Update: Bittrex has temporarily disabled new account registrations. I’ve listed alternatives to Bittrex at the bottom of this page. Find more information here.
From the messy outflow of Poloniex users, to the more recent shutdown of BTC-e by the US Justice Department – concerns over the reputation, legality, and stability of existing exchanges have risen throughout 2017. Both the former and latter events have nonetheless greatly benefited Bittrex – as users flock to sign-up to what is now the most popular, reputable, and high-volume cryptocurrency exchange.
This Bittrex review examines exactly how it became the #1 biggest cryptocurrency exchange. We’ll dive in from its founding and market positioning, to its security, fees, services, customer analysis, and coin offerings.
Bittrex was founded in 2014 by four security professionals with a shared interest in cryptocurrencies and experience in online security.
Bill Shihara (CEO) worked as a security manager at Amazon and Blackberry Limited, and as a lead program developer at Microsoft. Richie Lai led security teams at Amazon, Qualys, and Microsoft. Rami Kawach built his expertise in system security at Qualys, as the director of engineering. And Ryan Hentz, who oversees security operations at Bittrex, previously worked as a senior security engineer at Mercury Payments Systems.
Advantages of Bittrex
- Fully US-regulated and compliant
- Maximum security: never been hacked
- Minimum possible personal information for verification
- Account verification process is faster than competing exchanges
- Withdrawals of up to around $3,000 per day on basic verification
- A flat fee of 0.25%, roughly average for the exchange industry, easy to calculate
- Supports more than 250 cryptocurrencies
- Excellent security features including 2FA
- No limit on deposits
- Majority of funds held in cold storage, enhancing security in the exchange
- Available in most countries
Disadvantages of Bittrex
- Relatively invasive verification requirements, especially for residents of New York
- Not as many coins as lesser known crypto exchange & Bittrex competitor, Yobit.
- Like most “crypto-only” exchange, Bittrex does not support fiat deposits or withdrawals
- Does not support margin trading and lending
- Low liquidity can create wait times of up to 10 minutes for large trades
- Lack of accountability, such as in the 2016 hack
- No freebie incentive like on Coinbase – encouraging new users to join
- Slow response to customer queries
- Ongoing enhanced verification issues
Regulation and Reach
A full analysis of Bittrex requires we look at the fundamentals. Firstly, the exchange is headquartered in Las Vegas and holds a Money Service Business (MSB) license from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
Secondly the company is fully regulated and legally compliant within the US, making it one of the safest choices for US citizens. Bittrex was also one of the first applicants for the stringent New York Bitlicense.
Globally, the exchange accepts traders from most of the 180+ countries supported by the online payment and identity verification company, Jumio. That’s unusual, especially for a fully regulated exchange. In comparison, Coinbase supports North America, Europe, Singapore, and Australia; Kraken serves the US, the EU, and Japan.
Non-US customers should still perform due diligence and research their individual responsibilities for taxes, and for the legality of cryptocurrency acquisition and trading in their country.
My Bittrex inspections places much emphasis on the company’s marketing position – which focuses on three main points: regulation, security, and algorithmic trading.
According to Similarweb.com, Bittrex receives over 160 million visits monthly. For comparison, Coinbase receives about 125 million visits per month, Poloniex about 95 million, and Kraken 45 million. Approximately 35% of Bittrex’s traffic is from mobile devices. Kraken and Coinbase both receive over 40% mobile traffic.
The top five sources of country traffic to Bittrex are from the United States (24.57%), Russia (6.75%), the United Kingdom (4.88%), Vietnam (4.58%), and Germany (3.21%). Bittrex engages its users better than Coinbase, Poloniex, and Kraken, recording a bounce rate of 29.19%. Similarweb.com also shows that Bittrex utilizes Facebook and Twitter better than most of the other exchanges.
Unfortunately Bittrex does not have a native mobile app. However, third-party applications exist that connect to the exchange through its API. Blockfolio and TradeBit both work and are well-received by users. TradeBit fares better than other compatible mobile applications.
However, given that Bittrex has no in-house app, you should perform separate security due diligence before using any third-party offering. The safest option is to access all Bittrex services through the browser interface, regardless of device.
Bittrex signup and security
The signup process on Bittrex takes moments: provide an email address, create a password and you’re done. The site offers a 32-character alphanumeric password generator for added security.
Like most site signups, Bittrex sends a confirmation email to verify your address and enable your account, switching on crypto deposits and trading, but not withdrawals.
The site monitors IP addresses very closely. The first time you log in from a new IP address (including the first login of the day, every day), you’ll receive a confirmation email. Just like at signup, you must click the link in the email to confirm that it’s really you trying to sign in from a “new” address.
Once you’re signed in, you can switch on two-factor authentication (2FA). Bittrex uses Google Authenticator to verify your logins, whether you use a smartphone app or a desktop version such as WinAuth.
Enabling 2FA adds a variety of security options on the site. You can whitelist IP addresses for orders and withdrawals, effectively blacklisting all addresses not on the list – a very useful way to limit trading to certain IPs, but allowing you to check in from anywhere.
You can also setup whitelisting for coin withdrawals. White-listing means the limiting of funds release to specific addresses only for each cryptocurrency.
On the coin offering side, Bittrex thoroughly vets any prospective addition before adding it to the exchange, reducing the possibility of scam coins or those hoping for a short pump-and-dump lifespan.
The security background of its founders adds to Bittrex’s image of being one of the most secure exchanges. The image is reinforced by the fact that the exchange has never had a major security breach of the magnitude of the Mt.Gox or Bitfinex hacks. “Never been hacked” is a rarity in the crypto-exchange industry.
While Bittrex is one of the most secure exchanges, users can still lose funds. On 7th December 2016, hackers compromised Bittrex user accounts without 2FA verification and stole an unknown amount of currency. Taking the line that users are responsible for their own accounts, Bittrex has never accepted responsibility, and has not compensated users for lost funds.
Here we come to the trickiest part of this Bittrex review because all new users want to know how fast signup and ID vetting will take.
US regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges are tough, removing most of the anonymity that a number of coins were invented to provide. That’s why unregulated exchanges like Bitfinex are so popular, even with the increased risk of them disappearing with all their members’ funds.
Bittrex is fully regulated in the US, so complies with the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) programs. However, the company operates on a “minimum information possible” philosophy, requiring only those personal details deemed absolutely essential by US law.
Bittrex offers two levels of verification: basic and enhanced. The verification process is relatively quick, taking anything from a few minutes to about a day. In comparison, some exchanges can take weeks to verify credentials.
Basic verification requires your real name, birth date, and address – verifiable through public records – and enables withdrawals of approximately $3,000 per day, expressed in BTC. You must enable 2FA to withdraw funds.
If the public records check fails, you can provide a mobile phone number to unlock basic withdrawals and as a stepping stone to enhanced verification.
Enhanced verification requires scans of official ID and a selfie. As mentioned above, Bittrex uses Jumio for identity verification, performing a variety of heuristics to check that the official documents and selfie are of the same person. Enhanced verification unlocks withdrawals of up to 100 BTC (in value) per day – almost a million dollars at current prices.
As you can see, Bittrex has had quite a spike in popularity throughout recent months:
We've upgraded the servers again. We exceeded the previous cap of 500k concurrent users. Sorry for the inconvenience.— Bittrex (@BittrexExchange) December 17, 2017
For most traders, Bittrex only supports cryptocurrency transfers, though users with enhanced verification can buy currencies using fiat if the trade is worth more than $10,000. There are no deposit limits.
For most traders, that means your cannot deposit funds directly from your bank or via credit or debit cards. The company has expressed interest in adding the functionality, though fiat transfers are currently a complex – and therefore distant – proposition due to regulatory issues.
This limitation pushes many smaller traders to competing exchanges like Kraken and Coinbase, both of which support a wide range of fiat payment methods (credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, and even PayPal).
Bittrex keeps the majority of its funds in cold storage, with less than a third of the total in hot wallets. Compared to other exchanges, that’s quite a low. For high-end users, such low liquidity can mean delays of up to 10 minutes to execute large trades. It does, however, improve security as there are fewer funds in hot wallets that hackers can target.
Bittrex’s biggest strength – especially as a fully regulated exchange – is its support for more than 250 cryptocurrency assets.
The site has one of the largest ranges of supported assets, dwarfing Coinbase – which supports only Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin – and even Poloniex, which supports around 100 coins. The only exchanges that beat Bittrex on the number of available coins are non-US-regulated options such as Cryptopia.
Bittrex also supports major hard forks. For example, both Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are present on the exchange, as is the ZenCash fork of Zclassic. Forks are handled professionally and transparently, with fair warning of the process in advance.
Even with such a high number of trading pairs, Bittrex is a relatively limited platform in terms of features, tools and services. It offers BTC trading pairs for all coins and USD pairs for a dozen of the biggest cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin (plus Cash and Gold), Ethereum (and Classic), NEO, Ripple, Zcash, Monero, Litecoin, OmiseGO, and Dash.
However, Bittrex offers no margin trading or lending, unlike other major exchanges. For comparison, Poloniex offers margin trading and lending to verified users, Kraken provides margin trading without lending, and Coinbase offers leveraged margin trading on Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.
At present, Bittrex focuses entirely on crypto pair trading, nothing more.
Bittrex charges are average: the site takes a flat fee of 0.25% commission on all trades. Fees are deducted at the time of trade.
In comparison, Kraken charges variable fees based on a 30-day trading volume history, with differing rates for makers and takers. Poloniex offers a competitive fee structure, also based on a 30-day trading history but with different computations to Kraken, with fees ranging from 0.05% to 0.25% of traded value. Coinbase’s fees are competitive but not as low as Bittrex’s: the exchange charges US bank accounts a standard 1.49% on buying or selling, and 3.99% on credit or debit card transactions.
Bittrex offers an on-site knowledge-base with answers to most common questions and email support using a ticket system. Secondary avenues also exist through IRC (#bittrex on freenode), Facebook and Twitter, though there’s a backlog of unresolved queries on social media.
Opinions of Bittrex’s customer support vary widely, giving the company a low TrustPilot score of 2/5. The most common complaints are of slow responses to support tickets, accounts being disabled, verification issues, and accusations of treating non-US members poorly.
While the disabled accounts and verification issues are frequently related and can be assigned (in many cases) to Jumio’s procedures, difficulties in such an important part of the user experience raise questions about processes, staffing, and competence at Bittrex.
The long response times on tickets is also an indication of staffing issues, especially compared to competitors Coinbase and Kraken, both of which have better response times. A wait of up to six weeks on a ticket is unacceptable in a high-profile, high-speed business such as currency exchange. Still, Bittrex does better than some sites, including Poloniex.
Talk from Bill Shihara, Bittrex CEO
With more than 250 crypto assets, “never been hacked” security, and relatively quick verification, Bittrex is an attractive option. It’s regulated and fully compliant in the US, making it a great choice for US traders. However, if you wish to maintain your anonymity, you’ll be disappointed by the verification requirements, and anyone dealing in very large sums of money may run into time-lapse difficulties due to low fund liquidity. Overall, Bittrex is an excellent choice for smaller traders, especially those who are unlikely to hit the $3,000 daily withdrawal limit, and for US citizens looking to trade openly and legitimately, with maximum exchange reliability.
Alternatives to Bittrex
There are some good alternatives to Bittex. Although not as popular. the following are viable alternative cryptocurrency exchanges:
- Kraken.com – trade crypto with fiat deposits. Undergoing severe UI issues. More info in my Kraken review. (USA)
- Yobit.net – hundreds more cyrptocurrency paires compared to Bitrex. Gaining popularity. (Russia)
- Shapeshift.io – shifting, or “swapping” between cryptocurrencies. No sign-up required. (Switzerland)
- Changelly – similar “shifting” service like Shapeshift. Depositing fiat is also possible. (Czech Republic)
- Poloniex – previously one of the most popular crypto exchanges. Read why in this inspection of Poloniex.