You've probably heard the hype about bitcoin or ethereum, but what about cryptocurrencies like neo, dash or ripple?
- Coinbase currently lists only the big three: bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum
- Interest has exploded, with one bitcoin now worth $25,000
- Investing will become accessible to anyone with a credit card and a phone
From next year, Coinbase — one of the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges — has announced that a swathe of new altcoins will be added to its platform.
It has come as welcome news for Australian investors who, until now, have been paying a premium on local exchanges.
The interest in bitcoin has exploded as much as its price, with one bitcoin now worth $25,000 and Australians cannot get enough.
Coinbase currently lists three of the world's most popular coins: bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum.
What are altcoins?
There are thousands of cryptocurrencies available — almost everyone has heard of bitcoin and ethereum — altcoins are all of those other currencies.
"[Altcoins] actually often have a lot more functionality, but also they're a lot more specific," said Professor Jason Potts from RMIT University.
The Australian peer-to-peer blockchain-based energy trading platform Power Ledger is a good example of what altcoins are.
Buyers and sellers are able to trade renewable energy, dispensing with the need of a middleperson.
"If you want to trade energy peer to peer you use a particular token for that," Professor Potts said.
While there are Australian exchanges that sell altcoins, they charge a premium price.
So Australian investors who want a better price often have to sign up to a US-exchange and learn how to trade coins like shares.
But now, with Coinbase's decision, investing will become accessible to anyone with a credit card and a phone.
"What it does is it makes it easier to access a wider variety of crypto assets, in the sense that you're not just constrained to the big two or three — like litecoin, ethereum and bitcoin," Professor Potts said.
"You've now got the same level of access to a much wider range of these."
While Coinbase has yet to announce which currencies they will be adding, Professor Potts said the result would likely see more Australian cash flowing into the cryptocurrency world.
"It will happen everywhere and I think we can just see this as a reallocation of Australian households investment portfolios," he said.
'Much easier for the average investor'
Alex Sanders made so much money in cryptocurrencies that he decided to quit his job to work full time as an investor.
But he also helps other investors through his Youtube channel Nugget's News Australia, which is dedicated to answering cryptocurrency questions.
Mr Sanders said at any time of the day or night, he has someone asking him about bitcoin.
"I'm getting tagged in hundreds of things a day now, and messages to my Facebook, comments on YouTube, questions left right and centre," he said.
And he said Australian investors were excited about Coinbase's announcement.
"For the average investor that's not too tech savvy, downloading that app on their phone is just going to be such an easy way to get into these new coins," he said.
"Rather than having to sign up with different websites and manage more passwords and having the stress of all those different options to get your head around."
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