The Exchange Review Part V: Personal Support and API

Further to our previous review of ten Bitcoin exchanges’ FAQ and language availability as part of a wider series, we now take a further look at the customer support on offer, as well as the exchanges’ API capabilities.

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The Exchange Review Part V: Personal Support and API

Further to our previous review of ten Bitcoin exchanges’ FAQ and language availability as part of a wider series, we now take a further look at the customer support on offer, as well as the exchanges’ API capabilities.

Running a Bitcoin exchange can be unpredictable, with any problems leading to a high volume of queries through multiple channels which can be a challenge to deal with.

Not so hot…

Despite claiming to answer queries within one hour during business hours or within 12 hours otherwise, BTC-E is known for delayed responses as well as the poor quality of its English language support.

“The BTC-e API allows users to get information about the user's current balance, API key privileges, number of transactions, the number of open orders, and server time. An account is required with service, BTC-e accepts REST calls and returns JSON, and uses SSL for authentication,” ProgrammableWeb.com notes.

Its API also leaves something to be desired, however, not currently supporting Bitcoin withdrawals, something which is offered by every major exchange. There is also currently no market list and markets must be pre-loaded instead. According to a forum post, however, this is in the process of being completed.

Quality of help: 2
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 2
Response time: 3
API: 3

ICBIT, while only offering email channel for queries, fares somewhat better, although the service does not give estimates of response times.

“The ICBIT API allows users to issue/cancel trade orders, as well as get real-time market information about Bitcoin and its status among other currencies. The service uses JavaScript and sockets to connect with the API server. Access Tokens, API keys, and SSL are used for authentication,” states ProgrammableWeb.

The tool is generally well-received, but forum users often highlight instability as a recurring problem.

Quality of help: 3
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 2
Response time: 2
API: 2


Quality across the board

The other eight exchanges under review tend to offer broadly sufficient customer support, a positive development which highlights the consensus in the community for cementing the credibility of individual aspects of the Bitcoin network. API, with some exceptions is also by and large well-received by users.

LakeBTC is a good example of the multichannel support offered by the China-based exchanges on our list. Customer service is available via telephone, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and Weibo and appears very responsive. Its API is available only to ‘advanced’ users, however, who qualify for that status based on their account trading volumes being sufficiently high.

Quality of help: 3
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 4
Response time: 4
API: 2

BTC China likewise offers comprehensive variety for customers, which includes QQ-chat in addition to email and telephone. However, for English-speaking users, email is recommended, as the other channels are primarily for Chinese speakers. Note however that API was reported during the height of Bitcoin’s price surge last November to be very unstable, with shutdowns common during peak trading hours.

Quality of help: 3
Easy to contact: 4
Support methods: 5
Response time: 4
API: 2

ANXBTC by contrast uses the Mt. Gox API, which is of high quality. The exchange also has extensive support methods on offer, with multilingual support and a maximum 4-hour response window.

Quality of help: 4
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 2
Response time: 4
API: 4

Also quick on the uptake is Hitbtc whose aim is to respond to messages in its (email-only) support system within 30 minutes. Its API is furthermore reported to be extremely responsive and provides accurate and consistent market data for those wishing to experiment in building bots.

Quality of help: 5
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 2
Response time: 4
API: 4

Bitstamp’s “RESTful API exposes transactional functions and access to Bitcoin market ticker information,” as described by ProgrammableWeb, “It returns JSON-encoded data.” Curiously, Bitstamp has recently been experiencing API outages which were widely reported in forums. Each instance was repaired swiftly, however.

Customer support operates via a ticket system. Such systems tend to be slower, especially during problematic periods, but in the case of Bitstamp, it is generally reliable.

Quality of help: 4
Easy to contact: 4
Support methods: 2
Response time: 4
API: 3

Bitfinex has an established API which “allows users to access the full functionality of the Bitfinex platform including the orderbook, the personal account data, and other attributes. The API uses REST calls and returns JSON.” It uses SSL and an API key for security, and users require an account in order to use it.

There have been occasional slowdowns with the service, as noted on bitcointalk, but as one user notes, “Mt. Gox had the best [API]. Now Bitfinex has the best.”

Quality of help: 2
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 2
Response time: 3
API: 3

Cryptsy is unusually high in our ranking for its API capabilities, which have been used to create the Cryptsy Automatic Trader. Customer service is somewhat chaotic, however, with reports that user tickets are not being responded to. The service does offer live chat support, however, which is a less common feature of the exchanges at present.

Quality of help: 3
Easy to contact: 3
Support methods: 4
Response time: 2
API: 4

Finally, Kraken (perhaps predictably) demonstrates high efficiency with customer queries, especially with regard to response time. Their REST-based API “offers public market data, private user data and information about the user's accounts, and the ability to place and manipulate trade orders,” and requires an account to access.

Quality of help: 4
Easy to contact: 4
Support methods: 2
Response time: 4
API: 3

It is fair to say that while both these areas are subject to continuing teething problems from a technical perspective, exchanges understand the need to be transparent in their private dealings with customers. We will shortly publish a summary article giving a definitive rundown of all aspects of the ten exchanges covered for readers to use when considering which service to trust with their bitcoins.

In the meantime, check out the other reviews in the series: Easy on the Eye (and Brain), In and Out, Securely, Costs to You and Questions, Answers and Speaking your Language.

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