Cryptocurrency is here to stay. When Bitcoin first launched in 2009, there was only one cryptocurrency on the market. Fast-forward over a decade, and there are thousands upon thousands of cryptocurrencies to choose from. With so many options available, new investors may feel overwhelmed with how to choose which projects to invest in.
This technology has quickly grown into a $2 trillion industry by market capitalization, and thousands of projects have developed to allow additional functionality for users to transact. While investing in crypto is still a speculative venture, we’ve reviewed some of the top projects on the market today to help educate new investors on which projects are currently the most valuable.
10 Best Cryptocurrencies to Invest in for January 2022
The best cryptocurrencies on the market today offer a wide variety of functionality, from payment systems, to decentralized application (DAPP) platforms, to stablecoins. We’ve reviewed the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap, showing why each of these projects has billions of dollars invested in them.
Here are the top 10 cryptocurrencies available today.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Best for New Investors Looking for an Established Cryptocurrency
- Market Cap: Over $1 trillion
- Noteworthy For: Original cryptocurrency; limited supply (21 million total); highest market cap
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, which invented blockchain technology. Bitcoin is the most popular crypto for retail and institutional investors alike. It is best for new crypto investors that want to purchase an established cryptocurrency with a track record of growth over time.
Bitcoin was created by a software developer and cryptographer that operated under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Launched in 2009, Bitcoin was originally designed as a reward for participating in a peer-to-peer payment network called the blockchain. As independent servers were connected to the Bitcoin network, they were used to process transactions using advanced computer algorithms, which in turn allowed them to “mine” Bitcoin.
Why is this important?
Bitcoin effectively created its own currency with its mining rewards, and blockchain technology was created as a result. This opened the doors to all future cryptocurrency projects, allowing creators to create peer-to-peer payment systems, ultra-secure transactions, and disrupt the traditional financial system forever.
Bitcoin has since grown into the most valuable cryptocurrency in the world, with a market cap of over $1 trillion. Bitcoin’s price one year ago was around $29,000 for one BTC. As of December 2021, Bitcoin is trading around $45,000 per BTC, which is a 55% return during that time period.
2. Ethereum (ETH)
Best for Investing in Decentralized Applications
- Market Cap: $540 billion
- Noteworthy For: Created smart contracts; largest decentralized app platform; second-largest crypto (behind Bitcoin)
Ethereum was created to add more functionality to the blockchain, introducing smart contracts. The Ethereum network now has hundreds of crypto projects built on top of it, making it one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies on the market.
Ethereum is an open-source blockchain created by Vitalik Buterin and launched (in partnership with several co-founders) in 2015 as a way for developers to create applications on the blockchain. It uses smart contracts, which are computer programs that execute transactions when certain conditions are met, such as a buyer’s and seller’s agreement.
Since its inception, hundreds of projects have been launched on the Ethereum network, spanning from payment processing systems, to multiplayer games, to non-fungible token (NFT) marketplaces. This growth has given rise to the value of Ethereum, and its native token, Ether (ETH).
ETH is used to pay fees on the Ethereum network, as well as to make purchases within Ethereum-based applications. Since its launch in 2015, ETH has become the second-most popular cryptocurrency on the market, with a market cap over $500 billion. One year ago, ETH was trading around $736. As of December 2021, Ether is trading above $3,800 per ETH, which is a 516% return over that time.
3. Binance Coin (BNB)
Best for Investing in the Binance Ecosystem
- Market Cap: $100 billion
- Noteworthy For: Widely-used Binance exchange utility token; can be used for retail purchases
Binance Coin (BNB) was created in 2017 as a utility token for users of the Binance exchange. BNB can be used to pay trading fees on Binance, giving users a discount on overall fees. It can also be traded on most large crypto exchanges, and has grown to one of the largest crypto assets available today.
Binance Coin can also be used to purchase retail items through Binance payment app partners. BNB can be used for direct payment, as well as pay for services, travel, entertainment, and even be used to participate in new token sales launching on the Binance exchange.
Since its launch in 2017, The Binance exchange is the largest exchange (by volume) in the world. This has exploded the value of the BNB coin, giving it a market cap just over $100 billion. In January of 2021, BNB was trading around $37. As of December 2021, BNB is trading above $500 per coin, which represents a 1,351% gain.
4. Tether (USDT)
Best for Holding Crypto with a Stable Value
- Market Cap: $73 billion
- Noteworthy For: Most popular stablecoin; backed by “cash equivalents”; sued by CFTC for false claims
Tether was created in 2014 to match the price of the U.S. dollar, as a way for cryptocurrency traders and investors to avoid volatility while still keeping their funds in the crypto market. Tether was founded by the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange, and is used for paying transaction fees on the Tether network. Tether (USDT) tokens can be used on most major exchanges and decentralized applications, and are part of a group of cryptocurrency known as “stablecoins.”
Stablecoins are pegged to the U.S. dollar (or other stable fiat currency), and are backed by an equivalent amount of reserves for each coin in circulation. For Tether, this means that there is the equivalent of one U.S. dollar in reserve funds for every USDT coin, which currently stands at around 75 billion.
Tether is the largest stablecoin by market cap, with over $70 billion invested. Though it is a popular asset for many crypto investors, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently fined Tether Holdings $41 million for false claims that USDT was fully backed by U.S. dollars. While there is a reserve for the USDT that is in circulation, only a small percentage of those reserves are in cash.
Overall, Tether is still a popular choice for active crypto traders and investors that want access to a stable digital currency.
5. Solana (SOL)
Best for Investing in Fast-Growing Decentralized Finance Ecosystem
- Market Cap: $70 billion
- Noteworthy For: Fastest blockchain network; large NFT marketplace; institutional investor interest
Solana was launched in 2020 to solve the challenge of scalability on the blockchain. Solana boasts lightning quick transaction speeds using advanced processing technology, making it one of the fastest smart contract blockchains available. This makes it a very popular platform for developers of decentralized applications and solutions.
The Solana blockchain is powered by the Solana token (SOL), which can be used for paying transaction fees. Solana also launched its own NFT marketplace as well, and thousands of NFTs are available for purchase using the SOL token.
With all of the growth surrounding the Solana ecosystem, it has grown to become one of the most popular cryptocurrencies in the market. Solana recently jumped into the top 10 coins with a $70 billion market cap. In January 2021, SOL tokens were sold for about $1.50 per coin. As of December 2021, SOL tokens are worth over $170 per coin. This is an increase of 11,333% in one year.
6. Cardano (ADA)
Best for Investing in Future Smart Contract Ecosystem
- Market Cap: $60 billion
- Noteworthy For: Founder Charles Hoskinson helped co-found Ethereum; lofty project goals; recently launched smart contracts
Cardano is the brain-child of Charles Hoskinson, who was one of the co-founders of Ethereum. Founded in 2017, Cardano is designed as a proof-of-stake blockchain that has high ambitions to power decentralized applications in many different industries. Cardano boasts smart contract functionality and fast transaction speeds, though it is later to the game than projects like Ethereum, Solana, and Polkadot.
In September 2021, Cardano officially launched an update that enabled smart contracts on its blockchain, and over 100 projects were launched on the network in quick succession. Cardano is continuing to build out its ecosystem, and its popularity continues to grow as retail and institutional investors anticipate its future use cases.
Cardano and its ADA token are one of the top cryptocurrencies today, boasting a $60 billion market cap. In January 2021, ADA tokens were sold for about $0.18 per coin. As of December 2021, ADA tokens are worth about $1.20 per coin. This is an increase of 667% over the past year.
7. XRP (XRP)
Best Non-Blockchain Technology Investment
- Market Cap: $60 billion
- Noteworthy For: Distributed ledger technology (not blockchain); founders being sued by SEC; huge retail investor following
XRP was created by some of the founders of Ripple, which is a FinTech company that builds financial applications for enterprise clients. XRP is a utility token used on the RippleNet XRP Ledger, which is an open-source, distributed ledger database for digital payments. The goal of RippleNet and the XRP token is to allow near-instant monetary transactions on a global basis.
The XRP token was first launched in 2013 as an alternative to Bitcoin for processing quicker transactions, and to be used on the XRP Ledger as a universal payments system. Though it does not use blockchain technology, it is still a decentralized platform that relies on peer-to-peer networking nodes to process and validate transactions.
While XRP has grown in popularity over the years, it has also caught the eyes of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who launched a lawsuit against Ripple, classifying XRP as a security instead of currency. This has caused a lot of cryptocurrency exchanges to de-list the token, and the price of XRP has stayed relatively flat for a few years.
Overall, XRP remains a popular choice for crypto investors and carries a $60 billion market cap. In January 2021, XRP was trading for $0.22, and as of December 2021, it carries a price of just over $0.83. This is over a 377% return over the past year.
8. Polkadot (DOT)
Best for Investing in Blockchain Interoperability
- Market Cap: $40 billion
- Noteworthy For: Interoperability; founded by Ethereum co-founder
Polkadot was founded in 2016 by the Web3 Foundation, and includes Gavin Wood, one of the co-founders of Ethereum. Polkadot was designed to create interoperability between all the different blockchain protocols and the projects that are built on them. This is a massive undertaking, but ultimately allows different cryptocurrency-related platforms to pass data (and native tokens) back and forth between blockchains.
Polkadat has continued to grow its functionality, including the advent of parallel chains and parallel threads (which allow crypto applications to be more flexible and scalable), and bridges to external networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
This type of interoperability has propelled Polkadot and its native token, DOT, into one of the top cryptocurrency investments. The DOT token is used on the network for staking (locking up funds for a period of time), paying transaction fees, and governance, allowing DOT holders to vote on new initiatives.
The DOT token now has a market cap of over $40 billion, continuing to climb the top 10 list. In January 2021, DOT could be purchased for only $9.30 per coin. As of December 2021, it is trading for over $23 per coin, which is a 247% return on investment.
9. Dogecoin (DOGE)
Best for Those Interested in Elon Musk’s Favorite Crypto
- Market Cap: $30 billion
- Noteworthy For: Top meme coin; celebrity following; mainstream coverage
Everyone’s favorite dog meme is now one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies in the world. Dogecoin was originally launched as a joke by Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer, allowing users to mine an unlimited amount of DOGE, and was primarily used for tipping users on Reddit and Twitter for popular posts. DOGE originally held no utility, other than owning a fun cryptocurrency.
Over time, DOGE has received mainstream media attention, with billionaires such as Elon Musk and Mark Cuban promoting the coin on Twitter. As its popularity rose, so did the price, to the point where one of its co-founders ended up quitting the project and citing a “toxic” culture within the cryptocurrency space.
While the DOGE supply is inflationary (meaning new coins are constantly being minted), this has not stopped investors from flocking to the meme coin, growing it to over $30 billion in market cap. This has increased the price from $0.0047 in January 2021 to over $0.16 in December of 2021. While the fractions-of-a-cent are tough to calculate, if you held DOGE for one year, this would equate to a 3,404% return on investment.
10. Shiba INU (SHIB)
Fastest Growing Meme Coin
- Market Cap: $25 billion
- Noteworthy For: Based on popular Doge meme; deflationary token (decreasing supply); massive online following
Why only have one dog-themed cryptocurrency in the top 10 when you can have two? Shiba Inu (SHIB) is an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency that was named after the dog breed of the Doge meme. It is another lighthearted coin that took on a life of its own, and has since grown into an online community with huge ambitions.
The SHIB token has a fixed supply of 1 quadrillion coins (yes, really), though almost half of them have been burned by Vitalik Buterin himself, as well as other large wallets. This makes SHIB a deflationary asset, as opposed to DOGE, which is inflationary. SHIB has also built an entire ecosystem around its token, including a decentralized exchange (ShibaSwap), network (ShibaNet), and even an NFT collection (Shiboshis).
The massive community and media attention has launched SHIB into the top 10 cryptocurrencies on the market. It has a market cap of over $25 billion thanks to a recent listing by Coinbase. In January 2021, SHIB was worth around — wait for it — $0.000000000073. As of December 2021, it is trading for around $0.000028 per SHIB token. While still way below even one cent, investors who held for the year have realized a whopping 38,356,164% price increase.
Investing in cryptocurrency is a speculative investment, and while some of these eye-popping gains are tempting to chase after, it is important to never invest more than you are willing to lose. Cryptocurrency is still in its infancy, having only been around for just over a decade. As with any new asset classes (such as internet stocks in the late ’90s), there will be massive volatility in prices and growth in the coming months and years.
That being said, investing in crypto offers an alternative to traditional investments, and it is best to do your own (thorough) research when choosing a crypto project to put your money in. We recommend working with a licensed financial professional for any investing and financial planning decisions for your overall money goals. Cryptocurrency may be a part of that plan, but is still a risky asset to invest in.