CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 75% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
US English

Types of cryptocurrencies: explaining the major types of cryptos

By Research Team

10:38, 1 November 2019

types of cryptocurrencies

There are now more than 3000 cryptocurrencies in existence, with each falling into one of the three major categories: altcoins, tokens, and Bitcoin.

In this article, we will explain the differences between these cryptocurrencies. We will also look at some of the common subtypes used for cryptocurrencies, such as ‘stablecoins’ and ‘privacy coins’.

After reading this, you should have a good understanding of all the major  types of crypto and be able to differentiate between them easily. Let’s get started!

The three main types of cryptocurrency


Bitcoin (BTC) was the first cryptocurrency to be created and remains the world’s leading cryptocurrency by market cap. Bitcoin is a global peer-to-peer electronic payment system that allows parties to transact directly with each other without the need for an intermediary such as a bank.

The Bitcoin whitepaper, which outlined how this revolutionary new currency would work, was released in 2008, and the Bitcoin network launched in 2009. Since its launch Bitcoin has experienced no downtime, allowing anyone to transfer value at any time and from anywhere.

three main types of cryptocurrency

Bitcoin’s creator goes by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, their real identity remains unknown to this day. It is also unclear whether Nakamoto represents a single person or a group of individuals who worked on the Bitcoin project.

Bitcoin is often regarded as the digital alternative to both fiat currencies and gold. That is because Bitcoin can be spent and saved just like traditional money, but is also a scarce finite resource and thus good store of value like gold.


The release of Bitcoin and its open-source code in 2008 paved the way for thousands of other cryptocurrencies to be created. These new coins have been dubbed ‘alternative coins’ or ‘altcoins’ as they are alternatives to Bitcoin.

While some do serve a similar purpose to Bitcoin, other cryptocurrency types  such as altcoins actually encompass a wide range of different uses. For example, Ethereum (ETH), the world’s first programmable blockchain, enables developers to build and deploy decentralised applications (DApps) and smart contracts. 

IOTA is specifically designed to be a new data transfer and transaction settlement layer for the machine economy and the Internet of Things (IoT).

IOTA also uses its own proprietary distributed ledger technology called the Tangle. 

Litecoin (LTC) is a peer-to-peer currency and global payment network similar to Bitcoin. In fact, Litecoin’s creator Charlie Lee states that his intention was for Litecoin to be a complementary cryptocurrency to Bitcoin.


19,260.10 Price
-2.510% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0263%
Short position overnight fee 0.0041%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 1.8


2,430.26 Price
+0.860% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0193%
Short position overnight fee 0.0111%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.30


3,443.72 Price
-1.320% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 6.00


66,961.55 Price
+1.470% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 21:00 (UTC)
Spread 106.00

Like Bitcoin, all altcoins are able to operate independently on their own networks utilising distributed ledger technology (DLT). The most famous and commonly used type of DLT is blockchain technology, which was introduced to the world by Satoshi Nakamoto via Bitcoin. While all coins use DLT, variations in the underlying code of each protocol are what gives altcoins their own unique attributes.

There are at least 856 altcoins in existence according to data from CoinMarketCap, and the top 5 altcoins by market cap are Ethereum, Ripple (XRP), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin, and EOS.IO (EOS).


Unlike Bitcoin and Altcoins, tokens are not able to operate independently and are dependent on the network of another cryptocurrency. That means they do not have their own underlying DLT or blockchain, but instead, are built on top of an existing cryptocurrency’s blockchain.

Data from CoinMarketCap shows that there are at least 1496 tokens in existence, which are deployed on the blockchain platforms of 24 cryptocurrencies. Some prominent examples of different types of cryptocurrencies that host tokens include:

  • Ethereum - The Ethereum platform has by far the most tokens deployed on it. Tokens that run on Ethereum include Basic Attention Token (BAT), Chainlink (LINK), Huobi Token (HT), USD Coin (USDC), and hundreds of others.

  • Omni - Tether (USDT), the leading stablecoin and world’s most traded cryptocurrency, is a token that is deployed on Omni, along with three other tokens.

  • NEO - NEO is often referred to as the Chinese rival to Ethereum, and as a platform for smart contracts and DApps, it has many tokens deployed on it. Top examples of NEO tokens include Nash Exchange (NEX) and Gas (GAS).

  • TRON - As a leading platform for DApps, TRON has numerous tokens deployed on it, including BitTorrent Token (BTT), which can be used for faster downloads on the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol.

The top 5 tokens by market cap are Tether, UNUS SED LEO, Chainlink, Huobi Token, and Maker, all of which are deployed on the Ethereum blockchain apart from Tether which takes the top spot.

different types of cryptocurrencies

Tokens are much easier to create as you do not need to build a blockchain from scratch. You may have heard the phrase “tokenise the world,” which refers to the ability for tokens to represent almost any asset.

This is thanks to the use of smart contracts, and we have already seen tokenised versions of stocks, commodities, fiat currencies, other cryptocurrencies, property, and more. And the chances are, we have barely even scratched the surface yet as to what else can be tokenised.

What is your sentiment on EA?

Vote to see Traders sentiment!

Common terms used to categorise cryptocurrencies

While we are on the topic of different types of cryptocurrency, we may as well look at some of the various subtypes that you will likely come across in the crypto world. 

Here are four terms commonly used to categorise cryptocurrencies that have specific characteristics:

cryptocurrency types
  1. Privacy Coins - Cryptocurrencies that focus on providing private transactions, such as Monero, Zcash, and Dash.

  2. Stablecoins - Cryptocurrencies that are pegged to ‘stable’ assets such as fiat currencies to reduce price volatility dramatically. Prime examples include Tether, Dai, USD Coin, and Paxos.

  3. Exchange Tokens - Cryptocurrencies created by crypto exchanges to be used primarily on their own trading platform and services. Prime examples include Binance Coin, Huobi Token, and KuCoin. 

  4. Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) - Cryptocurrencies that are created or backed by a central bank. The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is currently developing its digital yuan, and it is expected that most countries will digitise their national currencies in the future.

Markets in this article

Bitcoin / USD
66961.55 USD
969.45 +1.470%
2430.26 USD
20.65 +0.860%

Rate this article

Capital Com is an execution-only service provider. The material provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be understood as investment advice. Any opinion that may be provided on this page does not constitute a recommendation by Capital Com or its agents and has not been prepared in accordance with the legal requirements designed to promote investment research independence. While the information in this communication, or on which this communication is based, has been obtained from sources that believes to be reliable and accurate, it has not undergone independent verification. No representation or warranty, whether expressed or implied, is made as to the accuracy or completeness of any information obtained from third parties. If you rely on the information on this page, then you do so entirely at your own risk.

Still looking for a broker you can trust?

Join the 630,000+ traders worldwide that chose to trade with

1. Create & verify your account 2. Make your first deposit 3. You’re all set. Start trading