Bitcoin exchanges are platforms that allow users to do various things, such as buy, sell, or trade bitcoin. Exchanges are key players in the Bitcoin network as not only do they provide on-ramps and exit-ramps for users, they provide a marketplace for trading, liquidity, and price discovery.
Some exchanges offer different variants of the above, but in order to be a Bitcoin exchange, the service must allow users to do at least one of these. You can buy bitcoins from exchanges or directly from other people selling them. You can pay for bitcoins in a variety of ways, ranging from hard cash to wire transfers, depending on who you are buying them from and what country you live in.
Bitcoin exchanges typically have multiple components to their service offerings such as buying, selling, trading (user-to-user), specialized computer algorithms to match together buyers and sellers, fast deposits and withdrawals, multiple currencies, compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws, s focus on user security and Bitcoin security, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), proof of solvency, integrated wallets to store bitcoin, and so on.
To see a list of the top Bitcoin exchanges in the United States, visit CoinSalad.com and view the markets section.