Kraken Review

A secure crypto exchange aimed at advanced investors

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Kraken

 Kraken

Our Take

Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange based in the U.S. which allows users to buy, sell, trade, and lend crypto. Kraken was founded in 2011 and is available in most U.S. states (except New York and Washington state), as well as over 200 countries around the world. Kraken is designed for advanced crypto traders, offering very low fees on its Pro platform, as well as advanced charting and order types. Beginners may feel overwhelmed with Kraken’s user interface and may want to look elsewhere.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Specifications
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Low fees

  • 24/7 live chat support

  • Global availability

  • Global account lock setting available for added security

  • Margin trading for approved users

  • Advanced charting and trade options available

Cons
  • Trading interface may be too complicated for new users

  • Account funding may take a while

Key Takeaways
  • Kraken is a centralized cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to buy, sell, and trade crypto
  • Kraken offers 24/7 customer support, which is rare for crypto exchanges
  • Kraken offers advanced trading charts and order types
  • Kraken is one of the few centralized exchanges that offers margin and future trading
Specifications
  • Year Founded 2011
  • Official Website www.Kraken.com
  • Cryptocurrencies Available 90+
  • Customer Support Live chat, email, phone

Introduction

Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to buy, sell, and trade supported cryptocurrency. Kraken also offers “staking” or lending of certain crypto, which rewards users for lending their crypto assets. Over 90 cryptocurrencies are currently offered on Kraken, with more being added weekly. We’ve reviewed Kraken’s platform, fees, user experience, customer service, available crypto, and more to determine if it’s a good option for crypto investors and traders.

Buying or trading cryptocurrency is a speculative investment, and involves a high risk of loss.

Company Overview

After Jesse Powell visited the Mt. Gox exchange in the wake of a massive hacking event that lost users over 800,000 Bitcoin, he founded Kraken to help displaced customers. Kraken quickly became one of the top exchanges for trading Bitcoin by 2013 and has since added over 90 cryptocurrencies to the exchange.

Kraken operates in over 200 countries around the world, as well as 48 states in the U.S., offering a secure way to purchase and trade cryptocurrency. While Kraken offers the ability to switch between “simple” and “advanced” trading interfaces, it is most popular for its advanced trading platform. Kraken offers advanced charting, multiple order types, margin and futures trading, and overall lower trading fees than other crypto exchanges

Margin trading requires that U.S. residents certify that they have more than $10 million in invested assets.

Cryptocurrencies That Trade on Kraken

Kraken offers access to over 90 cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Cardano (ADA), Ripple (XRP), Chainlink (LINK), and Polygon (MATIC). New cryptocurrencies are being added regularly, and you can find the current list of all support assets here.

A few notable cryptocurrencies are missing from Kraken, including Binance Coin (BNB), Terra (LUNA), and Avalanche (AVAX).

Trading Experience

Kraken offers a simple purchase experience through its “Buy Crypto” option, aimed at new investors. Users can make instant purchases using a credit or debit card or trade any crypto in their account. These instant purchases allow users to buy crypto with a linked credit or debit card or through a connected wallet.

The downside to this option is the additional fees associated with instant purchases. Kraken charges a 0.9% fee for stable coin purchases and a 1.5% fee for other crypto purchases. There are also additional charges for using credit and debit cards or buying directly from a linked crypto wallet.

To save on fees, users can deposit funds directly to Kraken such as U.S. dollars or crypto assets. This significantly cuts down on fees as users are only assessed fees for the trade based on a maker-taker model.

Users with a Kraken Pro verified account can trade, buy, or sell crypto using the “Trade” menu at the top of the Kraken homepage. There are two modes: Simple and Advanced. The simple mode allows users to buy or sell crypto using limit or market orders. The Advanced mode offers more trade options, including leveraged trading (using margin), stop losses, and order scheduling.

Advanced Trading

Users that log into the Kraken advanced trading section will have a more in-depth trading experience. It offers advanced charting with analysis tools, live order books, an advanced order form, and multiple indicators, such as MACD and trading volume. Users can select from a list of crypto pairs (such as ETH-BTC), which allows users to trade between two cryptocurrencies. 

This trading mode may overwhelm new users, and is reserved for advanced crypto traders only.

Fees

Kraken’s instant buy fees are as high as some other popular crypto exchanges, but its regular trading fees are some of the lowest on the market. 

Payment Method Kraken Fee 
Bank Account 0.50% (Instant Buy)
USD Wallet  3.75% + €0.25 (Instant Buy) 
Debit/Credit card  3.75% + €0.25 (Instant Buy) 
ACH Transfer  0.50% (Instant Buy) 
Wire Transfer  $0 to $10 (depending on partner) 
Crypto Conversion  0.00% to 0.26% (Maker-Taker) 
Purchases  0.00% to 0.26% (Maker-Taker) 
Trades  0.00% to 0.26% (Maker-Taker) 
Instant Buy  0.9% fee for any stablecoins and FX pairs, 1.5% fee for any other crypto 

Kraken Pro Fees

Kraken offers much lower fees for Pro-level accounts that go through stringent Know Your Customer (KYC) verification. Kraken requires this verification to prove the identity of traders on its platform, complying with federal and state government requirements. This includes submitting personal identification documentation that is manually reviewed. Kraken Pro users gain access to a maker-taker fee model. Pricing is based on a sliding scale, with discounts available as users execute more transactions.

When users place an order at the market price that gets filled immediately, they are considered a “taker” and are charged the taker fee. When users place an order that is not immediately matched, it is placed in the order book (until a match is found), and they are considered a “maker” and are charged a maker fee when the trade executes.

Here is a breakdown of the Kraken fee structure:

30- Day Volume (USD) Maker  Taker 
$0 - $50,000 0.16% 0.26%
$50,001 - $100,000  0.14%  0.24% 
$100,001 - $250,000  0.12%  0.22% 
$250,001 - $500,000  0.10%  0.20% 
$500,001 - $1,000,000  0.08%  0.18% 
$1,000,001 - $2,500,000  0.06%  0.16% 
$2,500,001 - $5,000,000  0.04%  0.14% 
$5,000,001 - $10,000,000  0.02%  0.12% 
$10,000,000+  0.00%  0.10% 

Security

Since its founding, Kraken has provided users a secure way to purchase Bitcoin. This has continued to be a core competency of the company as it has grown, with a wide range of security features available for individual and institutional investors alike.

Here are a few of the security features offered by Kraken:

  • Global settings lock: Kraken has a global settings lock feature that will instantly freeze your account settings for a period of time, typically anywhere from one to 29 days. This helps prevent any access or changes to your account when you are away from your account.
  • Whitelisting approved addresses: Kraken requires all withdrawal addresses to go through its verification process, which restricts access to any external address that is not approved. 
  • Cold Storage: Kraken keeps 95% of all crypto balances in “cold storage”, meaning the cryptocurrency is not connected to the internet (and not accessible to would-be thieves).
  • Two-factor authentication: Kraken requires two-factor authentication (2FA) via Google Authenticator. SMS account recovery is disabled to avoid hacking via phone. 
  • U2F security via hardware key: Kraken allows users to secure their account further is a Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) hardware key for offline storage of their crypto access keys.

Opening a Kraken Account

To sign up for Kraken, you can create a free account using your email address and a password. Once you verify your email address, you are required to secure your account with two-factor authentication. 

Kraken has three different account levels, all with varying levels of account verification, which give access to more trading features.

  • Starter. This account is available once you verify your email address. It is limited to depositing, exchanging, and withdrawing cryptocurrency only. You cannot deposit or withdraw fiat funds without further verification.
  • Intermediate. This account requires verifying your identity with a photo ID, providing proof of residence (with something like a utility bill), and providing your Social Security number or ITIN. This upgrade allows you to deposit and withdraw fiat currency as well as trade futures.
  • Pro. Pro accounts require additional verification with a manual review, which may include taking a selfie and answering a KYC questionnaire. This level allows users access to lower fees for crypto trading, as well as margin trading and anonymous trading through Kraken’s “dark pools.” These trading pools allow users to only see their own transactions in the order book, keeping larger trades anonymous to avoid influencing the crypto market.

Customer Service

Kraken offers 24/7 live chat support via its website and mobile app. This is rare in the crypto exchange industry, as most services only offer email support during business hours. Kraken also offers phone support and email support to users, though it’s only available Monday to Friday, 6:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. EST.

Kraken also offers a huge library of help articles, as well as user education materials on its website.

Customer Satisfaction

Kraken receives a fair amount of customer complaints, several of them complaining about Kraken’s KYC process and loss of access to funds. While KYC can help secure user accounts, delays in verification may cause user funds to be “stuck” on the Kraken platform, as unverified accounts cannot withdraw funds. The Kraken team does respond to these poor reviews, so at least they are proactive in wanting to solve issues for customers. 

Overall, most crypto exchanges don’t offer the level of support Kraken does (with 24/7 live chat support), but complaints of lost funds should always be considered before signing up.

There are no formal rating agencies for cryptocurrency exchanges. All user reviews are self-reported and may not be 100% accurate.

Account Management

Kraken is a web-based platform that allows users to buy, sell, and trade crypto, as well as monitor their portfolios. Users can log in using a web browser to access their account, deposit funds, or make any trades they wish. 

Kraken also offers an intuitive mobile app for both its regular and Kraken Pro platforms. These apps offer simple user dashboards, showing user portfolios, trade histories, and current market prices of cryptocurrencies. The Kraken mobile app also offers access to news reports and user education on supported cryptocurrency.

How Kraken Compares to Other Cryptocurrency Companies

Kraken is a great option for advanced crypto traders who want access to margin and futures trading as well as low fees. Kraken also takes security very seriously and helps users stay protected with multiple account verification levels and powerful account security controls.

Kraken doesn’t offer as many cryptocurrencies as other exchanges, and its platform may overwhelm new users. Here’s how Kraken compares to another large crypto exchange in the U.S.

Kraken vs. Coinbase

Both Kraken and Coinbase are U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchanges that offer a secure way to buy Bitcoin and other crypto-assets. Both offer over-the-counter (OTC) services for institutions, as well as stringent KYC protocols, to comply with regulatory authorities.

But while Coinbase is designed to onboard new users into the crypto market, Kraken is designed for advanced traders who want to trade with leverage, and the ability to trade futures as well. Coinbase offers a simple way for users to buy crypto, while Kraken offers advanced charting tools for active traders. They are both great options, but for very different types of users.

Here are a few other key differences between Kraken and Coinbase:

  • Kraken is available in 200+ countries, while Coinbase is available in just over 100
  • Coinbase offers built-in user education tools and the ability to earn cryptocurrency bonuses
  • Kraken offers margin trading to U.S. investors with over $10 million in investable assets
  • Coinbase offers insurance on its “hot wallet”, while Kraken does not

Coinbase is ideal for investors who are new to the crypto space, offering a simple on-ramp for purchasing crypto. Kraken, on the other hand, is designed with the active trader in mind, and with its low fees and advanced trading options, Kraken is a great option for those who are looking to actively trade crypto.

Read our full Kraken vs. Coinbase review.

Final Verdict

Kraken is one of the oldest crypto exchanges, offers a little bit of everything for crypto investors, plus a lot of features for active traders. While its fees are high for casual investors, active traders may pay as low as 0% for trading on the Kraken platform.

Kraken has a huge focus on security, requiring two-factor authentication via Google Authenticator, and multiple levels of identity verification for access to advanced trading tools. Kraken stores most of its crypto assets offline, keeping user funds safe while Kraken has custody of them.

Kraken does have some poor user reviews, but also seems proactive in reaching out to customers with complaints. It also offers 24/7 live chat support, so users can get help whenever they need it.

Overall, Kraken is a great option for active traders that want access to margin and futures trading, as well as very low fees. Kraken offers extra security tools for cautious investors and gives users a safe way to buy, sell, and trade their favorite cryptocurrency.

Methodology 

The Balance is dedicated to helping those interested in cryptocurrency investing make informed and safe decisions. We are committed to providing our readers with unbiased reviews of the top cryptocurrency exchanges for investors of all levels.

Exchanges are only considered for review if they are safe, secure, liquid, and either regulated by a proper agency or entirely decentralized.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. Kraken. “Cash deposit options (fees, minimums and processing times).” Accessed Oct. 15, 2021.

  2. Kraken. “Where can I use Kraken?” Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.

  3. Kraken. “Fee Schedule.” Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.