Kraken review: Is it just for advanced crypto traders?

18 min Read Published: 02 Sep 2021

Kraken review: Is it just for advanced crypto traders?

What is Kraken?

Kraken is one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange platforms, launched by Jesse Powell in 2011 in San Francisco, and now boasting over 7 million customers around the world. It is available across 48 US states and 176 countries, with over 50 cryptocurrencies on offer.

What does Kraken do?

Kraken is an online cryptocurrency exchange platform that allows users to buy, sell, trade, and store more than 50 different cryptocurrencies. Its services can be accessed on desktop as well as on iOS and Android devices.

Kraken has three different “verification levels” in the UK, from Starter to Intermediate to Pro. Your verification level determines what you can use your Kraken account for, such as how much cash you can deposit or withdraw into your bank account.

Kraken also supplies pricing data to Bloomberg Terminal, the computer software system used by financial specialists around the world to monitor and analyse real-time market data.

Compared to other cryptocurrency exchange platforms, Kraken has a complex fee structure which varies considerably depending on the transaction type, payment method, and trading volume, and charges can build up quickly for users trading with the Instant Buy feature. However, advanced investors may be drawn to the large variety of supported trading options.

Kraken’s main features

  • Available on browser, iOS and Android
  • Three verification levels in the UK - Starter, Intermediate, and Pro
  • More than 50 different cryptocurrencies available
  • Live “Cryptowatch” price data
  • Personalised support with Kraken Account Management program
  • Safer, offline cold storage for 95% of cryptoassets
  • 24/7 customer service

Kraken verification levels

Kraken offers three different verification levels - which essentially act as types of accounts - in the UK.

The verification level of a Kraken account does not affect the fees that Starter and Intermediate account users are charged on their transactions, although Pro accounts have a different fee model. We explain this in greater detail further down under the “Fees” header.

Each verification level has a different extent of access to Kraken’s vast array of features. For example, the Starter account offers the most basic trading options, while the Pro account enables users to undertake complex, high-volume transactions.

The table below outlines what each level of verification includes, what is required to set up an account, and who each one is best suited to.

Starter

This is the most basic and beginner-friendly Kraken verification level, allowing users to buy and sell cryptocurrency. Starter accounts require a two-factor login, email, full name, date of birth, phone number, and a physical address in order to be set up. It takes anywhere between 1 - 60 minutes for a Starter account to be verified and launched. This type of account is most suitable for beginner or amateur crypto investors who intend to carry out straightforward buy or sell transactions.

Good for:

  • Beginner investors looking for a user-friendly way to invest in crypto.
  • Simple buy/sell transactions without lots of jargon and hoops to jump through.
  • Easy set-up for a quick, no-fuss start to finish process.

Bad for:

  • Cash deposits and withdrawals, as these are not supported features for this type of account.

Intermediate

An Intermediate account on Kraken includes all the same features as a Starter account, but also enables users to buy, sell, and trade fiat currencies (traditional money, such as USD or GBP) as well trade on futures. However, Intermediate accounts require more identification to set up, including your occupation information, valid ID, phone number, and proof of residence. It takes around 10 minutes or less to verify and launch an Intermediate account once the correct ID has been supplied. This type of account is well suited for confident crypto investors trading in high volumes or carrying out complex transactions.

Good for:

  • Confident investors not put off by the complicated user interface.
  • Those that want to trade fiat currencies.
  • Those looking to branch out to margin and futures trading as well as simple buy/sell orders.

Bad for:

  • OTC (over the counter) trading, as it is not a supported feature for this account type.

Pro

There are two types of Pro account on Kraken - business and personal. The distinction between these two depends on whether users intend to use the account for personal or business endeavours, and requires even more identification to set up, but gives access to additional features such as OTC trading. Pro accounts have their own fee structure, which we explain in greater detail in the “Fees” section of this article. This type of account is best suited to advanced and professional crypto investors, and the verification process could take over 5 days.

Good for:

  • Advanced investors looking to access various trading types, e.g. margin, futures, OTC.
  • Lower trading fees due to the maker-taker fee model, as explained in greater detail further down.
  • High volume transactions, with no 24hr limit on cash deposits or withdrawals, and a generous $10,000,000 per 24 hrs limit for crypto withdrawals.

Bad for:

  • Beginner investors only interested in simple buy/sell transactions and who could be put off by the complicated user interface.

Starter vs Intermediate vs Pro

Features Starter Intermediate Pro
Cryptocurrency deposits Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Cryptocurrency withdrawals $5,000 per 24hrs $500,000 per 24hrs $10,000,000 per 24hrs
Cash deposits No $100,000 per 24hrs $10,000,000+ per 24hrs
Cash withdrawals No $100,000 per 24hrs $10,000,000+ per 24hrs
Margin trading No Yes Yes
Futures trading No Yes Yes
OTC trading No No Yes
Business account No No Yes

The full list of features which each verification level has access to can be found here.

Kraken fees

How do Kraken Instant Buy fees work?

Instant Buy is the payment method for simple buy or sell transactions on Kraken, and is the sole payment method for Starter accounts. Intermediate and Pro accounts can also use Instant Buy.

It can be accessed by clicking on the “Buy Crypto” widget both on desktop and mobile, and has four different charges depending on which type of transaction you choose.

Users either pay a 0.9% fee for buying or selling stablecoins (such as USD Coin), or a 1.5% fee for any other cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin). On top of this initial fee, users are also subject to either a 0.5% charge for online bank deposit transactions, or a 3.75% + €0.25 (or £0.21 in sterling) charge for using a payment card.

Put simply, Instant Buy users must pay either:

  • 0.9% for stablecoins
  • 1.5% fee for any other cryptocurrency

Plus, either:

  • 0.5% fee for online bank deposits
  • 3.75% + €0.25 (or £0.21 in sterling) fee for card payments

This means a typical cryptocurrency purchase using Kraken Instant Buy could incur fees as high as 5.25% + €0.25 (or £0.21 in sterling).

High fees for immediate purchases are not exclusive to Kraken, as the vast majority of cryptocurrency exchanges charge similarly extensive fees. For example, both Coinbase and Gemini charge a $2.99 flat fee for purchases between $50-$200, which could result in charges as high as 5.98% of a $50 transaction.

Those looking for a no-fuss purchase may find that it is difficult to avoid the high initial fees, but opting to graduate to a more advanced account - such as Pro - will help to lessen the transaction charges.

How do Kraken Pro fees work?

Similar to the advanced accounts offered by competitors such as Coinbase, Kraken Pro uses a maker-taker fee model on cryptocurrency transactions, ranging from 0.10% for takers and a 0.00% for makers.

Kraken Pro’s taker fees begin at a modest 0.26% for trades up to $50,000 - considerably lower than Coinbase Pro’s equivalent 0.35% - but still less than Gemini’s ActiveTrader, where taker fees remain at 0.35% for all 30-day trading volumes up to $500,000.

In terms of maker fees, Kraken Pro begins at 0.16% - whereas Coinbase Pro and ActiveTrader start at 0.50% and 0.25% respectively - making Kraken Pro a less expensive option for investors “making” the market with limit orders.

You can read more about what maker and taker fees are, and how they are calculated, in our article “Cryptocurrency: What are maker and taker fees?”.

The table below outlines the approximate fees that you can expect to be charged for different transactions on Kraken Pro:

30-Day Volume (USD) Taker Fee Maker Fee
Up to $50K 0.26% 0.16%
$50K - $100K 0.24% 0.14%
$100K - $250K 0.22% 0.12%
$250k - $500k 0.20% 0.10%
$500k - $1M 0.18% 0.08%
$1M - $2.5M 0.16% 0.06%
$2.5M - $5M 0.14% 0.04%
$5M - $10M 0.125% 0.02%
$10M+ 0.10% 0.00%

How do Kraken stablecoin and crypto-to-crypto trading fees work?

Most exchange platforms follow the maker-taker fee model for stablecoins and crypto-to-crypto trading, but Kraken charges a flat fee across both of these types of transactions, though the charge differs depending on a user’s 30-day trading volume. The more trades you have completed, the lower your fees will be.

The table below outlines the approximate fees that you can expect to be charged for stablecoin and crypto-to-crypto trades on Kraken:

30-Day Trading Volume (USD) Fee
$0 - $50,000 0.20%
$50,001 - $100,000 0.16%
$100,001 - $250,000 0.12%
$250,001 - $500,000 0.08%
$500,001 - $1,000,000 0.04%
$1,000,000+ 0.00%

How do Kraken margin fees work?

Kraken charges different fees for margin trading, which is when an investor borrows money from a broker to purchase assets, and pays a specified interest rate depending on how long they take to place an order. The fee Kraken users are charged depends on which cryptocurrency is involved in the trade and the total value of the purchase. Bear in mind that margin trading is only available for Intermediate and Pro level accounts.

The table below outlines the approximate fees that you can expect to be charged for margin trading on Kraken:

Base Currency Quote Currency Opening Fee Rollover Fee
ADA (Cardano) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
ALGO (Algorand) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
BCH (Bitcoin Cash) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
BTC (Bitcoin) EUR, USD 0.01% 0.01% per 4 hours
BTC (Bitcoin) GBP, CAD, USDT 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
DASH (Dash) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
DOT (Polkadot) ETH, EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
EOS (EOSIO) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
ETC (Ethereum Classic) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
ETH (Ethereum) EUR, USD, USDT, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
FIL (Filecoin) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
LINK (Chainlink) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
LTC (Litecoin) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
USDC (USD Coin) EUR, USD 0.01% 0.01% per 4 hours
USDT (Tether) EUR, USD 0.01% 0.01% per 4 hours
REP (Augur) EUR, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
TRX (TRON) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
XMR (Monero) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
XRP (Ripple) EUR, USD, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours
XTZ (Tezos) EUR, USD, ETH, BTC 0.02% 0.02% per 4 hours

How do Kraken futures fees work?

Kraken charges different fees for futures trading - only available for Intermediate and Pro accounts - based on a maker-taker fee model. Futures trading, like a limit order, involves the purchase of an asset once it reaches a predetermined price in the future. Kraken’s futures fees are calculated as a percentage of the projected order value of a successful trade at the time when the order is placed.

The table below outlines the approximate fees that you can expect to be charged for futures trading on Kraken:

30-Day Trading Volume (USD) Maker Fee Taker Fee
$0 - $100,000 0.0200% 0.0500%
$100,001 - $1,000,000 0.0150% 0.0400%
$1,000,001 - $5,000,000 0.0125% 0.0300%
$5,000,001 - $10,000,000 0.0100% 0.0250%
$10,000,001 - $20,000,000 0.0075% 0.0200%
$20,000,001 - $50,000,000 0.0050% 0.0150%
$50,000,001 - $100,000,000 0.0025% 0.0125%
$100,000,001 + 0.0000% 0.0100%

Which cryptocurrencies can you trade on Kraken?

There is a long list of cryptocurrencies available to trade on Kraken, including:

  • Augur (REP)
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Chainlink (LINK)
  • Dai (DAI)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Monero (XMR)
  • Polkadot (DOT)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Tether (USDT)
  • USD Coin (USDC)
  • Waves (WAVES)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

The full list of supported cryptocurrencies available on Kraken can be viewed here.

How safe is Kraken?

Kraken has several measures in place to protect users’ assets, including 2-Factor Authentication, email confirmations for all withdrawals, and 95% of all deposits are kept in “offline, air-gapped, geographically distributed” cold storage. Kraken’s own server is kept in a secure cage “under 24/7 surveillance by armed guards and video monitors” to minimise the risk of hacking or interference. Kraken also boasts a “high priority” 24/7 live chat and email support service for urgent customer concerns, setting it apart from the majority of other exchange platforms with minimal customer service options and a track record of slow response times. This makes Kraken a more desirable option for those keen to communicate with staff about their investments and any associated enquiries.

What do users think of Kraken?

Kraken has a 2.0 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot across more than 900 reviews, giving it the highest grade out of the most popular cryptocurrency exchange platforms, compared to Gemini’s 1.5 and Coinbase’s 1.7. As is commonplace with other exchange reviews on Trustpilot, there appear to be a large number of disingenuous reviews which have dragged Kraken’s rating down, but there are several comments highlighting the low fees and consistent customer support which give Kraken an edge over the competition.

The verdict

Kraken is generally better suited to advanced cryptocurrency investors. Although standard buy/sell orders come with fees typical across the industry, on par with competitors Coinbase and Gemini, the trading fees for more complex transactions are less expensive. The downside is that these advanced transactions follow a complicated fee structure, and a potentially daunting corporate-looking user interface, which could put off more amateur investors. On this basis, beginner investors may find an alternative exchange more user-friendly for the same fees, but advanced and professional investors may benefit from the wide range of supported trading options and comparatively low charges.

For more information on cryptocurrency investing, check out our articles "A beginner's guide to investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrency", "How are cryptocurrencies regulated in the UK?", or "Cryptocurrency mining: What it is, how it works and how to mine bitcoin".