Coinbase VS. Circle – Tried Both with $500 Here’s What I Found


IMPORTANT: As of December 7th 2016 Circle no longer allows the option of buying or selling Bitcoins through their services. They are now referring all of their customers to Coinbase.

Probably the biggest competition in the Bitcoin marketplace today lies within Bitcoin exchanges, the most dominant being Coinbase and Circle.
Today I’ve decide to test out these 2 exchanges head to head and see how much value for money I can get using $500. But I didn’t test only the fees and exchange rate, I also tried to figure which website makes the process easier.

  • Contries supported
  • Instant buy via Credit card
  • Transaction fees
  • Credit card fees
  • ACH fees
  • Time for ACH transaction
  • Coinbase

  • coinbase
  • Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States19
  • $1000/weekyes
  • 1%
  • None
  • $0.15
  • 2-4 days
  • Circle

  • circle
  • Wordwide
  • $500/weekyes
  • None
  • %2.9
  • None
  • 2-4 days

Coinbase charges fees, Circle Doesn’t – Is that so….

The most noticeable difference between Coinbase and Circle are the transaction fees. Circle states:

 “You shouldn’t have to pay fees to use your own money. We don’t charge fees when you convert funds to or from bitcoin with a linked bank account, when you store your bitcoin, or for bitcoin transactions”

Indeed when you buy Bitcoins with Circle you won’t pay a fee but it seems that circle $500 don’t come up as $500 worth of Bitcoins. This is due to several reasons:

  • There is a credit card processing fee that is applied when buying your Bitcoins with a credit card through Circle. From what I’ve seen this adds up to 2.9% which is not exactly negligible.
  •  It seems that Circle doesn’t guarantee the exchange rate at the time of placing the order (unlike Coinbase). This can cause a difference in how much you pay (initially found this issue on Reddit).

Coinbase on the other hand charges a fixed 1% transaction fee no matter what payment method you use and a $ 0.15 fee for ACH deposits. These fees are pretty low compared to other alternatives out there that allow you to buy Bitcoins.

Circle has the easiest buying process I’ve seen to date

Until today I’ve bought Bitcoins through almost 10 different exchanges. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a website that’s so intuitive as Circle’s. The simple design and sleek animation make it appealing and easy to use for even non tech savvy users.

But the real “magic moment” comes from the ability to purchase Bitcoin with a credit card within 2 minutes of setting up an account. Most websites require some sort of initial verification and until today the process of buying Bitcoins with a credit card was pretty complex.  It takes about 2 minutes to complete the process with Circle and I’m willing to pay extra for that.

Coinbase has also done a great job on their website but the process is a bit lengthy and can wear you out. The main issue being the fact that you need to verify your back account and sometimes this can take a day or two.

Coinbase has something fishy going on..

Since 99Bitcoins deals with a lot of people who buy their first Bitcoin I’ve noticed something strange going on lately. On several occasions I’ve gotten emails from people claiming they placed an order on Coinbase and it got canceled claiming that their account is in “high risk”. Oddly enough all of these cancelation happened when the price of Bitcoin went up drastically.

Here’s an example of such a case which caused a delay of purchase for the user. One user was so angry that he went out and made a website called Coinbase Fraud, this websites shows real live examples of Coinbase cancelling orders when it benefits them due to changes in the price of Bitcoin.

I can’t say I’ve experienced such issues with Coinbase myself but it seems to me that I’ve heard about these kinds of stories so many times that there’s probably some truth in it.

Both mobile apps work great, support is also fine

Both Circle’s and Coinbase’s mobile app are pretty intuitive and easy to use. Having said that Circle does a much better job at creating an enjoyable experience (just like their website). At times when I needed support from Coinbase and Circle they both seemed to have responded in a timely manner and got my questions answered.

If you buy $500 worth of Bitcoin here’s what you’ll get

If you spend $500 with Coinbase at today’s exchange rate you’d get 1.3103BTC (all fees included). If you go with Circle you’d receive 1.2782BTC. This may seem that Circle is much more expensive than Coinbase, but it important to note that I’ve measured Coinbase’s ACH payment method with Circle’s credit card method (since I don’t have an American credit card which Coinbase accepts).

This mean that with Coinbase you’ll get the coin 2-4 days after you’ve made the purchase and with Circle you’ll get it instantly – so I guess you should figure out if 0.0321BTC is worth waiting 2 days (~roughly $11 at today’s exchange rate).

Circle is the winner by a nose in my book

After all is said and done, I prefer Circle to Coinbase. Their sleek design, ease of use and lightning fast transaction delivery creates a real “magic moment” for me. I also don’t mind paying more fees for this outstanding experience. If you’re all about saving as much as possible than Coinbase is probably the way to go, but if you want to avoid the hassle choose Circle.

Ofir Beigel

Owner at 99 Coins ltd.
Blogger and owner of 99Bitcoins. I've been dealing with Bitcoin since the beginning of 2013 and it taught me a lesson in finance that I couldn't get anywhere else on the planet. I'm not a techie, I don't understand "Hashes" and "Protocols", I designed this website with people like myself in mind. My expertise is online marketing and I've dedicated a large portion of 99Bitcoins to Bitcoin marketing.


  1. I have real problems with identification on exchanges. If you live in a country other than where your bank is based, it can be really difficult to use coinbase and other exchanges that require identification. If the countries of your bank and mobile provider don’t match then they will deny you. What can you do?

    • Ofir Beigel on

      That’s an interesting question I didn’t know that was an issue. Did you try contacting Coinbase’s support about this?

  2. Let’s face it: Circle raised millions last year then all the sudden drops it’s bitcoin customers—> In a 12/7/2016 email that was about promo offers before getting to the serious announcement of this unexpected decision? I can’t seem to cash out and a snarky support staff member is giving me all kinds of ridiculous excuses because the money is already gone. Guessing we BTC Circle users contributed to their million dollar fundraising.

  3. My experience with Circle was horrible. They say you don’t get charged for debit card transfer however I got charged $11 for $400 transfer. Come to find out it was because it is a business card. They don’t specify business debit card is different. To me not being in the financial sector a debit card is a debit card.

    They are horrible at follow-up. You make request or submit things on their website and it seems to just disappear with no follow-up on their side. Customer server has a very condescending tone my experience with 3 different individuals about 2 different issues. That is culture of a company not a specific individual’s personality.

    They quit supporting bitcoin but never sent a notice to me. They said it was sent 12/6/2016 but I don’t have it. I am an IT Director so I can see the email server logs to search for anything submitted from anyone with a email address. I have no email showing that it was sent.

  4. Circle did me right. It seemed too good to be true. This is always a red flag. So just in case, I created a separate checking account from my main one with only $100 in it. I signed up and immediately put $80 into my circle account. The money transferred right away. I then tried to send bitcoin to my blockchain wallet and twice it failed pretty quickly. Against my better judgement I sent a pic of my license and a selfie. Then I tried sending bitcoin again and this time it seemed to be working.
    Two hours later and I get the failed to send message. right away I tried to cash out. But I got the “We’re looking at your account” message. My heart sank thinking I had just been scammed. I wrote an email to support asking what’s going on and why can’t I cash out. Went to bed that night thinking I had been had.
    The next day, customer support emailed me and said everything was good. So I signed in and did anther bitcoin transfer. This time it went through almost instantly. Needless to say I was very relieved.

    I’m giving them 4 stars instead of 5 because I think there is an issue with how they present the process. The help section needs some serious fleshing out as well. Privacy issues and initial setup aside. This should now be the fastest and easiest way to get bitcoins.

  5. By the way, circle now supports purchasing using a debit card with no fees and allows you to have your wallet be totally in USD (so when I issued the ACH transfer to my other bank, it was exactly the amount I paid).

  6. Be aware of Scam Artist. They are the first Bitcoin Dictatorship.
    This is my experience: I am very new to bitcoin and still learning but I already had several experiences good and bad I would like to share. One of my first experience and with no idea how to purchase or where, I found this website called I saw how easy it was to acquire Bitcoins there so I decided to purchase $100 usd. The purchase experience was ok, a little long but I guess since I was a first time user. I finally received my bitcoins on the 4th business day and got on email telling me to please cash them out. I was a little confused since I just recently purchased them. On the whole Idea that I wanted to have my first Bitcoins, not to loose money stupidly by doing what they we’re obligated me to do. I wrote to them and received information that they wanted to verify my account. To me this is becoming suspicious! They sell bitcoins but they also make you unwilling sell your bitcoins. I guess they can be called the first Bitcoin Dictatorship! Since I am completely against this I decided to just leave my bitcoins and wait a little so I can get my money’s worth back and leave far far away from this company. At the moment I was loosing 11% already do to bitcoin devaluation. After a couple of days I received and email saying my account has been closed, and go wonder….. I can’t obtain my bitcoins. Please be aware of this company and there narcissism! Do not let your money get stolen here. I will be posting email proof and could send to you directly if needed.

  7. Circle is free but charges about $10 above BitStamp – sometimes more! Coinbase charges $2 or $ 3 above BitStamp and about $6 or $7 less than Circle, so it is about the same after you add the Coinbase 1%.

  8. bitcoinghana on

    Tried signing up with Circle some hours ago. Their software is unable to cope with MS Lifecam (at any setting) for a verification ‘selfie’ – and there is no response form ‘support’!!! So much for an allegedly quick and easy sign up process.

    • I have had a similar negative experience with Circle. I tried to see what all the hype was about them, and did everything I was supposed to do on their site to get setup to make a CB purchase, and not only did they CANCEL my transaction w/o any notice, I have yet to get any response from them about why they would advertise as being able to do instant buys and yet cancel the transaction. I do not like the fact that I provided them with my banking information and debit card number only to get turned down. I am now concerned what they are going to do with my account info. I am glad I at least used an account that I do not keep any money in long term and only use for online purchases separate from the rest of my funds. They have not made this to be a very easy or pleasant transaction at all. What makes it worse is that the item I was planning on purchasing was on a time limit and they not only canceled my transaction, but made me loose the item I was trying to purchase. It all could have been avoided if they were truthful in their advertising. I would have went about trying to make my purchase a different way. THANKS FOR NOTHING CIRCLE!!! YOU SUCK!

  9. Like John Doe, I’ve quit Circle I liked them at first, but do send more they now want a ID and a selfie. I don’t want to bother with that and am taking my business elsewhere.

  10. This blog is total bullsh*t. I signed up for Circle, 3 days ago, and am still awaiting account verification.

    They required a copy of my driver’s license and a “selfie” photo taken with a webcam.

    Circle is not any better than any other exchange in terms of all the work you have to do in order to get account verification. Bad blog post caused me to waste a bunch of my time trying to sign up with Circle.

    • Hey “John”,
      thanks for your inputs about Circle. As you’ve probably notice this post was written 9 months ago. At the time of writing this post such a verification process wasn’t needed, perhaps the terms of use for Circle have changed. Looking a bit deeper into Circle’s knowledge base I see that in certain cases they may require a government issued id. My guess is that this will be required for US citizens only but can’t be sure.

      • I’m sorry that someone said your blog is bullshit, simply because their experience differed from yours (& a jon doe, go figure) I actually learned about bitcoins today(besides the few times I’ve heard them mentioned on CNN & paid it no mind) I tried getting more info online, but felt like I was listening to someone speak German, your blog has literally popped up for every question I typed in & with understandable answers. Very clear, straight to the point & you share your experience. & even with issues like this, where the company started to change after your experience, it’s still helpful, because other people post their more recent experience & your post get the conversation going. I’m sure you spend a lot of money testing out these things for each article &I want to thank you. I feel I have learned so much & all my questions have been answered in just one day!!!

  11. Coinbase allows instant transactions from a checking account if you have a credit card linked. They will not charge the card, but having it on file will ensure them that the funds are backed.

  12. GW Haydook on


    All you have to do is google “coinbase purchase cancelled” and you will see. Sooner or later, more often than not, Coinbase will cancel your purchase when you buy low and bitcoin price rises significantly during the 3-4 day ACH transfer clearing period and then THEY WILL AUTOMATICALLY CANCEL YOUR PURCHASE TRANSACTION AND NOTIFY YOU VIA CANNED EMAIL ON THE DAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO CLEAR THAT YOUR MONEY IS BEING REFUNDED! Don’t believe me? Google it. It happened to me and it’s happened to thousands of others – often two or 3 times or more. I tried for almost 2 weeks (and that was fast according to other’s accounts) back and forth with Coinbase email – half of which are just automated – to no avail. All my info was legit – I offered my SS number, a recent bank statement, whatever they needed. Nope. My purchase was a decent amount – they will tie your money up for at least 2+ weeks and then give some vague canned “security” excuse AND THEY WILL NOT FIX IT no matter how legit – especially if you bought at a good low price!

    Coinbase is also Big Brother. THEY WILL SPY/SNOOP on ALL YOUR TRANSACTIONS – PURCHASE AND SELL. They are most likely studying the blockchain to trace all your transactions. Don’t think about using any of your Coinbase funds to play any bitcoin gambling sites or anything else Coinbase/Big Brother doesn’t want you to do – THEY WILL BLOCK AND/OR CANCEL YOUR TRANSACTIONS AND/OR SHUT YOUR ACCOUNT ALTOGETHER. Who knows what else they spy on when you use them. Don’t believe me? Google “Coinbase Big Brother” and you will see.

    Heed my warning – STAY AWAY! This is NOT de-centralization. They are corralling you.

    ALSO – the Coinbase founder is ex -GOLDMAN SACHS! Yes, the same Goldman Sachs that Matt Taibbi calls the Vampire Squid of humanity. Google it.

    If you’re in the US or elsewhere – use Circle to buy/sell and/or another bitcoin exchange – even if it’s out-of-country – to do your trading.

  13. I tried using Circle. MOST FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE EVER! Someone want to explain this to me. It took me very long to verify my phone because when I put in the verification in Circle, it said there was some problem with my browser. Really? Circle needs the exact most up to date version of Firefox to work properly. I downloaded a slightly outdated version of chrome and verification worked fine.

    Then what is this? I need to link a bank account and provide ID? What happened to a few minutes? I cannot even find where you can link a credit card. DO NOT USE CIRCLE

  14. Very good post Mr. Omir, you’re a great help, i see that you are based in Israel. Correct me if i am wrong, did you link a US bank account to Coinbase? How come? I’m from an unsupported country.

  15. Steven Schwartz on

    I am now going with circle for quicker purchases, but Coinbase does have another service that you hafe not mentioned and that is that you can use your account as a merchant account, which I do. I like being able to use coinbase as a way for my patients to pay for services. Circle does not offer this service yet.

  16. It took me just over two minutes to make an account on Circle, verify it and discover that Circle does not support my country, Norway, at the moment. So much for the worldwide support for linking. No bank account linking, no credit card payments from Norway.

    • I know there were issues in the past with my country as well (some people still have some issues) but Circle states that they support countries worldwide. I guess that’s not entirely accurate

  17. Just an FYI…Coinbase doesn’t develop their own mobile app. It’s controlled by a third-party which is crazy. Circle handles all mobie app dev in-house. The article should have definitely noted this.

  18. Avery Jackson on

    I’m new to Bitcoins and while I’ve heard about Coinbase and Circle, I didn’t know about the problems some people had with the first. It’s quite interesting to read what Coinbase Fraud has to say. I will be choosing Circle to begin with and maybe later on, I will also try Coinbase.

  19. I am a newbie, so bear with me: if I buy Bitcoins through
    Coinbase and I should receive 1.3103BTC today, will I receive less than this in
    2-3 days if the price goes down? You said it takes 2-4 days to get the coin
    from Coinbase and I was wondering how this would affect how much I get. Thanks!

    • The idea is that Coinbase “locks” the Bitcoin price one you make the purchase – this means they will need to give you more later on – that’s why some people assume that they cancel transactions because they come out at a loss in the end. If all goes according to plan you should receive 1.3101BTC to matter matter happens to the Bitcoin price.

  20. I agree with you that if you want to get in the Bitcoin game quickly, Circle is the absolute best way to do it because it takes 2-3 minutes. But, I like Coinbase better overall because they seem more transparent. So what if I have to wait 2-3 days so they confirm my account? I can wait. They do it once and that’s it, right? So there’s no problem there.

    And I’ve never experienced anything fishy with them.

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