Kraken Review: What Works & What Doesn’t

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15 min read
Our review of well-known exchange Kraken. How good is the security, what are the fees like, and how can you get rewards?
Article review author
Laurel Murphy
Article head image
Rating: 3.8 / 5
3/5
Open Account
While the signup process itself is painless, verification can take a while.
4/5
Interface
Powerful, with multiple features to support high-volume trading. Newcomers may find it overly complicated.
3/5
Customer Support
Has a reputation for being lackluster.
5/5
Security
Considered one of the safest exchanges in operation.
4/5
Fees
Comparatively low, though the multiple different fee schedules could trip some users up.
4/5
Withdrawal
Fast and secure, through strict compliance with financial regulations can make it difficult to access your money immediately.

Kraken Overview

Kraken is everywhere – after 10 years in business spent acquiring other crypto businesses and extending its reach, you could say it has tentacles everywhere.

Currently the largest Bitcoin exchange in terms of volume and liquidity, San-Francisco based exchange Kraken is a solid fit for experienced users that can take advantage of its high liquidity and advanced trading features. Newcomers will benefit from Kraken’s high security and 24/7 customer service as well, though they might be intimidated by the complex interface.

In terms of crypto exchanges, Kraken is a grizzled veteran. Founded in 2011 by Jesse Powell in response to the Mt. Gox hack, Kraken has become renowned for its comprehensive security and low fees. Kraken has achieved the significant milestone of being listed on the Bloomberg terminal, a tool relied on by the world’s major financial decision-makers. They also support 56+ popular tokens, which is handy for investors looking to broaden their portfolios while taking advantage of Kraken’s financial products and reputable security.

That financial coup paid off – to date, Kraken has raised $118.5 million, and is currently pushing for a $20 billion valuation. At the time of writing, the 24-hour trade volume on Kraken was $2.4 billion, approximately the same as the GDP of Bhutan.

Kraken has had its fair share of problems over the years. In 2018, Kraken experienced shutdowns lasting as long as 48 hours to address vulnerabilities, spiking unease among investors. However, Kraken’s powerful trading tools continue to appeal to high-powered crypto investors, particularly those based in the States.

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Pros / Cons

Advantages bg
Cons Icon
Cons
  • Interface that might confuse beginners
  • Slow customer service
  • Slow verification
Pros Icon
Pros
  • Powerful interface with multiple languages
  • Perks for high-volume traders
  • Extensive security measures
  • High liquidity
  • Available in the US, India, China, and Brazil
  • Listed on the Bloomberg Terminal
Open a Kraken account

Security

According to company history, Kraken was founded in reaction to the legendary 2011 Mt. Gox hack as a secure alternative. True to company vision, Kraken has yet to report a major security breach. Kraken also has a history of being proactive; in response to the 2020 Ledger breach, Kraken alerted potentially affected users and offered advice.

In their security overview, Kraken outlines the measures they take to protect user funds and privacy, including a dedicated security team, air-gapped cold storage for the majority of deposits,  an ongoing bug bounty, robust information security protocols, PGP encrypted email, SSL site encryption, and real-time monitoring, among other things. Kraken also offers educational resources for users looking to secure their accounts. So, do these measures work? Since Kraken has never been hacked or reported any breaches, the answer is yes (for now).

What about two-factor authentication? Kraken offers plenty of options – users can choose from a physical security key (YubiKey) or an authenticator app. While users have their choice of authenticator apps, the company recommends Google Authenticator.

Kraken does adhere to KYC (know your customer) and AML (anti money laundering) legislation. The amount an account can trade is dependent on the level of verification provided. If you’re looking to withdraw cash or crypto, use their API, and trade on margins, prepare to have plenty of documentation ready.

Tips for users

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Need to reach a team member, or just want to talk to fellow users? Kraken has extremely extensive social media channels, and even a podcast.

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Want to get a piece of Kraken’s success? Keep an eye peeled for their planned public listing, which is set to go ahead in 2022.

Regulation

Highly regulated and licensed, Kraken is a far cry from cryptocurrency’s early anarchic leanings. Unlike some exchanges, Kraken’s licensing and regulatory status is made clear and easy to find on the website, where you can find registration numbers for local subsidiaries.

Kraken is currently registered and licensed in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Kraken is registered as a money services business (MSB) with FinCen in the USA, and FINTRAC in Canada.  In the UK, Kraken is registered as CryptoFacilities Ltd. by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In Australia, Kraken is registered as the entity “Bit Trade Pty Limited” as a Digital Currency Exchange and regulated by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

Kraken is registered in Japan under the name Payward Asia, K.K as Crypto Asset Exchange Operator with the FSA in Japan.

Privacy

Also known as the section where we read the Privacy Policy so you don’t have to, even though we know that you, an informed consumer, were definitely planning on it.

In section 5 of their Privacy Policy, Kraken lists the impressive amount of data that they may collect and store from users. This includes name, address, contact details, date and place of birth, gender, citizenship, financial info, trading activities, PEP (politically exposed person) status, IDs, location information, browser type, device-specific information, and, finally, “Whatever information [Kraken], in our sole discretion, deem necessary to comply with our legal obligations under various anti-money laundering (AML) obligations[.]”

That’s a lot of information, and that doesn’t include all the information they collect about you from other sources such as your bank, advertising networks, and credit reference agencies.

As a large corporation, Kraken has subsidiaries in different locations responsible for providing services, who are also responsible for the collection and retention of user data. If you’re concerned about how your data is being used and want to avail yourself of local data protection legislation, check their privacy policy to see which company you should direct your complaints to.

According to Kraken, employees undergo regular training on the importance of maintaining and safeguarding user data with an emphasis on privacy. They have also appointed a Data Protection Officer to ensure company compliance with privacy and data protection laws. User-provided personal information is kept by the company and can be accessed by authorised personnel with a username and password.

User information is shared with third parties such as service providers, Kraken business partners, law enforcement (if necessary) and for the purpose of research and analytics. Fortunately, Kraken has yet to be hacked, so all that data remains safe.

User Experience + Interface

Kraken users can currently access the exchange via an app available on Android and iOS, or the website. One major feature is Kraken’s excellent language selection – users can opt for English (US or British), Spanish, Filipino, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Ukranian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

The app offers frequent opportunities to provide feedback, something which is reflected in the seamless UX. The Kraken Pro app is well designed and easy to navigate, though it does go hard on the corporate tech art style and bad Kraken puns. Blessedly, the app supports Dark Mode for those of you who want to trade after hours. The app also offers a stealth mode so users checking their finances can be demure about exactly how much crypto they own.

While it’s possible to have a relatively uncomplicated experience on both the app and the site, the sheer amount of features might confuse newcomers. Both the website and the app appear safe and trustworthy. Users should take advantage of the two-factor authentication feature to keep their accounts and funds safe.

The interface on the Kraken website and the Kraken Pro have extensive and sophisticated features that support both beginner and experienced traders. Options include a trading view where users can see new and open orders, positions, and their order book. Users can opt for a beginner, intermediate, or advanced view depending on their experience level. The Kraken interface also makes it easier to stake coins, giving users the ability to participate in governance while generating income.

How does Kraken compare?

Kraken has something to please everyone. With a customizable interface and powerful trading tools, beginner and intermediate traders alike can jump right in.

For users who are intimidated by the Kraken interface and find it too complicated, Luno presents an excellent alternative. Those looking to integrate crypto into their daily lives and get more rewards might want to try Crypto.com.

If you want access to more coins and are willing to compromise on security, KuCoin (260+ coins) or Gate.io (650+ coins) are solid options.

Customer Support

With a 1.9 star rating on Trustpilot, Kraken’s reputation for customer care isn’t great. When I signed up for my account I did have an issue that was resolved by a human being within two hours. While many of the reviews are clearly in bad faith, there are also some real doozies that make it clear Kraken has a ways to go on the customer support front.

Kraken offers a 24 hour chat service, though it can be tricky to get past the AI gatekeeper and to a human. They also have a comprehensive help centre where the answers to common questions are documented. There, you can get help with account verification, security, adding funds, trading, and API documentation. Users can also tweet @krakensupport to escalate claims.

Opening an Account and Trading

How To Open Account and Trade

Opening an account on Kraken is relatively straightforward.

01
Visit the Kraken site at https://www.kraken.com, click the “Create Account” button in the upper right hand corner. After you’ve provided a username and password, Kraken will send an activation email with an activation key.
02
Once you’ve entered the activation key, you have a Kraken account.
03
While you don’t need to provide documents immediately, Kraken does have verification level requirements. Kraken has four verification levels: Starter, Express, Intermediate, and Pro, though the Express is only available to US citizens. In order to access higher withdrawal limits, deposit and withdraw cash, stake off-chain, trade on margin with high limits, and trade on Kraken futures, users will need to qualify for an Intermediate account or higher.
04
To verify your account, click on your name in the upper right hand corner, and select “Get Verified”.

05
Choose the account type you want to apply for and press the “Verify” button. To learn more about the verification level requirements, check out the Kraken verification page here.

Kraken’s most powerful trading tools, like the dark pool, business accounts, and trading via the over-the-counter desk are only available to Pro accounts, who need to provide extensive documentation in addition to a KYC questionnaire.

Once you’ve set up an account and gotten the appropriate level of verification, you can jump right into trading. Deposits and withdrawals can be made via SEPA, SWIFT, wire, domestic transfers, and in some cases credit or debit cards. If you’re in the EU and live in one of the SEPA countries, fiat deposits via SEPA are free.

Kraken Fees

Kraken’s fee schedule is easy to find and clearly stated, which is a plus. Fees on Kraken are calculated according to the volume a user trades in a 30-day rolling period and the currency pair being traded. Fees are charged when an order is executed, and typically range from 0% to 0.26% of the total value of the order.

When purchasing stablecoins (USDT, USDC, or DAI) with USD or another stablecoin things get more pricey. The fee is 0.9%, while purchasing a stablecoin with another cryptocurrency will result in a 1.5% fee in addition to the normal Kraken fee. There is also a payment card processing fee of 3.75% + €0.25, and an online banking processing fee of 0.5%

Fees are calculated according to a maker-taker model, with market ‘makers’ that offer liquidity paying lower fees, and market ‘takers’ getting charged.

Maker-taker fees on Kraken are as follows:

Users can see what fees they have paid by navigating to the “Logs” tab at the bottom panel of the trading platform.

Other fee schedules are in operation for positions opened in Perpetual contracts and trades using leverage.

News

There has been a lot of buzz around Kraken recently, notably for it’s planned 2022 public listing. Elsewhere, the IRS has demanded the exchange turn over records of all US citizens that conducted transactions totaling 20,000 or more from 2016 to 2020 in an ongoing investigation into tax evasion.

Kraken also recently started supporting Cardano’s buzzy ADA cryptocurrency in May. Users have the option to stake their holdings in a Kraken Staking Wallet in order to earn rewards.

To learn more about Kraken, you can find the company’s extensive social channels on their website, here.

FAQs

Which countries can use Kraken?

Kraken is available in 48 US states, with the exception of Washington and New York,  and 178 countries. Kraken is unavailable in Afghanistan, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Tajikistan.

Does Kraken have a wallet?

Kraken does not offer a wallet.

Is Kraken safe?

Kraken is widely considered one of the safest crypto exchanges.

What is the minimum deposit for Kraken?

The minimum deposit fee for Kraken varies based on the deposit method, but can be as low as $1 USD. You can find the deposit minimum for your planned transaction on the Kraken support page.

How do I open a Kraken account?

Visit the Kraken site at https://www.kraken.com, click the “Create Account” button in the upper right hand corner. After you’ve provided a username and password, Kraken will send an activation email with an activation key. Once you’ve entered the activation key, you have a Kraken account. From there, you’ll need to provide the necessary documentation to get to your desired verification level.

How do I access Kraken support?

Kraken offers a 24 hour chat service, as well as a comprehensive help centre, where users can access documentation on account verification, security, adding funds, trading, and the Kraken API. Users can also tweet @krakensupport to escalate claims.

Supported Countries

Kraken is available in 48 US states, with the exception of Washington and New York,  and 178 countries. Kraken currently does not offer services to Afghanistan, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Tajikistan.

Residents of the following countries can access Kraken, but may be restricted from funding: Central African Republic, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Mali, Namibia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen.

Kraken Currencies and Payment Methods

With 56 cryptocurrencies currently supported, Kraken offers users the chance to create a diverse portfolio. Currencies supported include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Litecoin, Cardano (ADA), Polkadot (DOT), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Stellar (XLM), Chainlink, Tether (USDT), Monero (XMR), and many others.

Kraken’s Services

Kraken offers an extensive array of features that will appeal to experienced investors, including a wide array of trade options,  advanced charting, API keys,  an account management service, an over-the-counter investment service, and more.

Diverse trade options

Investors familiar with market mechanics who want to step up their crypto game will find Kraken already offers them the tools to maximise profits. Kraken offers margin trading,  allowing users to use up to 5x leverage to go long or short on a currency pair. Another tempting feature are the low rollover fees (never more than 0.02% per four hours) and high margin limits.

Users can also access Kraken’s futures trading service. Currently, the exchange offers futures contracts for Ethereum, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ripple. Compared to exchanges such as Binance, however, Kraken’s number of futures products and maximum leverage (50x) is below average.

Account management service

Kraken offers a bespoke account management service for high level traders. This includes more channels of communication and a personal account manager.

Kraken OTC desk

In addition to the account management service, Kraken offers high-volume traders making trades in excess of $100,000 access to over-the-counter (OTC) trading that takes place off the main exchange. This includes market insight, 1-on-1 white glove service, full asset support, and global coverage.

Customisable user interface

Kraken offers trading interfaces for beginner, intermediate, and experienced traders and a customisable platform UI. While the options may be intimidating for beginners, experienced traders will be able to dive right in.

Kraken APIs

For users looking to integrate automation into their trading, Kraken offers a fully documented REST API, in addition to the Websockets API and Kraken Futures API. The Kraken API unfortunately does not offer a test environment, but algorithmic traders can use the APIs to their advantage.

Dark Pool

No, it’s not the next Marvel movie. The dark pool allows users to trade off the books, so traders can anonymously place large buy or sell orders without revealing their interest or causing the market to move unfavorably.

Helpful?
FAQ

New to crypto? Here’s our guide!

FAQ Image #1 01 Why Bitcoin? It seems like the buzz around Bitcoin just keeps growing. Bitcoin is a constantly evolving technology with a passionate community. What is it about the digital asset that makes it such a controversial topic and attractive investment?
FAQ Image #2 02 How to Get Started with Bitcoin It can be difficult to get past the technical jargon surrounding bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies in order to figure out how you can buy and store them. Beginners can purchase Bitcoin, for example, on many exchanges using fiat currency like U.S. Dollar, Euro or British Pound.
FAQ Image #3 03 Blockchains 101 Blockchains are a type of database where data is stored in blocks that are chained together. As new data comes in, it is entered into a block, which is then chained to the previous block. The Bitcoin blockchain serves as a ledger that records every Bitcoin transaction in history.
FAQ Image #4 04 Bitcoin in the Real World Ok - you’ve found an exchange, bought your Bitcoin, and stored it safely. What’s next? By now you can buy just about anything with Bitcoin if you try hard enough, from Amazon gift cards to an old master painting. You can also convert your BTC to fiat with ATMs, an exchange, and more.