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Coinbase review and comparison

By: Steven Hay | Last updated: 5/19/20

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.

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?

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


 

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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TheBard
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TheBard

Locked account for just signing in. Had been trading for months on phone signed in on my PC using 2 step verification and on first attempt immediately locked me out of everything for 48 hours in the middle of a trading day. Tried contacting their nonexistent customer service and get absolutely no help. Gives me 48 hours to leave reviews on every site I can find on the internet while trying to find an alternative. They won’t help you with anything expect that you may never see your money again

Posterboy
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Posterboy

I’ve had money with Coinbase for several years. Now I need some and there is no “Send” button on my account page! So I can’t withdraw money. Weeks of emails to Coinbase support get only a couple canned replies and then nothing.

So they’ve simply taken my money.

Mia
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Mia

I invested in ethereum several years ago through coinbase. At one point I was able to make $15,000 and I wanted to sell it. Coinbase however did not allow the sale to go through and there was no one available to contact or help me. As a result, I sold it eventually at a considerable loss. DO NOT BECOME A CUSTOMER OF COIN BASE UNLESS YOU WANT TO LOSE A LOT OF MONEY AND ABSOLUTELY DON’T WANT TO CONTROL YOUR ACCOUNT!

Arthur Edward Carson
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Arthur Edward Carson

I agree with John below! Coinbase kept my money unavailable to move to my Ledger wallet for 13 DAYS! This from a direct bank transfer! The money was out of my account in an hour, but I couldn’t move it for 13 days!

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

I am sorry to read all these horrible comments and I’m sure its what they dealt with. I can only share my experience with Coinbase and it has been effortless and easy. I signed up end of 2018. Yes, you have to provide your info, driver’s license, bank info etc. Yes you have to wait 5 days (I think till u get approved). Then you can start purchasing. You have to transfer money from your checking acct to Coinbase. Then you can buy whatever. I think I was only allowed $5K to begin with. After about 4 purchases I got… Read more »

John
Guest
John

DO NOT USE!!! Coinbase will keep your money for an indefinite period of time. I suspect they are using your money to trade with before giving you access. AFTER my purchase ($9000 USD) coinbase informed me I would have access to it in 11 days. I could put a check in the mail to anywhere and it would clear faster than 11 days. If they would have said there would be a delay BEFORE the purchase I wouldn’t have done it…which I’m betting is why they tell you afterwards. DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICE…

Bill
Guest
Bill

I bought bitcoins using ACH transfer, took a week compared to the three business day claim, so I add my debit card, everything’s verified, my bank ok’s the transfer but there is a suspicious fraud activity that I can’t be told about. I’m glad I didn’t robbed. I’ll use anything else and pay more not to go through Coinbase

FU CB
Guest
FU CB

F coinbase. I emailed them 5 times about unfreezing my acct so I can get my money, and they reply with ‘we’ll get back to you’ and them ‘your issue has been resolved’, when in fact, they haven’t done shyt. F&*^ THIEVES!

Charles
Guest
Charles

I am from Nigeria, I open a coinbase account to receive an incoming bitcoin, I have received the bitcoin but I cant trade it out, anytime I click send it wil display account restricted. I have don verification and all yet I can’t send the bitcoin to a vendor. What do I do.

Rthorne
Guest
Rthorne

The rating for this website is a lie. Imagine trading then your locked out and now will never have access to your money again. Why does Reddit have soooooooi many complaints on these fraudsters and to boot you can only communicate via email. Then they BLOCK your email and KEEP YOUR MONEY.

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