Kraken Review (2021)

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Since beginning operations in 2013, Kraken has established itself as one of the premier global cryptocurrency exchanges. It currently lists 87 cryptocurrencies and 12 currency pairs.

Aside from simple spot trading, Kraken offers several other services. This includes staking, futures contracts, margin trading, and even an over-the-counter (OTC) desk.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Kraken, how it works, and what it offers, then stick around and continue reading this Kraken review!

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • 87 cryptocurrencies and 38 GBP pairs
  • Never been hacked.
  • All cryptocurrency deposits are 100% backed by reserves.
  • On-chain and off-chain staking options are available.
  • Robust trading platform.
  • Good for both beginners and experienced users.
  • Quick verification for most account types (< 5mins).
  • Largest crypto-based OTC desk in operation.

Disadvantages

  • 2-star Trustpilot score (based on 1000+ reviews).
  • No digital wallet/custodial service available.
  • Customer service is limited to live chat (no phone assistance).
  • No crypto debit card is currently available.
  • Max margin is noticeably less than many other exchanges.
  • Staking options are fairly limited in comparison to other exchanges/platforms.

What Is Kraken?

Kraken is a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange founded by Jesse Powell in 2011 shortly after the infamous Mt.Gox security breach. After nearly two years of development, Kraken officially went live in 2013, making it one of the longest-running exchanges in operation.

It’s one of the most popular cryptocurrency trading platforms around – and regularly finds itself among the top five exchanges globally based on daily spot volume. Furthermore, Kraken receives an average of just over 2 million weekly visits, putting it behind Binance, Coinbase, and FTX, respectively.

Along with being one of the longest-running platforms, Kraken also has the distinction of being the first crypto-exchange to gain designation as a bank.

In September of 2020, the Wyoming Banking Division granted Kraken SPDI status. This means that it’s licensed to hold digital and fiat currencies and offer selected banking services – like debit cards and payment processing. However, SPDI banks are forbidden from lending out user funds.

In addition to these regulations, SPDI banks must hold reserves backing 100% of all cryptocurrency on deposit.

A brief history of the Kraken

2011: Jesse Powell begins development shortly after the mass-scale hack on Mt. Gox.

2013: The exchange beta-launched in May 2013, and a full launch occurred in September of the same year. Initially, only BTC and LTC were offered – but DOGE and ETH were added shortly after.

2014: Along with Coinbase, Kraken was the first exchange added to Bloomberg’s Asset Tracking Terminal for the purpose of tracking live BTC prices. Shortly before this, Kraken would receive a 5 million USD investment from HummingBird Ventures, which still holds a minority stake in the company.

2016: Having ceased operations within the state of New York the previous year, Kraken acquires Coinsetter, allowing them to restore partial services in New York and gain easier access to the Canadian market. During this time, the company also acquired the Dutch exchange CleverCoin along with the wallet service Glidera. These acquisitions allowed Kraken to expand their operations in Europe and increase their access to the SEPA network.

2017: Kraken acquires Cryptowatch, a popular website among day-traders for real-time price updates. Immediately following this acquisition, Kraken began working on its live trading interface/platform, which it would release shortly after. By this time, several new coins/tokens were added to Kraken’s catalogue, including BCH, XRP, ETC, XMR, DASH, and more.

2018: Kraken pulls out of Japan due to rising operation costs. Since then, some services have been restored, however Japan-based clients only have access to 6 cryptocurrencies. Leverage trading options are also added around this time.

2019: Kraken acquires Circle Trade, making them owners of the largest crypto OTC desk. Following this move, Kraken also launched an asset-staking program.

2020: Kraken receives an SPDI license in Wyoming. By this time, 6 fiat currencies along with over 40 crypto-trading pairs are supported.

2021: Kraken adds 26 new crypto trading pairs to customers trading in GBP and AUS. By now, Kraken hosts 87 coins, 7 fiat currencies, and over 345 markets to trade. According to several news releases, Kraken intends to go public in 2022.

Where is Kraken headquartered?

Kraken’s main headquarters is located in San Francisco, California.

It also has several other offices around the world, including:

  • London, United Kingdom
  • Halifax, Canada
  • Road Town, Virgin Islands
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • Cheyanne, Wyoming
Who runs Kraken?

Kraken is run by founder and CEO Jesse Powell. Before starting Kraken, he operated several small companies based around the online gaming community and related products.

Besides Jesse, Kraken has over 2000 employees, most of whom are located in San Francisco. Of these 2000 employees, there are several names worth mentioning, the most important being David Kinitsky.

When Kraken acquired Circle in 2019, David came on board and eventually became the CEO of Kraken Bank (the entity that received the SPDI license in Wyoming). Aside from Circle, David has substantial experience in the crypto/financial sector, having worked with well-known entities such as Grayscale and Fidelity.

Kraken also employs Michael Giorgio as COO – a man who spent the last 20 years developing commercial banks – and Marco Santori as CLO, who has sat on the Bitcoin Foundation Regulatory Affairs Committee for the last eight years.

Kraken Digital Asset Exchange is a separate entity from Kraken Bank. The former is responsible for the trading platform and associated services, whereas the latter will be responsible for crypto banking products (which have yet to launch).

What Services Does Kraken Offer?

Here is the key functionality that Kraken offers:

  • Spot trading
  • Futures trading
  • Margin trading
  • On and off-chain staking
  • Mobile support
  • Access to an OTC desk

Spot Trading on Kraken

Like most crypto exchanges, Kraken supplies users with two ways to buy and sell crypto – a basic buy/sell order form and a full-fledged trading interface (which we will cover in greater detail in a later section).

One feature I like about spot trading on Kraken is that you can switch between simple and advanced order forms.

As shown below, the simple trading interface allows you to quickly submit market or limit orders. Not fancy at all – just the bare essentials.

Kraken’s simple order interface (click to enlarge).

As shown below, the advanced order form allows you to customise your order with much more precision. Amongst other things, it supports several order types – including limit, stop loss, take profit, stop-limit loss, and take profit limit.

Kraken’s advanced order interface (click to enlarge). This example shows a buy limit order that has been configured to buy 0.07 BTC at or below the price of £34,691. At the same time, a stop loss condition has been specified that will immediately sell the purchased BTC if it drops 5% or more in value.

Futures Trading on Kraken

Retail investors who are UK residents are not eligible to access future markets on Kraken.

Kraken offers Perpetual, Monthly, and Quarterly contracts (in USD) on:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

Derivative trading volume (which includes futures contracts) on Kraken isn’t fantastic – they’re barely within the top 20 crypto exchanges which offer it. This might be taken as a sign that, at least for now, traders prefer to trade futures on alternative exchanges (like Binance or FTX).

Head over here for more information.

Margin Trading on Kraken

Margin trading allows you to execute spot orders with borrowed funds using your account balance as collateral.

As of now, the highest level of leverage offered by Kraken is 5x on the Bitcoin (BTC) market. This means that you can trade up to five times your account balance. The amount of leverage permitted for other cryptocurrencies, like Stellar (XLM) or Cosmos (ATOM), is lower than this.

While UK citizens won’t have trouble accessing margin trading on Kraken, Bitcoin (BTC) is the only cryptocurrency that can be margin traded with GBP (at 3x). But despite this, GBP balances can still be used as collateral when using leverage in other markets.

What cryptocurrencies can be traded using margin on Kraken?

You can currently trade 23 cryptocurrencies using margin on Kraken:

  • Algorand (ALGO)
  • Augur (REP)
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Cosmos (ATOM)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • EOS (EOS)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Filecoin (FIL)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Stellar Lumens (XLM)
  • Monero (XMR)
  • OmiseGO (OMG)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Tether (USDT)
  • Tezos (XTZ)
  • Tron (TRX)
  • USD Coin (USDC)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

Although the fees associated with margin trading on Kraken are fairly reasonable, both Binance and FTX offer higher leverage rates with more supported cryptocurrencies.

Staking on Kraken

As is common amongst large and mid-level exchanges, Kraken provides users with several on and off-chain staking options. Unfortunately, with only nine on-chain cryptocurrencies supported, Kraken’s staking service is underdeveloped compared to other exchanges like Binance and KuCoin.

That being said, several popular coins, such as ETH, ADA, and DOT, are available, and yearly rewards range from 4% – 20%. For an updated overview of currently supported coins and their respective APR, visit here.

What on-chain staking options does Kraken offer?
  • Ethereum 2.0 (ETH)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Solana (SOL)
  • Kusama (KSM)
  • Cosmos (ATOM)
  • Flow (FLOW)
  • Kava.io (KAVA)
  • Tezos (XTZ)
What off-chain staking options does Kraken offer in the UK?
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • United States Dollar (USD)
What's the difference between on-chain and off-chain staking?

On-chain staking involves lending proof-of-stake-based coins to their respective networks to help facilitate and validate transactions. In compensation for this, proof-of-stake networks offer rewards to those willing to stake their coins/tokens.

In contrast, off-chain staking means staking coins to a network that isn’t the coins native proof-of-stake network. In this instance, all off-chain staking is facilitated by Kraken’s internal system.

Kraken Mobile Apps

Kraken currently supports three mobile applications:

  • Kraken: Kraken’s main mobile app is straightforward to use, supporting a quick-buy interface and easy to access transaction history. While it’s decent, it lacks features that you’ll find in apps provided by alternative exchanges (like Coinbase Pro).
  • Kraken Pro: The Pro version is a feature-heavy application aimed at active traders instead of casual investors. Even though the UI may take some getting used to, it’s a fairly powerful app in the hands of those who know how to use it.
  • Kraken Futures: The Kraken Futures app allows users to manage their futures portfolio from their mobile devices. Unfortunately, this is the lowest rated app in the exchange’s catalogue, and currency holds a 4-star rating on the Apple store and a 3.2-star rating on Google Play.

All of these mobile apps are compatible with iOS and Android devices.

Kraken OTC Desk

Kraken is known for operating the largest crypto-based OTC desk, allowing users to make large block trades in private and without slippage.

Another advantage of using an OTC Desk is that because all orders are filled in private, they don’t have an impact on the public price.

As of now, the Kraken OTC Desk supports the trading of 35 cryptocurrencies and has a minimum trade size of $100,000. It also comes with 1-on-1 support and one of the largest liquidity pools in existence.

Supported Countries

While Kraken accepts customers from all over the world, there are several countries/regions where the exchange doesn’t operate. Moreover, some countries and jurisdictions have restrictions placed on them regarding deposits, withdrawals, staking, and trading options.

Luckily, UK citizens face no such limitations and can buy, sell, hold, and stake any cryptocurrency available on Kraken.

It’s also worth mentioning that residents of Canada and Australia are restricted from buying, holding, trading, and staking a variety of coins/tokens, and the majority of US citizens will not qualify for Margin trading.

Where does Kraken NOT Operate?

Residents of the following countries cannot open an account with Kraken

  • Afghanistan
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • Congo-Kinshasa
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan

Supported Cryptocurrencies

Kraken supports a total of 87 cryptocurrencies, including many large-cap coins like Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Cardano (ADA), Dogecoin (DOGE), Ripple (XRP), and more.

What cryptocurrencies are supported by Kraken?
  • 0x (ZRX)
  • 1inch (1INCH
  • Aave (AAVE)
  • Aavegotchi (GHST)
  • Algorand (ALGO)
  • Ankr (ANKR)
  • Aragon (ANT)
  • Augur (REP)
  • Axie Infinity (AXS)
  • Badger DAO (BADGER)
  • Balancer (BAL)
  • Bancor (BNT)
  • Band Protocol (BAND)
  • Basic Attention Token (BAT)
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Cartesi (CTSI)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Chiliz (CHZ)
  • Compound (COMP)
  • Cosmos (ATOM)
  • Covalent (CQT)
  • Curve DAO Token (CRV)
  • Dai (DAI)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Decentraland (MANA)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • dYdX (DYDX)
  • Energy Web Token (EWT)
  • Enjin (ENJ)
  • Enzyme (MLN)
  • EOS (EOS)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Filecoin (FIL)
  • Flow (FLOW)
  • Gnosis (GNO)
  • Ixcoin (IXC)
  • Injective Protocol (INJ)
  • Karura (KAR)
  • Kava.io (KAVA)
  • Keep Network (KEEP)
  • Kusama (KSM)
  • Kyber Network Crystal (KNC)
  • Lisk (LSK)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Loopring (LRC)
  • Maker (MKR)
  • Mina (MINA)
  • Mirror Protocol (MIR)
  • Monero (XMR)
  • Mover (MOVE)
  • Nano (NANO)
  • Ocean Protocol (OCEAN)
  • OMG Network (OMG)
  • Orchid (OXT)
  • Origin Protocol (OGN)
  • PAX Gold (PAXG)
  • Perpetual Protocol (PERP)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
  • Polygon (MATIC)
  • Qtum (QTUM)
  • Ren (REN)
  • Rarible (RARI)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Serum (SRM)
  • SnodeCoin (SND)
  • Siacoin (SC)
  • Solana (SOL)
  • Stellar (XLM)
  • Storj (STORJ)
  • SushiSwap (SUSHI)
  • Synthetix (SNX)
  • tBTC (TBTC)
  • Tether (USDT)
  • Tezos (XTZ)
  • The Graph (GRT)
  • The Sandbox (SAND)
  • TRON (TRX)
  • Waves (WAVES)
  • Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC)
  • yearn.finance (YFI)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

Kraken Deposit Methods

Kraken currently accepts deposits in seven fiat currencies:

  • Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • United States Dollar (USD)
  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)

UK residents can deposit GBP using a UK bank transfer (via FPS) without paying any fees.  Alternatively, you can deposit GBP using CHAPS (£21 fee) or SWIFT (£3 fee).

But FYI: your bank might charge additional fees if you send money using CHAPS or SWIFT to Kraken.

For more information (and options available for other currencies), check out this page.

What is Etana Custody?

Established in 2014, Estana is a New Zealand-based custodial service for digital and fiat currencies currently registered with the Colorado Division of Banking.

Once an account is opened, users can link their Kraken and Etana accounts to facilitate transfers of GBP, CAD, EUR, USD, and JPY between the two.

Before SWIFT and SEPA transfers were available, Etana was a way for Kraken users to fund their accounts with fiat. However, the service is plagued with user complaints, and currently holds a 2.4-star rating on Trustpilot.

Kraken Fees

Like any other cryptocurrency exchange, Kraken charges different fees for market makers and market takers.

For market makers, trading fees start at 0.16%, while market takers can expect to pay 0.26% per trade. High-volume traders who transact over USD 50,000 within a 30-day period will receive slightly lower fees.

Trading fees for fiat currency pairs and stable coins are higher and both makers and takers will pay 0.20% per trade when less than USD 50,000 is transacted per month.

Similarly, withdrawing cryptocurrency will also incur fees. While Kraken doesn’t charge a fee for processing the transaction, almost all coins/tokens have unavoidable network transaction costs that the user is responsible for paying. To view the minimum withdrawal amounts and fees for each cryptocurrency listed on Kraken, refer to this chart.

How do Kraken's spot trading fees compare to popular alternatives?

Here’s a quick comparison of how Kraken’s (maximum) spot trading fees compare up against other cryptocurrency exchanges:

ProviderMaker Fee (Max)Taker Fee (Max)
Kraken0.16%0.26%
Coinbase Pro0.50%0.50%
Binance0.10%0.10%
FTX0.02%0.07%
Huobi0.20%0.20%
Gate.io0.20%0.20%
Gemini0.35%0.25%

Note: You might be able to unlock lower fees by trading higher volume, or fulfilling other requirements. For example, Binance offers a 25% fee discount if you pay your trading fees using Binance Coin (BNB).

Verification

UK users can choose between three verification levels – Starter, Intermediate, and Pro – all of which have their own deposit/withdrawal limits.

Starter: The most basic verification level, Starter status can be achieved by providing basic personal information and enabling 2FA.

While starter accounts can deposit and withdraw cryptocurrencies, they aren’t eligible to conduct fiat transactions. Additionally, starter accounts can’t engage in futures or margin trading and will be limited to on-chain staking.

Intermediate: Achieving intermediate status involves providing proof of residence (usually in the form of a utility or credit card bill), a picture of a valid piece of ID, and occupational information.

Gaining intermediate verification status allows you to conduct deposits and withdrawals in both digital and fiat currencies, engage in margin/futures trading, and access off-chain staking.

Pro: The final level of verification on Kraken is Pro, which is split into two versions – Personal and Business. Both versions are meant to provide users with access to the OTC desk, high API calls, and higher fiat withdrawal/deposit limits.

According to the Kraken website, obtaining Pro-level verification requires filling out a KYC questionnaire and waiting up to five days for manual approval.

For most users, a Starter or Intermediate account will be more than sufficient and Pro-level verification is typically reserved for those looking to conduct large-block trades over the OTC desk.

For a complete overview of verification levels, take a look at this chart from the Kraken website.

Kraken Trading Interface

No Kraken exchange review would be complete without taking a moment to look at its trading interface.

Unknown to most users, Kraken actually has two trading station choices: a Kraken-only version and a CryptoWatch version.

Does Kraken allow trading bots?

Yes. Kraken supplies users with REST and Web Socket APIs, allowing them to design and implement their own trading bots. At this time, it’s unclear whether or not either option supports backtesting.

Similarly, traders can also choose to implement a third party trading bot such as Cryptohopper, Gekko, Kryll, and many others.

Is Kraken good for day trading?

Yes, traders can use the Kraken trading terminal for day and swing trading. That being said, several cryptocurrencies have low liquidity – making them poor candidates for high-frequency trading.

If you wish to day trade some of the lower volume coins featured on Kraken, you may want to consider signing up for Cryptowatch.

Does the trading station have different buy/sell fees?

No. Whether a trade is executed in the trading station or in the buy/sell interface on the Kraken website, trading fees follow the same structure.

Kraken-Only Trading Station

Compared to other trading interfaces like Binance and Coinbase Pro, I find Kraken’s platform feels significantly more intuitive and easy to understand, making it good for both novice and experienced traders. Moreover, it comes equipped with a good number of drawing tools and over 50 technical indicators, including MACD, RSI, EMA, and Bollinger Bands.

Serious traders who are used to software like MetaTrader4 may find Kraken’s platform lacking in features, and the terminal can feel cramped on a small screen. These issues aside, it’s still a very robust piece of trading software and is far superior to what is offered by most other exchanges.

It’s important to understand that the Kraken-only trading station is limited to cryptocurrency keys held on Kraken, which, for professional or high-volume traders, may result in volume issues for some coins/tokens.

CryptoWatch Trading Station

CryptoWatch is a real-time trading platform that was acquired by Kraken in 2017. It currently serves as the backbone of its trading station.

While the free version doesn’t differ significantly from the Kraken-only platform, the paid version has several significant differences. Amongst other things, the paid version:

  • Gives you access to liquidity pools on 33 different crypto exchanges – including Binance, Coinbase Pro, FTX, Bittrex, and Huobi.
  • Hosts over 4000 markets for users to trade. That’s significantly more than the free version provides.
  • Can be configured to send you customizable test-message alerts.
  • Access to exclusive market data.

Top Kraken Alternatives

Alternatives to Kraken include Binance, Coinbase Pro, Gemini, Bitfinex, and Huobi.

Each of these has scores of 8 out of 10 or higher on CoinMarketCap’s exchange ratings.

Provider# of Supported Cryptocurrencies (UK)# of GBP Trading Pairs
Kraken8737
Binance300+18
Coinbase Pro100+42
Gemini382
Bitfinex50+5
Huobi350+32

Is Kraken Safe?

Kraken is one of the oldest, most reputable, and trusted crypto exchanges – which, unlike KuCoin and Binance – has never been hacked.

According to the CryptoCompare Exchange Benchmark (August 2021), Kraken has a safety score of 77.66 out of 100 (which puts them in third place).

On top of this, 95% of all cryptocurrency deposits on Kraken are kept offline in air-gapped, geographically dispersed locations.

Additionally, the exchange has implemented several safety protocols to help you secure your account:

  • 2FA: Both Google Authenticator and Yubikey are accepted 2FA solutions.
  • No SMS/Phone Recovery: Unlike many other exchanges, Kraken doesn’t let you secure your account using a phone number, which means that your account can’t be compromised using a spoofed mobile number.
  • Master Key Setup: A masterkey is a secondary password that allows you to block password changes if your email is compromised and bypass 2FA if you lose access to it.

Bottom Line: Kraken Exchange Review

It’s not hard to see why Kraken has been one of the most widely used cryptocurrency exchanges over the better part of the last decade.

Here’s what stands out to me:

  • Has 37 GBP trading pairs (which is higher than you’ll find in most alternative places)
  • Proven track record of safety and security (including proof of reserves).
  • Competitive fee schedule (up to 0.26% per trade).
  • High spot trading liquidity and a decent trading interface.

If you’re dipping your toe in buying and selling cryptocurrency on an exchange, then I think Kraken is a great place to start. It has features that make it accessible to beginners, while more advanced functionality that you’ll be looking for as you learn more.

To get a better understanding of how Kraken works, head over to their website and create an account. Setting up a basic account only takes a few minutes (and requires no identity verification).

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