Coinbase Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Coinbase is one of the most established cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States and one of the largest in the world. But always consider the risks of trading these speculative currencies.
Kevin VoigtOct 29, 2021

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Coinbase is the largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, trading nearly 100 cryptocurrencies. Coinbase fees, however, can be confusing and higher than some competitors. While Coinbase offers attractive security features, cryptocurrency trading is highly volatile, so always consider the risks.

Coinbase

on Coinbase's website

on Coinbase's website

Fees

0.5% - 4.5%

varies by type of transaction; other fees may apply

Account Minimum

$2

Promotion

Earn $5

in bitcoin for getting started on Coinbase

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Offers access to nearly 100 cryptocurrencies.
  • Low minimum to fund account.
  • Cryptocurrency is insured in event website is hacked.

Cons

  • Higher fees than other cryptocurrency exchanges.

Compare to Similar Brokers

Coinbase
SoFi Active Investing Crypto
Gemini
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

0.5% - 4.5%

varies by type of transaction; other fees may apply

Fees

1.25%

per trade

Fees

0.5% - 3.99%

depending on payment method and platform

Account Minimum

$2

Account Minimum

$10

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Earn $5

in bitcoin for getting started on Coinbase

Promotion

Get $10 in bitcoin

when you make your first trade of $10 or more

Promotion

$20 of BTC

for new users after trading $100 or more within 30 days

Get more smart money moves — straight to your inbox

Become a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.

Full Review

Where Coinbase shines

Selection: Coinbase has greatly expanded its crypto offering, now with access to nearly 100 cryptocurrencies.

Insurance: Cryptocurrency is insured in the event the website is hacked, which is a rare offering in the crypto world.

Trading platforms: Coinbase users can trade on two platforms: the original Coinbase platform, which allows users to use U.S. dollars to purchase cryptocurrency, and Coinbase Pro. Formerly known as GDAX, Coinbase Pro has advanced charting functions and allows users to make crypto-to-crypto transactions, as well as place market, limit and stop orders.

Coinbase Earn: A novel way to “earn while you learn,” Coinbase provides a series of video classes and exams as a way to educate users about cryptocurrency trading and some of the cryptocurrencies on offer. And, by taking the classes, users can earn certain cryptocurrencies.

Where Coinbase falls short

Fees: Coinbase has higher fees (and at times a more confusing fee structure) than other cryptocurrency exchanges.

Coinbase is best for:

  • Cryptocurrency traders looking for convenience.

  • Traders who want to easily convert one cryptocurrency to another.

Coinbase at a glance

Minimum trade

$2.

Trading and transaction fees

0.5% to 4.5% depending on payment method, cryptocurrency type, transaction size and platform. Other fees may apply.

Number of cryptocurrencies

96.

Crypto-to-crypto trading pairs

81 pairs with Coinbase Pro.

Website transparency

Important information, including investment minimums, supported assets and how to close the account, can be easily found on the website.

Can use your own digital wallet?

Yes.

Mobile app

Two highly rated apps for iOS and Android.

Customer service

Just email support. Emergency phone number provided to disable your account, plus an option to request to speak to a live agent.

More details about Coinbase's ratings

Minimum trade

The minimum amount needed to buy cryptocurrency on Coinbase is $2.

Trading and transaction fees

Coinbase's fee structure is a confusing combination of elements that depend on two factors:

  • Coinbase charges a spread of about 0.5% for cryptocurrency sales and purchases; rates may be higher or lower depending on market fluctuations.

  • Coinbase also charges a fee, the greater of either a flat fee or a variable one depending on the amount purchased and the payment type.

Coinbase gives these fee guidelines for total amount of trade:

Total trade amount

Fee

$10 or less

$0.99

More than $10 and up to $25

$1.49

More than $25 and up to $50

$1.99

More than $50 and up to $200

$2.99

And these fee guidelines for payment type in the U.S.:

Payment method

Fee

U.S. bank account or Coinbase wallet

1.49%

Debit card

3.99%

Instant card withdrawal

Up to 1.5% (minimum fee of $0.55)

ACH transfer

Free

Wire transfer

$10 ($25 outgoing)

So if you purchase $100 of bitcoin through your U.S. bank account, the flat fee would be calculated as $2.99 (rather than 1.49%, or $1.49, as the $2.99 is the higher of the two), along with the spread, which is the difference between the bid and ask price of the currency.

By comparison, Coinbase Pro’s pricing model is more straightforward, although fees have risen slightly over the last year. It's based on your monthly trading volume and liquidity of the asset at the time of purchase; if immediately available, you're charged a “taker” fee, and if your order needs to wait for a buyer, you are charged a “maker” fee. With Coinbase Pro, deposits and withdrawals must be made through a bank account; no card purchases are allowed. Wire transfer fees still apply.

Pricing tier

Taker fee

Maker fee

Up to $10K

0.50%

0.50%

$10K - $50K

0.35%

0.35%

$50K - $100K

0.25%

0.15%

$100K - $1M

0.20%

0.10%

$1M - $10M

0.18%

0.08%

$10M - $20M

0.18%

0.08%

$20M - $50M

0.15%

0.05%

$50M - $100M

0.15%

0.05%

$100M - $300M

0.1%

0.02%

$300M - $500M

0.08%

0.00%

$500M - $750M

0.06%

0.00%

$750M - $1B

0.05%

0.00%

$1B - $2B

0.04%

0.00%

$2B+

0.04%

0.00%

For the basic service on the regular Coinbase platform, the transaction minimum is $2, up to a total of $25,000 per day. With Coinbase Pro, trade and balance levels are unlimited, and while withdrawals are initially limited to $25,000 a day, users can request an increase in that amount.

Number of cryptocurrencies

Coinbase offers 96 cryptocurrencies for U.S. customers to trade, a larger number than many other platforms.

Crypto-to-crypto trading pairs

Coinbase offers around 80 crypto-to-crypto trading pairs, with dozens that can trade for bitcoin and ether, and more than 10 currencies that can trade with stablecoins like USDC — a coin whose price is always equivalent to US$1.

Digital wallet options and security

While cryptocurrency exchanges are not protected by the FDIC or the SIPC, Coinbase says that all of the digital currency it holds online is insured. The company says it holds less than 2% of customer funds online, with the rest stored in offline cold storage — away from possible online breaches — and says that if it were to suffer a breach of its online storage, "the insurance policy would pay out to cover any customer funds lost as a result."

The company notes the insurance covers only losses related to Coinbase cybersecurity or employee theft; breaches to individual Coinbase accounts (say, if your password were compromised) are not covered.

Cash balances are held in U.S. custodial accounts, money market funds or U.S. Treasurys. If your funds are held in U.S. banks, they are insured up to $250,000 per individual by the FDIC.

Mobile app

The Coinbase apps for iOS and Android are highly rated by users and include many of the same functions and features as the desktop site.

Customer support options

Coinbase struggles in the customer support category. Customers have the option to request support via email and Twitter, and they can also request to speak to someone by phone through a form on the website. However, it’s clear Coinbase attempts to help you solve any problems through a help page before taking calls or emails.

If you think your account has been hacked in some way, or there’s been any suspicious activity, there is an automated phone system you can call to lock your account.

We should note that Coinbase does have a strong library of educational content, and also offers a creative way to incentivize users to understand what they’re doing: Coinbase Earn. This lets you “earn while you learn” through a series of video classes and exams that discuss cryptocurrencies and how to trade them. By taking the classes, it’s possible to earn a set amount of the cryptocurrency you’re learning about.

Is Coinbase right for you?

Coinbase is considered one of the top cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.S. The interface for Coinbase basic service is quick and user-friendly, but costs can be difficult to track unless you use the more advanced Coinbase Pro.

But understand that investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is highly speculative and known for its volatility. A common guideline: Never invest any more than you can afford to lose.

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on Coinbase's website