Coinbase Review (2021)

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Coinbase Review (2021)
  • Ease of Use
  • Beginner Friendly
  • Payment Options
  • Speed
  • Fees
4.4

Summary

Coinbase is one of the largest and most popular cryptocurrency exchanges across the world.

In the UK, it allows you to easily buy, sell, and store more than 50 cryptocurrencies. A range of payment methods are supported too – including UK bank transfer (via FPS) and debit cards.

If you buy or sell more than £200 worth of a cryptocurrency, you’ll be charged a total of about 2% in fees. However, you should expect to pay more than this if you place smaller orders.

Coinbase is one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. It offers a quick and simple way to trade dozens of top coins plus a plethora of additional features that help you make the most of your digital assets.

In this Coinbase review, we’ll take a closer look at everything you need to know about the company. We’ll do a thorough review of all the platform’s major features, how it works, and its various pros and cons.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Straightforward, feature-rich, and user-friendly interface for crypto investors.
  • Access to additional features, like crypto-backed debit cards, staking, and rewards.
  • Most Coinbase features are available in the UK.
  • Supports a relatively large number of cryptocurrencies.
  • Highly rated iOS and Android apps.

Disadvantages

  • Confusing fee structure with limited transparency.
  • High trading and payment fees.
  • Photo ID verification is required for most features.
  • Slow customer support.

What is Coinbase?

Founded in 2012, Coinbase is an international, remote-first cryptocurrency exchange. Technically, the company has no official headquarters, though it was headquartered in San Francisco until 2020.

Coinbase currently boasts more than 68 million verified users in over 100 countries around the globe. The company states that it handles more than US$460 billion in trades every quarter and that it has more than US$180 billion in assets on its platform.

In April of 2020, Coinbase made history by being one of the first major crypto exchanges to go public. It started its history as a publicly traded company with a direct listing on the NASDAQ (COIN) and an initial valuation of nearly $100 billion dollars.

Who is behind Coinbase?
Brian Armstrong (Co-Founder & CEO), Emilie Choi (President & COO), and Surojit Chatterjee (CPO).

Coinbase was founded by Brian Armstrong (a computer scientist), and Fred Ehrsam (a financial executive). Armstrong still works for Coinbase as its CEO. Meanwhile, Ehrsam has since left the company to found Paradigm, a crypto investment firm.

The duo started Coinbase with the goal of making crypto – specifically Bitcoin (BTC) – as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to use it. In recent years, Coinbase’s mission has shifted and the company now states that its goal “is to increase economic freedom in the world.”

Is Coinbase safe?

When you trade crypto, you need to know that your funds will be well-protected.

The good news is that Coinbase is authorised and registered with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with register number 9000635. The firm is also registered with FinCEN in the United States as a Money Services Business.

To protect your assets, Coinbase employs a number of advanced security features, such as offline servers, AES-256 encryption, and address whitelisting. The company also stores approximately 98% of customer funds in globally distributed cold storage units.

Coinbase even offers insurance on account holder assets. The company doesn’t state precisely how much insurance it has, but Coinbase mentions that it “protects a portion of digital assets held across our storage systems against losses from theft.” Fiat currencies in customer wallets are also held in dedicated custodial accounts.

Additionally, in all of its years of operation, the Coinbase platform as a whole has never been hacked. However, it has had a few interesting security-related incidents in recent years.

This includes a 2021 incident where about 125,000 investors received an erroneous notification that someone had changed their 2-factor authentication settings. The incident was a notification mistake and no accounts were actually compromised. Coinbase gave many affected account holders US$100 worth of Bitcoin to make amends for the incident.

Is Coinbase a reputable company?

As of the time of writing, Coinbase has a 1.6* rating with Trustpilot out of more than 5,790 reviews.

Although this is a very low rating (especially when compared to places like Coinburp, Solidi, & Bittylicious) it’s important to put these ratings into context.

For the most part, the low rating reviews on Coinbase’s Trustpilot page come from people who are frustrated with the firm’s identity verification process, slow funds transfers, or holds placed on their account.

But it’s important to remember that these sorts of issues are common across crypto exchanges. It’s not a unique problem. However, many investors also note that Coinbase’s customer service is slow, which is a well-known issue with the platform.

How Does Coinbase Work?

Depending on who you ask, Coinbase can be considered either a crypto brokerage or an exchange.

The standard Coinbase platform acts as a crypto broker – it gives you a simplified way to buy and sell crypto without the need for advanced trading skills.

Buying, selling, and converting cryptocurrencies takes just a few clicks.

Meanwhile, the firm’s Coinbase Pro platform is a centralized exchange that connects buyers and sellers of digital assets.

Account-holders with Coinbase can access the platform either on the company’s website or on a mobile app (iOS and Android). Both the web and mobile platforms are designed to be as streamlined and user-friendly as possible, with the Coinbase app getting high ratings on Google Play and Apple App stores.

Buying crypto on the Coinbase website

One of the simplest ways to purchase crypto with Coinbase is to use the firm’s web-based exchange.

Note that there are actually two Coinbase web-based exchanges: Coinbase and Coinbase Pro. We’ll focus exclusively on the regular Coinbase exchange here.

To purchase Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency on the regular Coinbase web-based exchange, you’ll first navigate to the company’s website and sign in to your account. Then, you’ll do the following:

  • Click the Buy/Sell button
  • Select ‘One time purchase’ or choose another option from the drop-down list to establish a recurring crypto purchase
  • Choose one of the pre-set order values (e.g., £10 or £50) or select ‘Custom’ to type in the fiat or crypto amount of your choice
  • Click on the crypto asset that you want to buy (e.g., Bitcoin or Ether)
  • Select a payment method
  • Confirm your order amount and double-check any applicable fees
  • Click ‘Buy Now’ to submit your buy order.

After you submit your buy order, you can navigate to your portfolio. The crypto that you purchased should appear in your Coinbase wallet.

Buying crypto using the Coinbase mobile app

If you’re interested in purchasing crypto on the go, you can do so in the Coinbase app.

The process for trading crypto on the app is fairly similar to that of trading on the web-based terminal.

To make a crypto purchase in the app, open the app, log in, and do the following:

  • Click the blue double arrow button at the bottom of the screen
  • Select “Buy” from the drop-down list
  • Choose the crypto asset that you want to purchase
  • Type in the amount that you want to purchase
  • Select your payment method
  • Click “Preview Buy”
  • Verify your order total and any applicable fees
  • Press “Buy Now” to submit your order

Your crypto purchase should immediately reflect in your Coinbase wallet after you submit your order. Additionally, the app gives you the option to instantly send any crypto you purchase to an external wallet. However, be sure to verify any network fees before you make your transfer.

Supported Countries

Coinbase currently supports accounts in more than 100 countries.

This includes the UK, US, and Canada, as well as the bulk of the European Union.

While Coinbase offers its services in most of the world’s countries, there are some notable exceptions – like Australia.

There are also many countries and regions, such as Hong Kong and New Zealand, where account holders can’t buy and sell crypto. Rather, they can only convert one supported cryptocurrency into another.

Supported Cryptocurrencies

UK residents can access more than 50 cryptocurrencies. This includes most of the major players, such as:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ether (ETH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Tether (USDT)
  • Solana (SOL)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • USD Coin (USDC)
  • Uniswap (UNI)
  • Chainlink (LINK)

The company adds new coins to its exchange on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some cryptocurrencies aren’t made available in all geographic areas.

You can check out all of the cryptocurrencies that Coinbase supports in the Coinbase Asset Directory. In the directory, you can learn more about each coin, check if there are any geographic restrictions on trading that coin, and get information about supported trading pairs (e.g., BTC to GBP or ETH to USDT).

Payment Methods

Your payment and account funding options with Coinbase vary based on your country of residents.

Account-holders in the UK get access to a variety of payment methods in British Pounds (GBP), Euro (EUR), and crypto.

These include:

  • UK bank transfer (via FPS)
  • SWIFT bank transfer
  • SEPA bank transfer
  • Debit and credit card
  • Crypto deposits

UK account holders cannot deposit any other fiat currency other than GBP and EUR. Unlike other firms that let you deposit any supported fiat currency, Coinbase only allows you to deposit your national or regional fiat currency.

Coinbase Fees

If there’s one thing that Coinbase is known for, it’s the company’s convoluted and expensive fee structure.

Coinbase charges some of the highest fees in the industry for trades placed on its standard trading terminal. However, what you pay can significantly vary based on a few factors.

Here’s a look at the most important fees that the company charges to account holders.

Trading Fees

Determining how much your trade might cost with Coinbase can be a challenge. This is partly because Coinbase recently became MUCH less transparent with its fee schedule.

The company’s full fee disclosure used to completely outline all of the various charges you might expect when placing a trade. However, Coinbase now states that:

“Fees are calculated at the time you place your order and may be determined by a combination of factors including the selected payment method, the size of the order, and market conditions such as volatility and liquidity.”

Although the firm no longer directly publishes its full fee schedule for the standard Coinbase exchange, you will see exactly how much you’ll pay in fees before you place an order.

For this review, I tested various order amounts to see if the fee schedule has changed since the company last made this information public. The good news is that the fees haven’t changed yet, though you should always double-check your potential fees before confirming an order.

With the standard Coinbase exchange, you’re charged two trade fees on every order: a spread fee and a transaction fee.

The spread fee is 0.50% of the trade value.

On top of this, you’ll be charged either a flat or variable transaction fee. This fee varies based on your trade value, which you can see in the table below.

Trade ValueFees
< £10£0.99
£10 to £25£1.49
£25 to £50£1.99
£50 to £200£2.99
> £2001.49%

When compared to alternatives like Binance, Coinbase charges some hefty fees. However, the company’s fees are similar to those found on Gemini.

Do note that these are just the transaction fees. You might need to pay an additional fee based on your chosen payment method (more on that in a bit).

Other Notable Fees

As of the time of writing, Coinbase does not charge a monthly or annual fee for its accounts. Nevertheless, the firm has a slew of other fees that are worth taking note of before you open an account.

First, note that Coinbase charges some fees for fiat deposits and withdrawals. These fees vary substantially based on your chosen payment method, though GBP bank transfers via FPS should usually be your cheapest option.

Check out the table below for an overview of the major fiat deposit and withdrawal fees.

Payment MethodDeposit FeeWithdrawal Fee
SWIFT Bank Transfer (GBP)Free£1
UK Bank Transfer via FPS (GBP)Free£0
SEPA Bank Transfer (EUR)€0.15€0.15
ACH Bank Transfer (USD)FreeFree
Wire Bank Transfer (USD)$10$25
UK Debit Card3.99%2%
PayPalNot Available2%

Coinbase does not charge fees for crypto transfers between Coinbase wallets. For example, you can transfer between your Coinbase account, your Coinbase Pro account, and your Coinbase Wallet without paying a fee. For any other crypto transfer, you will pay a network fee, which will be disclosed to you before you confirm your transaction.

For staking on Coinbase, keep in mind that the company charges a 25% commission. This commission is automatically deducted from your reward and it is already reflected in the company’s advertised rewards rates.

Limits

All account holders are subject to certain limits when using Coinbase.

Account limits on the platform depend on your country of origin, your verification level, and your payment method.

There are 3 verification levels for Coinbase accounts, which differ based on your home country. For UK accounts, the general verification levels are as follows:

Verification LevelsRequirementsBenefits
Level 1Phone number verification£10,000 limit per day
Level 2Personal information verificationUnlimited investing
Level 3Photo ID verificationSend and receive crypto

With Coinbase, you get unlimited crypto deposits to your account. All other deposit and withdrawal limits vary based on your chosen payment method. These daily deposit and withdrawal limits include the following:

Funding OptionDaily Deposit LimitDaily Withdrawal Limit
CryptoUnlimitedUnlimited
UK Bank Transfer (FPS)£250,000£100,000
Other Fiat MethodsUnlimited£100,000

You can process 20 FPS transactions per 24-hour period to your Coinbase account. This transaction limit is set by FPS (not by Coinbase).

All accounts have an initial £100,000 per-day withdrawal limit. If that’s not enough, you can request a higher withdrawal limit in your account settings.

Coinbase Main Features

Coinbase Exchange

Coinbase’s primary feature is its cryptocurrency exchange. Account-holders can access the exchange via its website or mobile app.

The Coinbase exchange is designed to be simple and convenient. It only supports market orders. This means that your trade will process immediately at the current spot price of whatever coin you’re buying.

Fees for this service are fairly high (more on that in a bit). But the idea is that you pay more for the convenience of being able to purchase dozens of supported coins with the push of a button.

An additional feature of the Coinbase exchange is what the company calls ‘recurring buys’. With recurring buys, you can set up automated purchases of any of the firm’s supported cryptocurrencies.

For example, you can establish a recurring buy for £100 of Bitcoin (BTC) every month. Doing so helps you take advantage of the power of dollar-cost averaging, which can be beneficial in the long term.

Coinbase Pro

Although many new traders opt to use the standard Coinbase exchange for their crypto transactions, advanced investors can also use Coinbase Pro. It offers substantially lower fees than the standard platform. However, it has a more complex interface.

Technically, Coinbase Pro is a separate platform offered by Coinbase. To use it, you have to log in directly to the Coinbase Pro terminal. In fact, even though the platforms are linked, you actually have to manually transfer funds between your Coinbase and Coinbase Pro accounts (but transfers are instant and free).

Unlike the standard Coinbase exchange, which prides itself on simplicity and ease of use, Coinbase Pro is crafted with experienced traders in mind. It offers customizable chart options and real-time market data to help you place trades. Coinbase Pro also supports market, stop, and limit orders.

Coinbase Wallet

Every Coinbase account holder automatically gets access to a free hosted hot wallet when they open an account. This is where your crypto is stored after you make a purchase on the Coinbase exchange. When you use this hosted hot wallet, Coinbase has access to, and control over, your funds.

In addition to this, the company offers the Coinbase Wallet. The Coinbase Wallet is a self-hosted personal hot wallet that gives you full control over your crypto and your private keys. It’s a completely separate service from Coinbase and you don’t even need a trading account to use it.

The Coinbase Wallet is available on the Google Play and Apple App stores, and also as a Google Chrome extension. It has a clean and intuitive user interface that has received high ratings on iOS and Android.

With this wallet, investors can store more than 500 different coins and tokens (including NFTs and other digital assets). It also gives you direct access to decentralized exchanges where you can trade your Ethereum-based assets with ease. You can also access DApps (decentralized apps) in the wallet, some of which allow you to earn rewards for staking your crypto.

Coinbase Earn

Coinbase Earn is one of the more unique features of the Coinbase platform.

With the Earn program, any account holder can earn free crypto just for watching educational videos about different cryptocurrencies.

How it works is simple:

  • You log into your account, either on the web or on your mobile device, and navigate to the Earn page.
  • Check if there are any current promotions where you can earn free crypto.
  • If so, you can click on the promotion of your choice, watch short story-format videos, and answer a few questions about what you learned.
  • Once you’ve completed these small quizzes, Coinbase will deposit rewards directly into your account.

The idea behind the Coinbase Earn program is to introduce investors to up-and-coming coins. Most of the rewards are small amounts of money (think £1 for watching a 1-minute video), so it’s not a program that’s designed to make you Scrooge McDuck levels of rich. Instead, it’s meant as a fun, free, and easy way to learn more about the rapidly expanding world of crypto.

Coinbase Card

The Coinbase Card is a crypto-backed Visa card that allows you to make daily purchases using cryptocurrencies.

It’s currently available in the UK and most of the EU, but Coinbase has plans to introduce it to the US and other countries in the near future.

The company currently supports the following assets for purchases made on the Coinbase Card:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ether (ETH)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Stellar Lumens (XLM)
  • Augur (REP)
  • Basic Attention Token (BAT)
  • Ox (ZRX)

With the card, you can purchase goods and services wherever Visa is accepted and you can withdraw cash from ATMs. The card also supports chip and contactless payments as well as Google Pay, so you can use it for most online and in-person purchases.

However, you’ll be charged:

  • £4.95 issuance fee when you open your account.
  • Cryptocurrency exchange fees of 2.49%.
  • Transactions fees when used outside of your home country.

You can learn more in my Coinbase Card review.

Coinbase Staking

Account-holders with Coinbase can access limited crypto staking on the platform.

Staking is available in certain countries, including in the UK, parts of the EU, and most of the US.

In the UK, Coinbase currently supports staking on 5 cryptocurrencies:

  • Ethereum 2.0 (ETH2)
  • Tezos (XTX)
  • Cosmos (ATOM)
  • Algorand (ALGO)
  • Dai (DAI)

Rewards rates for the staking program vary and they can change at any time. At the time of writing, Coinbase advertises rates of 0.15% to 5% for coins staked on its platform. Rewards are paid out either daily or weekly, depending on the coin in question.

Most coins also have a minimum staking amount – but you can only find out what that minimum is on the staking platform.

Coinbase Borrow

Coinbase Borrow is one of the firm’s newest features.

With Coinbase Borrow, eligible account holders can quickly borrow up to US$100,000 from the company without a credit check or loan application.

The new Coinbase Borrow feature is very similar to BlockFi’s crypto loans. When taking out a loan with the program, you have to use your cryptocurrency as collateral. Doing so gives you access to fiat without having to liquidate your digital assets.

All loans from Coinbase Borrow have a minimum interest rate of 8%. There are no fixed repayment plans so long as you pay at least your interest on a monthly basis.

As of the time of writing, Coinbase Borrow isn’t available in the UK (just some US states). However, the company has plans to expand its offerings to other regions in the near future.

Coinbase Private Client

Ultra-high net worth individuals who want personalized support with their crypto investments can check out Coinbase Private Client.

This service gives eligible investors a dedicated account manager and access to the firm’s institutional research. These investors can also get access to the company’s custodial services and a dedicated trading desk. This service could also be used to establish crypto-based trusts and other institutional accounts.

Coinbase doesn’t explicitly define eligibility for its Private Client service. But ‘ultra-high net worth’ is generally regarded as meaning that someone has more than US$30 million (£22 million) in investable net assets. Fees for this service are also established on an individual basis, so contact the firm directly for more information if you’re interested and eligible.

Coinbase for Business

Most of Coinbase’s features are designed for the individual investor.

However, Coinbase has expanded its offerings to include a suite of features designed for business owners in recent years.

These include:

  • Coinbase Prime: A custodial, trading, and asset management solution for institutional investors.
  • Coinbase Commerce: The company’s solution for eCommerce businesses that want to accept crypto for online purchases.
  • Coinbase Custody: A straightforward and secure crypto custodial service for institutions.
  • Coinbase Asset Hub: This service allows digital asset developers to list their products on the Coinbase exchange.
  • Coinbase Analytics: This powerful resource gives financial institutions, crypto businesses, and even governmental agencies access to real-time crypto analytics.

Coinbase Alternatives

Although Coinbase is a popular crypto exchange, it’s not the right option for everyone. Thankfully, there are plenty of Coinbase alternatives for you to choose from.

Gemini

Coinbase’s closest alternative is the US-based firm Gemini, which offers similar features in an equally user-friendly format. Gemini’s fees are very similar to those on Coinbase, and, like Coinbase, Gemini has both a basic and advanced trading terminal. The primary differences between the two firms are the additional features that they offer.

In addition to its trading terminals, Gemini offers an interest-bearing account called Gemini Earn, a crypto rewards credit card, a crypto-backed payment system called Gemini Pay, and custodial services. Gemini also has its own stablecoin, Gemini dollar (GUSD), that’s on a 1:1 peg to the US dollar.

CoinJar

Another Coinbase alternative to consider if you’re a UK or Australian resident is CoinJar.

When compared to both Gemini and Coinbase, CoinJar is substantially cheaper – as the firm charges a flat 1% fee for all crypto transactions. However, CoinJar has a smaller selection of supported coins than Coinbase and doesn’t offer nearly as many additional features.

Coinbase Review: The Bottom Line

In the world of crypto, it’s hard to overlook an industry giant like Coinbase.

With Coinbase, investors around the globe have access to a wide array of cryptocurrencies on a user-friendly interface – which excels at making the crypto investing process as seamless as possible.

While the firm’s high fees aren’t for everyone, some investors might find that they’re okay with paying a premium for access to Coinbase’s many features.

Ultimately, Coinbase is a solid one-stop-shop for many crypto traders. Even if it doesn’t offer as many advanced investing features as a platform (like Binance or Crypto.com), it might be worth considering if convenience and ease of use are top priorities for you.

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