at $9,995.01 and another user is willing to sell at $10,000.06. If you’d like to make a trade right away (a market order) you can sell to the user bidding $9,995.01 and buy from the user offering $10,000.06. Depending on your trading strategy, you might only be willing to buy at $9,500, so in this case, you can place a order at that price and join the other bids in the order book. Your order will be placed with the quantity you determine at $9,500 until the market drifts down to that level and another user chooses to sell you their bitcoins at that price. Conversely, if you’d like to sell your bitcoins, but only at $10,500, you can place this order as well.
On QuadrigaCX, limit orders placed manually on the dashboard do not have expiration dates, so all orders are essentially good till cancelled (GTC).
As you review the order book from the image above, you will also notice an “amount” beside each price listed in the order book. This is the quantity being bid or offered by all users at that price. This quantity will help you determine whether your order can be filled entirely at the posted price or whether you should choose to pay up or offer down from the best posted price.
When trading, always keep the fees in mind QuadrigaCX charges an explicit fee of 0.50% per transaction. So if you buy 1 bitcoin at $10,000 CAD, your actual cost will be $10,050. You should also pay attention to the “spread”, which is the difference between the best bids and offers. Using the example above, with a current bid of $9,995.01 and an offer of $10,000.06 the spread is $5.05 or 0.06%. The spread represents an implicit cost of trading too.
Here’s an example of an easy to implement manual trading strategy with a bullish bias. Say you have $1,000 CAD to trade with, you’ve noticed the price of bitcoin is quite volatile, so you plan to make a market on QuadrigaCX to take advantage of this volatility. You will risk 10% of your account with each trade so your unit size will be 0.01 bitcoins since the current price is $10,000.
You place an order to buy 0.01 btc @ $9,993, which is slightly below the current market price using the example image above. You place the order and wait for the market to come to you, when your order is filled, place an order that is 3% above your purchase price (9993 * 1.03 = $10,292), enter your order to sell 0.01 btc @ 10,292 and leave the order in the market.
In the meantime, if you’re still feeling bullish, place another order below the current market, and if this order is also filled, place an order 3% above your fill price. Keep doing this until you reach the maximum value of your account. As you do this, the price of bitcoin will bounce around going up and down, and your orders will fill at prices where you make a spread between your buys and sells. You profit when the price of bitcoin trades within the range of volatility your limit orders imply, and you lose when the price of bitcoins drops straight down.
This is a simple market making strategy with a bullish bias that takes advantage of the volatile price of bitcoin. You can obviously tweak your own strategy to suit your own goals. You could use technical analysis to choose your entry and exit points, etc. Its completely up to you!