Understanding How Cryptocurrency Exchanges Work – Behind the Scenes

Cryptocurrency exchanges are a vital component of the digital currency ecosystem. They allow users to buy, sell, and trade various cryptocurrencies with other users, providing a platform for exchanging one form of digital asset for another.

  • According to CoinMarketCap, The total daily trading volume of all cryptocurrency exchanges combined exceeded $2.2 trillion in August 2021.
  • As of September 2021, over 300 cryptocurrency exchanges were operating globally.

This guest post will explore how cryptocurrency exchanges work and the various exchange types.

cryptocurrency exchanges work

How Does a Cryptocurrency Exchange Work?

  1. The process typically starts with a user creating an account on the cryptocurrency exchange.
  2. The user then deposits funds into their account using a bank transfer, credit card, or other payment methods.
  3. Once the funds are in the user’s account, they can use them to buy cryptocurrencies, which can be stored in their exchange wallet.
  4. Users who want to buy or sell a cryptocurrency submit an order to the exchange. Orders can be either market orders or limit orders.
  5. The exchange then matches the buyer and seller and facilitates the exchange of digital assets.
  6. Once the transaction is complete, the buyer’s account is credited with the purchased cryptocurrency, and the seller’s account is credited with the funds from the sale minus the exchange fee.

Centralized Exchanges (CEXs)

These are the most common type of cryptocurrency exchange. They are run by a central authority and require users to deposit funds into their exchange wallet to trade. CEXs typically have a user-friendly interface, high liquidity, and offer a wide range of trading pairs. However, they are also vulnerable to hacking and may require users to undergo a lengthy verification process.


  • User-friendly interface and high liquidity.
  • A wide range of trading pairs and advanced trading features.
  • Typically offer customer support and security features such as two-factor authentication and insurance against hacking.
  • Greater transparency in terms of trading volume and market depth.


  • Vulnerable to hacking and theft, as users must deposit funds into an exchange wallet controlled by a central authority
  • It may require a lengthy verification process to comply with KYC/AML regulations, which can be a barrier to entry for some users.
  • CEXs are subject to regulatory scrutiny and intervention, affecting trading activity and market volatility.

Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs)

DEXs are a new kind of crypto exchange that operate on a peer-to-peer network and do not require users to deposit funds into an exchange wallet. Instead, users trade directly with each other using a smart contract. DEXs offer high security and privacy and are not vulnerable to hacking. However, they typically have lower liquidity and a less user-friendly interface.


  • High level of security and privacy, as users do not have to deposit funds into an exchange wallet, and trades are executed using a smart contract.
  • More transparent trading activity, as all transactions are recorded on a public blockchain.
  • No central authority or intermediary can reduce the risk of market manipulation or censorship.
  • It can be used by anyone, anywhere.


  • Lower liquidity and fewer trading pairs compared to centralized exchanges
  • Less user-friendly interface and may require some technical knowledge to use effectively
  • Slower transaction speeds and higher gas fees due to the use of smart contracts
  • Less regulated, which can lead to more market volatility and less protection for users in the event of fraud or theft

Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Exchanges

These crypto exchanges allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies directly with each other. P2P exchanges typically do not charge a fee, and users can negotiate the terms of the trade directly with each other. However, they are less secure than centralized exchanges and are susceptible to scams and fraud.


  • P2P exchanges do not charge fees or commissions for trades, making them an attractive option for users looking to minimize costs.
  • Users do not have to provide personal information to a third-party intermediary.
  • These exchanges enable buyers and sellers to trade directly, leading to better prices.


  • P2P exchanges are less secure than centralized exchanges, as users may be vulnerable to scams and fraud. For example, a seller may take payment from a buyer but fail to deliver the agreed-upon amount of cryptocurrency.
  • They typically have lower liquidity than centralized exchanges, making buying or selling more significant amounts of cryptocurrency at once harder.
  • Some platforms may require users to have specific technical knowledge to use effectively, such as understanding how to set up a cryptocurrency wallet and securely store their private keys.
  • P2P exchanges typically do not offer customer support or dispute resolution mechanisms, which can lead to conflicts between buyers and sellers.

Finishing Thoughts

Ultimately, the choice of exchange will depend on a user’s specific needs, preferences, and risk tolerance. It is essential to consult a cryptocurrency exchange development company before deciding which one to use and secure your cryptocurrency assets.

By understanding how cryptocurrency exchanges work and weighing each class’s pros and cons, users can confidently make informed decisions and engage in cryptocurrency trading.