Cryptocurrency Markets: Spot Trading vs. Futures Trading

What is Spot Trading in Crypto Exchanges?

Spot vs Futures

Definition: Spot trading in crypto exchanges involves directly buying or selling cryptocurrencies for immediate delivery. Unlike futures trading, it includes the actual exchange of the asset when traders execute the trade.

Settlement: Consequently, transactions settle “on the spot,” meaning assets (cryptocurrency and fiat or other cryptocurrencies) exchange hands almost instantly or shortly after traders complete the trade.

Who Uses Spot ?

Retail Investors: Firstly, individuals who buy or sell cryptocurrencies for personal investment.

Day Traders: Secondly, traders who capitalize on the market’s short-term movements to earn daily profits.

Long-term Investors: Furthermore, investors who purchase cryptocurrencies to hold for a long time, betting on their value increasing over time.

Arbitrageurs: Additionally, traders who buy and sell the same asset in different markets to capitalize on price differences.

The Typical Flow of Spot Trading on Crypto Exchange software:

Account Setup: Initially, users register and set up an account on the exchange.

Identity Verification: Depending on the exchange and the trading volume, the exchange may require identity verification (KYC).

Deposit Funds: Subsequently, users deposit fiat money or cryptocurrencies into their exchange wallet.


  • Firstly, users choose a trading pair (e.g., BTC/USDT).
  • Secondly, they place market or limit orders at their desired prices.
  • Finally, the exchange matches orders and executes the trade.


  • After trading, users may either store their cryptocurrencies on the exchange or opt to withdraw them to their personal wallets.
  • To do this, users initiate withdrawals by specifying a wallet address and the transfer amount.

Fees Involved in SpotTrading:

Trading Fees: Exchanges charge these per trade, varying based on trading volume or membership tier, typically as a percentage of the trade amount.

Deposit Fees: While many exchanges offer free crypto deposits, some charge for depositing fiat or cryptocurrencies.

Withdrawal Fees: These fees apply when withdrawing funds to external wallets, varying by currency type and network load.

Network Fees: Finally, these fees accrue when transferring cryptocurrencies and go to the miners or validators who maintain the blockchain network, independent of the exchange.

Differences Between Spot trading and Futures Trading

AspectSpot TradingFutures Trading
DefinitionTrading of cryptocurrencies for immediate delivery.Agreement to buy or sell cryptocurrencies at a predetermined price at a specified future date.
SettlementTransactions are settled almost instantly or within a very short time frame.Settlement happens at a future date specified by the futures contract.
LeverageGenerally does not involve leverage.Often involves leverage, allowing traders to amplify their trading position.
OwnershipInvolves actual exchange of the asset. Buyers own the cryptocurrency once the transaction is complete.Does not necessarily involve ownership of the asset unless the contract specifies physical settlement.
RiskRisk is limited to the amount of money spent on the purchase.Risk can be significantly higher due to leverage and future price uncertainty.
Main UsersRetail investors, long-term investors, day traders.Speculators, hedgers, institutional investors.
Trading FeesTypically includes trading fees based on a percentage of the trade amount.Generally lower than spot trading; may include additional fees like settlement and funding rates.
WithdrawalUsers can withdraw their cryptocurrencies to personal wallets.Typically involves cash settlements; physical withdrawal of the asset is rare.
Primary PurposeTo acquire or sell actual cryptocurrencies.To speculate on future prices or hedge against price movements without necessarily owning the asset.
Market InfluencePrice determined by immediate supply and demand.Influenced by expectations of future market movements and broader economic factors.

What is Futures Trading in Crypto Exchanges?

Definition: Futures trading centers on agreements to buy or sell a particular cryptocurrency at a predetermined price on a future date. Unlike spot trading, the asset exchange does not occur immediately.

Leverage: Futures trading allows traders to use leverage, enabling them to borrow money to amplify their trading positions, potentially increasing both gains and losses.

Contract Expiry: Each futures contract comes with an expiration date when traders must settle the contract, either by physical delivery (rare in crypto) or through cash settlement.

Who Uses it?

Speculators: Traders predict future cryptocurrency prices to profit from their movements, without necessarily owning the underlying asset.

Hedgers: Investors and miners lock in prices to manage risks associated with price volatility. For instance, a miner might sell futures contracts to ensure a set selling price for their mined crypto, reducing risk from price drops.

Institutional Investors: Large market participants may use futures to significantly expose or hedge against their investment portfolio holdings.

The Typical Flow of Futures Trading on Crypto Exchanges:

Account and Margin Setup: Futures trading requires setting up a margin account, agreeing to terms for leverage and margin calls.

Deposit Margin: Traders deposit initial margin and maintain a minimum margin level, often called the “maintenance margin”.


  • Select a futures contract by the desired cryptocurrency and expiry date.
  • Place orders (buy for bullish bets, sell for bearish bets), including stop-loss and take-profit orders.
  • Keep margin levels adequate to meet the exchange’s requirements, adding funds if necessary to prevent liquidation.

Settlement or Rollover: As the contract nears expiry, traders decide whether to settle the contract or roll it over to a new date.


  • Traders can withdraw profits from futures trading or use them for new trades.
  • There are no physical assets to withdraw in futures trading, as contracts typically settle in cash.

Fees Involved in Futures Trading:

Trading Fees: These are generally lower than those in spot trading, reflecting the higher volume and liquidity in the futures markets.

Settlement Fees: Some exchanges charge fees for settling or closing a futures position.

Overnight Funding Rates: Holding positions overnight incurs funding rates, which are fees paid or earned for holding a leveraged position, depending on market conditions.

Margin Interest: Traders may pay interest on borrowed funds if they use leverage.

Hope above increases understanding and clears key differences and opportunities in Spot Trading and Futures Trading.

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