Crypto Swap: Everything to Know

By  Beluga Research October 30, 2023

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  • A crypto swap is the process of exchanging one digital asset for another, an act that increases liquidity for the asset and the marketplace
  • Crypto swaps, or decentralized exchange (DEX) platforms, have become popular in the cryptocurrency space
  • A DEX allows users to trade digital assets directly with each other without the need for centralized exchanges or third parties like banks
  • Crypto swaps offer enhanced security, privacy and faster transactions, but have the disadvantages of being prone to scams and having a lack of regulatory oversight


A crypto swap is the process of exchanging one digital asset for another, an act that increases liquidity for the asset and the marketplace. Crypto swaps are often accomplished through decentralized exchange (DEX) platforms. The cost of engaging in a crypto swap is a gas fee on the platform where the swap occurs. This cost varies depending on the amount of cryptocurrency exchanged and the level of activity on the platform at the time the swap takes place.

A crypto swap benefits a party who seeks to acquire a cryptocurrency that they believe will generate a profit. A user may engage in a crypto swap to get rid of a token that is sunsetting, becoming less popular or to acquire a token that is becoming more widely used. A user should examine what losses they can suffer and set limits on the terms of the swap to reduce risk.

A Brief History

DEX platforms and crypto swaps emerged as a response to the limitations and vulnerabilities of centralized exchanges. Centralized exchanges like Coinbase and Binance have played a crucial role in the cryptocurrency market. Yet they are vulnerable to hacking attempts. They also often require users to complete lengthy registration processes and adhere to Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. These measures compromise user privacy.

Crypto Swap: Everything to Know

How do crypto swaps work? Crypto swaps operate on decentralized platforms that use smart contracts. Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with predefined rules and conditions encoded on the blockchain. When a user initiates a swap, the smart contract automatically executes the exchange based on the predetermined conditions.

Advantages of crypto swaps. Crypto swaps offer several advantages over traditional exchanges. They provide enhanced security by eliminating the need for a centralized intermediary. Since funds are not held by a third party, the risk of hacking or theft is significantly reduced. Additionally, crypto swaps allow users to maintain control over their private keys. This ensures full ownership of the assets.

Crypto swaps promote privacy. Unlike centralized exchanges that often require extensive user information, crypto swaps can be accessed with minimal personal data. This preserves user anonymity. It also protects sensitive information from potential data breaches.

Crypto swaps facilitate faster transactions. Traditional exchanges often involve multiple intermediaries. This leads to delays and additional fees. Crypto swaps occur directly between users. This allows for quicker settlement times and reduced transaction costs.

Types of crypto swaps. There are two primary types of crypto swaps: On-chain swaps and off-chain swaps.

On-chain swaps occur directly on the blockchain. They utilize smart contracts to facilitate the exchange. These swaps typically involve decentralized exchange protocols like SushiSwap. On-chain swaps provide a high level of security and transparency. All transactions are recorded on the blockchain.

Off-chain swaps occur outside of the blockchain. They rely on an off-chain order matching system. Users' orders are matched before the actual transaction is settled on the blockchain. Off-chain swaps can offer faster transaction times. They may sacrifice some of the security and transparency provided by on-chain swaps.

Risks and considerations. Crypto swaps offer numerous benefits, but a user should be aware of the associated risks. These include scam projects and fraudulent tokens. As crypto swaps allow for the listing of various tokens, some tokens may be fraudulent. Some crypto swaps may disadvantage a user. Therefore, users must conduct thorough research and exercise caution before participating in a swap.

The decentralized nature of crypto swaps means that there is no regulatory oversight. Centralized exchanges adhere to specific regulations. Crypto swaps operate in a relatively unregulated environment. This offers greater freedom, but it means users must take responsibility for their own security and exercise caution when engaging in swaps.

Getting Started

  • Get a digital wallet that supports the desired cryptocurrencies and a compatible DEX platform. Wallets can be software-based, mobile or desktop applications or hardware wallets for enhanced security. Once a wallet is set up, users can connect it to a DEX platform.
  • Users decide which digital assets they want to exchange. This could involve swapping one cryptocurrency for another. It could also involve converting a cryptocurrency into a different token on the same blockchain. For example, an exchange could require a trade of bitcoin (BTC) for ether (ETH) or conversion of Tether (USDT) into a something like UNI, the governance token for Uniswap.
  • Users specify the amount of the initial asset they want to exchange and the desired asset they want to receive. The DEX platform calculates the conversion rate and displays the estimated amount of the target asset. Crypto swaps are subject to market liquidity. The actual rate at the time of execution may differ slightly from the estimated rate.
  • The transaction is submitted to the blockchain network for processing. Smart contracts eliminate the need for intermediaries. They ensure transparency and security.

Unique Aspects

  • Decentralized nature. Unlike centralized exchanges that require users to deposit funds into a central custodial wallet, crypto swaps allow users to retain control of their assets throughout the swapping process. This reduces the risk of hacks and theft associated with centralized exchanges.
  • Absence of intermediaries. Traditional exchanges often rely on brokers or clearinghouses to facilitate transactions. Crypto swaps operate directly on the blockchain, enabling peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions without intermediaries. This enhances efficiency and reduces costs. It also mitigates counterparty risks.
  • Provide users with greater privacy. Centralized exchanges typically require extensive identity verification. Crypto swaps can be accessed without disclosing personal information. This anonymity appeals to users who value privacy and want to retain control over their personal data.
  • Contribute to the liquidity of the overall cryptocurrency market. As more users participate in swaps, the trading volume increases. This enhances market liquidity. Liquidity is crucial for healthy price discovery and efficient trading. The decentralized nature of crypto swaps allows for the listing of a wide range of digital assets, including those unavailable on centralized exchanges.


  • Control: Crypto swaps give users complete control over their funds throughout the exchange process. There is no need to transfer assets to a third-party exchange. This reduces the risk of theft or loss.
  • Privacy: Crypto swaps offer a certain level of privacy. Users do not need to create accounts or provide personal information. Swapping cryptocurrencies through decentralized platforms only requires wallet addresses, preserving anonymity.
  • Speed: Crypto swaps are fast because they eliminate order matching and processing times found in centralized exchanges. Swaps are typically completed within minutes. This allows users to seize market opportunities promptly.
  • Lower Fees: Crypto swaps are cost-effective compared to traditional exchanges. They eliminate intermediaries and associated fees. Users may only incur minimal transaction fees on the blockchain network.
  • Wide Selection: Cryptocurrency swaps provide access to a wide range of digital assets, including tokens from different blockchain networks. This allows users to diversify their portfolios. It also facilitates the exploration of different investment opportunities within the crypto ecosystem.


  • Limited Liquidity: Crypto swaps, especially on decentralized platforms, may have limited liquidity compared to centralized exchanges. It can be challenging to find suitable swap pairs or execute large trades without incurring a loss.
  • Price Slippage: Price slippage can occur in crypto swaps, particularly with larger trades. As the trade is executed directly on the blockchain, the market price may fluctuate during the transaction. This results in a slightly different execution price than expected. That issue can lead to losses.
  • Technical Complexity: Crypto swaps often require users to interact with decentralized applications (dapps) or DEX platforms. These are technically challenging for individuals unfamiliar with blockchain technology. Users need to understand concepts like wallet addresses, gas fees and transaction confirmations to successfully complete a swap. Educational guides can help resolve these concerns.
  • Smart Contract Risks: Smart contracts are designed to be secure. Yet they may contain vulnerabilities that malicious actors can exploit. Users must be cautious and conduct due diligence on the smart contracts and platforms they use for crypto swaps.
  • Irreversibility: Once a crypto swap is executed on the blockchain, it is generally irreversible. Unlike traditional financial systems where transactions can be reversed or disputed, blockchain transactions are immutable. Users must double-check all transaction details before executing a swap to avoid problems.