So much exchange data, so little time – Cointelegraph’s exchange review series draws to a close with a neat summary of the plus and minus points to help you make an informed decision next time you trade.
Since publication of the other installments in this series, certain data from the exchanges has changed slightly, which will be reflected in the overall scores in this article. Furthermore, some additional details are included, which will be discussed below.
Cointelegraph compiled the information for the reviews series using official support channels of the exchanges, as well as a wide variety of user reviews and data, more information on which can be found here.
You can see the full version of our infographic here.
Payment and order types; security tools; API
types and more
Order types: Limit orders; support and stop loss-take profit orders available
Payment types: Only BTC deposit and withdrawals accepted.
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, cold storage, automatic backup of the database, SSL encryption, API keys. Accepts only Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, so does not store client funds in bank accounts.
API types: STREAM and REST.
Order types: buy
order; sell order.
Payment types: EgoPay for USD and EUR – the fee is whatever the wallet charges.
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, cold storage, encrypted SSL, Firewall, Security Scanning, SQL injection filters, verify the authenticity of POST, PUT, and DELETE requests to prevent CSRF attacks; passwords stored on the database (salted bcrypt).
API types: REST.
Order types: Limit
Payment types: SWIFT - free; withdrawal SWIFT: 0.1% - 0.5% plus 5USD.
Security tools: SSL encryption, cold storage, 2-factor authentication, SMS withdrawal confirmation, trade notifications.
API types: no response from developers.
Order types: Buy
order, sell order.
Payment types: A lot of deposit/ withdrawal options (US bank transfer, EU (SEPA) transfer, Visa, MasterCard, Liqpay.com, unikarta.com, PerfectMoney.com, WebCreds.com, Ukash.com, Webmoney.ru).
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, withdrawal confirmation by e-mail.
API types: REST.
Order types: market order, limit order.
Payment types: deposit – no fee; withdrawal SWIFT 0.5%; BTC 0.0001; LTC 0.001.
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, DDoS Protection, SSL encryption, withdrawal confirmation by email and SMS, cold storage.
API types: No information.
Order types: market order,
limit order, good-till-cancelled order, immediate-or-cancel order, good-till-date/
time order, fill-or-kill or day order.
Payment types: SEPA and SWIFT (Deposit fee USD - 9$; EUR - SEPA Zone (No fee); Outside SEPA (6.00€); BTC, LTC - no fee; withdrawal fee USD -9$; EUR - SEPA Zone (0.90€); Outside SEPA (6€); BTC - no fee; LTC - 0.001Ł).
Security tools: 2-factor authentication; cold Storage, withdrawal confirmation through e-mail and SMS, encryption.
API types: REST, STREAM, FIX.
Order types: market
order, limit order. Two additional order types coming soon.
Payment types: SEPA deposits and withdrawals; EgoPay for USD and EUR. (Deposits are currently free of charge, though subject to change; withdrawals are 1% of the withdrawal amount plus a small fee (this varies depending on payment type.))
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, physical intrusion, automatic backup of the database; cold storage, SSL Encryption, DB Security, DDOS protection, regular stress and soak testing.
API types: REST.
Order types: market
orders, limit orders, stop orders, trailing stop orders, fill or kill orders.
Payment types: SWIFT or EgoPay, no SEPA. (For an incoming/ outgoing transfer a fee of 0.01% of the deposit/ withdrawal amount is charged, but with a minimum of USD20 for each deposit/withdrawal.)
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, cold storage, trade only exchanges API keys, automatic backup of the database, duplication of backup data, always up-to-date Linux systems, security monitored by the security company Arcui; encryption.
API types: REST.
Order types: instant and limit orders.
Payment types: SEPA and SWIFT (SEPA deposits do not have any cost attached; SWIFT deposits have a 0.1% deposit fee on the exchange side (minimum fee USD15.)) Withdrawal: SEPA - 0.90€, SWIFT - 0.09%
Security tools: 2-factor authentication; cold storage, CentOS (an operating system closely based on the RedHat Enterprise Linux distribution which is also known for being used by the US military for its security); encryption.
API types: REST.
Order types: market; limit order; stop loss orders (stop loss, stop loss limit, trailing stop, trailing stop limit); take profit orders (take profit, take profit limit); combined orders (stop loss, take profit; stop loss, take profit limit; stop, limit orders); conditional close orders.
Payment types: deposit – SEPA 0%, SWIFT 5EUR; withdrawal SEPA 0.09EUR; SWIFT 5-40EUR.
Security tools: 2-factor authentication, cold storage, API keys, Encryption, Automatic backup of the database; Cloudflare, maintain full reserves — a “bank run” is an impossibility; PGP/GPG for email encryption.
API types: REST.
Order volume A Summary
Order volumes for all exchanges have changed over the past 30 days, and have been updated in the review statistics to reflect this.
BTC China: 173123BTC
As perhaps could be expected, no exchange contains the perfect blend of features which produce the ultimate consumer experience. While some clearly provide a more stable service overall, and the difference between the higher and lower scoring services is obvious, there are both positive and negative attributes in each of the exchanges under review. While one may excel at customer usability and accessibility, for example, it may not offer a wide range of financial services or have the most competitive prices, and vice versa.
Regardless of the breadth of features, however, an exchange fundamentally must ensure that its customers are provided a sufficient level of security and reliability when transacting with and handling sensitive data. For any financial service, this security level, far from being ‘good’, must be all-encompassing and unstintingly reliable. Furthermore, should any problems arise, the support network in place needs to be similarly flawless in its operations.
It is primarily due to these safety issues that ICBIT finds itself at the bottom of the list of results, with an overall score of 50/100. Add to this a high degree of anonymity, despite low fees and a comprehensive range of orders which it can execute, and it is difficult to state unequivocally that the exchange is a reliable means of transacting.
Despite offering a high quality support service, LakeBTC suffers again from a high degree of anonymity, and hence a lack of accountability. Its services overall, although of generally good repute in community forums, etc., are somewhat limited in comparison to those offered elsewhere, which combine to give it a total score of 59/100. For an overall view of how LakeBTC scores in each area of functionality, see the infographic further down the page.
As will be discussed later, it is worth noting that these two exchanges are geared less towards mainstream or inexperienced users, while being frequented more by technically literate members of the cryptocurrency community. That those with higher awareness of the space should prefer less traceable services for transactions may seem paradoxical, but it can be assumed from the exchanges’ comparatively low volumes that those who do use them consider themselves suitably knowledgeable to avoid the risk of losses.
While having a higher transaction volume than ICBIT and LakeBTC, Btc-e is perhaps a paradigm of the anonymous, untraceable, diehard user-led service which, while useful for those who know exactly what they are doing, is both incohesive and somewhat intimidating for any other potential customer. With its support services also receiving much criticism on forums, its overall score was bound to be limited, with a total of 63/100.
Bitfinex manages to cover elements of safety very well, but suffers from a poor interface and lack of appeal to novice users, which is one of the main contributing factors to its final score of 67/100. For more information on the usability issues, consult the first chapter of our exchange series and view the infographic in this article.
What ails Bitfinex is also very pertinent to Cryptsy (69/100), whose website is both difficult to navigate due to both its design and reliability. Its main redeeming feature is its support initiative in the form of a wiki, which contains exhaustive information on a variety of exchange and general Bitcoin-related topics. Nevertheless, this is geared towards users who do not require guidance and are able to find specific information using preexisting knowledge of both cryptocurrency and IT.
Moving to a different echelon in the exchange results, BTC China generally performs well in providing a good selection of services in a reliable manner, achieving 73/100. This exchange is part of a group we have noticed which is geared towards a general clientele but which is still limited in its capacity to become entirely mainstream. In the case of BTC China, this is due mostly to factors beyond its control, such as the People’s Bank of China’s current directives which have limited aspects of its operation. However, for a service in such a situation, the lack of support options is noticeable, with the majority geared to Mandarin speakers. Nevertheless, the company is of course well-known and traceable, and its CEO Bobby Lee is furthermore an active, highly-regarded member of the community.
Capitalizing on this generally more accessible format is ANXBTC (72/100). Its features are limited, however, making it more suitable for entry-level clients, and volumes are relatively low for a major exchange.
The ‘top three’ of the reviews series scored the most highly for different reasons. Bitstamp and hitbtc both received 76/100, with the former scoring on mainstream appeal, traceability and security. Hitbtc is less high profile but offers more features, such as currency pairs, and is just as easy to use. These attributes allow both exchanges to appeal to both beginners and seasoned veterans, in an environment which provides suitable security. Hitbtc excels in cost effectiveness, however, with Bitstamp being the most expensive on average of all the exchanges covered in the review; see the infographic for full details.
For overall performance, however, Kraken has come out on top. Despite being relatively new on the scene, and hence not processing a large volume of transactions, its credentials in respect of securely processing major pairs efficiently with requisite support in place cannot be underestimated. As such, the exchange comes closest in terms of meeting every requirement for today’s average consumer, and scores 78/100.
As mentioned previously, however, no service can as yet be classed as ‘ideal’, and all are, to a greater or lesser extent, a compromise. This is entirely to be expected, given that the industry is very young and developing continually to fit a market which is itself extremely volatile.
The cryptocurrency clientele furthermore remains fragmented: born out of a technological circle, those coming to exchanges range from curious yet disinterested individuals to devoted digital currency aficionados to computer geeks. Browsing the ten exchanges, it is clear that some appeal very much to one group of users more than others.
In the long term, it is likely that increased regulation and consolidation of the space, with smaller exchanges disappearing or amalgamating or being taken over by others, will result in user accessibility and mainstream appeal being prerequisites for survival. What is currently noticeable, however, is that certain exchanges are reluctant or struggling to combine the essence of cryptocurrencies with the framework of the conventional banking system in practice.
That is to say, marrying decentralized innovation with bank fees, delays and legal restrictions is a thorn in the side of all exchanges, but handled better by some than by others. This is a problem which once again will most likely be smoothed out in the passage of time, but for today’s customer, the service which offers the most convenient solution will surely be preferential.
To view the operations of an exchange as a compromised effort, however, is to misunderstand the essence of the innovation at hand in the space. Rather, a basic service has been established with varying degrees of success, and continual development is now ensuring that ever-increasing functionality is available to the rapidly-expanding world of digital currency. While everything is still relatively new, the ultimate resource is something already being aimed for, and exchanges, as an essential part of the industry’s framework, are no exception in their work.
For more information on the exchanges, check out the previous articles in the series: The Exchanges Review Part I: Easy on the Eye (and Brain), The Exchange Review Part II: In and Out, Securely, The Exchange Review Part III: Costs to You, The Exchange Review Part IV: Questions, Answers and Speaking your Language and The Exchange Review Part V: Personal Support and API.
We also want to thank Geir Solem, the chairman of CryptorTrust and Manuel Heilmann, the CEO & Co-founder of Coinzone for their invaluable help in consulting us on the subject of exchanges throughout the entire series of reviews.