Coinbase Review: MUST READ (2020)

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Coinbase is one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange and is well known because unlike other exchanges, is based in and subject to US regulations. The Exchange is split into several categories, Coinbase– for retail users, Coinbase Pro– their professional trading platform for individuals, Coinbase Prime– for institutional clients. In this review we highlight each of their various features and controversies that you need to know.

Key Advantages of Coinbase

  • Regulated under US law.
  • One of the few exchanges available for US citizens.
  • Maintains an insurance policy against theft or hacks.

Key Features and Functions

Coinbase Pro
Coinbase Pro

One point to note is that Coinbase only offers spot trading, unlike other exchanges which offer other products such as derivatives, futures trading etc.

The Exchange is split into several categories catering for different types of users. Coinbase is for retail users, Coinbase Pro for individual professional traders and Coinbase Prime for institutional clients. This distinction is because they each have different functions to cater for the user. By way of example the main difference between Coinbase and Coinbase Pro are that Coinbase Pro offers charting tools, real-time order books, among other tools to help the advanced trader make most out of the Exchange. Coinbase Pro and Coinbase Prime both offer cheaper transaction fees and more supported cryptocurrencies. However they are still substantially fewer than other Exchanges out there.

Coinbase Pro interface
Coinbase Pro interface

Despite only offering spot trading, Coinbase does have its own suite of products to assist users in getting started. For example it has its own wallet, and allows users to earn cryptocurrencies by participating in their courses.

Coinbase products
Products offered by Coinbase

History of Coinbase

Coinbase was launched in October 2012 and is based in the United States. Their headquarters are located in San Francisco, California. It is also becoming widely used in Europe where it has an operating license. It currently has over 30 million users and over USD$150 billion being traded on the Exchange.

The Exchange has currently expanded to over 100 countries across the globe.

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3.5 Star Rating
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PIT Exchange
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4.5 Star Rating

Supported Countries

Coinbase is available in over 100 countries. Most notably the US, which a lot of Exchanges cannot support due to regulatory issues. However whilst Coinbase says it is “available” in some countries, it may not offer the full set of services i.e. being able to “convert” between different cryptocurrencies, and to “buy and “sell” the same. Check here for the services available for your specific country.

Supported Cryptocurrencies and Payment Methods

Unfortunately, Coinbase has very few listed cryptocurrencies. Also, the availability to buy, sell, send and receive a particular cryptocurrency depends on (a) whether you are using Coinbase or Coinbase Pro; and (b) your location.

Here’s a chart of the cryptocurrencies supported by Coinbase depending on your location.

Coinbase is looking to add support for 18 new digital assets including Aave, Aragon, Arweave, Bancor, COMP, DigiByte, Horizen, Livepeer, NuCypher, Numeraire, KEEP, Origin Protocol, Ren, Render, Siacoin, SKALE, Synthetix, & VeChain. However there is no official timeframe as to when these cryptocurrencies would be added, if at all.

New digital assets
New digital assets

Coinbase provides a variety of payment methods and most importantly, allows traders to pay in their local currency. However there are regional restrictions for payment methods. Below is a helpful list of the accepted payment methods for various countries.

  • Bank deposit: Europe, US, UK
  • Debit card: Available for most countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Europe, Mexico, UK, US.
  • Credit card: Australia, Singapore
  • Paypal: Canada, Europe (most countries), US and UK

You can check here to see the accepted payment methods for your specific country. Although we noticed that the information on supported payment methods is slightly different from the information on their other page.

The Exchange also has its own Coinbase Card– a Visa-based debit card allowing customers to make purchases online and in-store using cryptocurrencies. However it is currently only available to UK and European customers.

Deposit and Withdrawal Fees

There are no fees for deposits onto Coinbase. As for withdrawals, Coinbase will only charge you the relevant bank transfer/wire or network fees required for sending your funds to you.

Trading Fees

Coinbase charges different fees depending on whether you are on Coinbase, Coinbase Pro or Coinbase Prime. Fees are cheaper for the latter 2 due to the larger volume by these traders.

Coinbase charges 2 sets of fees for cryptocurrency purchases and sales: a Spread Fee (around 0.5%) for each trade and a Coinbase Fee which is the greater of (a) a flat fee, the amount of which depends on the amount of the transaction; and (b) a variable percentage fee depending on your region, product feature and payment method.

Here are the flat fees charged by Coinbase:

Total Transaction AmountTransaction Fee (USD, EUR, GBP)
Less than $10$0.99, €0,99, £0,99 
More than $10, Less than $25$1.49, €1,49, £1,49
More than $25, Less than $50$1.99, €1,99, £1,99
More than $50, Less than $200$2.99, €2,99, £2,99
Flat fee

Below is the variable percentage for users in the US. Check here for the variable percentages for other countries.

US variable percentage

Here’s an illustration of how to calculate your buy/sell transaction fee. For example, I’m in the United States and want to purchase USD $20 worth of Bitcoin using my debit card. My flat fee would be USD$1.49 because total transaction amount more than USD$10 but less than USD$25. Whilst the variable percentage would be 3.99% because I am paying with debit card. In this case, Coinbase would charge me USD1.49 because the flat fee is higher than the variable percentage.

For conversions from one type of cryptocurrency to another, Coinbase charges a spread margin of up to 2%. No separate Coinbase Fees are chargeable for this.

Controversies

In late February 2020, Coinbase was identified as one of the entities working with Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition technology provider who was facing legal threats from Apple and Google for lack of scrutiny into its practices. Coinbase admits to testing Clearview’s software but denies that customer’s data was used in any of such tests.

The Exchange has come under fire from users during the Bitcoin price dump on 10th May 2020. On 10th May 2020 at 17:26 Pacific Time, the Exchange’s website and mobile app both experienced outages. 10 minutes later Coinbase came out with a notice saying that it was still investigating this outage, by 18:14, service had been restored. However during this time the price of Bitcoin tumbled from USD $9,500 to $8,100, leaving users only able to helplessly watch the crash and unable to trade.

Coinbase is pretty much infamous for crashing during huge fluctuations in Bitcoin prices. On 29th April 2020, the Exchange suffered an outage whilst Bitcoin prices shot up to just under USD $9,000. And AGAIN on 10th May 2020.

Needless to say, users are not happy with the situation, with some noting that Coinbase “crashes” when there is a huge change in Bitcoin prices. And whilst some attribute this to the Exchange being overloaded with users, others are not satisfied with how Coinbase has not fixed this over the years considering the high fees charged from users.

As to the latest crash on 1st June 2020, Coinbase says that the Bitcoin price spike led to an increase in traffic by 5 times in only 4 minutes. As a result their autoscaling system was overwhelmed and created a backlog which meant that new survey requests were dropped or timed out. Coinbase however alleges that they are working on reducing the impact of price-related traffic spikes.

Is Coinbase safe in 2020?

Coinbase

The Exchange has top of the range security features. Additionally, being licensed in the United States, users have additional protection since Federal laws apply.

In terms of the Exchange’s method for fund storage, only 2% of customer funds are held in hot wallets. The other 98% is kept in secure cold wallets in different parts of the world. So far, it has not been hacked…yet. Also, Coinbase has an insurance policy which insures against theft of cryptocurrencies resulting from security breaches, hacks, employee theft or fraudulent transfer.

On account security, Coinbase advises its users to use two-factor authentication. The system supports either short messages sent to the registered mobile phone number, Google Authenticator, among other reliable ways to prevent malicious account login.

HOWEVER, storing substantial assets in exchanges is not recommended as exchanges are prone to hacks. The best practice is to only leave enough assets for day to day trading on exchanges, the remainder should be stored offline on hardware wallets for.

To learn more about hardware wallets, check out our reviews on the Ledger Nano X and Trezor Model T.

Conclusion: Coinbase exchange pros and cons

Pros

  • Coinbase has remained one of the most secure and reliable cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • The Exchange maintains an insurance policy against hacks and theft, which is reassuring for users.
  • Generally available in many countries, including the US with many payment options.

Cons

  • Fee structure is highly confusing and not the cheapest out there.
  • Lack of trading features.
  • Not many available cryptocurrencies compared to other exchanges out there.
  • Seems to be unable to handle sudden surges of users and has a history of crashing during periods of high price volatility.

Final Score

Services offered: 3/5
Cryptocurrency support: 3.5/5
Fees: 3/5
Security: 4.5/5
Final Score: 3.5

To learn more, check out our review of the top cryptocurrency exchanges.

Updated on 15th June 2020 as to Coinbase’s fees and latest controversies.

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