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DeFi vs CeFi: Where should you be earning yield?


CeFi now offers highly competitive rates for cryptocurrency and fiat - how can you take advantage?

Earning yield on assets you already own is perhaps the easiest way to grow your portfolio.

The risk is considerably lower than trading, and doesn't require fresh capital. Plus it puts lazy money to work.

But where is the best place to earn yield for cryptocurrency users?

Most people think of DeFi as the only way of earning yield on crypto assets. But there's a much easier and lower-risk alternative for earning yield: centralised finance (CeFi).

Best of all? The rates can be just as good, if not better.

CeFi vs DeFi lending rates

Take a look at this table from DeFi Rate which tracks lending rates for leading CeFi platforms.

A table showing lending rates from CeFi platforms BlockFi, Nexo and Celcius. Rates range from 3.5% - 8.88% on assets like BTC, ETH and USD stablecoins.

Then compare that to the rates for three of the biggest DeFi protocols.

A table showing lending rates from DeFi protocols Compound, Aave and Yearn. Rates range from 0.16% - 2.44% on assets like BTC, ETH and USD stablecoins.

The CeFi lenders (BlockFi, Nexo and Celsius) all currently offer higher rates than their DeFi counterparts (Compound, AAVE and Yearn). They also offer the highest rates for many assets, which we've highlighted in green boxes.

Why the higher numbers? CeFi lenders use more traditional business models which allow them to offer more stable rates. They lend your funds out to individual borrowers and institutions with fixed repayment rates. That makes for a more predictable rate.

Conversely, DeFi protocols mainly use variable rates that are dictated by algorithms, which respond to changes in the market every few minutes.

The table below contains some of the leading CeFi providers and exchanges that offer similar services, which can be compared on things like supported coins and fees.

1 - 3 of 3
Name Product Deposit methods Fiat currencies Cryptocurrencies Offer Disclaimer Link
Binance Australia
Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, P2P



Earn up to US$100 in rewards by completing welcome tasks within 7 days of signup. T&Cs apply.
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Capital at risk

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Credit card, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, P2P



Sign up and earn 500 USDT + bonus gift of 200 USDT in trading coupons + limited time offer of 7,500 USDT in futures trial funds. T&Cs apply.
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Capital at risk

View details App
Bank transfer, Credit card, Pay, Cryptocurrency, Debit card, PayID, Apple Pay



Capital at risk

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Disclaimer: Star ratings are only displayed for products with 10 or more reviews.

DeFi protocols also suffer from popularity

When a protocol becomes popular, more lenders flock to it in order to earn yield. If the number of borrowers doesn't increase proportionally, then the rates for lenders go down.

As a centralised business, CeFi lenders can avoid this. They can prop up rates by sacrificing their own capital, or cap deposit amounts for individual lenders.

For instance, Celsius currently guarantees "6.20% on 1st BTC, 3.51% after".

So you don't just get potentially higher rates, but they are more stable, allowing you to forecast your returns and plan accordingly.

CeFi isn't just eating up DeFi. Banks are also in the crosshairs. Just take a look at the rates offered on fiat deposits from Nexo.

An image showing lending rates from Nexo on EUR, USD and GBP. All 3 currencies earn 10% APY.

A 10% rate absolutely smashes anything conventional banks are offering these days. And unlike DeFi which is restricted to digital assets, CeFi providers accept your old-fashioned dollars, pounds and euros. Celsius is also offering 8.88% on AUD, CAD and HKD stablecoins.

Insurance and risk

Another upside to using CeFi is insurance.

As a traditional business, CeFi platforms have more access to insurance options than their DeFi counterparts. Insurance policies vary between providers, ranging from comprehensive to "nothing to see here". Here are some example approaches from industry leaders:

  • Nexo: Digital assets are insured through a combination of specialist policies, up to a total of $375 million. Nexo plans to increase this amount to $1 billion by the end of 2021.
  • Celsius: Celsius doesn't guarantee insurance itself, but user assets are custodied with FireBlocks and PrimeTrust who have their own insurance policies. Details of those policies haven't been disclosed, however.
  • BlockFi: BlockFi doesn't publicly disclose any sort of insurance policy.

Another key benefit of using CeFi is avoiding fees. You only need to transfer your assets once. DeFi protocols can require multiple transactions which can easily eat away at your profits.

So we've gone through the benefits, but what about the risks?

  • Smart contract risk: CeFi lenders still utilise smart contracts which makes them vulnerable to many of the same risks as DeFi protocols. Some even use DeFi protocols to generate a portion of returns.
  • Deposit limits: There is typically a deposit limit for products with high rates, with the rates decreasing once the limit is crossed.
  • Centralisation: By using a CeFi platform you are trusting your cryptocurrency with a third party, rather than a smart contract which allows you to retain control over your private keys.

Even with the risks in mind, CeFi offers a seriously attractive alternative to DeFi.

Rates are stable and competitive, risk is reduced, and the process is straightforward. There's no need to learn how to use dapps, or chase yield across multiple protocols.

An increasing number of exchanges such as Binance, and KuCoin now offer lending products, which makes it even easier to keep your finances in one place.

Compare cryptocurrency lenders

Interested in cryptocurrency? Learn more about the basics with our beginner's guide to Bitcoin, dive deeper by learning about Ethereum and see what blockchain can do with our simple guide to DeFi.

Disclosure: The author owns a range of cryptocurrencies at the time of writing

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