Let's say your mate rings you; he needs to borrow a few quid. You agree to meet somewhere at a certain time, where you will hand over the cash; maybe you'll even have a pint together. Your treat, of course, because your mate is shrapnel-light just now; hence the loan.

And there you have it: a simple transaction, carried out between friends, of a kind that has happened since the dawn of monetized society.

Ah, the good ole days!

Let's see how this scenario might play out in these times...

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How Does Cryptocurrency Work?

What if your dosh-deficient mate lives too far away to pop 'round to the pub for the handoff and pint?

That's when things get complicated. As things stand now, you both must have accounts with a financial institution that may collect a fee to transfer the money. Or, in these digital times, you might transfer the money yourself - from your bank, via an electronic payment system, to your mate's.

WU used to be the standard for wiring money around the world
Money transfer services such as this one used to be the very costly standard for sending money around the world. Photo credit: 7C0 on Visualhunt.com

Wire transfer systems like Western Union and MoneyGram are another way to get that money into those needy hands. But, Oh! the fees!

All of these money transfer solutions have one thing in common: a third party. These parties all have an interest in you and your financial dealings, whether it is harvesting information, charging you money for using your money however you see fit, or both.

It's that persistent institutional intrusion into every aspect of our lives, coupled with the increased monetization of everything - even a simple loan of a few quid to a friend may incur a fee, that drives people to seek other ways to secure their privacy and gain control over their digital lives and money.

Enter cryptocurrency: the non-centralized, private way to invest and move money to whomever you see fit to move it to.

Though virtual currencies have been around for decades, it's only been recently that the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum have been making headlines.

Learn Cryptocurrency: Different Types

The answer to "Are there different types of money?" seems obvious. Yes, of course, because every country has its sovereign currency.

How that currency is valued and how it compares to other countries' currencies is a whole different subject but one fundamental fact remains: value aside, the system of coins and notes that make up any sovereign currency is replicated in just about every country.

By contrast, digital currency comes in many forms - for all that it is intangible.

You may have heard the terms digital currency, virtual currency and cryptocurrency before. Often, they are used interchangeably but do you know what each term represents?

Digital currency is a general term; this type of currency covers virtual and cryptocurrencies. Financial institutions may create and issue digital forms of their current physical money - the Chinese central bank has taken the lead in this. When used in this manner, digital currency is regulated, just as any other currency would be. However, there are unregulated digital currencies, namely virtual currencies.

Virtual currencies are unregulated - not issued or overseen by governments or financial institutions. They are developed, issued and controlled by their creators (developers), to be used within a specific community online. They can be centralized - the developers maintain overall control of the virtual assets as a bank would, or decentralized; a system that relies on trust among all of that currency's users.

Cryptocurrency is both digital and virtual, but it 'belongs' more to the virtual currency group. These currencies use cryptography to secure the transactions and keep them authentic. These technologies of cryptography also ensure that not everyone can create for themselves any new units of that currency. Transactions are carried out over blockchain networks specifically meant for that purpose and for that currency.

The key difference between a virtual currency and one designated as crypto is its cryptography. All cryptocurrencies use cryptography to keep them secure but not all virtual currencies do.

The security provided by these digital money transactions is only a part of what drives the current cryptocurrency craze. Investors across the UK are taking cryptocurrency classes to learn about how all of this works. Do you plan to join them?

More investors are including crypto in their portfolio
More and more people are considering cryptocurrency as the safest possible investment. Photo credit: Ivan Radic on Visualhunt.com

The Hottest Cryptocurrencies

These days, everyone is nervously eyeing the economy. From pensioners worried about another economic meltdown wiping out their holdings to Gen-Zers, with their dawning awareness of how economic systems work... everybody wants to find a sure bet for their future financial stability. 

More and more, the evidence points to cryptocurrencies.

If you're reading this - whether you're in London, looking to learn about cryptocurrency or tucked away in the foothills of the Pennines, you're surely aware of all the great waves Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have made in the news. Those headlines may even have sold you on the idea of investing.

But which one(s) should you invest in?

That's your decision but, as with everything you decide, you can only choose once you have enough information. Let's take a look at some of them, shall we?

  • Bitcoin: The flagship of all cryptocurrencies, it is the highest-valued of them all - for all of its flaws.
  • Bitcoin Cash: faster than Bitcoin, it came about when Bitcoin developers were unable to reverse changes made to Bitcoin's code
  • Ethereum: the second most valuable crypto coins, they're faster than Bitcoin and they were the first to develop smart contracts.
  • Cardano: created by Ethereum' cofounder, it ranks #3 on the list of advanced blockchain technology
  • Ripple: one of the oldest cryptocurrencies, it is under active consideration for real-world, global usage
  • Litecoin: transactions happen four times faster than with Bitcoin
  • EOS: the most secure cryptocurrency for transactions

Investing in cryptocurrency takes a bit of savvy. You have to know what each currency can do, how it is valued and what its potential for growth is before choosing the one that's right for you.

Considering these uncertain economic times, studying these currencies before diversifying your holdings is a good idea whether you live in Leeds  - our country's second financial capital or in the remote Orkney Islands where economic disaster might have less of an impact.

Get some education before trading and investing in digital currencies
You don't have to have a degree in programming or investing to start trading in cryptocurrencies but some knowledge would be helpful. Photo credit: danielfoster437 on Visualhunt

Cryptocurrency Lessons in Birmingham

Obviously, all of this is just an overview. To truly understand every facet of cryptocurrency - how it works, how you can use it as an investment vehicle and what practical uses it has, you should study everything about the technology and the business of mining and trading in digital currency.

You don't need a full-blown university course to earn your certificate; you may take a course online to learn the basics and continue to study independently after your courses are finished. In fact, that's exactly what the most ardent students of the new digital economy do.

As befits a digital currency, the best courses are offered online.  

Currently, Reed lists more than 150 online courses, either as standalone introduction courses or fully fleshed out series, complete with syllabi, from online education ventures such as Course Central, Educba and Simpli.

If you wanted to specialise in ICO investing and cryptocurrency training, you could earn your diploma through Skill Up. This will entitle you to become a broker of cryptocurrencies; you would be able to trade for yourself as well as your friends and family.

Note: ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering. They are similar to the IPO - Initial Public Offering of a company's stock; it entails investing in new cryptocurrencies that hit the market.

New Skills Academy also hosts cryptocurrency courses online. They are a bit more pricey and take a little longer than those found on Reed but the investment - both in money and time is well worth it, considering the quality of education and the support you receive.

You might be thinking that, if these courses are available online, anyone in Manchester or any other UK city could take these courses - and you'd be right.

So where are the cryptocurrency courses in Birmingham?

NobleProg, located in Maple House at 150 Corporation Street offers both in-person and online blockchain training courses. They will educate you on the different applications for blockchain, addressing the subject from a developer's as well as investor's perspective.

If you'd rather take a more expansive course, consider the IT Training Centre's offerings on Eventbrite, hosted by a US company called Tech Training Solutions. Their syllabus spans four weekends, during which you will learn the basics and tools of blockchain, the various types of wallets and how to interact with small contracts - whether you draw it up or benefit from it.

Beyond those options, four Superprof cryptocurrency experts live, work and teach in the Birmingham area. They stand ready to educate you on all aspects of digital currencies, as well as teaching you how blockchain works and where individual currencies fit in the overall financial market.

The advantages of learning about blockchain and cryptocurrency with a Superprof include personalised teaching tailored to your needs, instruction delivered at the pace most comfortable to you and lesson delivery in your preferred environment - at home, in a cafe or at your tutor's house.

And, perhaps the greatest advantage of all: Superprof lessons are far less expensive than any course imported from the US!

Now, discover where Glaswegian cryptocurrency investors learned their trade...

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.