What's the Best Cryptocurrency to Buy? 6 Contenders

In less than 15 years, cryptocurrencies emerged from nonexistence to become an important part of financial markets. But there’s one thing the industry’s evolution hasn’t eradicated: extreme volatility. As a parade of highly visible failures, implosions and frauds harangued digital assets last year, the crypto market as a whole erased 63% of its value in 2022 alone. Of course, that can work the other way, too, and crypto prices are up a fantastic 45.3% year to date through May 30.

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If you’re not willing to endure such violent swings, you simply shouldn’t own cryptocurrencies. Even if you are, there are thousands of coins to choose from, each one with different dynamics. It’s daunting. Here are six of the best cryptocurrencies to buy now:

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Cryptocurrency YTD returns through May 30
Bitcoin (BTC) 67.4%
Ether (ETH) 58.8%
Avalanche (AVAX) 32.6%
Polygon (MATIC) 18.9%
Cardano (ADA) 53.3%
Cosmos (ATOM) 16%

Bitcoin (BTC)

Cryptocurrency is an incredibly nascent asset class, with origins only dating back to 2009. As 2022 showed, extreme volatility is par for the course, so investors looking to insulate themselves from the potential total collapse of their holdings will want to go with more established names. None is more established than Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency and largest by market capitalization with a valuation around $525 billion, or roughly 46% of the overall market.

BTC boasts the most mainstream acceptance of any of the top cryptocurrencies, with several publicly traded instruments tracking its performance, alongside publicly traded stocks such as MicroStrategy Inc. (ticker: MSTR) and Tesla Inc. (TSLA), among others, that hold Bitcoin on their balance sheets. After a 64% decline in 2022, Bitcoin has been staging an epic comeback in the first five months of the year, rallying 67.4% through May 30.

While BTC was already doing quite well in the early months of 2023, the leading cryptocurrency saw gains re-accelerate in March as the government guaranteed that Silicon Valley Bank depositors would indeed have access to all their funds at the failed bank. The federal government’s decision to step in and guarantee liquidity for the tech- and startup-focused lender shored up confidence in both the banking sector and cryptocurrencies.

Crypto has been the most lucrative asset class of 2023 so far. A general market comeback – coupled with undermined confidence in the financial sector – has boosted confidence in assets like Bitcoin, which originally emerged as a response to the global financial crisis and the bank bailouts that ensued.

Ether (ETH)

Second by market capitalization is Ether, which is the native token on the widely used Ethereum blockchain. Often colloquially referred to as Ethereum, ETH’s market cap is around $225 billion and accounts for about 20% of the total cryptocurrency market. Unlike Bitcoin, Ether’s underlying network is far more than just a tool for peer-to-peer payments; the Ethereum blockchain is custom-made for smart contracts and decentralized finance tools, as well as for so-called Web 3.0 applications and the trading of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

Unlike Bitcoin, whose only virtue is as a speculative asset and a store of value, Ether also has inherent utility as the native token of a wildly popular network. Plus, Ethereum’s switch from the energy-inefficient proof-of-work protocol to the much more efficient proof-of-stake system gives it a leg up on BTC in an increasingly environmentally conscious world. ETH is up 58.8% in 2023 through May 30.

Avalanche (AVAX)

When investing in cryptocurrency, investors should understand that it’s Bitcoin and Ether in their own tier, and then there’s everything else, which is even more speculative. AVAX and the following altcoins on this list all have more risk, and investors should factor that into their decisions. Caveats aside, the Avalanche network’s AVAX token earns its place on this list by virtue of the ambitious goals of the Avalanche blockchain.

Avalanche’s subnets feature allows users to deploy their own mini-blockchains on top of its network. Developer Ava Labs envisions a future in which most mainstream commercial entities and even many individuals will want their own blockchains, with Avalanche subnets offering a convenient solution to that problem. If that reality materializes, then AVAX, which plunged 90% in 2022’s bear market, could emerge as a longer-term winner. Avalanche is also off to a good start to the year, AVAX is up 32.6% through May 30.

Polygon (MATIC)

When excluding stablecoins, MATIC is now the seventh-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, with a capitalization of more than $8 billion. Still constituting less than 1% of the overall market size, Polygon has plenty of room to grow. That said, its future success is largely tied to the acceptance and ongoing usage of the Ethereum network. That’s because the Polygon network is a scaling platform that aims to increase the capabilities of Ethereum, allowing it to eventually run a potentially limitless number of decentralized applications, or dApps.

Like practically all other tokens, MATIC’s price suffered in 2022, losing 70% of its value in the year. And like the other coins on this list, MATIC has been a beneficiary of the 2023 crypto bull market, advancing 18.9% through May 30.

Cardano (ADA)

Founded in 2017 by Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson, Cardano is a proof-of-stake blockchain and one of the largest blockchains to successfully run that more energy-efficient protocol. Cardano aims to foster a developer-friendly ecosystem for dApps. Unlike Ethereum, Cardano has a hard cap on the number of coins that can ever exist, topping out at 45 billion. Thankfully for investors, more than 34.8 billion, or about 78%, of that supply is already in circulation, meaning the amount of overall dilution remaining is both known and relatively limited.

One of the best cryptocurrencies to buy now, Cardano shed 81% in 2022, but has clawed back some of those losses in recent months, posting a year-to-date gain of 53.3% through May 30. Excluding stablecoins, Cardano ranks fifth by market cap among cryptocurrencies, with a valuation of around $13 billion.

Cosmos (ATOM)

Last and least valuable by market cap is ATOM, the native token of the Cosmos Hub blockchain. ATOM is more than just a means for securing the network. It’s also a governance token, giving holders a say in how the Cosmos ecosystem should evolve. One issue with the nascent cryptocurrency space is that there are so many different, independent blockchains. This is a challenge that Cosmos aims to alleviate by making inter-blockchain communication easier, faster and less expensive. Cosmos’s ultimate aspiration is to make blockchain technology more accessible for both coders and end-users, which could pay off if blockchain tech becomes as ubiquitous as some optimists in the space expect.

ATOM, at a current valuation of roughly $3 billion, lost 71% in the 2022 bear market but has staged a comeback: It’s now up more than 70% from its June 2022 lows and tacked on 16% in 2023 through May 30.

Copyright 2023 U.S. News & World Report

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