A major cryptocurrency exchange is going public. Here’s what that means, and what to know about Coinbase stock.

This article provides information and education for investors. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.

On Feb. 25, 2021, the U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase filed its paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public via a direct listing, a strategy that Slack and Spotify also used to sell shares directly to the public without an intermediary. The company will list its shares on the Nasdaq under the stock ticker “COIN.”

Coinbase hasn’t yet provided an official date for its IPO (although existing shareholders do have the opportunity to sell their shares pre-IPO via the Nasdaq Private Market), but some reports have suggested it could be early in 2021. And while it hasn’t yet set a share price for its public market debut, shares sold via Nasdaq Private Markets were most recently valued at $373, giving Coinbase a valuation of about $100 billion.

» Want to learn more about Coinbase? Check out our Coinbase review

Want to buy Coinbase stock? Here are some things to consider

After Coinbase has gone public, you’ll be able to buy and sell its shares on the stock market like any other public company. (Learn how to buy stocks.)

However, what’s unique about this stock is that your investment’s potential success is tied to the popularity and trading volume of cryptocurrencies, but you won’t have to convert your U.S. dollars into cryptocurrency, according to Randy Carver, a registered principal with Raymond James Financial and president and CEO of Carver Financial Services in Mentor, Ohio.

“Buying Coinbase [stock] could provide a way to participate indirectly. It’s like the person selling picks and shovels to the miners; you don’t have to be a prospector to make money,” Carver says.

According to Chris McAlary, CEO of bitcoin ATM operator CoinCloud, Coinbase’s IPO could be a way for more traditional investors to gain crypto exposure without feeling like they’re jumping squarely into the game of speculation.

“If they’re more comfortable investing in stocks and putting their money behind a company with cash flow, a board of directors and the whole traditional infrastructure, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to bypass crypto volatility and invest in Coinbase stocks instead,” McAlary says.

Still intrigued? Consider these factors to decide if Coinbase is right for you.

1. The future of cryptocurrency

When you invest in a company, it’s a vote of confidence in the company itself, but it also shows you expect demand for its product or service to rise, too. Do you believe there’s a future for cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, Ethereum and the dozens of altcoins available to trade on Coinbase? Do you believe cryptocurrency is the “future of money” that could usher in an “open financial system around the world,” as Coinbase states on its website?

Or, is this all just a fad? An exchange like Coinbase is highly susceptible to changes in demand, and if crypto loses its appeal and users stop exchanging on Coinbase, this could impact revenue.

Just as you would want a thorough understanding of the renewable energy market before investing in a renewable energy company, you’ll want to fully wrap your head around cryptocurrencies before investing in a pure-play crypto company.

» Want to dive deeper? Learn more about cryptocurrencies

2. Coinbase’s role in the future of crypto

If you believe there’s a future for cryptocurrencies, the next question to ask yourself is whether Coinbase is positioned to capitalize on cryptocurrency’s popularity. This is where investors might perform a fundamental analysis as they would with any other public company: studying the company’s revenue, earnings, user growth, competition, management and dozens of other factors.

But investing in Coinbase comes with a Catch-22: If you fully believe in cryptocurrency — that is, believe in the applications and value of a decentralized public ledger — then do you have confidence in Coinbase, which is itself a centralized company?

In addition to the Coinbase app, the company does offer its Coinbase Wallet separately, which lets users store their own cryptocurrencies and explore decentralized applications. However, Coinbase Wallet only charges fees to cover the transaction costs it incurs, not the revenue-generating per-transaction fees of the primary Coinbase app.

3. What you can afford to invest in Coinbase

When it comes to actually investing in Coinbase, the same rules apply for buying equity in any company: There’s inherent risk, and you should invest only an amount you can afford to lose. Moreover, don’t invest any cash you might need in the near future, say for at least the next five years. Building in this buffer will give you time to potentially recover from any near-term drops in the stock price.

Lastly, if you’ve yet to start a long-term, index fund-based investment plan, most financial advisors would suggest funding such an investment before diving into the stock of a company that has recently gone public — or any individual stock, for that matter.

But once Coinbase has gone public, and if you decide it’s an appropriate investment for your portfolio, you can learn how to buy stocks here.