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Coinbase vs Bitfinex – Find the right exchange for you
Your level of trading experience will be the main factor in deciding which of these exchanges is best for you
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Coinbase and Bitfinex are two large scale exchanges that service users globally. You can think of them as titans of the exchange industry, with the key difference that Bitfinex suited more to advanced traders, while Coinbase is more beginner friendly. Bitfinex also includes lending products, which allow users to earn yield on their crypto. Coinbase provides access to Coinbase Pro, which has a larger range of currencies and advanced trading features, similar to Bitfinex.
At a glance: Coinbase vs Bitfinex
- Instant buy: Buy crypto instantly with a debit card
- Recurring buy: Automate regular crypto purchases
- Staking: Earn rewards on your funds
- Coinbase Earn: Free education material that also provides an opportunity to earn various cryptos
- Coinbase Wallet: Send crypto to your digital wallet for use elsewhere
- Advanced trading platform: Live feed data that can be customised using trading indicators, sorting orderbook columns
- Multiple order types: Set trades using limit, market and stop orders
- API Keys: Allow third-party apps to integrate with Bitfinex
- Whitelisting crypto addresses: Only those addresses can be used for crypto withdrawals
- Peer-to-peer margin funding: Trade with up to 10x leverage, or provide margin funding to earn yield on fiat and digital assets
- Derivative trading: Users can trade Derivative Products using a digital token held in a Derivative Wallet
Supported cryptocurrencies and fiat
- Supported fiat currencies: USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, MXN, HRK, CZK, DKK, CLP, BGN & 8+ more
- Supported cryptocurrencies: Approximately 168 cryptocurrencies
*Availability varies by location
- Supported fiat currencies: USD, EUR, GBP, JPY
- Supported cryptocurrencies: Approximately 190 cryptocurrencies
Coinbase charges a standard 0.5% spread for purchases and sales.
In addition to this fee there's also a Coinbase Fee, which is the greater of a flat fee or percentage fee depending on your payment method, location and product feature:
- US$10 or less: $0.99
- US$11 to $25: $1.49
- US$26 to $50: $1.99
- US$51 to $200: $2.99
Percentage fees (for US, EU and UK traders):
- 1.49% for bank account transfer and Coinbase wallet purchases
- 3.99% for debit card or PayPal purchases
Crypto-to-crypto transactions have a spread of approximately 2%.
Bitfinex charges a flat percentage fee based on the volume traded over 30 days and whether you're a taker or a maker. This ranges from 0.055% for trades over $30,000,000,000 to 0.2% for less than $500,000
- Fiat deposit: 0.1%
- Cryptocurrency: Free for deposits above USD $1,000 or equivalent. Nominal fees apply otherwise
- Tether (USDT) deposit: Free for deposits above equivalent USD $1,000. 20 USDT otherwise.
- Fiat withdrawal:
- Bank wire: 0.1%
- Express bank wire: 1%
- High volume bank wire: 3%
- Cryptocurrency withdrawal: Variable rate, typically less than USD $1 or equivalent
- USDT cryptocurrency withdrawal: 20 USDT
- Debit card
- Credit card
- Bank Wire
According to CoinMarketCap, both exchanges see very high liquidity, with both exchanges in the top 10 for volume globally, meaning that users are unlikely to have issues with slippage on either exchange. On average Coinbase sees larger volumes than Bitfinex.
Both Coinbase and Bitfinex are security-conscious, offering users numerous options to secure their account, including two-factor authentication (2FA), universal 2nd factor (U2F) and customer support for compromised accounts or unusual IP/trading activity.
They both let you whitelist cryptocurrency withdrawal addresses to help prevent malicious activity if your account becomes accessed by a third-party.
Coinbase and Bitfinex follow the industry-standard procedure of holding the vast majority of their digital funds in offline, cold storage. Cold storage means that cryptocurrency is stored in an offline wallet. This means that even if a hacker were to gain access to either exchange's system, they would not be able to access the funds held in cold storage.
Coinbase reports 98% of their customer's assets are held in cold storage, with the remaining 2% insured.
Bitfinex only stores approximately 0.5% of their crypto assets in 'hot wallets' used for day-to-day operations, with the rest held in a multisignature hardware wallet that is not accessible via the platform's servers.
In spite of Bitfinex's comprehensive security measures, they have been hacked twice: once in 2015 and again in 2016. Coinbase has never been compromised.
Coinbase is based in the US and registered as a money services business with US authority FinCEN, which requires it to comply with a range of financial services and consumer protection laws. Coinbase is also authorised to issue electronic money in the UK under the FCA.
Bitfinex is based in Hong Kong but registered in the British Virgin Islands. It abides by all applicable regulations. The difficult regulatory environment is the reason that US-based customers are unable to use the exchange.
Verdict: Should you use Coinbase or Bitfinex?
Coinbase is entrenched in the US market and is widely available to investors and traders across the globe. With a high number of fiat currencies and languages supported, Coinbase strives to create an accessible environment for everyone.
They offer a conservative range of cryptocurrencies and features, as their goal is providing simplicity to an asset class that can be difficult to newcomers.
Coinbase's fees are quite high relative to Bitfinex, but has a substantially lower entry point for investors.
Coinbase is the perfect choice for cryptocurrency beginners. If you've never traded or purchased on an exchange before, it's hard to look past Coinbase.
If you are not from the United States, the decision on which exchange to use is a simple one — Coinbase. However, for advanced traders, Bitfinex is a strong competitor.
The exchange has a vast number of features, including peer-to-peer margin trading, multiple order types, and advanced, customisable data tracking and price charting. Users can also stake, lend and derivative trade.
Bitfinex has low fees in comparison to Coinbase, but its minimum deposit of USD $10,000 may be inaccessible to even intermediate traders.
Bitfinex is intended for advanced, high-capital traders. Those experienced with cryptocurrency exchanges will find the wealth of features and high liquidity of this platform appealing.
What to consider before using Coinbase or Bitfinex
What are the pros of using Coinbase?
- Perfect choice for beginners with an intuitive trading platform and design
- Only lists cryptocurrencies that have been through an intensive vetting process
- Instant and recurring purchase features available
- The ability to 'graduate' to Coinbase Pro once the user becomes more experienced, gaining access to additional cryptocurrencies and features
- Has a large range of fiat currencies and languages available for users across the globe
- 24/7 customer service via phone support
What are the cons of using Coinbase?
- Relatively high fees can impact trading margins. Coinbase can be expensive to use
- Limited range of available cryptocurrencies
What are the pros of using Bitfinex?
- Advanced features and customisable trading options are perfect for experienced cryptocurrency traders
- Bitfinex has a high liquidity rate even though it supports a large number of cryptocurrencies
- Lower fees for high-capital traders
What are the cons of using Bitfinex?
- Bitfinex has a low level of accessibility. It is geared solely towards advanced, high-volume traders and is not beginner-friendly whatsoever
- US users are barred from the platform
- The high level of verification required can be a slow and painful process
- Bitfinex has a history of controversy — from USD $72 million in assets being stolen to being accused of price manipulation
Maker and taker fees
Maker fees are applicable when a limit order is above (for selling) or below (for buying) the ticker price. Makers are setting the market by providing liquidity at a certain price.
Taker fees are applicable when an order is executed against an existing order, eg. a price that has been set by a market maker.
Derivative trading is a two-party contract that decides on a price and execution date of a cryptocurrency at some point in the future. On the execution date, the parties will accept the transaction regardless of the market value of the asset being traded. It is used to manage volatility risks of certain assets.
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