Bitcoin vs Ethereum: Which is better for me?

Do you want to start investing in cryptocurrencies but don’t know the difference between the 2 most popular coins? Here’s your answer.

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Many investors, including professionals, are now starting to consider cryptocurrencies.

The 2 most well-known names in that world are Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) and Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH).

For a first-timer, which cryptocurrency do you invest in? Do they have different purposes? Do they gain or lose value in different ways?

The Motley Fool asked a couple of experts.

Aus Merchant co-founder Sean Tolkin told The Motley Fool there is a very easy way for traditional investors to make a distinction between the two cryptocurrencies.

“Bitcoin is to gold what Ethereum is to equities.”

Bitcoin is gold

Tolkin, who is also the chief executive of the digital currency provider, said that Bitcoin’s main purpose is to be a store of value.

“Bitcoin is sound money in a digital format. Bitcoin may be the world’s greatest savings system and is open to anyone, without the need for any trusted intermediaries such as banks or lawyers.”

Bitcoin has been programmed to eventually reach a limit of 21 million coins. Tolkin said that this scarcity holds up the value.

“This is in stark contrast to the traditional fiat monetary system that allows governments to inflate the monetary supply (to fund government debt), which in turn erodes the purchasing power of one’s hard-earned savings.”

Ethereum is shares

According to Tolkin, Ethereum — or more accurately, Ether — is “a complete paradigm shift from Bitcoin”. 

“While Bitcoin’s mission is simply to be an effective store of value and immutable medium of exchange, Ethereum is a platform that facilitates a myriad of other businesses and applications.”

Ethereum uses blockchain technology to facilitate “decentralised finance”, or “defi” as it is known these days.

“Defi allows anyone with a smartphone to trade, lend, loan, become a market maker and much more,” said Tolkin.

“The Ethereum blockchain has also enabled the creation of: play to earn games, supply chain management protocols, digital art curation (NFTs) and can theoretically facilitate an almost infinite amount of other applications.”

So the value of Ether is more dependent on real-life activities and the usefulness of the technology.

“Many of these applications have cash flows and P/E earnings etc. that are familiar to anyone in the traditional finance space,” Tolkin said. 

“This parallel financial system is made possible by the smart contract functionality native to the Ethereum blockchain.”

Why bother with either cryptocurrency (or any)?

According to Managing Director of Aus Merchant Investment Darren Abrams, the blockchain industry is already showing up how inefficient old-world database systems are.

“Finance and supply chain management are both primed for blockchain disruption,” he said.

“However, we believe that the blockchains that best facilitate these decentralised financial applications will capture the majority of the digital asset market capital.”

Abrams had a tip for those who wanted to start investing in cryptocurrency but didn’t know where to start.

“There are two approaches I’d recommend. First, simply invest in… ‘layer 1’ blockchains (ie Bitcoin, Ether, Polkadot (CRYPTO: DOT), Solana (CRYPTO: SOL), Terra (CRYPTO: LUNA)) or find a professional fund manager in the space.”

Aus Merchant is a cryptocurrency investment manager, so its founders obviously have an interest in investors seeking professional assistance.

But Abrams reckons either approach will work fine.

“Although we believe the former option will yield fantastic returns in the long run, the middleware and applications built on top of these blockchains have the potential to generate asymmetrical returns,” he said. 

“However, spotting the difference between a pets.com and an Amazon takes a discerning expert.”

Should you invest $1,000 in Bitcoin right now?

Before you consider Bitcoin, you'll want to hear this.

Motley Fool Investing expert Scott Phillips just revealed what he believes are the 5 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Bitcoin wasn't one of them.

The online investing service he’s run for nearly a decade, Motley Fool Share Advisor, has provided thousands of paying members with stock picks that have doubled, tripled or even more.* And right now, Scott thinks there are 5 stocks that are better buys.

*Returns as of August 16th 2021

Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo owns shares of Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of and has recommended Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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