Founded in 2011 by Jesse Powell, Kraken is a U.S. based cryptocurrency exchange. It features more support for fiat-to-crypto trades than almost any other exchange and is one of very few to offer customers live support.
Kraken is easy to use and offers high deposit and withdrawal limits for verified users.
Binance is a global cryptocurrency platform that provides customers with access to more than 100 cryptocurrencies. The exchange is considered the most popular in the industry, despite the fact it only launched in 2017. CEO Chengpeng Zhao started the company after helping launch blockchain.info in 2013. Bnance offers an easy to use trading platform, more currency pairs than most other exchanges and a great referral program.
Coinbase.com offers customers an easy-to-use way to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies instantly and at fair market prices. Founded in 2012, the company is home to over 1,100 employees, 26 different digital assets and four different platforms that cater to both individual and institutional investors. Coinbase is universally regarded as one of the top digital asset exchange platforms in the world.
Established in Slovenia by two young programmers in 2011, Bitstamp focuses on ease of use and implements a slow growth expansion strategy. The exchange offers high liquidity and low fees, supporting 50 different countries around the world.
Bitfinex is one of the largest, most popular, longest standing and controversial cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. Based in Hong Kong and launched in 2012, it supports 52 countries and allows users to earn a return for lending currency to margin traders.
We evaluated all of the top cryptocurrency exchanges in the industry. Throughout this thorough review we considered all of the most important factors traders think about. Below we feature a summary of all our comprehensive reviews and the goal is to educate and inform both those brand-new to the world of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. There’s also a considerable amount of information that will appeal to the advanced traitor who wants to learn more about how to invest in digital assets.
Factors we considered include:
- Currencies Offered
- Other Exchange Services
- Payment Methods and Fees
- Payment and Trading Limits
- Customer Support
- Customer Reviews
This general review will compare and contrast the top exchanges we looked at. There are many similarities between them all but also points of difference that separates one from another.
Look no further than CryptoRadar for the most comprehensive reviews in the crypto industry. Both newbies and pros alike will be able to choose the best exchange after coming through this, or at least that’s what we hope!
Here’s to trading bitcoin and all other digital currencies in the most secure, cost-effective and easy-to-use ways possible!
General Cryptocurrency Exchange Tips
It makes sense to come up with general cryptocurrency exchange tips because certain things apply to all exchanges. The reality is that the bitcoin industry subscribes to certain technical principles, marketing strategies and overarching beliefs that give the nuances of trading bitcoin its structure, terminology and process.
The Golden Rule of Crypto Security
The first rule of thumb of using decentralized currencies for investing purposes is to never keep cryptocurrency on an exchange. Don’t get it twisted, many of the top platforms reviewed here at CryptoRadar offer best in class security online. That includes two factor authentication, text message verification, proper Know Your Client processes, and a cold storage approach to security.
All of that being said there’s a saying in bitcoin that will always hold true. If you don’t own your private keys, you don’t own your cryptocurrency. That’s the bottom line. Keep all digital assets on a hardware wallet away from the Internet when there are no trades pending. Yes, all cryptocurrency exchanges charge transaction fees and moving digital assets on and off of exchanges can be costly.
Trust us when we say this. Being a victim of a major hack is way more costly than the few pennies it takes to transfer digital assets from one crypto wallet to another. Always err on the side of caution.
Use More Than One Crypto Exchange
While we did rank our top exchanges, that doesn’t mean traders should stick to one. Outside of getting a hardware wallet and keeping digital assets off-line, using more than one platform also lowers risk. Frequent traders will subscribe to this idea because it will allow them to get the assets they want, earn the profit they desire and still maintain their sanity.
Save On Fees
Crypto exchanges are just like any other centralized business in the traditional banking world. They make their money on fees. Before signing up for a particular exchange, consider how the fees will eat into profits. Consider which cryptocurrencies are the most intriguing (because most exchanges charge different fees depending on the currency being traded). Doing a self-evaluation of one’s own risk tolerance is also important as well as deciding whether to be a long-term investor or short-term day trader.
All of these factors affect how crypto trading platforms administer fees and how much those fees cost when all the accounting is done.
Crypto traders who are just starting out might just assume that the top exchanges trade all of the top currencies and most of the altcoins. The truth is that right now there are over 2,500 altcoins available for trading in the broader cryptocurrency market and there’s no way that one platform hosts all of them. In fact most trading platforms offer less than 10% of the entire market on their platform. Which means money hungry traders who really want access to everything are going to have to be members of more than one exchange.
Ranking Exchanges by Currencies Offered
As far as the top one’s we’ve ranked are concerned, Binance leads the way in terms of sheer number of coins available for trading. The number is 205. For most crypto traders, both rookies and veterans, trading that number of currencies is more than enough. However, as this review progresses, it will become evident that the number of currencies supported is one of many factors to consider when deciding to use a specific platform. Binance certainly won’t meet all the needs of a serious trader, yet it will be more than enough for the average beginner.
Coming in a close second in terms of number of currencies offered is Bitfinex. The site offers 158 different cryptos on its platform. The advantage to using Bitfinex over Binance is that it allows traders to engage in margin trading and short-selling. We’ll get deeper into that in the section below.
Kraken is one of the longest standing exchanges on the market today. The platform was established in 2011 and it offers as many as 30 cryptocurrencies between all its platforms. It offers more than Coinbase but isn’t as convenient to use for instant purchases.
Coinbase offers 26 different cryptocurrencies across all of its platforms, 17 of which are available to purchase instantly with a credit card. When it comes to convenience no other exchange trumps Coinbase.
Like Kraken, Bitstamp is also a veteran exchange. However, it offers the lowest number of digital assets available trade in all of our reviews. In fact, Bitstamp only offers five different currencies. Surprisingly though, the exchange’s trading volume is on par with some of the top competitors.
Other Exchange Services
Every single exchange in this comprehensive review offers advanced trading options for professionals and corporations. Most of the top exchanges offer custody support as well, meaning they cater to institutional investment firms, non-profit organizations and the mega-rich.
All pro and corporate accounts offered by these exchanges aims to please those who either make trades on a frequent basis or trade a large volume of money over a 30 day, 60 day or 90 day span. Coinbase’s brand name is probably the most recognizable and trusted name among frequent traders. However, Bitfinex’s offering comes in a close second.
Bitfinex is also the only exchange at our review that rewards traders for lending their money to other margin traders. No other exchange in our top five rewards users for lending out capital. Although Kraken does allow margin trading, Bitfinex is generally seen as the better platform for engaging in that activity.
Binance rewards frequent traders with lower fees by volume as well and also offers custody support to larger investment organizations. The cool thing about Binance is that it supports 198 countries, which means anyone outside of America (and Americans will soon be able to trade with Binance as well) can use the platform. The only countries that are restricted from using Binance are those closely associated with terrorism or questionable political regimes.
Payment Methods and Fees
As far as fees go, Kraken and Bitstamp both offer 0% trading fees. Every other exchange charges at least a little bit of a fee on every trade. While it might sound impressive and enticing to sign up for a crypto exchange that offers 0% trading fees, the fact is that only applies to very rich people. Traders moving millions of dollars in a 30 day span get the 0% rate, but the average person trading $10,000 or less in a one month span pays a significant trading fee.
Overall, platforms like Kraken, Bitstamp and Bitfinex charge lesser fees than Coinbase for instance. But, that’s because these platforms specialize in crypto-to-crypto trading. All of these platforms will allow users to transfer fiat money with bank wires or preauthorized banking debits (in Coinbase’s case). However, the reality is the overwhelming number of trading pairs offered by these platforms cater to just crypto-specific orders.
Convenience is definitely a consideration when deciding what payment method to use and what fees are worth paying. In general, casual traders who just want convenience will pay more fees but get access to cryptocurrency sooner. Of the exchanges we reviewed only Coinbase allows instant credit card transactions (although that’s changing as other competing platforms evolve). That said, sometimes fees can be up to 5% for those instant transactions.
For crypto-to-crypto traders not treating billions of dollars, Binance is likely the best bet, owning Binance’s BNB token allows users to spend those tokens on trading fees, covering up to 25% of the fees. It’s a unique program and one that made Binance one of the most popular exchanges in the world.
Again, the payment methods and fees that are best for an individual trader depend on that trader’s preferences.
Payment and Trading Limits
Payment and trading limits are usually determined by two things: the traditional banking system and the level of verification that traders are willing to provide.
Though not many exchanges offer instant fiat-to-crypto conversion, they all allow either international bank wires, SEPA transfers (specific to Europe) or preauthorized debits from bank accounts as a way to convert to crypto. The upside of this is traders don’t have to have crypto right off the bat before joining these platforms, the downside is they have to pay bank wire fees to traditional banks and that they are also subject to any transaction limits banks impose on them.
As far as trading limits go, there usually are no limits. The trading limit on a crypto-to-crypto transaction really has more to do with the liquidity available on the open market (and on the specific platform being used). Remember, even though trading platforms look fancy, advanced and complex, they are really just built to facilitate a transaction between a buyer and a seller. If a trader wants to sell a given asset, there has to be a buyer on the other end of it. That’s just common sense.
Withdrawal limits are different story. Taking money out of the crypto exchange is all about the level of verification a trader has provided to the platform. Binance will allow anybody who meets the first level of verification according to their guidelines to withdraw up to two full bitcoins in a 24 hour span. Anybody who wants to withdraw more has to provide more than just government photo ID. That said, most retail traders probably don’t need to withdraw that kind of value on a regular basis.
This is the one area of crypto exchanges were every single platform in the industry lacks. It is very hard to find a way to contact a live human being regarding a concern. Pretty much all of the crypto exchanges we’ve reviewed rely on knowledgebases or automated messaging systems as a way of answering customer inquiries. Due to the nature of these generic approaches to customer service, it’s very difficult to get specific answers to pressing questions.
That’s why it’s so important to be proactive with the security of digital assets. It’s not just the potential of having them stolen that hurts, it’s the fact that there are very few people to complain to when something goes wrong. That’s the thing about cryptocurrencies. They exist as a way to allow people to be their own banks, but that means there is no safety net.
That being said, pro, corporate and institutional accounts usually are supported by live customer support teams. So as is usually the case in business, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Traders providing a high volume of liquidity or incurring a high level of fees typically get preferential treatment on all of these platforms.
That said for the average trader, Bitstamp, Kraken and Bitfinex are probably the best when it comes to getting replies from humans, if only via email.
Unlike other reviews conducted here at CryptoRadar, such as the series on Bitcoin IRA accounts, crypto exchanges don’t typically solicit Google or Facebook reviews and they are not usually registered with consumer watchdog groups like the Better Business Bureau or Business Consumer Alliance.
To get customer reviews for these crypto exchanges we relied on other review sites in the industry and aggregated their ratings along with the thoughts and opinions of customers that left written feedback.
The written feedback and complaints were always the same. They were all from individuals who lost significant amounts of crypto sending money to the wrong wallet address, or getting hacked. Just by looking at all of those comments, it’s obvious that most of the negative experiences people face with these exchanges or any other competitors can be avoided just by keeping assets on cold storage wallets
(IE away from the Internet).
As it turns out, we rated Kraken slightly ahead of Binance in our own reviews. It’s been around for longer, trades a high number of cryptocurrencies and traders are more likely to get support from a live individual. The reality is the live support is what ranks Kraken first, almost by default. No other platform really does a good job of it.
If not for that we would have ranked Binance first. It’s arguably already the most popular platform in the industry today. The two reasons we had to knock Binance down a notch is that it’s American platform is only now just launching and again, the customer support just isn’t where it needs to be.
Kraken and Binance finished one and two in customer ratings with Bitfinex finishing in a close third. We’d mark Coinbase and Bitstamp right behind them, but yet again, there isn’t really a single platform that’s doing a great job in the customer service department compared to say, a traditional bank.
Which Exchange Should You Choose?
Traders cool with dealing in crypto-to-crypto transactions will be perfectly happy using Kraken or Binance to make their trades. Kraken offers margin trading for those that want to accelerate potential gains or capitalize on short selling opportunities. Binance offers the opportunity to save on fees in an innovative and impactful way. Traders in fact can save as much is 25% on fees just by holding the BNB token in their wallet.
If converting fiat money to crypto as quickly as possible is the main concern on the other hand, Coinbase is likely the best. It’s the most user-friendly platform on the market. Provide identification, register a credit card and make an instant purchase on a simple user interface. No need to worry about creating complicated market, limit or stop-loss orders. No need to look at complicated Bollinger Bands or candlesticks and wonder what’s going on. The downside of using Coinbase is that the fees are higher.
All in all, choosing the best platform for trading cryptocurrencies really comes down to personal preference. In general, a trader that wants to get into the market quickly will pay higher fees. Someone who wants to save will have to wait longer and anybody looking to implement advanced trading methods or techniques will need to automatically eliminate certain exchanges from contention.
Take the time to read through all of the individual exchange reviews here at CryptoRadar and don’t be afraid to try more than one before deciding on a go-to platform.