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Binance.US made a big move to launch commission-free spot trading in Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two most widely traded cryptocurrencies. Binance – which we’ll use here to refer to the U.S. operation – continues to offer some of the lowest fees in the industry and pairs it with one of the widest selections of tradable cryptocurrencies. With low fees, however, comes customer service that’s not as established as rivals’, with support tickets and chat help, but no phone support. But that wide range of available crypto and free trades for the two biggest coins may well be enough for most clients to overlook some of the faults here.
If you need even more cryptocurrencies to trade, then Coinbase offers more than 200 of them. If you want to trade just the most popular cryptos as a sideline to trading other securities, check out the finance apps Robinhood and Webull, both of which offer a handful of coins to trade.
The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Binance in June 2023, alleging that it had illegally operated as an exchange, broker-dealer and clearing agency and offered and sold unregistered securities. The lawsuit also accused Binance and its founder, Changpeng Zhao, of misusing customer funds. SEC Chair Gary Gensler warned investors of using Binance platforms. Binance said its customers’ assets are safe.
- Crypto-only traders
- Active traders
- Crypto-to-crypto trading
Binance at a glance
|Minimum balance:||None, but $10 trade minimum|
|Securities tradable:||137 cryptocurrencies|
|Cost per trade:||
|Customer service:||Live chat, support tickets and self-help|
|Mobile app:||The Binance mobile app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store|
Pros: Where Binance stands out
Commissions and fees
Binance really stands out when it comes to its commission structure. Fees generally start low, and then only move lower. Binance uses a volume-based pricing model, and even offers further discounts for using its proprietary cryptocurrency to buy and sell. That said, if you’re used to the simple world of most brokerage pricing, you’ll need to bid goodbye to those dreams here.
Binance has recently overhauled its pricing structure. Unfortunately, what was once only confusing has now become maze-like, with 10 different volume-based discounts across three different tiers, depending on the exact cryptocurrency you’re trading. Oh, and add on a further discount and pricing if you’re using Binance Coin, the exchange’s in-house stablecoin. Suddenly, rivals’ pricing scheme of just 8-10 volume-based levels feels quaint and simple.
On top of all of that, Binance uses a maker-taker model that rewards those who add liquidity to the market (makers) and charges a bit more (at higher trade volumes) to those who reduce liquidity (takers). So makers and takers can be charged different prices even if they’ve done the same volume. It’s an utterly bewildering mishmash of pricing, but let’s break it down.
Binance runs a volume-based pricing scheme across what it calls three tiers. Each tier corresponds to certain cryptocurrencies, with more common coins in lower tiers. For example, Tier 0 consists of trades exclusively in Bitcoin and Ethereum, both of which are free to trade if you’re moving from actual U.S. dollars or a few other stablecoins. In fact, it doesn’t matter how much volume you’re doing because at each volume level, the commission is always zero.
Then step up to Tier 1, which includes trading in Solana and Dogecoin, among many others.
Here commissions start as high as 0.20 percent (with less than $10,000 in 30-day trading volume) and run as low as free, if you’re a maker with $20 million in volume in the 30 prior days. It’s a total of 10 pricing tiers from top to bottom, with sliding fees for both makers and takers.
Then Tier 2 is everything else not included in the prior levels. Commissions here start at 0.6 percent at the priciest level and decline to free for makers doing $300 million in 30-day volume.
And again, if you’re using Binance Coin to pay, go ahead and deduct 25 percent from that tab.
There’s one more thing you’ll need to be aware of, however. Binance charges what it calls a “small spread” when you buy, sell or convert your coins. You can (and should) avoid this fee by using what Binance calls Advanced Trading, which allows you to engage directly in the market.
So how much would it cost you to buy $10,000 of a given cryptocurrency at each level, assuming you were a taker using Advanced Trading?
- Tier 0: At this tier, you could buy either Bitcoin or Ethereum with no commissions.
- Tier 1: Here you would pay $20, or $15 with Binance Coin.
- Tier 2: Here you would pay $60, or $45 with Binance Coin.
Even more confusing pricing structure in 2023? You bet!
But there are some other fees that traders should be aware of. Binance also offers a way to instantly purchase crypto, but the fees are 0.5 percent. So if you’re looking to buy crypto straight from a debit card and want to do it right now, rather than waiting for money to transfer to your Binance account, you can make it happen. Binance charges a 3.75 percent fee on those dollars, whereas bank transfers are free.
Binance might not offer the largest selection of cryptocurrencies, but it offers much more than the general financial apps such as Robinhood and Webull that have been encroaching into the crypto space. With a total of 137 cryptocurrencies available on its platform, you’re going to find the most popular names, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin, Solana and more. And you’ll find dozens of other altcoins, too, plenty of others that you’re likely not familiar with.
Other rival apps advertise crypto trading but only offer a handful of the most popular coins.
Robinhood offers trading in 19 cryptocurrencies, while Interactive Brokers – generally the broker with the widest selection of available traditional securities – trades in four cryptos. Many typical online brokers don’t offer any direct access to cryptocurrency trading.
Specialized crypto exchange Coinbase does offer more than 200 coins on its platform, but this buffet-style offering is only better if you need something not offered on Binance. And it’s worth noting that crypto is the extent of securities offered at Binance. If you want stocks, bonds, funds or something more, you’ll have to turn your sights to a traditional broker or financial app.
Binance allows clients to trade directly from one cryptocurrency to another. So you won’t have to cash out of one coin (or into another stablecoin) and then move into the new currency. Instead, you can swap straight from the coin you’re selling to the coin you actually want. Not only is it just more efficient in terms of making transactions, but it also helps you avoid unnecessary trading fees, too.
Cross-trading is not available on all cryptocurrency pairs, but Bitcoin (the most popular cryptocurrency) can be swapped directly with 18 other coins.
The SEC’s lawsuit against Binance alleges that it offered and sold unregistered securities as part of its staking program. The future of the staking program is unclear.
Like Coinbase, Binance offers customers the ability to earn staking rewards for holding coins with the firm. Staking is something like earning interest in a bank account but with different and greater risks. Staking generates income on certain crypto when it’s used to validate transactions in the currency. Binance charges what it calls a “small commission” for facilitating all the technical aspects of staking.
Customers can earn staking rewards on a handful of cryptocurrencies, 23 as of the last count. Rewards accrue daily, but distributions only occur weekly.
Cons: Where Binance could improve
Fees for instant buy
Binance’s spot trading fees are low, especially for Bitcoin and Ethereum trades, but you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of them and not use the instant buy/sell feature at the much higher price point of 0.5 percent. Still, even that fee is high relative only to Binance itself and remains reasonable compared to some of the trading fees in the crypto world, eToro being a notable instance of high fees.
And while we’re on the subject of high transaction fees, it’s important to re-emphasize the high fee for using a debit card, at 3.75 percent. Meanwhile, rival Coinbase charges 3.99 percent, as of the last report. The easy solution: Transfer cash and wait for it to clear into the account.
Not available in some states
Binance (technically Binance.US) is not available in some states, including Hawaii, New York, Texas and Vermont. While the company has said that it intends to eventually operate in all 50 states, it’s added just a few of them from September 2020 to December 2022, meaning full coverage may yet be a ways off.
Maybe Binance’s low fees are a bit too low? That’s because clients can contact customer support only through a support ticket (email) or live chat. And even chat is a serious upgrade from the time of our last review. No phone. You’ll have to explain the issue clearly in writing, when sometimes the issue is anything but clear. Your only other recourse is a self-help section on the website, which may or may not prove useful.
Perhaps someday Binance can upgrade to phone support, too, as some rival exchanges have.