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Gemini vs Coinbase (2021): Choosing the Exchange for You

If you’re curious about cryptocurrencies and are looking for a way to buy and trade Bitcoin and altcoins, there is no shortage of choices when it comes to online crypto exchanges. However, picking one entails thinking about ease of use, security, which cryptocurrencies are available, and how big the fees are for all the sites you’re considering. People then tend to choose from the services with an already established solid reputation in the crypto community. Here’s a look at Gemini and Coinbase, two of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges now.

Gemini vs Coinbase Comparison Chart

SiteGeminiCoinbase
PriceCheck at Gemini.comCheck at Coinbase.com
FeesNone for deposits and withdrawals

Small fee for trading

Fees for bank transfer and credit/debit purchases
LocationNew York City, NYSan Francisco, CA
Founded20142012
Buy ThruBank transfer onlyBank transfer, credit/debit card
Sell ThruBank transfer onlyBank transfer, credit/debit card, PayPal
Available CoinsBitcoin (BTC)

Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

Litecoin (LTC)

Ether (ETH)

ZCash (ZEC)

Bitcoin (BTC)

Bitcoin Cash (BCH)

Litecoin (LTC)

Ether (ETH)

Trustworthiness

Both American companies are kept in check by various regulatory bodies and laws

Gemini, founded by twins.

Gemini Trust Company, LLC was founded in 2015 by twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. If those names sound familiar, it’s probably because of their involvement with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg way back in their Harvard years in the early 2000’s. After Gemini’s launch, it has built a reputation for having one of the most consistently high BTC trading volumes, partly due to their focus on security and compliance with current crypto trading regulations.

Coinbase founders Fred Ehrsam (left) and Brian Armstrong (right).

Coinbase came into the crypto scene earlier: it was established back in 2012, which was only three or so years after Bitcoin was introduced to the public. Coinbase is one of the most widely used platforms for buying and selling crypto because of its straightforward approach to trading. Instead of overwhelming users with technical terms and difficult-to-navigate interfaces, it opts instead to have a separate, more advanced service called Coinbase Pro that users can upgrade to. This means that you won’t be in a hurry to learn everything crypto-related if you’re a first-time trader or a budding enthusiast.

Security

Both Coinbase and Gemini offer highly secure services, with multiple options available to users

Security pages for Gemini and Coinbase.

Security is top-of-mind for coin traders regardless of how long you’ve been trading. This is why both Coinbase and Gemini implement various security measures to ensure that your wallet, fiat and crypto, are safe from any hackers planning to steal your funds. The exchanges require users to have two-factor authentication (2FA). Gemini allows its users to use third-party apps like Authy One-Touch, along with options for multi-factor authentication including biometric scans and hardware security keys.

Both services also make sure to separate their company funds from their customers’ funds, with most funds stored in a “cold” offline storage. Coinbase puts only 2% of its funds in their “hot” wallets, with the remaining 98% stored in safe vaults and deposit boxes distributed globally. Gemini also puts the majority of their customer funds in their offline cold storage, which are held on highly-secured hardware security modules that require coordinated actions of multiple Gemini employees to even operate. Coinbase and Gemini also both insure their users’ wallets, subject to the relevant FDIC regulations.

It’s obvious that both services pulled out all the stops to ensure that their services are as secure as they can be. For example, when Coinbase acquired a company whose founders were linked to groups providing surveillance technology to foreign governments with poor human rights records, the involved staff were promptly transitioned out of the company.

Their determination when it comes to security has paid off, with multiple high-profile companies supporting either exchange. Gemini has paired up with mobile giant Samsung, while Coinbase counts Dell and Time, Inc. among its partners in the past. However, it is still better to have a separate wallet for long-term storage. Exchange services like Gemini and Coinbase are built for trading rather than storing your crypto funds.

User Interface

Comparing Coinbase’s user-friendly interface vs Gemini’s more involved approach

What greets you when you first open Coinbase and Gemini, the latter noticeably promoting its mobile app.

While having a similar commitment to a high level of security, Gemini and Coinbase operate differently. This means that users will have different experiences with these services, as the exchanges focus on different aspects.

For beginners looking to start out in crypto, Coinbase comes highly recommended. It has multiple options for buying and selling, including bank transfers, credit and debit cards, and PayPal. Coinbase works just like an online store: when using a credit card, you instantly receive the crypto that you buy, and when buying through bank transfer, it takes only a few business days to complete the transaction. Bank transfer transactions also include a locked-in price for buying coins, which cannot be said for most other crypto exchanges.

Both Gemini and Coinbase have a know-your-customer (KYC) process that requires a couple of legal documents from its users. This process might take a while since the submitted documents still need verification, but Coinbase’s overall user interface is more intuitive and beginner-friendly than Gemini’s once the registration process is over. It takes an effort to avoid too many advanced terms like “limit order” or “market buy”, and instead focuses its customers on direct buying or selling.

Compared to Coinbase, Gemini is more limited since it only works through bank transfers. With that being said, Gemini might fit you if you’re looking to enter the world of more sophisticated crypto trading. The experience is closer to that of a stock exchange compared to Coinbase’s online shop-like approach to crypto. Gemini still works better than most traditional exchanges, since the fiat currency that you deposit to the exchange is available for trading right away instead of being held for a few business days. This means that locking prices while buying on Gemini is still faster, though not as easy as Coinbase.

Exchange Fees

Gemini implements a lower fee, but with a tiered system

Both exchanges show you the latest crypto market movement, but have different fee systems.

Just like most, if not all, exchanges, Coinbase and Gemini take a small percentage from each transaction as a service fee. However, users online agree that Gemini offers more value since it charges a lower rate for trading and none at all for depositing. Gemini’s system takes a little bit more explaining, so let’s explore Coinbase’s system first.

Coinbase’s fees system is straightforward, just like its user interface. It charges 3.99% for credit and debit card purchases, 1.49% for sales and purchases using other methods of payment, and a small 0.15 USD for withdrawing via bank transfer.

Gemini implements a tiered system based on how much a user has traded in the past 30 days and how those trades affected the liquidity in the marketplace. “Takers”, or those who take liquidity from the market, are charged slightly higher than “makers”. Gemini shines in high-volume trading: those looking to trade more than 2000 BTC, for example, are charged only a 0.1% fee if they’re a taker and 0% if they’re a maker. Smaller trades are subject to a larger fee at 1% for transactions below 5 BTC, but it’s still lower than Coinbase’s 4% base rate.

Coin Choices

Similar choices for both exchanges, with a slight Gemini edge

Coinbase and Gemini have similar choices for cryptocurrencies that users may want to trade. Both Coinbase and Gemini have Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum-based Ether, and Litecoin available for trading. Gemini has a slight advantage over Coinbase in terms of choices, since it’s the world’s first licensed ZCash exchange.

Both Coinbase and Gemini do have purchase limits regardless of which crypto you choose to buy, but the services implement these limits differently. Gemini has a discrete, predefined limit of 500 USD per day for bank transfers. Coinbase takes a more user-relative approach to buying limitations: an account’s limits can depend on its age, level of verification, and purchasing history. There are also separate limits for buying through your fiat wallet, bank transfers, and credit or debit card. Both sites do offer an option for wire transfers, which might appeal to high-volume depositors.

Customer Support

Comparable both in quality and methods

Both exchanges provide educational materials about crypto, starting from the basics. 

Coinbase and Gemini both have easily accessible FAQs on their websites, along with company blogs with posts teaching users and other readers about crypto topics from the basics to more advanced topics. For more specific inquiries, both services also have customer service emails that take 1-3 business days to reply.

Verdict

Coinbase appeals to new users, while Gemini fares better in serious high-volume trading

Gemini

Best for serious trading

Coinbase

Beginner-friendly, but not limited

Both crypto exchanges don’t skimp on security, customer support, and cryptocurrencies available for trading. Both Gemini and Coinbase are also highly respected names in the crypto sphere, established by trustworthy founders and partnered with giants in other industries. Your choice comes down to what fits your crypto needs better. Gemini’s tiered fees system makes it a good fit for those looking to engage in high-volume trading, losing less to service fees with every transaction. For the majority of people only looking to get into crypto without experiencing a steep learning curve, however, Coinbase is the better choice. Its relatively higher fees don’t hit as hard for small transactions, and the simple user interface makes crypto more accessible to people who are only starting to gain interest in Bitcoin and altcoins.

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Mauie Flores

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying, blogger and content creator passionate about writing, music, and good food.