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Coinbase review and comparison

By: Steven Hay | Last updated: 10/23/20

I’ve been a Coinbase user since 2013 and a lot can be said about the company, good and bad. In this review, I’ll try to give you the full rundown so you can evaluate for yourself if Coinbase is trustworthy or not.

Don’t Like to Read? Watch Our 2 Minute Coinbase Review


Coinbase Review Summary

Coinbase is one of the biggest cryptocurrency companies around, supporting over 100 countries, with more than 30 million customers around the world.

Coinbase has a wide array of services but their main service allows users to buy and sell Bitcoins through a bank account, credit card and debit card. The rates you’ll get on Coinbase are fair in general, however the customer support is terrible.

That’s Coinbase in a nutshell. If you want to get familiar with Coinbase in depth, keep on reading. Here’s what I’ll cover in this review:

  1. Coinbase Overview
  2. Coinbase Services
  3. Currencies and Payment Methods
  4. Fees
  5. Buying Limits
  6. Supported Countries
  7. Customer Support and Reviews
  8. Coinbase vs. Other Exchanges
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Conclusion – is Coinbase Safe?

1. Coinbase Overview

Founded in 2012 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam as part of Ycombinator, Coinbase is one of the oldest exchanges around. Coinbase has started out only as a Bitcoin brokerage service (selling Bitcoins directly to customers), but additional services were added along the way.

Coinbase is fully regulated and licensed. The company has raised over $540m from leading investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Rabbit Capital and The NYSE.


2. Coinbase Services

Coinbase brokerage service

The main service Coinbase offers is a brokerage service for buying and selling cryptocurrencies. New cryptocurrency users often find themselves buying their first Bitcoin through Coinbase thanks to the company’s reputation, marketing and relatively friendly user interface.

On the downside, one of the main complaints users have towards Coinbase is the lack of control of users over their own funds. When you open a Coinbase account you don’t have direct access to your coins and you don’t get any private key or a seed phrase.

Coinbase stores your coins for you – it’s the equivalent of putting your cash at the bank, you don’t own it, the bank does.

Coinbase Pro

Formerly known as GDAX, Coinbase Pro is a cryptocurrency trading platform. As opposed to the traditional Coinbase brokerage service, which simplifies buying cryptocurrencies at a premium, Coinbase pro is aimed at more experienced users.

Coinbase pro allows users to trade several cryptocurrencies including BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH and ZRX. Fees are considerably lower than the brokerage service and there are advanced trading options as well.

Coinbase wallet

In 2018 Coinbase launched their independent mobile wallet for iOS and Android. The wallet stores the private keys on the user’s device and only they have access to the funds. This brings Coinbase full circle as it started out as a wallet, transitioned to an exchange only (claiming that they are not a wallet) and now they are offering wallet services again.

Merchant solutions

Coinbase supplies online merchants with the ability to accept cryptocurrencies on their website via a dedicated plugin. The plugin is supported by some of the biggest CMS (content management system) around such as Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce.

Additional projects

Aside from the above, Coinbase supplies additional services such as:

  • USD Coin (USDC) – A stablecoin built by Coinbase.
  • Coinbase Index – Tracking the financial performance of all Coinbase listed assets.
  • Custodian services – Safeguarding cryptocurrencies for institutional investors.
  • Earn.com – A service acquired by Coindesk for filtering out spam emails.
  • Paradex – A platform for trading directly from a user’s wallet.
  • Coinbase Ventures – Investing in companies that are building the open financial system.

3. Coinbase Currencies and Payment Methods

Coinbase supports the following coins:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • EOS (EOS)
  • Stellar Lumens (XLM)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Zcash (ZEC)
  • Augur (REP)
  • Dai (DAI)
  • USD Coin (USDC)
  • 0x (ZRX)
  • Basic Attention Token (BAT)
  • Algorand (Algo)
  • Cosmos (Atom)
  • Civic (CVC)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • District0x (DNT)
  • Golem (GNT)
  • Kyber Network (KNC)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Loom Network (LOOM)
  • Decentraland (MANA)
  • Maker (MKR)
  • Orchid (OXT)
  • Tezos (XTZ)

Coinbase accepts the following payment methods:

  • Wire transfer (including ACH in the US and SEPA in the EU)
  • Credit cards (new cards aren’t currently accepted)
  • Debit cards
  • Cryptocurrency deposit and withdrawal
  • PayPal (withdrawal only)

4. Fees

Coinbase’s fee structure is a bit tricky so I’ll try to break it down as much as possible. When you buy Bitcoins from Coinbase the price you pay consists of the following:

  • The market price on Coinbase Pro +0.5%
  • Transaction fee – A flat fee for transactions below $200 or a percentage of the transaction (the greater of the two).

Most transaction fees are 1.49% for standard buy and 3.99% for credit card buys.

Depositing money is free via ACH transfer but otherwise costs $10.

The full fee structure can be seen here.

As you can see, giving a straight answer to how much you will pay in fees is a bit tricky with Coinbase and that’s also one of the main complaints the community has towards the company. Coinbase can also decline your purchase in cases of extreme price shifts, as happened many times in the past.

Having said all that, Coinbase still has one of the lowest fee structures around when compared to other brokerage services like Coinmama and CEX.io.

Transactions between Coinbase accounts are free of charge.

Outside transactions to your Coinbase account will require 3 confirmations before they will show up in your account.


5. Buying Limits

Once your Coinbase account is set up you will be able to buy a small amount of Bitcoins until you raise your limit. In order to raise your limits you will need to do the following:

  • Provide and verify your phone number
  • Provide and verify your personal information
  • Provide and verify your photo id

If you are a fully verified US resident you can reach the highest limit which is currently $25K a day. Limits may also be set depending on the payment method you choose to buy the cryptocurrencies. For example, ACH transfer has higher limits than credit card purchases on Coinbase.


6. Supported Countries

Coinbase offers its services in 100+ countries:

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Armenia, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Australia, New Zealand, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, British Virgin Islands, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay


7. Coinbase Customer Support and Public Opinion

Coinbase has a very extensive knowledge base. Most standard requests will probably find an answer there. If you are submitting a support ticket via email, expect a response within 48-72 hours (from personal experience).

Coinbase is also operating a phone support line, although, from reader feedback we got, it seems it’s hard to get someone to solve your problem there.

As for the quality of the support, the overall impression is negative. Most of the time the support team won’t dig deep into your issue on their first response, and it is quite common to receive “canned responses” that don’t really address the problem.

Many people in the community complain that Coinbase isn’t really very support oriented and that many times issues aren’t explained to the customer.

Furthermore, BBB rates Coinbase “F” with a failure to respond to hundreds of complaints.

To sum it up, there has been a lot of controversy over Coinbase within the Bitcoin community. If you’re new to Coinbase, this is perhaps the one thing you need to take into account before making your decision to buy cryptocurrency through Coinbase.

Closed or frozen accounts

Account closures are probably the most commonly held grudge against Coinbase. Due to the company’s tight integration with traditional banking laws, such closures are inevitable. For better and / or worse, Coinbase prides itself on its legislative compliance.

locked account coinbase

Coinbase was first to receive US regulatory approval. As a result, Coinbase has AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) practices much like any bank.

Expect Coinbase to track how you spend “their” coins and to summarily shut your account for the following activities:

  • Transactions related to adult services.
  • Bitcoin gambling, including skill-based gaming.
  • Sale or purchase of contraband through darknet markets.
  • Resale of coins on other exchanges, particularly those without AML / KYC.
  • Other arbitrary reasons which rub their algorithm the wrong way.

As you can see, you can get your Coinbase account shut down rather easily. While you will almost certainly get your money back, it will likely prove to be an inconvenient, frustrating, and potentially costly experience.

Additional criticism

Aside from the above, Coinbase has been the focus to additional criticism including:

Affiliate reward abuse – Coinbase offers a referral program however doesn’t always pay its partners according to what is stated (based on my personal experience).

Taking a stand in Bitcoin debates – There are many “internal debates” within the Bitcoin community that Coinbase voiced its opinion on. Usually, it’s expected from a service to remain neutral in these debates and follow the natural market movements.

Patenting blockchainCoinbase has 9 patent filings for cryptocurrency-related “innovations” including “Bitcoin exchange”, “hot wallet for holding Bitcoin” and “tips button”.

Such patents are obviously not Coinbase innovations and obviously clash with the open-source nature and the philosophy of Bitcoin. Coinbase expects people to trust them, and to refrain from using any such patents to block competition.

Frankly, no company, agency or entity can or should be trusted with legal authority over any aspect of the Bitcoin ecosystem. Bitcoin was designed to obviate the need for such trusted parties.


8. Coinbase vs. Other Exchanges

In the following section, I will compare Coinbase and its trading platform (i.e. Coinbase Pro) to other trading platforms around.

Coinbase
Fees:
3.99%
Availability:
103 Countries
Coinbase Pro
Fees:
0.25%
Availability:
103 Countries
Gemini
Fees:
0.25%
Availability:
Multiple locations
Binance
Fees:
0.1%
Availability:
Worldwide

Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro

If you’re new to crypto then it will probably be easier for you to use Coinbase (i.e. the brokerage service) than Coinbase Pro (formerly GDAX). As the name suggests, Coinbase Pro is for more experienced users that know how to handle advanced trading methods.

However, if you are an experienced trader, Coinbase Pro offers a much cheaper solution with 0.25% fee at max, which is one-fifth of what you would pay for the brokerage service (and in some cases even less).

Coinbase vs. Gemini

Gemini is a crypto exchange founded by the Winklevoss brothers. Gemini’s fee structure is even more complex than Coinbase’s, and overall fees are higher. The starting point for Gemini is 0.35% whereas Coinbase Pro charges 0.25%. In order to beat that, Gemini users will need to trade over $500K in a 30 day period.

Having said that, you should always check the market exchange rate on both exchanges since there can be some differences.

While most of the time they are more or less the same, in some cases price differences can occur and then the overall price you pay may be cheaper on Gemini (since the lower price compensates for the higher fee). Click here to read our complete Gemini review.

Coinbase vs. Binance

Binance is a strictly crypto to crypto exchange. However recently the exchange started accepting credit cards for cryptocurrency purchases. These purchases have a very high fee of over 5%.

When looking strictly at crypto to crypto exchanges Binance wins the competition with an extremely low fee of 0.1% as opposed to Coinbase Pro’s 0.25%. Also, Binance offers a wider variety of cryptocurrencies. Click here to read our Binanace review.

Coinbase vs. Robinhood

US investors can also use the Robinhood trading app to invest in Cryptocurrencies. However, unlike Coinbase or Coinbase Pro, they will not have direct access to their coins.

This means that they cannot withdraw Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies from the app. This solution is good only if you’re looking to trade and not to hold cryptocurrencies.

Robinhood is available in 25 US states and claims to have 0% trading fees, which is very competitive, even when compared to Coinbase Pro. In addition to trading cryptocurrencies, Robinhood also allows you to trade traditional stocks.


10. Frequently Asked Questions

Is Coinbase FDIC Insured?

According to Coinbase’s support page, all digital currency that Coinbase holds online is insured. Coinbase holds less than 2% of customer funds online. The rest is held in cold storage.

Note that the insurance policy covers any losses resulting from a breach of Coinbase’s physical security, cybersecurity, or employee theft. This insurance policy does not cover any losses resulting from the compromise of your individual Coinbase account.

Digital currency is not legal tender, is not backed by the government, and digital currency accounts and value balances on Coinbase are not subject to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or Securities Investor Protection Corporation protections.

For US customers, Coinbase stores all customer fiat currency (government-issued currency) in, custodial bank accounts, or in U.S. Treasuries. If you are a United States resident, your Coinbase USD Wallet is covered by FDIC insurance, up to a maximum of $250,000.

How do I Get My Money Out of Coinbase?

If you want to withdraw money from Coinbase you can do so with the following options:

  • To your bank account
  • To your PayPal account
  • To your cryptocurrency wallet (if you’re withdrawing cryptocurrencies)

There is no option to withdraw fiat currencies to your credit/debit card.

How Long does it Take to Withdraw from Coinbase?

Usually, withdrawal are instant from Coinbase however it may take up to 3 days for your bank to process the transfer. Cryptocurrency withdrawals should arrive within the hour (depending on how long it takes the next block to be confirmed).

Coinbase may delay digital currency transactions sent from your Coinbase account if they suspect that you did not authorize the transaction. In this case, you can either:

  • Wait 72 hours and the transaction will go through automatically
  • Accelerate the withdrawal by verifying your identity again

Is it Safe to Buy on Coinbase?

In general, Coinbase is considered a very safe place to buy cryptocurrencies.

Can I Keep my Bitcoins on Coinbase?

Yes, you can keep your Bitcoins on Coinbase, however, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s always best to keep your Bitcoins on a non-custodial wallet (i.e. a wallet where only you hold the private keys). Keeping your Bitcoins on Coinbase is like keeping your money in a bank. It’s very secure, but you don’t have control over it – the bank does.


10. Conclusion – Is Coinbase safe to use?

Coinbase is simple and easy to use. The company has invested a lot of time and money into making their user experience smooth and painless. However, you are not in control of your coins and your transactions are being tracked.

I think Coinbase is currently focused on growth and less on satisfying its existing customer base which can be seen by the number of negative reviews they receive and that’s a shame. However, if you don’t encounter any issues then the price is fairly competitive.

My personal opinion is this – if possible, use Coinbase to buy cryptocurrencies, the service is solid. However, once you buy your coins get them the hell out of there to a wallet that you completely control, like a hardware wallet.

Coinbase

7.8

Fees

8.9/10

Ease of use

9.0/10

Support

5.3/10

Reputation

8.1/10

Pros

  • Easy to understand
  • Great UI for beginners
  • Relatively low fees

Cons

  • You don't control your private keys
  • Accounts are monitored
  • Poor support

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Scam
Guest
Scam

They stole my money. Once money is deposited they keep it you can’t get it back. It is a scam do not use it.

Antonio
Guest
Antonio

DO NOT USE COINBASE!! THEY WILL STEAL YOUR MONEY!!!! Coinbase would not let me access my account. Once I logged out ,I could not log back into my account. No customer service help at all. Just a bot with the same replies. The 2 step verification is where they get you. BEWARE please. Don’t lose your money. I tried calling the 1-800 number and could not speak to someone. My account is now frozen. I wish of would of known this information before. This company needs to be out of business. Read thousands of reviews of people going through the… Read more »

gray
Guest
gray

my $1,034 worth of BTC cant transfer or send to my other Btc Wallet… I tried so many times?! anybody can help me with this???

thank you,
gray GL
from Philippines

Minara Tari
Guest
Minara Tari

According to Coinbase’s support page, all digital currency that Coinbase holds online is insured.

It is not true , my $450.000 disappeared on Coinbase acc and they want refund! I reported to FBI.
Case #03047510 11/11/2020

Britnay
Guest
Britnay

Ever way you turn, you get wacked with a new charge its ridiculous! To buy then when you pull it from the stock another charge oh and another on when you put it into your account. That adds up, they do have to make money totally understandable. Having a monthly membership charge for a variety of reasons could prevent them from losing customers in the future. This is my personal opinion, others can agree to disagree.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Fuck Coinbase. Wholeheartedly.

Rubbish company – blocked my access to buy cryptocurrency all of a sudden and wont tell me why. I said fair enough and asked them to delete my account as I wont be needing it anymore. They wont even remove my details and close my account – I thought that was my right?

#CancelCoinbase

Kent
Guest
Kent

EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE. Having very big on issues on two different accounts. Mine and other friend’s account. One will not trade even after all verification input with acknowledgement that all is ready to trade. The other account was up and running with multiple purchases and then trade attempt gave back need verification. I read on line same issue with others that the verification process is flawed. This all could be overcome if they could get some customer service. No phone contact exists. Customer service ticket entry yields little or no response. Working for two weeks and account locked while market… Read more »

Pavel
Guest
Pavel

I’ve recently got a bad experience with Coinbase. So beware, especially if you’re considering them as a first and a safe place for you to invest in BTC. Here’s my story: I’ve opened new account with them, linked my Fidelity cash account and bought BTC – no errors, no warnings, everything looked smooth. Then for several days I was monitoring my account and BTC rates. Then all of the sudden they showed me a red banner saying that my account is disabled, because they failed to collect funds from my Fidelity, and that they are going to sell my BTC… Read more »

adam
Guest
adam

Coinbase seems to have a liquidity issue and can not release assets when you request and I suspect they do not hold assets you bought but use your funds to short the market or long and only actually acquire your crypto when price allows them to make additional profits which is risky.

Bruce
Guest
Bruce

I have had several problems in the short time I have used coinbase. Number one is that fees are not fully disclosed. I moved coins to my wallet but they cannot be returned because I have no ETH. There was no warning that ETH was required to move to the wallet, yet somehow the fee was paid. Secondly, and most importantly, I have linked my PayPal account which does not show up when attempting to sell. Thirdly, it takes weeks to get any customer service response. They lecture about the fees which they never disclosed and why you are being… Read more »

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