Cointelegraph’s test series for exchanges continues with a report on using Bitstamp as an entry level user to see how its user experience matches its reputation.
The test is part of a practical report following publication of our exchanges reviews series earlier this year. As Bitcoin becomes more and more appealing to mainstream consumers, it is likely that more will need to use an exchange in order to perform various transactions.
As such, we wanted to see if the five leading exchanges from our review really are equipped to deliver a user experience which is easy and enjoyable to navigate for someone new to Bitcoin.
Bitstamp performed very well when under review, attaining joint second place with Hitbtc (whose usability review was first to be published here).
As with Hitbtc, the following operations were tested and will be reviewed in this article:
- Account setup;
- Account verification;
- Account deposits and withdrawals (fiat and cryptocurrency);
- User support system.
The first visit to Bitstamp’s homepage presents an immediately visible sign-up link which leads to a standard form requiring basic information to be submitted. A confirmation link is then sent to the email address supplied, whereupon a trading account is opened.
Password stipulations are somewhat irksome, requiring unmemorable character combinations, but as this is in the interest of security, it is likely users would not be put off. (This journalist in fact forgot the account password a total of five times while accessing the exchange for this report, which demonstrates the necessity of keeping secure offline copies of sensitive information when it comes to using Bitcoin.)
Once set up, accessing the account loads a set of values under the account tab. Information is laid out in overhead tabs while account areas have side tabs, with an effect somewhat more cohesive than that of Hitbtc, which features two separate site sections to navigate and a more fragmented approach.
Verifying accounts on Bitstamp uses a tier system in common with many exchanges, with degrees of freedom corresponding to the depth of information submitted.
Navigating through to tier 4, which caters for most private individuals’ needs, was entirely painless and copies of relevant documents were reviewed and ratified on the day of submission.
The capacity to trade crypto-fiat is not available without proof of address and ID documents being provided due to AML (anti money-laundering) regulations beyond the control of exchanges, but is immediately operational once this is done.
Deposits and withdrawals
First undertaken was to fund the Bitstamp account with bitcoins for conversion into euros, which was done using a Blockchain.info wallet. It was decided to transact using smaller amounts on Bitstamp to see whether they present a viable option for transferring small sums of money internationally.
The process of selling BTC for EUR was straightforward both in terms of interface and layout. Only the most necessary information is displayed when choosing order types to execute, and Bitstamp adds labels to technical procedures to aid those who do not understand them (see image below).
A market sell of BTC for USD was performed, with Bitstamp’s 0.5% fee shown in the quotation prior to the transaction being finalized - a useful plus as many exchanges do not offer a fees and charges breakdown at the point of transaction.
For withdrawals in USD, the process is simple with Bitstamp. For EUR, however, the exchange loses some of its otherwise very good functionality. Withdrawals are set up in USD, but the exchange rate, withdrawal fee for SEPA transfers and the ultimate amount sent in EUR are all concealed from the user until after the withdrawal has been finalized. This information is only made available in a confirmation email sent following successful withdrawal of funds, as well as in the transactions tab in the user account.
Speed was another limiting factor for Bitstamp regarding EUR transfers. The SEPA EUR payment was set up on 24 June with funds reaching the recipient bank account in Germany on 1 July, significantly longer than Hitbtc’s payment which cleared in around 36 hours.
The amounts in question are listed below:
Sold BTC for USD: 11.68 USD
Bitstamp selling fee: 0.06 USD
Withdrawn: 11.62 USD
Bitstamp withdrawal fee: 1.23 USD
Total fees: 1.29 USD
Received: 10.39 USD (7.58 EUR on 26.06.2014)
The rate used to convert USD to EUR Bitstamp states is the bank rate of UniCredit Bank’s Slovenian branch, a link to whose rates is included in the user profile.
During the longer than expected waiting period for funds to reach the recipient account, Bitstamp email support was contacted to provide a potential update. A response was received the same day, explaining that SEPA transfers typically take several days to clear and that there had been no delays on the part of the exchange. Given Bitstamp’s reputation for reliability, this is perhaps unsurprising, and the timely response led this journalist to continue to trust the processing system.
Using Bitstamp as a first exchange is a notably straightforward, non-technical process which will most likely gain it considerable mainstream appeal in future. To guarantee this, however, a breakdown of charges will most likely need to be shown prior to withdrawal transactions going ahead, as being ‘up front’ regarding additional costs has been a hot issue for financial services and others in recent years.
Keep following Cointelegraph for the next installment in the test series covering the top five highest-ranking exchanges from our exchange reviews series!