Coinbase review: Is it the best crypto exchange?

18 min Read Published: 27 Jul 2021

Coinbase review

What is Coinbase?

Coinbase is an American cryptocurrency exchange company. Founded in San Francisco in 2012, Coinbase has grown rapidly to become one of the largest cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the world. In April 2021, Coinbase became the first cryptocurrency platform to list on a US stock exchange with a valuation of around $86 billion.

Coinbase is the leading mainstream exchange in the US, and currently boasts more than 56 million customers across more than 100 countries, with an estimated $223 billion in assets to its name.

What does Coinbase do?

Coinbase is an online cryptocurrency exchange platform that enables users to buy, sell, spend, earn, save, and use cryptocurrencies. Its services can be accessed via a browser as well as on iOS and Android mobile devices. Coinbase offers two different subscription services; Coinbase, which enables customers to buy or sell cryptocurrency; and Coinbase Pro, which allows users to buy, sell, and make crypto-to-crypto transactions.

Coinbase also offers a range of products, including an integrated digital wallet called Coinbase Wallet which can be downloaded onto a browser or device for customers to store their public and private keys. It also has a debit Visa card called Coinbase Card, which allows customers to spend their cryptocurrency anywhere that Visa cards are accepted, its own stablecoin called USD Coin, which is pinned to the value of the US dollar, as well as more than 500 tokens and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Coinbase's main features:

  • Available on browser, iOS and Android
  • Two account types - Coinbase and Coinbase Pro
  • Integrated digital wallet - Coinbase Wallet
  • Debit Visa card - Coinbase Card
  • Own US dollar-backed stablecoin - USD Coin
  • More than 50 different cryptocurrencies
  • More than 500 different tokens and NFTs

Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro

Coinbase

Coinbase Mobile – HomeThe regular Coinbase account is a popular entry-level option for amateur cryptocurrency investors. It has a simple, easy-to-use interface geared toward beginners. It can be accessed on a browser or through an app on Android or iOS devices.

When you log in to your Coinbase account, you are immediately shown your portfolio balance (how much the cryptocurrency you have purchased is worth), and how it has performed across a selection of time frames. You can adjust these to your preferences, such as: 1 hour, 24 hours, 1 week,1 month, or 1 year. There is a banner above your portfolio balance which has a "Buy crypto" button, where you can enter a dollar value and place an order to purchase whichever cryptocurrency you choose that Coinbase offers. This button also brings up the options to sell or convert your existing cryptocurrency, or even set up standing orders - daily, weekly, on the 1st and 15th, or once a month. On the top right of the home page, there are options to send and receive cryptocurrency.

It is important to note that when a user purchases cryptocurrency on Coinbase, their keys are stored in a wallet that Coinbase has control over, which means that the user does not have autonomous control over their holdings. Although Coinbase has never reported being hacked, cryptocurrency keys stored in an online wallet are theoretically more vulnerable to theft and hacks than those stored offline. Fortunately, Coinbase enables users to withdraw their keys onto a private wallet of their choice, so these security concerns could be easily avoided.

Coinbase Pro

Coinbase Pro - MobileThe Coinbase Pro account is a more advanced account targeted at mid-to-experienced cryptocurrency investors. It offers all the same trading options as a Coinbase account, plus the ability to trade crypto-to-crypto as well as a range of sophisticated real-time charting tools to enable a more comprehensive trading experience. It can be accessed on a browser or through Android or iOS devices.

The interface on a Coinbase Pro account is sleek and detailed, but the advanced charts and corporate colour scheme could be intimidating for beginners. Users can track the market, view their trade history, and monitor open orders. One of the main benefits of using Coinbase Pro instead of a regular Coinbase account is the fact that the fees on Coinbase Pro can be significantly reduced to as low as 0%, depending on the value of the order. Coinbase Pro also allows buy or sell orders, which allow you to simply wait for the market value of the cryptocurrency to reach your chosen price before you trade, as opposed to being limited to the current market value.

While the regular Coinbase account is a great way for amateur investors to begin investing in cryptocurrency, Coinbase Pro is a more suitable platform for those who wish to actively trade or invest with lower fees and more sophisticated features. Similar to a regular Coinbase account, users automatically use a Coinbase Wallet to store their keys, but you can opt to use a private wallet to maximise your security.

How do Coinbase fees work?

Regular Coinbase accounts have a relatively complex and expensive fee structure compared to other cryptocurrency exchange platforms, which can significantly chip away at smaller transactions. There are 2 tiers to its fee system: a spread and Coinbase's own fee, which differs depending on the amount, payment method, and which country you are in.

Coinbase fees reduce in proportion to the total amount of the transaction, so a larger purchase will saddle you with lower fees than a smaller one. This is important to keep in mind if you are only intending to purchase a small amount of cryptocurrency, as you could end up spending a significant proportion of your investment solely on usage fees.

Coinbase spread

Coinbase initially charges a spread across all transactions. This is essentially the difference between the price Coinbase pays to get a cryptocurrency and the price it resells it to you for, which typically sits at around 0.50%, but can fluctuate depending on the market value of the cryptocurrency in question.

Coinbase fee

There is also a Coinbase fee in addition to the spread. The Coinbase fee is whichever is the greater of either (a) the flat fee or (b) the variable percentage fee, which is determined by region, product feature, and payment type. So each transaction on Coinbase is subject to the initial spread (around 0.5%) plus whichever is the greatest of either the flat fee or variable percentage fee applicable to the transaction.

Flat fees in the UK:

Total Transaction Amount Fee
$10 or less $0.99
More than $10 but less than or equal to $25 $1.49
More than $25 but less than or equal to $50 $1.99
More than $50 but less than or equal to $200 $2.99
More than $200 Variable percentage fee applies

Variable percentage fees in the UK:

Bank Transfer Debit/Credit Card SEPA Bank Transfers - in/out Faster Payments Instant Card Withdrawals
1.49% 3.99% Free/€0.15 Free Up to 2% of any transaction and a minimum fee of £0.55

How do Coinbase Pro fees work?

Coinbase Pro has a comparatively simple fee structure, which often works out significantly cheaper than a regular Coinbase account. The fees are calculated using your trading volume, which is determined by how much you have traded over the previous 30 days, and is shown in US dollars.

A "taker fee" applies when you place a cryptocurrency order at the market price which gets filled immediately. A "maker fee" applies when you place an order which is not immediately matched by an existing order, so your order gets placed on an order book. If another customer places an order that matches yours, you are then considered the maker. When you place an order that gets partially matched immediately, you pay a taker fee for that portion, while the remainder placed on the order book is considered a maker order.

Therefore, your order could be split, and you could end up paying a different fee for different portions of your order. However, usually Coinbase Pro fees are considerably less expensive than regular Coinbase fees.

Total Trading Volume Taker Fee Maker Fee
Up to $10,000 0.50% 0.50%
$10,000 - $50,000 0.35% 0.35%
$50,000 - $100,000 0.25% 0.15%
$100,000 - $1 million 0.20% 0.10%
$1 million - $10 million 0.18% 0.18%
$10 million - $50 million 0.15% 0.05%
$50 million - $100 million 0.10% 0%
$100 million - $300 million 0.07% 0%
$300 million - $500 million 0.05% 0%
$500 million - $1 billion 0.04% 0%
More than $1 billion 0.04% 0%

Which payment methods does Coinbase accept in the UK?

Coinbase and Coinbase Pro accept a number of different payment methods in the UK. Not only is each one subject to different fees, the payment method you choose can affect how quickly your payment is processed and which kinds of transactions you can perform on Coinbase.

Check out the table below to determine which payment method would be best suited to your needs.

Best For Buy Sell Deposit Withdraw Speed
Bank Transfer Large amounts, GBP deposits, withdrawing Within 1 business day
Debit/Credit Card Instant cryptocurrency purchases Instant
SEPA Transfer Large amounts, EUR deposits, withdrawing 1-3 business days
Faster Payments Large amounts, GBP deposits, withdrawing 1-3 business days
Instant Card Withdrawals Withdrawals Instant

Which cryptocurrencies can you trade on Coinbase?

Coinbase supports more than 50 different cryptocurrencies to buy, sell and trade in the UK, including:

  • Augur (REP)
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Civic (CVC)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Filecoin (FIL)
  • Golem (GNT)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Orchid (OXT)
  • Ren (REN)
  • Ripples (XRP)
  • Synthetix (SNX)
  • Tezos (XTZ)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

The full list of cryptocurrencies which Coinbase supports in the UK, and which kinds of transaction are permitted for each, can be found here.

Is Coinbase safe?

Coinbase is one of the most secure cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the world. It has 2-step verification, biometric fingerprint logins, and insurance in the event that Coinbase itself is breached (this insurance does not apply if your account is breached due to your own lack of security measures). It also claims to store “up to 97%” of users' funds in offline cold storage to minimise the risk of interference from online cybercriminals.

Many users' public and private keys, however, are stored on Coinbase’s server. Whenever a user purchases cryptocurrency using the integrated Coinbase Wallet, their keys are stored on Coinbase's own system, which means the user does not actually have autonomous control over their assets. There is a simple solution: You could simply withdraw your holdings into your own personal wallet - preferably a cold wallet for maximum security. Visit our explainer on cryptocurrency wallets for more information.

It is crucial to note that even though Coinbase itself is insured in the event of a hack, an individual's assets are not. Should your holdings on Coinbase become compromised (for example, through someone hacking your laptop and gaining access to your keys), you would be unable to recoup your losses because cryptocurrencies are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which insures most financial products for up to £85,000. Without this insurance, if your Coinbase account was breached and your money was withdrawn, you would have no way of getting compensation.

Coinbase itself claims that it has never been hacked, and only 0.004% of its users reportedly experienced “account takeovers” between April 2020 and April 2021, but in all cases it was because someone had breached their devices and then gained access to their Coinbase accounts. The responsibility for these breaches therefore lies more with the individual users' failure to protect their devices as opposed to a flaw in Coinbase's own security system, so Coinbase users should remember to keep their devices and keys as secure as possible to prevent their assets from being jeopardised.

While it is never 100% safe to use any online cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase is still considered one of the safest web exchanges and digital wallets that you can use, and offers more security than many of the smaller, start-up exchanges.

Coinbase customer reviews

Coinbase has 1.7 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot over more than 5000 reviews. At first glance, this can appear to be a rather low rating, but a quick scroll through the comments reveals that many appear inauthentic and have likely dragged the rating down. However, there are a number of customer service complaints highlighting the inability to speak to a human being about their concerns, most likely due to the fact that Coinbase currently does not offer telephone support from a live agent. Users looking to contact customer service are limited to submitting a request for email support, which can be a time-consuming process and potentially inconvenient for straightforward enquiries. This is not unusual for cryptocurrency exchanges, however, with some major competitors such as Gemini only offering email support. There are some which offer telephone customer service, such as Kraken, but the vast majority have a long-winded and largely automated help system like Coinbase.

The verdict

Overall, Coinbase is one of the most popular and secure cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, with a large variety of currencies and tokens to trade with. However, it has a complex and relatively expensive fee structure unless you opt for a Coinbase Pro account, and many Trustpilot reviews point to its poor customer service record. Users should also make sure that they keep their devices and accounts as secure as possible to minimise the chances of their holdings becoming compromised, and think carefully about the ratio of Coinbase's fees to smaller transactions before making any purchases.

For more information on cryptocurrencies, read our articles "A beginner's guide to investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrency" or "Cryptocurrency mining: What it is, how it works and how to mine bitcoin".