Bitcoin Alternatives for 2022: Top 10 Leading Cryptocurrencies

Crypto coins logos and a phone with financial trading interface on the screen, on the light background
Click here for a summary of this article
Quick Summary: Leading Bitcoin Alternatives for 2022

Since Bitcoin’s creation, altcoins and cryptocurrencies have been popping up all across the digital market. Some can serve as good alternatives to Bitcoin, while others have been akin to scams. To spare you some research, we’ve listed ten of the most popular Bitcoin alternatives for specific purposes.

They are:

  1. Ether (Ethereum): The most popular Bitcoin alternative
  2. USDC (USD Coin): The leading stablecoin
  3. BNB (Binance Coin): Bitcoin alternative with the most utility
  4. USDT (Tether): The most popular stablecoin
  5. SOL (Solana): Fastest Bitcoin alternative
  6. XMR (Monero): Most private Bitcoin alternative
  7. XRP (Ripple): Leading Bitcoin alternative for international payments
  8. AVAX (Avalanche): Alternative for interoperability
  9. MATIC (Polygon): Popular Bitcoin alternative for games and DeFi
  10. ADA (Cardano): An academic alternative to Bitcoin

While each of these digital assets is a compelling alternative to Bitcoin, they also come with their own risks and drawbacks. It’s highly advisable to search about these projects yourself and understand their offering before choosing to invest your hard-earned money in them.

Nothing on this site constitutes financial or investment advice, and any information here should not be treated as such.

Since its launch in 2009, Bitcoin has dominated the cryptocurrency conversation. It was the first blockchain-based monetary system and much of the interest in Bitcoin stems from the financial returns it has generated over the last decade.

However, the crypto ecosystem has grown considerably since then. There are now more than 21,000 different cryptocurrency coins. Some of these may be more intriguing than Bitcoin due to unique features, such as faster transactions and improved privacy protection.

Of course, at the same time, many cryptocurrencies have no underlying value and could even be pump-and-dump crypto scams.

In this article, we cover the 10 leading Bitcoin alternatives. Please note that nothing in this article is investment advice, and you should do your own research before buying any Bitcoin alternatives listed below.


Bitcoin Alternatives for 2022

In creating this list, we wanted to go beyond the most popular cryptocurrencies. Instead of listing the ten largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, we’ve included Bitcoin alternatives that offer unique features, utility, and increased privacy and transaction speeds.

Of course, most of the Bitcoin alternatives listed below are highly volatile. We’ve seen the value of some cryptocurrencies — and Bitcoin itself — plummet by as much as 70-80% from their all-time high in 2022 alone.

We have provided a market cap and price at the time of writing, which you can compare to the live price. Now let’s get to the list.

Ether
Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2013
  • Market Cap: $191,400,053,810
  • Price: $1,583 (Live Price)
  • Category: Smart Contract Platform

Ether is the largest digital currency by market cap after Bitcoin. However, it’s unlike Bitcoin in several ways. Bitcoin is used primarily as a blockchain network for payments and transactions.

Ether is the native token for the Ethereum ecosystem and is used to interact with different dApps (decentralized applications such as games, financial services and social media) on the Ethereum network.

In simpler terms, you can think of Ethereum as an operating system on which different apps can be run. The apps are built on smart contracts, which are self-executing pieces of code. The code will spring into action if certain conditions are met and carry out pre-determined actions. This has potentially limitless applications, including the creation of non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) and adds to the value of Ether.

Another advantage of Ether is that transactions are a bit faster when compared to the Bitcoin network. However, there are only a few places in the real world where you can use Ether as currency. Moreover, transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain can be very high due to the massive demand for block space.


2. USDC (USD Coin): The leading stablecoin

USDC logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2018
  • Market Cap:$43,625,681,565
  • Price: $1.00 (live price)
  • Category: Stablecoin

The world of crypto is inherently volatile. In this world of instability, stablecoins supposedly provide a safe haven. They are “stable” because they are pegged to real-world assets, like the U.S. dollar or British pound sterling. USDC mirrors the value of the US dollar. Hence, in theory, one USDC token should always have the same value as one US dollar.

USDC combines the best of crypto and traditional finance. Users can send and receive money seamlessly across borders without the involvement of a financial institution. It’s also a popular alternative to savings accounts as several crypto exchanges and Defi (decentralized finance) protocols provide high-interest rates on USDC deposits. USDC’s large market cap, currently at about $43 billion, makes it stable and secure.

However, the fact that hard assets back USDC makes it susceptible to regulatory scrutiny by bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The launch of digital currencies backed by central banks could also affect future demand for stablecoins.


3. BNB (Binance Coin): A Bitcoin alternative with utility

BNB Binance logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Market Cap: $51,050,155,769
  • Price: $311.89 (live price)
  • Category: Smart Contract Platform/Utility Token

Binance is one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world. It runs its own blockchain to conduct transactions. The BNB token is used to facilitate these transactions. Additionally, holders of BNB get discounts when making trades on Binance. This is a compelling use case for high-frequency traders.

As the Binance ecosystem grows, the utility attached to BNB will only increase. Possible applications of BNB include the Binance Academy, a decentralized exchange, and the Binance cloud network. It’s backed by Binance, which some investors say makes this Bitcoin alternative relatively stable compared to some other cryptocurrencies.

However, this also serves as a drawback. The BNB token is highly centralized, with Binance holding more than 80% of the circulating supply. Resultantly, the value of BNB can be manipulated to suit Binance. Further, Binance is currently embroiled in regulatory tussles in several countries. Binance hasn’t been available in the U.S. since 2019, for example.


Tether logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2014
  • Market Cap: $69,110,768,912
  • Price: $1.00 (live price)
  • Category: Stablecoin

Tether is a stablecoin like USDC. As per the company, the cryptocurrency is backed by the dollar, Euros, Yuan, gold and other currency. It allows you to transfer money quickly, safely, and privately all while its rate remains relatively stable.

Moreover, Tether is the most used and popular stablecoin currently, with a market cap of more than $69 billion at the time of writing. As a result, you can spend Tether in a lot of places. There is even a full list of webshops, crypto services, and other websites that accept the stablecoin.

However, Tether has also drawn the attention of financial regulators. Its claims to be backed by stable assets have repeatedly been questioned. This is needed to prove that they have enough reserve to guarantee that one Tether will remain approximately equal to one dollar. While a law firm did investigate their services in 2018, the same is not an official audit, and questions remain unaddressed.

Additionally, stablecoins like USDT and USDC are regularly used by hackers to funnel money from their exploits. They are, therefore, under close scrutiny from law enforcement.


5. Solana: The fastest Bitcoin alternative

Solana logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Market Cap: $11,552,202,860
  • Price: $32.12 (live price)
  • Category: Smart Contract Platform

Solana is one of the fastest cryptocurrency blockchain networks out there. It can theoretically process up to 60,000 transactions/second, which puts other blockchains on this list to shame. Solana achieves these speeds through a unique way of confirming transactions, known as Proof of History which helps confirm whether a particular event on the blockchain happened after or before other events.

Besides its fast speeds, Solana also has some of the lowest gas fees. These are the fees you pay the network to confirm and encode your transactions. As a result, Solana is quickly becoming the preferred choice for developers to create consumer-facing apps. Besides Ethereum, some of the most exciting web 3.0 projects are based on Solana.

However, there are some downsides to Solana as well. First, the blockchain’s security and reliability are questionable. It has gone down a couple of times in the last year itself. Another concern is that only a few hundred nodes validate the blockchain. This means it’s fairly centralized and can be compromised. Finally, Solana is still in Mainnet beta, which means that it’s still being tested and developed and is not yet the finished product.


6. XMR (Monero): The most private BTC alternative

Monero logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2014
  • Market Cap:$2,656,864,829
  • Price: $146.52 (live price)
  • Category: Privacy-preserving cryptocurrency

If privacy is something you hold dear, Monero is worth considering. Monero uses special technology to ensure that the sender, receiver, and the amount of transferred cryptocurrency remain hidden. These privacy-preserving features differentiate it from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, where all transactions are available on the public ledger.

Additionally, Monero is easier to mine. In simple terms, this means that you can participate in securing the Monero network with a basic PC. Conversely, to mine Bitcoin you need a powerful processor or mining rig. Since Monero is easier to mine, more people can participate in the network and make it decentralized. However, this also means that hackers are more likely to try and cryptojack your devices to mine for Monero.

However, this has not played out in the real world, as three mining pools control a large share of Monero. In addition to decentralization concerns, Monero is also notorious for its use by criminals and money launderers. Since it’s completely anonymous, criminals prefer it over Bitcoin to send illegal funds obtained through cryptocurrency scams.

Its anonymity and privacy also mean Monero is under continuous scrutiny from law enforcement and financial regulators. Hence, the cryptocurrency may be banned or seized in different countries.


7. XRP (Ripple): Bitcoin alternative for international payments

Ripple logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2012
  • Market Cap: $23,030,207,288
  • Price: $0.459994 (live price)
  • Category: Real-time settlement and transfer platform

Ripple makes it possible to efficiently and quickly exchange money internationally. With XRP, this only takes a matter of seconds. In addition, XRP also charges relatively small transaction fees, especially compared to Bitcoin. Additionally, XRP appears to be the preferred cryptocurrency for banks and financial institutions, lending it increased credibility.

Despite all the advantages, XRP isn’t perfect, and some disadvantages are worth mentioning. Firstly, it’s important to mention that a large part of all XRP coins currently belongs to just a few important people within the Ripple company. Among experts, this is cause for concern as it leads to centralization and excessive control.

XRP also isn’t as easy to spend as Bitcoin. Not many places online and in the real world accept it as a means of payment.


8. AVAX (Avalanche): Bitcoin alternative for interoperability

AVAX Avalanche logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2020
  • Market Cap: $5,401,318,953
  • Price: $18.11 (live price)
  • Category: Smart contract platform

AVAX was one of the digital currencies that shot to the limelight in the 2021 crypto market bull run. It promises fast, scalable, and seamless blockchain transactions. This is achieved by its innovative use of three different chains on the Avalanche network that work together to make transactions fast without compromising on security.

Furthermore, AVAX is considered eco-friendly as it relies on a Proof of Stake verification mechanism. This means that individuals can help secure the network by pledging their tokens instead of using large amounts of computing power. Moreover, Avalance is a highly customizable network, as it allows for the creation of purpose-suited blockchains for different uses.

Of course, there are some issues with AVAX. For instance, it’s quite expensive to become a validator on the network, which limits the number of nodes and overall decentralization of the network. Additionally, AVAX has stiff competition from other networks like Ethereum and Solana. Its price rise may be limited if more people prefer the other smart contract platforms.


9. MATIC (Polygon): BTC Alternative for games and decentralized finance

MATIC Polygon logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2017
  • Market Cap: $8,056,082,096
  • Price: $0.90730 (live price)
  • Category: Smart contract platform

MATIC is the native token of the Polygon ecosystem. Unlike other digital assets discussed in this article, Polygon is a layer-2 chain. This means that it works on top of another blockchain, namely Ethereum. It facilitates faster and cheaper transactions on the Ethereum network without reducing security. Smart contracts also work better on Polygon as it’s faster and less congested.

Its compatibility with Ethereum makes it the preferred choice for many news crypto-based apps and games. Several leading decentralized finance protocols, like AAVE and Uniswap, have recently moved to the Polygon network. This makes the MATIC token inherently valuable. Polygon is also investing heavily in creating games and dApps, which will increase the demand for MATIC tokens.

A key concern with MATIC is the impact Ethereum 2.0 will have on it. After the much-awaited Ethereum merge, the network will switch to a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism. This is expected to make the Ethereum blockchain faster and cheaper, which will impact the utility and viability of the Polygon network.


10. ADA (Cardano): An academic and scientific alternative to Bitcoin

ADA Cardano logo small

Key Features:

  • Year Founded: 2015
  • Market Cap: $14,136,068,812
  • Price: $0.402442 (live price)
  • Category: Smart contract platform

ADA is the token for the Cardano blockchain, which is a layer-1 smart contract platform like Ethereum and Solana. Cardano is different from other layer-1s due to the rigorous academic and scientific review of its protocol. This ensures that the network is technologically robust and secure.

Moreover, Cardano already uses a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism, which makes it environmentally friendly and scalable. It is also one of the most decentralized networks on this list.

While Cardano’s features are very promising, the team’s execution has been lacking. In fact, the Cardano blockchain only recently added support for smart contracts, which have been supported on Ethereum for years.  Cardano’s programming language, Haskell, is quite difficult to master, which results in lower adoption by developers and, hence, consumers.

However, if Cardano is able to deliver on its promises, it could be a truly unique blockchain and cryptocurrency.


What Are Altcoins?

Different coins iconBitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be created, and all cryptocurrencies that have been created since have been commonly referred to as “altcoins” or alternative coins. Hence, an altcoin can mean any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin.

Some experts, however, use “altcoin” to mean cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin and Ethereum. This is because most existing cryptocurrencies can trace their origin to these two in some way or form. Altcoins, and the blockchains they run on, can be further differentiated as follows:

Infographic showing altcoins characteristics

Real-time settlement and payment blockchain

Several altcoins, such as Ripple, try and improve Bitcoin’s payment mechanism. Using the blockchain, they seek to provide fast, global, and scalable payments and real-time settlements. While some of these altcoins do provide faster payments than Bitcoin, there is some concern about their security and decentralization.

Smart contract platforms

A smart contract platform is a blockchain that can run smart contracts. As the previous section states, smart contracts are self-executing pieces of code hosted on and processed by the blockchain. They can be used to create full-fledged blockchain-based apps and to store digital objects, such as NFTs.

Ethereum was the first smart contract platform since Bitcoin did not (and still doesn’t) support smart contracts. We have seen the emergence of several smart contract platforms since. Each of them tries to be faster, more secure, or more scalable than Ethereum.

Stablecoins

Anyone who’s followed the crypto space even briefly would know that the prices of assets are highly volatile. Due to the volatility, the value of assets held by individuals can fluctuate wildly from one day to another. BitUSD, the first stablecoin, was launched in 2014 to provide a cryptocurrency with relatively stable value.

BitUSD and other stablecoins are unlike other cryptocurrencies as their value is pegged to other assets, including fiat currencies and commercial papers. Conversely, the value of other cryptocurrencies is determined by factors such as the size of their network, market sentiment, and the utility the cryptocurrency provides.

Privacy-preserving cryptocurrency

A key attribute of the blockchain is that it is a public ledger. This means that transactions on the blockchain are visible to everyone. However, this opens up transactions to surveillance and snooping by government authorities, cybercriminals, and other interested parties. To prevent payment censorship, cryptocurrencies like Monero keep details of financial transactions confidential.


Use a VPN When Making Crypto Transactions

Dark VPN server with VPN shielded icon and blob backgroundWhether you’re buying or selling Bitcoin — or opting to use other crypto alternatives — there are measures you can take to protect your privacy and sensitive data when trading. Storing cryptocurrency on hard wallets is the most effective means of protecting digital investments themselves, but when making online transactions, you’ll want to protect sensitive data, like logins, passwords, and private and public crypto addresses from cybercriminals and prying eyes.

You can add this layer of security by using a good virtual private network (VPN). A VPN has many uses, one of which is establishing a secure, encrypted connection to the internet. Since a VPN can also change your IP address, it allows investors to buy cryptocurrency or access certain trading platforms that might otherwise be unavailable to them.

We’ve compiled a list of the best VPNs for crypto trading, with NordVPN leading the pack.

NordVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Only $2.99 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$2.99
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN

Summing up the Leading Bitcoin Alternatives

There are now more than 21,000 digital cryptocurrency coins, but only a handful of viable alternatives to Bitcoin. These alternatives provide functions and features, such as faster and more private transactions, smart contract functionality, or more stability, that differentiate them from Bitcoin.

Given the sheer number of alternatives, it’s vital that readers know which ones are genuine and legitimate. Indeed, there are also several cryptocurrencies that are basically scams or money grabs. Each alternative listed on this list provides some unique functionality that makes them legitimate and viable.

Infographic showing leading Bitcoin alternatives

To sum up, again, they are:

  • Ether (Ethereum)
  • USDC (USD Coin)
  • BNB (Binance Coin)
  • USDT (Tether)
  • SOL (Solana)
  • XMR (Monero)
  • XRP (Ripple)
  • AVAX (Avalanche)
  • MATIC (Polygon)
  • ADA (Cardano)

Finally, this article is meant to provide an overview of the leading alternatives to Bitcoin. It is not an investment guide and should not be considered financial advice. Make sure to do research and due diligence on the subject before investing in cryptocurrency.

The 10 Leading Bitcoin Alternatives in 2022: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a specific question about Bitcoin alternatives? Look at the FAQ below to see whether your question is there. If that’s not the case, please leave a comment and we will get back to you.

A cryptocurrency is a digital, alternative method to conduct transactions that are usually decentralized, meaning it isn’t under the control of one central bank or authority. Bitcoin is the pioneer of cryptocurrency as well as the most well-known cryptocurrency. It’s difficult to give an exact definition of cryptocurrency because there are so many kinds and they all have different characteristics and purposes.

There are several reasons why you might want to consider other cryptocurrencies. For example, some cryptocurrencies offer faster transactions, a slightly more stable price, or the ability to build smart contracts. To learn more about these and other reasons for considering crypto coins other than Bitcoin, read our full guide on Bitcoin alternatives.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are considered the two “blue-chip” cryptocurrencies since they’re both widely used and have been around the longest. Many web 3.0 apps and games are built on Ethereum, adding further value to its native token, ETH. Hence, Ethereum is considered the best alternative to Bitcoin.

Tech journalist
Mohit is a legal and public policy researcher whose work focuses largely on technology regulation. At VPNOverview, he writes about cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and sports events.