Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange based in San Francisco. One of the largest and oldest Bitcoin exchanges, Kraken has been at the forefront of the blockchain revolution since its inception.
The exchange declares its mission to be accelerating the adoption of cryptocurrency in the world. With this, it aims to help everyone in the world achieve financial freedom and inclusion. Kraken has consistently been one of the top exchanges facilitating buying, selling, and trading cryptocurrencies at competitive rates.
Starting with Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Euro trades, Kraken now offers more than 185 cryptocurrencies to more than 9 million clients in 190+ countries.
Kraken was founded in 2011 by Jesse Powell and Thanh Luu. Powell, a consultant for Mt.Gox started working on developing Kraken after discovering multiple issues with its security and management. He anticipated that Mt.Gox would not last long and launched the beta version of Kraken in 2013.
In September 2013, Kraken made its debut offering Bitcoin, Litecoin, and other Euro trades. At the time, it was one of the first exchanges to offer spot trading with margin, regulated derivatives, and index services.
A few months earlier in July 2013, Kraken had along with other US players set up the Committee for the Establishment of the Digital Asset Transfer Authority to set their own best practices and standards.
Tribe Capital, Hummingbird Ventures, Blockchain Capital, and Digital Currency Group are prominent investors in the US-based exchange among others. In 2014, Kraken became one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges along with Coinbase to be listed on Bloomberg Terminals for tracking Bitcoin prices and virtual currency news.
Going from strength to strength, it was reported that Kraken was onboarding nearly 50,000 new users per day by the end of 2017. In 2020, it became the first cryptocurrency company to receive a bank charter when it was approved as a Special-Purpose Depository Institution(SPDI) by the Wyoming Division of Banking.
The Kraken Mobile App was launched in 2021 first in Europe and then in the USA. As of early 2023, Kraken is estimated to have a quarterly trading volume of more than $207 billion.
How Does Kraken work?
Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange that functions in a similar manner to a traditional stock exchange. It helps in matching people who want to buy cryptocurrencies with those who want to sell cryptocurrencies.
Before starting trading on Kraken, you need to fund your account. There are various options such as bank wire deposits, debit or credit card purchases or you can even transfer your existing crypto to fund your Kraken account.
Funding Your Account
You can fund your Kraken account by depositing cryptocurrencies in it. You would have to generate a new deposit address if you are depositing crypto for the first time. Make sure to confirm each individual currency’s deposit requirements and warnings before adding it.
For cash and bank wire deposits, Kraken accepts many currencies such as USD, EUR, CAD, AUD, GBP, JPY, and CHF. However, the account making the deposits must be verified at an Intermediate or Pro level to be eligible for bank wire deposits.
You need to be a resident of one of the supported countries and have an Intermediate or Pro level verified account to be eligible for debit and credit card purchases on Kraken.
You can quickly buy, sell or convert cryptocurrencies with Kraken Instant Buy. For this, you need to, first of all, log into your Kraken account and click on Buy Crypto. Enter the name of the crypto you wish to buy and its volume or the amount of cash you wish to spend.
After that, select your payment method. You can either pay with your cash balance or debit or credit card or ACH online banking. You will be shown a review of your purchase with the crypto amount, its price, and the final fee paid. Click on confirm after you’ve reviewed the transaction.
Note that purchases with debit/credit cards would need additional 3D Secure confirmation before the transaction can be completed.
Selling crypto on Kraken is rather similar to the buying function. After signing into your account, click on the Buy Crypto widget and then the Sell option. Select the asset you want to sell and its amount or the cash equivalent you want to sell.
Check the details including the fee on the Preview screen and click Confirm if everything seems right.
Cryptocurrencies available on Kraken
Kraken is home to more than 185 different coins. It hosts popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and also stablecoins like Tether. Some of the popular cryptocurrencies on Kraken are:
- USD Coin(USDC)
What Fees does Kraken Charge?
Kraken Instant Buy charges a 0.9% flat fee for stablecoins and 1.5% for all other cryptocurrencies. However, the final fee paid may differ due to variables like transaction size, payment method, market conditions as well as the type of asset being transacted. The final amount to be paid is visible only before the transaction is submitted.
On Kraken Pro, the maker-taker model is used to charge trading fees based on 30-day trading volume. The pricing here is much lower than the basic Kraken platform.
Spot Trading Fees
Trades with 30-day trade volumes up to $50,000 attract a maker/taker fee of 0.16%/0.26%. This comes down to 0.02%/0.12% for trades in the $5,000,001-$10,000,000 category. From December 15, 2022, to February 15, 2023, Kraken is conducting a free trial for the $10M+ category.
Clients would be charged a maker/taker fee of 0.00%/0.10% on select spot crypto pairs.
Stablecoin, Pegged Token, and FX Pairs Fees
For stablecoins, pegged tokens, and FX pairs, a maker/taker fee of 0.20%/0.20% is charged for trades with a 30-day volume between $0-$50,000. The maker and taker fee is 0% if the 30-day volume is greater than %10,00,000.
Futures Trading Fees
In Futures Trading, the $0-$100,000 30-day trade volume tier attracts a maker/taker fee of 0.0200%/0.0500%. This comes down to 0.0000%/0.100% for a 30-day trade volume greater than $10,000,001.
Security- Is Kraken Safe?
Kraken is committed to keeping its users’ information and fund safety as the top priority. It adheres to the industry standard for information security and legal compliance. Like almost all exchanges these days, Kraken employs 2-factor authentication for securing accounts.
SSL encryption ensures users can browse on Kraken safely and that sensitive data is fully encrypted whether in transit or at rest. For added security, it uses PGP-signed and encrypted email for secure communication, and phone or SMS account recovery is not supported.
Kraken is ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified and strictly controls access to users’ account information both at the system and data levels. Asset security is ensured by keeping the majority of the crypto assets in advanced cold storage. Kraken claims that the crypto infrastructure is kept in secure cages with 24/7 surveillance.
For added financial transparency, a Proof of Reserves audit is conducted with an external auditor. A Proof of Reserves audit is conducted by an independent auditor to verify that a custodian is holding the assets it claims on the behalf of its customers. This helps the exchange in maintaining transparency and accountability.
Kraken also has a bug bounty program to encourage coordinated vulnerability disclosures(CVDs) of potential bugs in its system. The bounty submissions are rewarded in BTC as per their vulnerability rating. The minimum reward is $500 worth of BTC; though bug reports rated to be of critical severity can get rewards of more than $100,000.
Kraken’s extensive security measures seem to have paid off as it has never faced any major system-wide hack. Additionally, it also ranks second on CER- a website that reviews the security and solvency of crypto exchanges. However, there have still been cases of individual accounts being compromised.
Pros- What Kraken Does Right
Decent Selection of Coins
Kraken has a good selection of more than 185 cryptocurrencies for its customers. This includes popular coins like Bitcoin(BTC), Ether(ETH), and Litecoin(LTC) as well as newer ones like Sushi(SUSHI).
It is a high liquidity exchange making it easy to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Kraken also has rather low spreads thus helping in lowering the average cost per trade.
Advanced Trading Features
For experienced traders, Kraken offers features like margin trading, stop orders, and crypto short sales. It provides up to five times leverage for margin trading and Kraken Pro also charges lower fees than the basic version.
Extensive Educational Material
To educate users about cryptocurrencies, Kraken has a comprehensive “Learn” section with a blog, individual crypto guides, multiple videos as well as a podcast. Beginners can easily learn about blockchain and cryptocurrencies before investing in them.
Kraken offers high rewards for crypto staking on its platform. Users can earn as much as 21% on their crypto by staking it on Kraken.
Cons- Where Kraken falls short
Higher Fees on Basic Version
While Kraken has lower trading fees than many other exchanges like Coinbase, the fee charged for trading on its basic version is still much higher than Kraken Pro. There is a flat fee of 0.9% for stablecoins and 1.5% for all other cryptos on Kraken Instant Buy.
Kraken offers some great features and while it isn’t overly complicated it is not exactly beginner-friendly either. There are other crypto exchanges that have a simpler and more intuitive design to facilitate easy trading.
Unavailability in some US States
Kraken is not available in the American states of Washington and New York. Further, residents of New Hampshire and Texas cannot deposit or hold Euro or trade in any EUR pairs.
Hacks and Loss of Funds
Some users have reported losing their funds due to hacks with little to no help from Kraken and its customer service.
Kraken Customer Reviews
Kraken customer support is available 24/7 via live chat and phone calls. Users can also submit a ticket request to get their issues resolved. Note that account access issues can only be resolved if a ticket is submitted. There is also a FAQ section to help users get started with their crypto journey.
As for customer reviews, Kraken has a rating of 2.2 out of 5 on Trustpilot with 1,935 reviews. Positive reviews focus on the good trading experience that the exchange provides. Though some consider the fee to be on the higher side, they consider it a satisfactory trade-off for the services Kraken provides.
Users praise Kraken for its system of quick buying and withdrawal
Reviews note the high fee but consider it to be fine for the services it provides
Some reviews, however, also mention bad experiences with Kraken’s customer service. Sudden suspension or termination of accounts without warning seems to be a common experience. Other complaints against it include frozen funds and the inability to easily withdraw funds.
Users express concern about Kraken keeping their private information even after the account was closed
Reviews mention the suspension of accounts without warning and unhelpful customer support
Kraken vs. Binance- Which is Better?
Both Kraken and Binance are popular cryptocurrency exchanges. They are the largest and third-largest cryptocurrency spot exchanges as per CoinMarketCap data. These two exchanges are similar in the sense that they are centralized exchanges with low fees and are more suited to the needs of intermediate and advanced traders.
Nonetheless, there are many ways in which Kraken and Binance differ and it is important to know those dissimilarities in order to find the exchange that best suits your needs.
Kraken is a US-based exchange that is available in more than 190 countries. Binance is registered in the Cayman Islands and operates in more than 100 countries. The main Binance platform, however, is not available in the USA due to regulatory issues. American users have to use its US-specific platform Binance.US.
Number of Supported Cryptocurrencies
Binance wins in this department hands down. While Kraken offers a decent selection of more than 185 coins, it is far lower than Binance which features 350+ cryptocurrencies. Binance.US however hosts a lesser number of cryptocurrencies at just 130 coins.
Both offer traders feature like advanced charting options and support different types of transactions such as margin trading, limit order, and market order. US residents of course do not have access to certain features and trades on Binance.
Ease of Use
Kraken and Binance are more compatible with the needs of advanced traders. The sheer number of products and options on Binance can overwhelm beginners. While Kraken is also not the easiest platform out there, its design is still much simpler than that of Binance.
Binance’s extremely low fee is a major reason for its popularity and success. Generally, the fee charged is equal to or lower than 0.10%. Users also get various discounts and rebates if they use BNB to pay for transactions.
While the fees on Kraken Instant Buy are towards the higher side, Kraken Pro does charge much lower fees which in certain cases can be 0% too.
Both exchanges commit themselves to adopt the best security practices prevalent in the industry. They have 2-factor authentication and cold storage for the majority of the crypto assets. But Kraken’s security infrastructure is a standard unto itself.
It has 24/7 strict surveillance, SSL encryption, a bug bounty program, and penetration testing. For added accountability and transparency, it also undergoes a Proof-of-Reserves audit conducted by an independent auditor.
Kraken has been operational since 2013 and is yet to suffer from a major systemwide hack. Binance meanwhile faced a big attack in 2019 when 7,000 bitcoins worth about $40 million at the time were stolen by hackers along with users’ API tokens and 2-factor authentication codes.
Kraken also has an overall better reputation among the two. It is registered as a Money Service Business with Financial Crimes Enforcement Network(FinCEN) and also has a Bank Charter from Wyoming’s Banking Division.
Binance meanwhile has run into multiple regulatory troubles in several countries.
The US Department of Justice and the IRS are investigating it for money laundering and tax offenses in the USA. Malaysia has also asked the exchange to stop its operations in the country and Thailand’s financial regulator has also filed a criminal complaint against it.
As for which exchange is better between Binance and Kraken, it depends on what you want- your needs and goals. If you want low trading fees and a huge selection of coins, Binance is a good choice for you. However, if you value security and accountability, Kraken may be the right platform for you.
Kraken Frequently Asked Questions
Is Kraken Trustworthy?
Kraken is one of the oldest and most trusted cryptocurrency exchanges. It is a FinCEN-registered entity and follows industry-standard best security practices. As a bonus, Kraken has no history of a significant breach since it was founded more than a decade ago.
Is Kraken legal in the USA?
Yes, Kraken is legal in the USA. It is registered as a Money Service Business(MSB) with Financial Crimes Enforcement Network(FinCEN) in the USA. The exchange adheres to the regulatory and legal requirements of all the territories it operates.
Does Kraken report to the IRS?
Yes. If you are a US resident and have received more than $600 in staking rewards, referral program rewards, and certain other income, you will receive a 1099-MISC form. This form is used to report crypto income to the US IRS.
Is Kraken a Bank?
No, Kraken is not a bank. It is a centralized cryptocurrency exchange that matches crypto buyers and sellers to facilitate crypto trading. However, it did receive a special bank charter from the state of Wyoming in 2020. Kraken Bank is expected to start operations sometime in 2023.
It will be the world’s first Special Purpose Depository Institution(SPDI) and will be a bridge between the existing traditional financial ecosystem and the crypto economy. At first, the services of Kraken Bank will be available only to US residents with plans of global expansion in further phases of operation.
Kraken is a good platform for cryptocurrency trading. It ranks third among top cryptocurrency spot exchanges as per CoinMarketCap and offers something for both beginners and seasoned traders. Kraken Pro’s low fees, the high staking rewards, and the exchange’s focus on security make it an attractive option for crypto traders.
At the same time, while Kraken has had no major system breaches, there have been reports of individual account hacks and the platform’s less-than-helpful customer service has raised some concerns about it. While beginners are better off with Kraken’s basic version, it is not that easy to navigate either.
Nevertheless, Kraken remains one of the top choices for people looking to trade in cryptocurrencies. It is important to know at least the basics of crypto trading and the risks associated with it before putting in your money. A general rule of thumb is to only invest the money you can afford to lose.