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What is Cryptocurrency and How Does it Work?

Renata Pacheco

Written by

Renata Pacheco

June 17, 2024

Reviewed by

Ciaran Lawler


  • Cryptocurrency is digital money that keeps transactions secure and private.
  • Blockchain is a system that records all crypto transactions across many computers, making it open and secure.
  • You can purchase cryptocurrencies from different online platforms and keep them in digital wallets.
  • Cryptocurrency lets you pay online, invest, or send money worldwide without a central authority.
  • Cryptocurrencies have the potential to change industries by supporting features like smart contracts and decentralized financial services.


Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, have surged in popularity and utility since Bitcoin's inception in 2009. 

These digital assets operate independently of traditional financial institutions, leveraging blockchain technology to ensure secure and transparent transactions.

The crypto market size is estimated at around $44.29 billion in 2024, and is projected to reach $64.41 billion by 2029, indicating a continued growth trajectory. 

This widespread adoption is influencing not only financial markets but also how businesses and consumers engage in transactions.

This guide on cryptocurrency basics will explore its foundational concepts, how it differs from traditional money, and its practical uses in today's digital age.


What is a cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a type of digital or virtual currency that uses special coding to keep transactions secure. 

Unlike regular money, cryptocurrency operates independently on a system called blockchain, which functions like a digital ledger.

 Imagine a shared Google Doc that anyone can view but not alter arbitrarily; each change is tracked and must be agreed upon by everyone involved.

Cryptocurrencies don’t rely on a central point of control, like a bank or government. Instead, they are maintained by a network of computers connected over the internet.

Cryptocurrencies can be used for more than just buying products or services. They are also popular investments. 

Bitcoin, which started in 2009, is the first and most valuable cryptocurrency, often seen as the gold standard in the digital currency space.

📚Read More: Essential Crypto Terms


How does cryptocurrency work?

Cryptocurrency functions through a complex network that involves blockchain technology, wallets, and consensus mechanisms. 

These are all designed to enable secure, anonymous transactions online. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of the process.

Blockchain technology

At the heart of cryptocurrency is blockchain technology, which records all transactions on digital blocks linked and secured using cryptography. 

Each block is connected to the previous one, forming a chain, which is transparent to all network participants but secure from tampering.

This is like a shared digital notebook. Every transaction with cryptocurrencies is a new line in this notebook, and because it's shared across many computers, everyone has the same copy, making fraud difficult.

Mining and Consensus

Cryptocurrencies often use a process called mining to verify transactions and add them to the blockchain. 

Miners solve complex mathematical problems, and the first to solve one adds the block to the blockchain, earning cryptocurrency as a reward. 

This process is part of the proof-of-work consensus mechanism.

Alternatively, proof of stake is another method where validators are chosen to create new blocks based on the amount of cryptocurrency they hold and are willing to "stake" as collateral.

Digital wallets

To use cryptocurrencies, it’s necessary a digital wallet. These wallets store the cryptographic keys that allow users to access their cryptocurrency, make transactions, and monitor their balance.

Wallets can be software-based (online, desktop, or mobile) or hardware-based for added security.


When a cryptocurrency transaction is initiated, it is broadcast to a network, where miners or validators verify its legitimacy. 

Once verified, the transaction is added to a block on the blockchain.

This decentralized verification process ensures that no single entity can control or falsify transaction records.

Pros & Cons of cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency offers a revolutionary approach to finance, transforming how we think about money and transactions. 

However, this innovation also brings challenges and risks.

Decentralization - No central authority; empowers users to control their finances.Volatility - Prices can fluctuate wildly in short periods.
Security - Advanced cryptographic techniques make it difficult to counterfeit.Regulatory Uncertainty - The lack of clear regulations can pose risks for users and investors.
Transparency - All transactions are recorded on a blockchain, visible to everyone.Security Concerns - Despite strong encryption, the risk of hacking and scams exists.
Accessibility - Anyone with an internet connection can use cryptocurrencies.Limited Acceptance - Not all businesses accept cryptocurrency as payment.
Low Transaction Fees - Often lower than traditional banking systems.Complexity - The technology and concepts can be difficult for new users to understand.

📚Read More: Understanding the Pros and Cons of Cryptocurrency

What are the most popular cryptocurrencies?

The landscape of cryptocurrencies is diverse, with numerous options tailored to different technological features and use cases. 

Here’s a closer look at some of the most popular cryptocurrencies that dominate the market.

Bitcoin (BTC)

Bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency and remains the most recognized and valuable digital currency worldwide. 

Its primary appeal lies in its pioneering status and decentralized nature, which offer an alternative to traditional fiat currencies.

Ethereum (ETH)

Ethereum is more than just a cryptocurrency; it's a platform for building decentralized applications (dApps) and executing smart contracts. 

Its native token, Ether, powers these applications and has been instrumental in the development of the DeFi (Decentralized Finance) and NFT (Non-Fungible Token) sectors.

Binance Coin (BNB)

Originally launched on the Ethereum blockchain, Binance Coin now powers the Binance Chain. 

BNB is used to pay transaction and trading fees on the Binance exchange and supports various applications on the Binance Smart Chain.

Ripple (XRP)

Ripple is known for its focus on real-time cross-border payment systems, aiming to enhance international money transfers. 

XRP, its native token, is used within the Ripple network to facilitate exchanges of different currency types, including fiat and other major cryptocurrencies.

Stablecoins: Bridging Fiat and Crypto

Stablecoins are designed to combine the best aspects of digital currencies with the stable value of traditional fiat currencies. 

They are pegged to more stable assets, such as the US dollar, gold, or other reserve assets, which helps mitigate the volatility typically associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Key features of stablecoins include:

  • Stability: Unlike other cryptocurrencies, stablecoins' value is designed to remain constant, making them ideal for everyday transactions, savings, and hedging against the volatility of other digital assets.
  • Utility: They serve as a straightforward entry point for newcomers to the crypto world, providing a less volatile means of engaging with digital assets.
  • Interoperability: Stablecoins facilitate seamless transactions between different cryptocurrencies and traditional banking systems, enhancing the liquidity and functionality of the crypto ecosystem.

Popular stablecoins such as USDC (USD Coin), Tether (USDT), and Dai stand out for their widespread use in trading, lending, and decentralized finance (DeFi) applications. 

Their ability to maintain a stable value amidst the ebb and flow of the broader cryptocurrency market makes them a cornerstone of digital finance.

📚Read More: USDT vs. USDC: Exploring The Key Differences

What are the differences between cryptocurrency and traditional money?

To clearly illustrate how cryptocurrency differs from traditional money, let's examine the essential distinctions between these two forms of currency:

AspectCryptocurrencyTraditional Money
FormDigital, no physical counterpartExists both in physical form (cash) and digital
ControlDecentralized, no central authorityCentralized, controlled by governments and banks
Transaction SpeedFast, can be immediate depending on the networkCan vary, often slower and can take days
Transaction FeesTypically lower, varies between cryptocurrenciesCan be high, especially for international transfers
PrivacyOffers more anonymityGenerally requires personal identification
UsageMainly online and investment purposesWidely accepted for all types of transactions
SecurityBased on cryptographic algorithmsPhysical and digital security measures
SupplyOften capped (e.g., Bitcoin's 21 million limit)Potentially unlimited, controlled by monetary policy

📚Read More: Crypto Wallets That Allow Transfer to Bank Account

How can I use cryptocurrency?

Here's how you can utilize cryptocurrency in your daily life and explore its versatile functionalities:

Buy Cryptocurrency

Purchasing cryptocurrency is the first step for many entering the digital currency world. 

Platforms like swissmoney make it simple to buy cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others with fiat currency or through a bank transfer. 

After setting up your account, it's just a matter of selecting the cryptocurrency you wish to purchase and executing the transaction.

📚Read More: How to buy crypto

Store Crypto

Once you've acquired your crypto, it's essential to store cryptocurrency securely. 

Digital wallets, either software-based or hardware-based, provide a secure environment for your crypto holdings. 

swissmoney offers an integrated digital wallet solution that ensures your digital assets are safe yet readily accessible for transactions.

📚Read More: How to store crypto

Send & Receive Crypto

Cryptocurrencies can be sent directly to and received from other individuals or businesses without the need for a traditional financial intermediary. 

This process involves using your wallet to enter the recipient's wallet address and the amount to send. Transactions are secure, often completed within minutes, and can be tracked on the blockchain ledger.

📚Read More: How to send and receive crypto

Pay with Crypto

More businesses worldwide are beginning to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as payment methods. You can pay for goods and services wherever cryptocurrencies are accepted. 

swissmoney's platform allows you to use a prepaid card linked to your crypto wallet to make payments as easily as using a traditional debit or credit card.

📚Read More: How to pay with crypto


How to start investing in cryptocurrency?

Even if you’re a beginner in the digital finance world, it’s easy to invest in cryptocurrencies. Here's a straightforward guide on how to start investing in crypto:

Understand the basics

Before investing in cryptocurrency, it's crucial to understand the basics. Learn about different types of cryptocurrencies, how blockchain technology works, and the concept of digital wallets. 

Familiarize yourself with terms like 'blockchain', 'mining', 'proof of stake', and 'crypto exchanges'. This guide is a good place to start.

Choose a reliable platform

Selecting a reliable cryptocurrency exchange or trading platform is a critical step. Look for platforms that offer robust security measures, user-friendly interfaces, and access to a variety of cryptocurrencies. 

swissmoney provides a seamless and secure environment to buy, sell, and manage your cryptocurrency investments.

Start small

For newcomers, it's advisable to start with a small investment until you become more comfortable with the market dynamics. 

Cryptocurrencies can be highly volatile, and starting small allows you to experience the market without exposing yourself to significant financial risk.

Develop a strategy

Decide on your investment strategy. Are you a long-term holder, or do you wish to trade frequently? 

Consider factors such as risk tolerance, investment horizon, and the amount of time you can dedicate to monitoring your investments. Setting clear goals and a strategy can guide your actions in the volatile crypto market.

📚Read More: How to Get Paid in Bitcoin and Other Crypto

What are the risks of investing in cryptocurrency?

Understand the potential risks associated with cryptocurrency investments to navigate the landscape of digital finance with greater awareness and caution.

Market volatility

Cryptocurrency markets are notoriously volatile, with prices capable of large swings within very short periods due to factors like market sentiment, regulatory changes, and technological advancements.

Historical data shows significant fluctuations, such as Bitcoin's rapid price changes from nearly $20,000 in December 2017 to around $3,000 by December 2018, and its subsequent rise to over $60,000 by April 2021.

Investors should be prepared for such unpredictability and consider strategies to manage investment risks, such as diversification and setting clear investment goals.

Security risks

Despite blockchain technology's secure nature, the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem, including exchanges and wallets, is vulnerable to security threats. 

Common scams like phishing, fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), and fraudulent exchanges can pose significant risks.

To safeguard investments, it's crucial to use trusted and secure platforms, enable two-factor authentication, and be vigilant against unsolicited offers and too-good-to-be-true opportunities. 

Regular updates and security practices can help in protecting digital assets.

Regulatory uncertainty

The regulatory environment for cryptocurrency is still forming, with varying approaches across different jurisdictions. 

This uncertainty can lead to abrupt and substantial impacts on the market, affecting the legality and value of cryptocurrencies.

Staying informed about current and proposed regulations in your region can help mitigate these legal risks.

📚Read More: How to Recover Stolen Cryptocurrency


Is cryptocurrency safe?

Cryptocurrency's safety often depends on the measures investors and platforms take to protect their digital assets. Here are key aspects to consider:

  • Secure storage: Utilizing secure wallets — preferably hardware-based or other forms of cold storage — can significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
  • Platform security: It is crucial to choose platforms with robust security measures, including two-factor authentication, encryption, and regular security audits.
  • Personal security practices: Being vigilant about personal security practices, such as not sharing private keys and using strong, unique passwords, enhances safety.
  • Regulatory compliance: Engaging with platforms that adhere to regulatory standards can provide an additional layer of security and assurance.

📚Read More: Cryptocurrency Security: Essential Guide

What are some factors to consider before investing in cryptocurrency?

Before diving into the dynamic world of cryptocurrency, it's crucial to evaluate your financial goals and risk tolerance. 

Here are some factors to consider that align with your spending and investment profile, which will influence the strategies you adopt in the crypto space:

Identify your investment objectives

Are you looking to trade actively, or are you more interested in holding long-term investments? 

Your approach to cryptocurrency will vary significantly based on whether you seek quick profits from short-term price fluctuations or long-term gains from blockchain projects you believe in.

Risk tolerance

Cryptocurrency investments can be highly volatile and unpredictable. It’s important to determine your comfort level with these fluctuations. 

If you prefer stability, cryptocurrencies might not align with your investment strategy, or you might consider investing in stablecoins, which are less volatile.

Usage intentions

Decide what you intend to do with cryptocurrencies. Are you looking to use crypto for everyday transactions and purchases, or solely as an investment? 

Your intentions will dictate the types of crypto assets you might buy and where to store them. Software and mobile wallets are better for frequent transactions, while hard wallets prioritize security.

Security measures

The security measures you implement will depend on how frequently you plan to access or move your crypto. For active traders, robust security with quick access is crucial. 

For long-term holders, cold storage or hardware wallets offer greater security against hacks. Investigate the security protocols of platforms and wallets to ensure they meet your needs.

Regulatory landscape

Your investment strategy must also consider your country's regulatory environment. 

Understanding whether certain crypto activities are regulated or outright banned will help you navigate potential legal hurdles and plan for possible tax obligations.

📚Read More: How to Choose Crypto On and Off-Ramp Platform

What are the tax implications of buying, selling, or holding cryptocurrency?

Navigating the tax implications of cryptocurrency transactions is crucial for compliance and financial planning. Here’s what you need to know when dealing with taxes related to your crypto activities.

Capital Gains Tax

When you sell cryptocurrency for a profit, you are likely subject to capital gains tax. This tax is calculated on the difference between the buying price and the selling price. 

It's important to keep detailed records of your transactions to report gains or losses during tax filings accurately.

Tax on Crypto Exchanges

Exchanging one cryptocurrency for another is also a taxable event in many jurisdictions. Each exchange can potentially create a capital gain and must be reported. 

Tax regulations can vary widely, so it's crucial to understand the rules specific to your country.

Holding and Tax Implications

Holding cryptocurrency does not typically trigger taxes until a sale or exchange occurs. 

However, receiving crypto as payment or mining crypto are considered taxable events in many places. The value of the cryptocurrency at the time it's received should be reported as income.

Understanding these tax implications can help you manage your cryptocurrency investments more effectively and avoid potential legal issues with tax authorities.

Begin your crypto journey with swissmoney

swissmoney-crypto-wallet (1).png

Navigating the cryptocurrency investment landscape can be streamlined using a robust platform like swissmoney. 

Here’s how you can leverage swissmoney’s comprehensive features to kickstart your journey in crypto world:

Seamless management of crypto and fiat transactions

With swissmoney, you can manage your crypto and fiat transactions in one place, simplifying the process. 

This capability ensures that you can quickly adapt to market changes and manage your portfolio more effectively.

swissmoney’s all-in-one platform is designed to facilitate a seamless transaction experience, providing you with the tools to manage your crypto and capitalize on market opportunities efficiently.


Navigating the complexities of cryptocurrencies requires clarity and a thorough understanding, whether you're a seasoned investor or just starting out.

Cryptocurrencies present a vast potential for transforming financial interactions, making it essential to grasp their underlying mechanisms and uses. 

swissmoney offers a secure and versatile platform that simplifies the management of crypto and fiat currencies, streamlining your entrance into the digital finance revolution.

If you're ready to explore the world of cryptocurrencies, consider setting up a crypto wallet with swissmoney. 

Our platform is designed for ease of use and has robust security features that ensure your digital assets are safe and well-managed.

Start with swissmoney today to experience a seamless integration of digital and traditional finances and take your first step towards savvy investing and asset management in the crypto space.

Remember, successful investing starts with informed decisions and a reliable platform that can support your financial journey.


What is cryptocurrency, in simple words?

Cryptocurrency is a type of digital or virtual money that uses cryptography for security, making it difficult to counterfeit.

What is the goal of cryptocurrency?

The primary goal of cryptocurrency is to enable secure, private, and sometimes anonymous transactions, and to make financial interactions more accessible without centralized authorities like banks.

Is cryptocurrency real?

Yes, cryptocurrency is real and functions as a digital asset used for investment and online transactions.

Is cryptocurrency legal?

Yes, cryptocurrency is legal in most countries, though regulations can vary significantly by jurisdiction and are subject to changes as the market evolves.

What is cryptocurrency mining?

Cryptocurrency mining is the process of using computer power to solve complex mathematical problems that validate and secure cryptocurrency transactions.

What is cryptocurrency trading?

Cryptocurrency trading involves buying and selling cryptocurrencies on exchanges to profit from price fluctuations.

Is crypto a good investment?

Crypto can be a good investment if approached carefully and strategically, considering its high volatility and risks compared to traditional investments.

How is cryptocurrency converted to money?

Cryptocurrency can be converted to traditional money through cryptocurrency exchanges, sold directly to another party, or transferred to a bank account.

What are the best cryptocurrency exchanges for beginners?

For beginners, exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken are often recommended due to their user-friendly interfaces and helpful resources.

What are the best cryptocurrency wallets for beginners?

Beginners may find wallets like swissmoney, Coinbase Wallet, and Exodus user-friendly, offering a balance of security and ease of use to manage their digital assets.

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