Withdrawal fee? Buying fee? Conversion fee? All unnecessary.
There are different fees that Coinbase charges its users to buy Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies). Compared to most other brokers these fees are relatively reasonable, and may be worth paying for the convenience offered. In addition to the fees charged for buying, Coinbase also charges for an exchange fee, and also passes on the network fee for withdrawals of digital assets.
However, there is a “secret method” for using Coinbase that avoids almost all of the fees they charge.
Coinbase Pro. The name sounds like a version of the website for professional traders, and might be a little intimidating for most of us. Fortunately, that’s not really accurate at all.
The difference between Coinbase and Coinbase Pro is that Coinbase is a broker (i.e. a service that acquires Bitcoin for you and charges you a fee) whereas Coinbase Pro is an exchange (where you can buy and sell Bitcoin on the open market). The latter was formerly known as GDAX, until a recent rebranding.
Conveniently, if you have a Coinbase account you already have a Coinbase Pro account. The same login credentials are used for both. And curiously, the fees charged by the two have some important differences.
Of the different types of fees you can avoid by using Coinbase Pro, digital asset withdrawal fees are the easiest. It might not save you a lot of money, but it’s so simple to do that there’s really no reason not to.
Neither Coinbase nor Coinbase Pro directly charges users for withdrawals of digital assets. However, Coinbase passes on the network fee to the user. This fee varies, depending on how heavily the network is currently being used. Usually it’s quite cheap, but at times it can rise up.
So, if you have some Bitcoin on Coinbase, how can you use Coinbase Pro to withdraw it?
Fortunately it’s quite simple. You’ll go to pro.coinbase.com and log in using your Coinbase credentials. Select “My Wallets” on the top right, and then “Deposit” on the bottom left.
You can see that one of the options for a BTC deposit is “Coinbase BTC Wallet”. So you can simply type in the amount of Bitcoin you’d like to move from Coinbase to Coinbase Pro, and select “Deposit BTC.” The transfer between the two is instant and free.
And then, when you want to withdraw your BTC maybe to a wallet like LEDGER NANO, you will pay no fee whatsoever. Even if you are an absolute beginner this is super easy to do. And who doesn’t like saving money when it’s that easy?
There are different purchase fees you pay when you’re buying Bitcoin on Coinbase. If you want to acquire some Bitcoin instantly this is hard to avoid. But if you are a more patient investor, I say that using a bank transfer rather than a debit card can potentially save you a lot of money on Coinbase’s purchase fees.
But it gets even better on Coinbase Pro. Since Coinbase Pro is not a broker, but rather an exchange, there is no fee for using your USD to buy BTC.
Or at least, not entirely. What Coinbase Pro does charge is an trading fee, for anyone using their exchange.
The maker-taker model might be new to you if you haven’t done much trading before. One way to imagine it is like a physical marketplace. All of these people selling are shouting out their offers, “Bitcoin! Bitcoin here!”
If you choose to accept one of their offers, you are a taker. If instead you decide to make your own offer, you are a maker. In order to make your own offer, you will have to choose a buying price that is below the current lowest selling price, in what’s called a limit order. In this case, you will pay zero fee.
If you decide to accept someone else’s offer, you can simply place a market order (and you’ll automatically be matched to the current lowest price). In this case, however, you will pay the trading fee of 0.10 to 0.30%, which is still far below Coinbase’s purchase fees.
The conversion fee is, in my opinion, the sneakiest fee that Coinbase charges.
When you use Coinbase as your broker to purchase Bitcoin, they charge you a purchase fee. That’s all above water — they show you exactly how much the fee will be before you pay.
They also show you what exchange rate you will be purchasing Bitcoin at. Most people probably don’t question this number, assuming that they are charging the current rate.
That’s not true.
As you can see in the fine print above, Coinbase adds a spread of between 0 and 200 basis points (i.e. up to 2%) to the exchange rate.
So, as an example, if you wanted to use your bank account to buy $1000 of Bitcoin on Coinbase, you might see that you’re paying around 1.5% in fees and decide that’s acceptable. However, it’s possible that your real fee is as high as 3.5%! That’s an extra $20 going into Coinbase’s pocket, in addition to the $15 you already knew you were paying.
If you decide to use Coinbase Pro to purchase Bitcoin, the procedure is pretty simple. Like before, you’ll go to the My Wallets page, and in the bottom left select Deposit. You’ll select which currency (probably USD in this case) and which method (if you have USD in your Coinbase wallet you can transfer it here; otherwise you’ll likely use the Bank Account transfer).
In a few days the transfer will arrive in your Coinbase Pro account and be ready to trade!
If you’ve used another exchange before this will probably be familiar. If not, stay tuned for a future article on the differences between market, limit, and stop orders.
I only recommend using Coinbase’s direct purchase system in two situations. If you are completely new to the game, or if you need to purchase some Bitcoin instantly, regardless of the fees involved.
When you are making your first ever Bitcoin purchase, I understand wanting to keep things simple. There is a lot of new information you are being exposed to, so learning about maker-taker models, limit orders, network fees, and more might be too much.
If you want to purchase Bitcoin instantly, there’s little if anything you can do to avoid fees. You can’t use your debit card on an exchange. So you will have to make do with using a broker like Coinbase. But these fees are still small, affordable and acceptable.
In all other situations, though, I highly recommend using Coinbase Pro. By avoiding withdrawal fees, conversion fees, and purchase fees you will potentially save a lot of money in the longterm.