Written by: Aliza Vigderman | May 11th, 2021

This year, cryptocurrencies have received more media attention and seen higher trading volume and prices. In addition, topics such as safety, liquidity, and volatility have been hotly debated across cable news channels, message boards, and family dinner tables.

The purpose of this report is to understand the knowledge, experience, and ownership of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum by Americans. We asked over 1,200 U.S. adults about these topics, as well as the perceptions of the benefits and risks of these digital assets. Here are our key findings:

  1. Nearly half of Americans consider themselves at least “somewhat familiar” with cryptocurrency. Eight percent of Americans have never heard of it, and 45 percent said they have heard of it, but don’t know much about it.
  2. Of those familiar with cryptocurrency, 31 percent own cryptocurrency already, while another 12 percent plan to buy it within the next 12 months. Therefore we estimate that 37.5 million Americans own cryptocurrency, and an additional 14.7 million intend to purchase it in the next year.
  3. The most commonly owned cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum.
  4. 78 percent of cryptocurrency owners are confident in cryptocurrency safety and security.
  5. Price fluctuation is both the biggest benefit and the biggest concern of respondents in regards to cryptocurrency. 33 percent believe that the possible price increases are the main benefit of cryptocurrency, while 39 percent note price instability as their greatest concern.
  6. Americans of all ages own cryptocurrency, although the majority, 93 percent, is concentrated among adults ages 18 to 60.

Table of Contents

  1. Familiarity
  2. Ownership
  3. Confidence
  4. Security
  5. Propensity
  6. Conclusion
  7. Methodology

Familiarity

Although the price of cryptocurrency peaked in the U.S. financial market in April 2021, 53 percent of U.S. adults either aren’t familiar with it or have never heard of it. Our research echoed previous research from Morning Consult that found that 67 percent of U.S. adults either didn’t know or weren’t familiar with Bitcoin specifically. Accordingly, people are 10 percent more likely to be familiar with cryptocurrency in general compared to Bitcoin, a specific type of cryptocurrency.

How familiar are you with cryptocurrency? Responses
Never heard of it 8%
Heard of it, but I’m not familiar 45%
Somewhat familiar 37%
Very familiar 11%

In general, awareness and familiarity with cryptocurrency is at an all-time high, according to Google Trends data for the search term “cryptocurrency”.

Ownership

Currently, 37.5 million U.S. adults own cryptocurrency, while another 14.7 million plan to purchase it within the next 12 months.

Do you own any cryptocurrency? Responses
Yes, I currently own some 31%
No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months 12%
No, but I might consider it in the future 42%
No, and I don't ever plan to purchase any 15%

Our data aligns with information from the cryptocurrency platform Gemini. In their 2021 State of U.S. Crypto Report, they found that 14 percent of the entire U.S. economy owns cryptocurrency; we found the number to be 15 percent across all familiarity levels.

Out of the crypto-owners, about a third first bought cryptocurrency in 2021, while another third first bought it in 2020, consistent with the sharp increase in Google searches for the word “cryptocurrency” beginning in the fall of 2020.

What year did you buy your first cryptocurrency? Responses
2015 or before 9%
2016 – 2017 15%
2018 – 2019 16%
2020 30%
2021 29%

By Age 

The least likely age group to own cryptocurrency was adults ages 60 and older; only 13 percent of this group owned cryptocurrency currently, while all other age groups own it at rates between 30 and 40 percent.

Do you own any cryptocurrency? Ages 18-29 Ages 30-44 Ages 45-60 Ages 60+
Yes, I currently own some 35% 40% 31% 13%
No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months 17% 12% 14% 3%
No, but I might consider it in the future 41% 37% 45% 44%
No, and I don't ever plan to purchase any 7% 11% 11% 39%

By Gender

Males are more likely than females to own cryptocurrency by eight percent. However, when it came to gender, our data differed from the Gemini data; while Gemini found that 74 percent of crypto-owners were men and 26 percent were women, we found that 57 percent were men and 43 percent were women, a more equitable distribution.

Do you own any cryptocurrency? Male responses Female responses
Yes, I currently own some 35% 27%
No, but I definitely plan to purchase some in the next 12 months 13% 11%
No, but I might consider it in the future 38% 45%
No, and I don't ever plan to purchase any 14% 16%

By Brand

We also asked crypto-owners what type of currency they owned. By far, the most popular cryptocurrency owned was Bitcoin at 73 percent, followed by Dogecoin at 46 percent and Ethereum at 38 percent.

Which cryptocurrencies do you currently own? (Select all that apply.) Responses
Bitcoin 73%
Dogecoin 46%
Ethereum 38%
Litecoin 19%
Bitcoin Cash 15%
Stellar 13%
Ripple 10%
Other (please specify) 8%
Binance Coin 8%
Cardano 7%
Chainlink 7%
Tether 4%
Polkadot 4%
Monero 4%

Confidence

Despite the potential storage and accessibility issues, 78 percent of crypto-owners said they were somewhat to very confident in the safety and security of their cryptocurrency.

How confident are you in the safety and security of your cryptocurrency? Responses
Very unconfident 3%
Somewhat unconfident 18%
Somewhat confident 56%
Very confident 22%

Security

According to our research, a quarter of crypto-owners have had issues accessing their cryptocurrency.

Have you ever had issues accessing your cryptocurrency? Responses
Yes 25%
No 75%

The most common reason for losing access to cryptocurrency was a lost or forgotten password, which caused nearly half of all incidents. However, even cryptocurrency stored as physical items like paper and coins weren’t immune to accessibility issues; one in five crypto-owners has lost access due to lost or damaged devices, papers, or coinage.

What caused you to lose access to your cryptocurrency? Responses
Lost/forgotten password 48%
Lost/damaged device, paper, or coinage 21%
Other (please specify) 17%
Cyberattack 15%

A phishing attack can lead to a stolen password; learn how to make secure passwords to keep your cryptocurrency safe.

Fortunately, 75 percent of people were able to retrieve their currency; less than one in five wasn’t able to retrieve it, while another nearly one in five is still trying to gain access.

Were you able to retrieve your cryptocurrency? Responses
Yes 75%
No 19%
I'm still trying 6%

Propensity

Part of our research also focused on respondents who said they don’t own cryptocurrency currently and don’t plan on buying it. The most common reason for non-ownership, present, and future, is distrust of digital security at 26 percent. 25 percent of people think that the values are too unstable, while only two percent were worried that they could lose access.

What is the main reason you don't currently own cryptocurrency? Responses
I don’t trust the digital security 26%
The values are too unstable 25%
It’s not protected by insurance or government oversight 22%
I don’t understand it enough 16%
Other (please specify) 10%
I could lose access 2%

Given that one in four crypto-owners has had issues with access, it’s clear that people are underestimating the difficulties of storing and accessing their cryptocurrency.

Is Cryptocurrency Here To Stay? 

Out of those familiar with cryptocurrency, respondents were divided on whether people would still be using it in the next 10 years. 52 percent said they were somewhat to very certain it will be used, while 49 percent were somewhat to very uncertain that it will be used in this time period.

How certain are you that most people will be using cryptocurrency in the next 10 years? Responses
Very uncertain 15%
Somewhat uncertain 34%
Somewhat certain 38%
Very certain 14%

Concerns

The greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency was its unstable value at nearly 40 percent, followed by a lack of government or bank insight at 24 percent overall.

What is your greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency? Responses
Unstable value 39%
Unprotected by government or bank oversight 24%
Cyberattacks 15%
Hard to trade 10%
Lost access 8%
Other (please specify) 5%

We found that men were significantly more concerned about value stability than women. While 45 percent of men said value stability is their biggest concern, only 33 percent of women chose it as their highest. Women were significantly more concerned than men about lack of protection from government or bank oversight; while 29 percent of females chose this option as their highest concern, only 18 percent of men did.

What is your greatest concern regarding cryptocurrency? Male responses Female responses
Unstable value 45% 33%
Unprotected by government or bank oversight 18% 29%
Cyberattacks 13% 16%
Hard to trade 11% 9%
Lost access 7% 10%
Other (please specify) 6% 3%

Cyber attacks can stem from account takeovers and data breaches.

Benefits

The biggest benefit, ironically, was potential price increases at 33 percent, compared to avoiding banking and transaction fees at 22 percent.

Which of these do you believe is the greatest benefit of cryptocurrency? Responses
Potential price increases 33%
Avoiding banking/transaction fees 22%
Anonymity 21%
Investments are out of bank and government oversight 20%
Other (please specify) 5%

Note that some cryptocurrency storage platforms involve cryptocurrency transactions.

Conclusion

According to our respondents, the major issues with cryptocurrency are the same as its benefits, fluctuating values, and lack of oversight. While being able to avoid banking fees is nice for the crypto-owner, it creates potential accessibility issues that many potential owners may not have considered. Learn more about how to store Bitcoin securely in cryptocurrency wallets like a paper wallet, hot wallets, digital wallets, cold storage, and other options.

Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether or not you want to invest in cryptocurrency, but clearly, the cryptocurrency market is only growing, so if you want to hold cryptocurrency, make sure to store it securely in crypto wallets with private keys. Only share your wallet address on peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchanges, and don’t share it on social media, nor any information about your digital currencies.

Methodology

We asked 1,289 U.S. adults about their knowledge, ownership, and experience with cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin. Out of the respondents, 612 owned cryptocurrency currently; 314 were men and 298 were women. The survey took place in May 2021. All respondents were 18 and older and agreed to participate in SurveyMonkey surveys.

We also used data from Gemini, Statista, Morning Consult, and Google Trends to put our cryptocurrency security research into context. Our population estimates are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.