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Whenever someone asks about how to begin investing in cryptocurrency, Coinbase is usually mentioned as a good place to start.
Founded in 2012 just three years after the creation of Bitcoin, Coinbase has since become the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S. by trading volume, with more than 73 million verified users in over 100 countries.
While the company offers a number of valuable products for retail and institutional investors, businesses and developers, its core feature is the ability to buy, sell and trade more than 100 different cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens. Its quarterly trading volume is currently $327 billion with $255 billion in assets on the platform after going public through a direct listing on the Nasdaq exchange in April 2021.
While Coinbase's transaction and trading fees are higher than some of its competitors, it's still one of the most popular applications out there for cryptocurrency investing.
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Minimum deposit and balance
0.5% - 4.5% per trade. Fees varies by type of transaction and other fees may apply.
New Coinbase users can earn $5 in bitcoin after signing up.
You can trade over 100 cryptocurrencies on Coinbase. You can also earn interest on a number of crypto coins.
Coinbase Earn allows you to earn crypto rewards when learning about different cryptocurrencies.
For retail investors, Coinbase offers the following products:
- Coinbase — A simple mobile and website application for buying, selling and trading cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens.
- Coinbase Pro — An application for buying, selling and trading cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens with a user interface that's better suited for professional traders, providing charting tools, real time order books and a feed of market data, among other features more sophisticated investors would need to trade. Trading fees are also lower on Coinbase Pro.
- Coinbase Wallet — A standalone crypto wallet app that lets users self-custody (in other words, the users themselves can control their crypto, keys and data). Coinbase users can hold more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies, crypto tokens and NFTs in their wallet, and are able to access a variety of decentralized applications, or dapps, through this feature. Note that it's very important for users to securely store the 12-word recovery or seed phrase that allows them to restore their wallet if they forget their password, since Coinbase won't have access to that information.
- USDC — A cryptocurrency stablecoin pegged 1-to-1 with the U.S. dollar; USDC users can receive 0.15% APY on their holdings.
- Coinbase Card — A Visa debit card that allows users to spend their cryptocurrency at any merchant that accepts Visa and earn up to 4% back in crypto rewards on each purchase.
At just $2, Coinbase has one of the lowest minimum balance requirements of any crypto exchange, which makes it an attractive choice for new investors. The Coinbase Earn feature — which allows users to watch short educational videos, take small quizzes about them and earn free crypto assets — is also appealing since users can earn Stellar Lumens, the Flexa Network's Amp tokens and The Graph's GRT tokens, to name a few.
Retail investors can pay higher fees for access to the Coinbase app's simple and sleek interface. By migrating to Coinbase Pro, users can save money on fees, especially if they hold higher account balances, but might be intimidated by the elaborate interface if they're not accustomed to trading platforms. While Coinbase Pro offers more than 250 cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens to choose from as well as more advanced features like stop and limit orders, the platform really doesn't have all the tools more sophisticated investors might want access to, such as futures.
Both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro include FDIC insurance protection up to $250,000 per individual. That insurance is only available on customer funds held in cash. It is pass-through FDIC insurance from the accounts at banks where Coinbase holds its customer's cash. This insurance only protects users in the case of cash loss because of a bank failure.
Transaction and trading costs on Coinbase range from 0.5% to 4.5% depending on the cryptocurrency, transaction size and payment method.
Coinbase charges a flat fee, which changes according to the size of your transaction — the fee is $0.99 for those $10 or lower, while it's $1.49 for those between $10 and $25, $1.99 for those between $25 and $50, and $2.99 for those between $50 and $200. Note that transactions above $200 are charged a percentage-based fee instead of a flat fee.
Coinbase also charges a spread-based fee of 0.50%, while other fees depend more on which method of payment you're using — ACH transfers are free, whereas using a bank account or USD Wallet adds a 1.49% fee, using a credit or debit card adds a 3.99% fee and wire transfers rack up an extra fees of $10 incoming and $25 outgoing.
When utilizing Coinbase Pro, trading fees can be anywhere from 0% to 0.5% per trade. Users can expect to pay a taker fee between 0.04% to 0.50% and a maker fee between 0% and 0.50%.
For businesses seeking crypto products and services, Coinbase offers Coinbase Commerce, a payment service that allows merchants to accept cryptocurrency in their stores, with features including payment buttons, hosted checkout pages and invoices.
Coinbase's 10,000 institutional clients can take advantage of Coinbase Custody, which holds bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on behalf of their customers in secure cold storage accounts that are not connected to the internet. The custody service then goes through regular financial and security audits, which are conducted by external firms. Institutional clients can also use Coinbase Prime, a trading platform built specifically to handle the unique needs of institutions.
While Coinbase offers an easy-to-use platform for beginning your crypto investing journey, there's one area the company really seems to be struggling with.
Coinbase doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to customer service and has actually scored an F from the Better Business Bureau because of it. Customers have consistently complained about being locked out of their accounts even after providing the required information to reinstate them, while other users have criticized the company for being nearly impossible to reach whenever assistance was needed.
While customer service is lacking and the company's fees are higher and more complex than its competitors, Coinbase still remains one of the most popular applications for those just starting their crypto investment journey.
It's a regulated company with high security practices, a simple and convenient interface and a decent amount of choice for those who utilize it. By offering a range of tools for more sophisticated investors, businesses and institutions, Coinbase allows its users to level up as they learn more about the technology involved and the crypto industry as a whole.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Coinbase only offers FDIC insurance on customer's funds that are held in cash, and that it does not offer FDIC insurance for hacks or cybersecurity breaches of Coinbase's crypto storage services.