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3 Types of Cryptocurrency Exchanges Explained

Types of cryptocurrency exchanges

3 Types of Cryptocurrency Exchanges Explained

Types of cryptocurrency exchanges

Cryptocurrency exchanges are an incredibly important part of the crypto trading landscape. Knowing how to navigate them is key to successful trading.

In this article, we’ll cover the three main types of cryptocurrency exchanges: centralized, decentralized, and hybrid.

We’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of each type so you can make an informed decision on which platform best suits your needs.

Let’s dive in!

What Types of Cryptocurrency Exchanges Are There?

Crypto investors and users recognize three primary types of cryptocurrency exchanges, which include:

  • Centralized cryptocurrency exchange (CEX)
  • Decentralized cryptocurrency exchange (DEX)
  • Hybrid cryptocurrency exchange (HEX)

Continue reading to learn more about each, their advantages and disadvantages.

What Are Cryptocurrency Exchanges?

Cryptocurrency exchanges are online platforms that allow users to buy, sell, and trade digital currencies.

They provide a secure environment for people to engage in cryptocurrency transactions with other users. These exchanges act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers, allowing them to make trades quickly and easily.

By using a cryptocurrency exchange, users can get access to a wide range of digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and many others.

The exchanges also provide different trading tools and features that can help traders make successful trades in the crypto market. Some of these features include real-time price charts, order book data, advanced trading tools, etc.

In addition to this, most cryptocurrency exchanges offer low fees and high liquidity for their customers. As such, they have become an increasingly popular choice among crypto traders all over the world.

Check out my guide on the best crypto exchanges in the UK.

Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges (Cex)

Cryptocurrency exchanges, while they can take many different forms, generally fit into two categories: centralized exchanges (CEX) and decentralized exchanges (DEX).

Centralized exchanges are the most popular type of cryptocurrency exchange, as they provide traders with user-friendly platforms, a variety of digital assets to trade, and a range of order types.

A centralized crypto exchange (CEX) is a digital asset exchange that is operated by a centralized authority and is responsible for managing and storing customer funds.

CEXs provide a platform for users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, as well as store them in the exchange’s own wallet.

They typically offer advanced trading features such as margin trading and limit orders and may charge fees for their services.

Unlike decentralized exchanges, CEXs are not run on a blockchain and are instead hosted on a third-party server, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The primary benefit of using a CEX is the convenience it offers traders. Many offer easy onboarding processes that allow new users to purchase cryptocurrencies quickly and easily.

Furthermore, CEXs typically provide access to multiple order types and trading pairs, allowing traders to buy/sell cryptocurrencies at their desired price points with minimal effort.

Additionally, many CEXs provide resources such as market data and analysis tools that enable traders to stay up to date on market conditions.

As a result, CEXs are well-suited for both novice and experienced crypto traders looking for an easy way to enter or exit markets.

In short, centralized cryptocurrency exchanges offer significant advantages for crypto traders seeking fast onboarding processes and access to advanced trading tools.

With these benefits in mind, it is no surprise that CEXs remain one of the most popular ways for people to buy/sell digital assets today.

Examples of centralized exchanges include Binance, Coinbase, Bybit, Gemini, Kraken, and Kucoin.

Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges (Dex)

The rise of decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges “DEX” has been a game-changer in the industry.

DEXs are non-custodial, peer-to-peer platforms that allow users to trade cryptos without relying on a third party. This means that users remain in control of their funds at all times, eliminating the risk of hacks and security breaches associated with centralized exchanges.

Furthermore, DEXs allow for faster transactions, lower fees, and greater privacy. As a result, they have become increasingly popular among crypto traders who value security and privacy.

By removing the need for middlemen or brokers to facilitate trades, DEXs also open up new possibilities for users looking to access more customized services and features related to their trading activities.

For example, users can access advanced tools such as automated trading bots, margin trading options, and portfolio management features.

Additionally, many DEXs support multiple cryptocurrencies – which allows traders to diversify their portfolios with ease – and offer higher liquidity than some centralized exchanges.

All of these benefits make DEXs an attractive option for experienced traders who want more control over their investments.

Examples of decentralized exchanges include Uniswap, DeFiSwap, PancakeSwap, 1inch, and KyberSwap.

Advantages of Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Centralized cryptocurrency exchanges (CEXs) have a number of advantages over decentralized exchanges, including:

  1. Liquidity: CEXs often have a larger pool of liquidity than decentralized exchanges, making it easier to buy and sell cryptocurrencies quickly and efficiently.
  2. Ease of use: CEXs are often more user-friendly and accessible to those who are new to cryptocurrency trading.
  3. Faster transaction speeds: CEXs can process transactions faster than decentralized exchanges, which often rely on the slower confirmation times of the underlying blockchain.
  4. Customer support: CEXs typically have a customer support team that can help users with issues such as lost passwords, account hacking, or other problems.
  5. Trading features: CEXs often offer a wider range of trading features, such as margin trading, derivatives, and other financial instruments, which can allow for greater flexibility and risk management.
  6. Fiat currency support: CEXs support fiat currencies, which makes it easier for users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies using their local currency.
  7. Security measures: While decentralized exchanges are often touted for their security features, centralized exchanges also have robust security measures in place, such as two-factor authentication, cold storage of funds, and regular security audits.

Overall, while decentralized exchanges have their own advantages, centralized exchanges remain a popular choice for many cryptocurrency traders due to their ease of use, liquidity, and trading features.

Disadvantages of Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges

While centralized cryptocurrency exchanges (CEXs) have several advantages, they also have some significant disadvantages compared to decentralized exchanges. Here are a few examples:

  1. Security risks: CEXs are vulnerable to security breaches and hacking attempts, as they store users’ funds and personal information in a centralized database that can be targeted by attackers. This has led to several high-profile hacks and thefts of funds from CEXs in the past.
  2. Lack of anonymity: CEXs often require users to complete a KYC (Know Your Customer) verification process, which involves providing personal information such as a government-issued ID or proof of address. This can compromise users’ privacy and anonymity.
  3. Centralized control: CEXs are operated by a centralized entity, which can make them vulnerable to manipulation, censorship, or other forms of centralized control. For example, a CEX may choose to delist certain cryptocurrencies or restrict access to users from certain countries.
  4. Limited access to funds: CEXs often require users to deposit funds into their platform in order to trade cryptocurrencies, which means that users do not have full control over their funds. Additionally, CEXs may have withdrawal limits or fees that can make it difficult or expensive for users to move their funds off the platform.
  5. Higher fees: CEXs often charge higher fees for their services compared to decentralized exchanges, as they need to cover the costs of maintaining their infrastructure, security, and customer support.

Overall, while centralized exchanges have their own advantages, they also come with some significant risks and drawbacks that users should be aware of before choosing to use them.

Advantages of Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEXs) have several advantages over centralized exchanges, including:

  1. Security: Decentralized exchanges are generally considered to be more secure than centralized exchanges, as they do not store users’ funds in a central database that can be hacked or compromised. Instead, funds are stored in user-controlled wallets, and transactions are processed on the blockchain, which provides a high level of security and transparency.
  2. Anonymity: Decentralized exchanges often do not require users to complete a KYC verification process, which means that users can trade cryptocurrencies anonymously and maintain their privacy.
  3. Decentralized control: Decentralized exchanges are operated by a network of nodes, rather than a centralized entity, which means that there is no single point of failure or control. This makes it more difficult for any one party to manipulate the market or censor certain transactions.
  4. No deposit/withdrawal limits: Decentralized exchanges do not have deposit or withdrawal limits, as users have full control over their funds and can transfer them in and out of the exchange at any time.
  5. Lower fees: Decentralized exchanges often charge lower fees compared to centralized exchanges, as they do not need to cover the costs of maintaining a centralized infrastructure, security, or customer support.
  6. Global access: Decentralized exchanges are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of location or nationality. This makes it easier for users to access cryptocurrency markets without the need for a traditional banking system.

Overall, decentralized exchanges offer a high level of security, privacy, and decentralization that is attractive to many users who value these features in a cryptocurrency exchange.

Disadvantages of Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEXs) also have several disadvantages compared to centralized exchanges. Here are a few examples:

  1. Liquidity: DEXs often have lower liquidity than centralized exchanges, which can make it more difficult to buy and sell cryptocurrencies quickly and efficiently.
  2. Complexity: DEXs can be more complex and difficult to use compared to centralized exchanges, as they often require users to have a good understanding of how blockchain technology and cryptocurrency works.
  3. Slow transaction speeds: DEXs often have slower transaction speeds compared to centralized exchanges, as they rely on the confirmation times of the underlying blockchain to process transactions.
  4. Limited trading features: DEXs often have limited trading features compared to centralized exchanges, as they do not support margin trading, derivatives, or other financial instruments.
  5. Lack of customer support: DEXs may not have a customer support team that can help users with issues such as lost passwords, account hacking, or other problems.
  6. User errors: DEXs rely on users to manage their own private keys and wallets, which can make them vulnerable to user errors such as losing their private keys or sending funds to the wrong address.
  7. Price slippage: DEXs may experience price slippage, where the price of a cryptocurrency can vary significantly between different trading pairs due to low liquidity and high volatility.

Overall, while decentralized exchanges offer some advantages over centralized exchanges, they also have some significant drawbacks that users should be aware of before choosing to use them.

Hybrid Exchanges

Hybrid crypto exchanges are a type of cryptocurrency exchange that combines the features of both centralized and decentralized exchanges.

These exchanges aim to provide the best of both worlds, offering the security and liquidity of centralized exchanges with the privacy and decentralization of decentralized exchanges.

In a hybrid exchange, users can choose to trade cryptocurrencies either on a centralized order book or through a decentralized peer-to-peer network.

The centralized order book provides high liquidity and fast transaction speeds, while the decentralized network allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without the need for a trusted intermediary.

Hybrid exchanges typically have a centralized matching engine, which processes orders and matches buyers and sellers, while the settlement process is done on a decentralized blockchain network.

This allows users to maintain control over their funds and trade cryptocurrencies without having to trust a centralized exchange.

Some advantages of hybrid exchanges include the ability to trade cryptocurrencies with high liquidity, fast transaction speeds, and low fees, while also maintaining control over their funds and maintaining privacy.

However, they also have some disadvantages, such as the potential for security breaches on the centralized side of the exchange and the complexity of using both centralized and decentralized features.

Final Thoughts

Cryptocurrency exchanges are an integral part of the digital asset landscape. After looking at the three types – centralized, decentralized, and hybrid – we can see that each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

CEXs are well-established and offer a range of services, but they come with security risks.

DEXs offer greater security, but their user interfaces can be difficult to navigate.

Hybrid exchanges combine elements of both, so they may be the best option for many users.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of exchange meets your needs. My advice is to do your research before trading any digital assets!


What are the three main types of crypto exchanges?

The three main types of cryptocurrency exchanges are centralized exchanges (CEXs), decentralized exchanges (DEXs), and hybrid exchanges, which combine features of both CEXs and DEXs.

What is the difference between centralized and decentralized crypto exchange?

Centralized crypto exchanges (CEXs) are operated by a central authority and require users to entrust their funds to a third party, while decentralized crypto exchanges (DEXs) allow users to trade cryptocurrencies directly without the need for a central authority or intermediary.

What is the difference between DeFi and DEX?

DeFi (Decentralized Finance) refers to a broader ecosystem of financial applications built on blockchain technology, while DEX (Decentralized Exchange) specifically refers to a type of decentralized platform that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without the need for a central authority. In other words, DEX is a subset of DeFi.

I’m Will! I recently left my job working for one of the UK’s leading financial companies in London to start Sterling Savvy, a place to empower people in the UK financially.


With my experience working with some of the biggest financial services companies in the world and my education in Economics & Finance, I want to help you be more savvy with your money. 


You can read more about my mission here.

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