Binance is one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges in the world with what appears to be among if not the highest volume of trading. It offers relatively low fees and a wide selection of cryptocurrencies for trading, plus a large selection of ancillary services, such as futures, options, leveraged tokens, staking, liquidity farming, and a crypto debit card. It’s aimed more at the experienced trader rather than at the beginner, as reflected in its various sophisticated derivative offerings and its enormous range of cryptocurrencies available for trading. It also has a large research section offering “Institutional-grade research reports, covering a broad range of topics in the digital asset industry such as blockchain, economics, and finance.”
The company is divided in two: an international company guided by Hong Kong law that accepts clients from most countries, and a separate US operation that deals with US clients. The US operation however is being sued by both the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), so we are only going to discuss the international operation here even though the US site, binance.US, still seems to be operating and accepting clients.
We say “appears to be” rather than “is” in several cases because much about the company is not independently verifiable.
Binance is perhaps the largest cryptocurrency trading platform in the world, according to its published (but unaudited) figures. With its enormous selection of coins (over 350), derivatives such as futures and options, crypto lending facilities, staking, and even NFTs, it’s a one-stop shop for crypto enthusiasts. Its desktop and mobile trading platforms offer a wide array of charts and several different order types. Plus there’s an educational section with institutional-grade research on topics such as Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
On top of which, Binance’s fees are among the lowest in the industry.
There’s a trade-off though between comprehensiveness and complexity. Newcomers to the field who just want to trade a few of the coins that they’ve heard about may find the selection a bit overwhelming. I mean, do you even know what staking is? (When you stake a cryptocurrency, you agree to lock it up for a set period of time to help support the operation of a blockchain. In return, you earn more cryptocurrency, kind of like depositing your money in a bank account and earning interest.)
Finally, we can’t ignore the company’s recent legal problems in the US. As mentioned above, the CFTC and SEC recently sued the company and its founder, Changpeng Zhao. The allegations are quite serious, particularly those about comingling clients’ and company funds and manipulating activity to boost volume figures.
Binance bills itself as “The World’s Leading Blockchain Ecosystem and Digital Asset Exchange.” It’s almost a vertically integrated crypto economy, cryptocurrency trading in an enormous number of tokens, derivatives, loans, credit cards, staking, even its own proprietary crypto.
The company was founded in China in 2017 by software developer Changpeng Zhao. As of November 2022 it had more than 7,400 employees and according to a speech Zhao gave in January 2023 he hopes to increase that number by 30% in 2023.
The most recent data we could find (from Businessofapps) is that the firm had 28.6 million users as of Oct. 2021 and had trading volume of some $9.58tn that year, with peak trading volume of $76bn in one day. Revenue for 2020 was estimated at $20bn. Forbes Magazine estimated that Binance did “over two-thirds of all volume handled by centralized crypto exchanges” during 2022.
Besides acting as an exchange, Binance also created what is estimated to be the world’s third most valuable cryptocurrency (by market cap): the Binance Coin (BNB). It can be used to buy and sell other cryptocurrencies on Binance, as well as to cover trading fees. According to CoinMarketCap, the market cap of BNB is $36.8bn, vs $502.6bn for Bitcoin and $211.0bn for Etherium.
The firm has two platforms, Binance.com and Binance.US. The US site uses the same trading technology as the international site but offers fewer coins for sale (something like 160 vs 350+). Binance.US is currently facing suits by both the CFTC and the US SEC. Nonetheless it still seems to be operating and accepting clients who can pay in cryptos (it no longer accepts USD).
Crypto exchanges are not regulated. This has always been touted as one of the attractions of the crypto world, a “feature” and not a “bug.” The industry appeals to libertarian, anti-establishment people who see cryptocurrencies as a new form of decentralized money free from the crushing hand of the monetary authorities. Having the exchanges regulated by these same authorities would be contrary to this gestalt. Therefore, we can never say with any degree of certainty that an exchange is safe. We can only talk about how safe it has been up to now and what its reputation is.
Binance has two operations: one international one that accepts clients from all over and one headquartered in the US aimed at US clients. The US operation however has serious legal problems. The US Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged it in March “with numerous violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations.” This was followed three months later by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which accused it of “a variety of securities law violations” in 13 charges against the firm and its founder, Changpeng Zhao. (Zaho denies the allegations.) We would strongly urge you to read the CFTC and SEC’s allegations before depositing your money with the firm.
Having said this, Binance’s operations are probably average for the industry. There’s no saying you’re going to get anything better anywhere else.
The website does have a number of safety features, such as two-factor authentication by means of the Google Authenticator app or SMS (short message service). It also offers address whitelisting, a security feature that ensures any withdrawals of cryptos only go to addresses that you’ve already designated. Plus it also offers you the ability to restrict device access. These features are largely par for the course with crypto exchanges.
And it does have what it says is a $1bn fund to compensate holders in its wallet in case of a security breach.
Another plus is that Binance is among if not the largest crypto exchange by trading volume, according to its data. We note though that the SEC also accused another company owned by Zhao of “manipulative trading [on Binance.US] that artificially inflated the platform’s trading volume.” This has to do with the US operations, not the international operations, but it makes us wonder about the reported volume figures for the international unit too.
On the other hand, Binance was founded in 2017 and so has a relatively short track record. And we would urge investors to read the SEC’s accusations about Binance commingling its clients funds with its own – something that most regulators do not allow -- and sending those funds to another company that was also owned by Binance’s founder.
No, as mentioned above it definitely is not regulated, nor are most of its competitors.
Binance says that it “is committed to working closely and collaboratively with regulators from around the world.” It lists “regulatory licenses, registrations, authorisations and approvals” from a wide variety of countries, including France, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Bahrain, Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC), Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Mexico, and South Africa.
Note though that in many cases Binance is only registered, not regulated, in the country. For example, it says that about its New Zealand unit, Investbybit Limited (trading as Binance New Zealand): “Investbybit Limited's registration on the New Zealand register of financial service providers or membership of the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme does not mean that Investbybit Limited is subject to active regulation or oversight by a New Zealand regulator.”
If a firm is only registered, not regulated, it means if you have any problems with it you probably can’t expect any official help in dealing with them. In any case, you may even have trouble finding out which entity you’re being onboarded under.
In any case, exchanges like Binance usually do not qualify for deposit insurance programs or investor compensation schemes, such as those offered by Britain’s FCA or Cyprus’ CySec. The firm does have an internal fund: the Binance Secure Asset Fund for Users (SAFU), which the company valued at $1bn in January 2022. This is an emergency fund to protect user funds in case there’s some issue with the wallet, such as a security breach. (The fund also covers NTFs.) I’m not sure it’s ever been tested, though.
We strongly suggest that you check to see what licenses or registrations Binance has in the jurisdiction that you’re considering signing up with. You can see them all here.
The company itself says:
We have notices regarding certain restrictions placed on our products and services which can be accessed here. Users impacted by these restrictions are strongly encouraged to review these notices and seek independent advice.
The main Binance exchange is not available in the US. The company set up a US subsidiary, Binance.US, which uses technologies licensed from the mother company but offers fewer cryptocurrency pairs (around 150 vs 350+ for the main site). The US operation however is currently the subject of suits by both the US CFTC and the US SEC. The SEC also froze any assets of Binance.US’s in the US in an effort to safeguard US customers’ assets. However the US site is still up and running and still taking on clients, apparently, although it doesn’t accept USD for payment – you can only buy cryptos on it with other cryptos.
The firm was authorized in the UK but withdrew its authorization in May 2023. As a result it “can no longer provide regulated activities and products” in the UK.
I wish we knew! According to Wolters Kluwer, an international legal and accounting firm, Binance appears to have been founded in mainland China in 2017 before moving to Tokyo later that year in advance of China’s crackdown on Bitcoin exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs). After hints of stricter regulation in Japan in 2018, Binance announced plans to move some of its operations to Malta, and later also to Bermuda and Jersey. As of 2021 the platform apparently had entities in the Cayman Islands, The Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Uganda, Ireland, the US, and the UK, among many other countries, without any clear indication as to which of the entities are parent companies and which are subsidiaries, or indeed how they are related. Crunchbase, a website that tracks companies and their employees, says Binance is headquartered in Malta, while Craft, a similar site, says it’s headquartered in the Cayman Islands. A Binance spokesman said the company “is a remote-first organization, and as such does not have traditional buildings or campuses like Apple or Google.”
God only knows, and S/He isn’t telling. Certainly co-founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao isn’t telling, although it’s a good bet that he owns a fair chunk of it. Forbes Magazineestimates Mr. Zhao’s net worth to be around $10.5bn, making him the #175th richest person in the world. Would he like to meet my daughter?
I’m not sure. The reviews on Trustpilot are not good. There are 4,557 reviews of which only 15% are 5-star (the highest rating) and 67% are one star (the lowest), giving an overall score of 2.0 – poor.
We usually don’t pay much attention to such online reviews, for two reasons: first, they can be gamed (marketing departments can and do use VPNs to post their own positive reviews, plus sales departments run campaigns to get happy clients to leave reviews), and second, people naturally have a tendency to complain more than praise, so for every one complaint there are probably 1,000 satisfied traders who have nothing bad to say. Nonetheless…this is a pretty poor record. By comparison, a reputable FX broker like IG.com has a 54% to 17% score for an overall average of 4.0, while AvaTrade has 74% to 15% for an overall score of 4.7. Even FXPRIMUS, a company I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, has a 4.1 rating (albeit on only 108 reviews).
Although Binance is an exchange, it carries out some functions that traditional exchanges never carry out, such as trading on its own exchange. You can’t imagine the NYSE itself taking a position in ExxonMobil, for example. In this respect it is acting as much as a broker as it is as an exchange. (A Binance representative said, “Market making activities are standard in both traditional finance and crypto. They ensure liquidity and directly support a healthy, vibrant, and efficient marketplace to the benefit of end users.”)
Plus there are also the allegations in the CFTC and SEC suits, which are pretty serious.
All told, I’d store my coins in an offline wallet that can’t be hacked and only use the exchange to trade.
Leverage is available. The leverage varies depending on which coin you’re talking about, how much you trade, and how much BNB you hold. For example, for BTC/USD futures, you can get 125x leverage up to a notional value of $50,000 with a maintenance margin rate of 0.40%, but this gradually falls to 2x leverage with a 25% margin rate on a position of $200mn-$300mn. For Ethereum futures, the maximum leverage is 100x for up to $100,000 value, falling to 2x for $80mn-$150mn. Other coins generally have lower limits.
In addition, you can trade through leveraged tokens, which give you exposure through futures contracts to the movement in the coin without actually holding it – kind of like buying the milk without having to buy the cow. (See Trading Instruments below)
In the first instance, you have to open a base account, which is used for personal trading. This allows you to access many features but not all.
Binance also offers accounts for trading futures and options.
There’s also an enterprise account for corporations, but this doesn’t concern us.
There is no demo account.
Binance’s spreads are among the lowest that you can find among crypto exchanges. (US users pay slightly more than on the international platform.)
The spreads vary based on how much you trade and how much BNB you hold – what’s known as a maker/taker fee structure. As you probably guessed, the more you trade or the more BNB you hold, the lower the fees are. You can also get discounts for using BNB coins in trades, by referring new customers, and by trading enough to reach VIP status.
For a regular user trading less than $1mn in Bitcoin, the fee is 0.1% both buying and selling, but that falls to 0.075% if you pay with BNB. For the top tier of VIP, VIP 9, trading over $4mn in Bitcoin and holding over 5,500 BNBs, the spread is 0.02%-0.04%, falling to 0.015%-0.03% if you pay with BNB. You can see all the fees here.
Spreads on futures and options are narrower – 0.02%/0.04% for futures and 0.02% both ways for options. This is the maximum, for the smallest trade with no BNB.
There are also fees charged for payments using credit/debit cards (see Account Opening below).
There’s no inactivity fee.
Binance is a veritable cryptocurrency supermarket. One-stop shopping for anything having to do with cryptocurrencies. I counted 366 coins listed (fewer than that – maybe 150 – on the US site), although some of those are derivative coins, such as BTCDOWN and BTCUP, which are Binance’s own proprietary leveraged tokens that make money when Bitcoin falls or rises. I counted leveraged tokens on 20 different coins, with “more to come” at the bottom of the page. These are a good idea for someone who simply wants to take a leveraged position on the direction of the market without risking being wiped out in a margin call, which could happen if you bought the underlying coin on margin.
Here’s a heat map of the exchange’s volume on the day I looked. It doesn’t give a complete list of all the coins traded by any means, but it will give you an idea of the major ones.
Furthermore, I counted 204 futures contracts. You can trade either quarterly or perpetual contracts and settle your trade in either coins or USD stable coins. There are also options on BTC, ETH, BNB, XRP.
Binance also facilities peer-to-peer (P2P) trading. People list their coins for sale and the price – you can hit their offer if you so choose, or you can post your own coins for sale. When you place the order, Binance puts the crypto into escrow. When the money is sent and the seller confirms receipt, the escrowed crypto is released. There’s no fee for buyers in this market; sellers pay 0%-0.35%, depending on what coin we’re talking about (BTC, ETH, and BNB are free).
One of the ways that Binance is different from your usual FX broker is the “Earn” menu. This gives 11 different ways that you can use your coins to earn more coins, such as:
There’s also an interesting section of the drop-down menu called Finance. This includes:
Note though that as we pointed out above, Binance isn’t covered by any kind of deposit insurance or compensatory scheme. If something goes wrong you could well be out of luck (although Binance itself does have a fund that it says is to compensate holders in its wallet in case of a security breach).
In addition, you can also trade Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) on Binance. There are 100 NFTs listed on Binance for you to trade, stake, and loan. From my point of view this is the very definition of “a fool and his money is soon parted,” but what do I know? Maybe someone would be happy to pay $3.82 for Pixel Platypi #6636.
Opening an account with Binance is really simple. You just go to their website, click “Register,” enter your e-mail address and choose a password. You then have to solve a simple puzzle to prove you’re a human being. A code will be sent to your email address for verification. That’s it! No need to send a lot of documents.
However, that’s just to set up an account. If you want to deposit or withdraw cryptocurrency, you will have to provide some basic personal information. And if you want to deposit and withdraw the dreaded “fiat currency,” aka money, you’ll have to go through the usual “Know Your Client” routine, including uploading a government-issued ID and taking a selfie for verification.
Binance says that it accepts over 50 different currencies, although not all currencies are available for all clients. These include most currencies you can think of and many that you probably can’t, such as Afghan Afghani (AFN), Armenian Dram (AMD), Argentinian Peso (ARS), Azerbiaijani Manal (AZN)…and that’s just the As. They even accept Venezuela’s Sovereign Bolivar (VES), a currency that I didn’t think was worth anything anywhere.
The US site however no longer accepts fiat currencies as banks won’t deal with it any more – if you want to deal with them in the US, you have to deposit cryptos.
There are many ways to deposit, including credit/debit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, bank transfers, and peer-to-peer trades. Credit/debit card payment is the most expensive way to pay – charges vary by currency but are around 1.8%. Binance doesn’t charge anything for SWIFT transfers.
Some banks however, such as the major Australian bank Westpac, have banned its customers from sending money to Binance.
You can withdraw from your Binance account in both currency and crypto. The cost of a withdrawal and the minimum amount depends on the medium (which currency or crypto) and the method (credit/debit card, bank transfer, or peer-to-peer transfer). There’s no free way to withdraw from your account. Withdrawal can take up to five business days.
You can check to see what withdrawal methods are available to you and how much they’ll cost by clicking “Wallet,” then “Fiat and Spot,” then “Withdraw.”
Binance has a number of trading platforms for both desktop and mobile aimed at traders with different expertise. They range from a simple platform aimed at beginners for easy conversion (fiat to crypto and crypto to crypto) and more advanced platforms (Classic and Advanced) that have a variety of sophisticated charting tools and offer several order types. There’s also a page for trading options and several for trading futures.
The desktop platforms are available both through the browser or as an app. The mobile application is available both for iOS and Android in two versions: a basic one (Binance Lite) or a more advanced one (Binance Pro).
Binance’s basic web platform is aimed at beginners. It’s quite easy to use once you find it. You click “Trade” on the top menu, then “Binance Convert.” You then select the currency or coin you want to sell (you can choose between “Spot” and “Funding”) and the currency or coin you want to buy. It’s a simple “at the market” order.
For more advanced options, you’ll want the Classic or Advanced platforms. These are more like the trading platforms that forex brokers offer, with more than 80 different technical indicators and more advanced orders, such as market, limit, stop limit, and one-cancels-the-other (OCO).
The web platform has two separate platform for trading futures: one for trades settled in Tether tokens or Binance USD (two kinds of stablecoins) and another for trades settled in cryptos. There’s also a separate platform for trading options.
Binance's mobile platform comes in two varieties: Binance Lite and Binance Pro. You can easily switch between them. Binance Lite is a stripped-down platform that only provides the most popular functions that you’ll need, such as basic price charts and a news feed. It’s easy to check your balance at Binance (aka your wallet) and you can make simple conversions like with Binance Convert. Binance Pro on the other hand is a much more sophisticated platform. It’s Binance’s advanced trading platforms but designed for use on a phone. It offers margin trading plus trading in futures. It has all the same order types as the web platform plus more charting tools.
Login and security
Both the web and mobile platforms have mandatory two-factor authentication the first time you log in. It will send you an SMS or an email (or both!) with a code whenever you log in from a new device. Furthermore you’ll have to solve a simple puzzle whenever you log in unless you use Face ID. If that’s not enough, you can also use a security key or Google Authenticator to make it even more secure.
These security precautions seem almost funny given the legal issues surrounding Binance itself.
Binance offers a wide variety of trading tools. These include charts with up to 80 technical indicators, dashboards with your portfolios and trade history, and ways to view the order book. (Note that not all of these are available on Binance.US)
As for storing your crypto…Binance has its own wallet, an exchange-based way of storing cryptocurrencies. This has the full functionality of the Binance platform built into it, allowing you to trade them whenever you want. This wallet has two special safety features. One, most of the cryptocurrencies are kept on cold storage devices – that is, devices that normally aren’t connected to the internet. That makes it harder to hack (although how you can get your crypto out when there’s a sudden trading opportunity beats me). Secondly, Binance has the Binance Secure Asset Fund for Users (SAFU), which was valued at $1bn in January 2022. This is an emergency fund to protect user funds in case there’s some issue with the wallet, such as a security breach. (The fund also covers NTFs.)
Binance also recommends an outside wallet, Trust Wallet, which – surprise surprise! – is also owned by Binance.
Binance has several ways to copy trade
The Binance Futures Leaderboard displays a ranking of Binance Futures’ traders based on different criteria, sucha s ROI, PNL, and popularity. You can see their past trades and follow them or use what you learn from them in your own trading.
Binance also connects to TraderWagon, a copy trading platform that seems to be exclusive to Binance. You link your Binance account to TraderWagon and then you can either be a Lead Trader or Copy Trader. The website says
TraderWagon is not just a copy-trading platform, TW is also a community of traders and investors where you can connect and interact with like-minded traders. Expand your trading circle and chat with some of the top traders in the world to discuss strategies and techniques that will help you become a better trader.
In the dropdown menu on the Binance website there’s a category Feedthat leads to a large number of articles on cryptocurrencies. There are three categories:
There’s also a separate website, the Binance Academy, that offers a huge number (448) of articles covering all aspects of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and decentralized finance, plus some courses on cryptocurrencies. For beginners there’s a series of six courses of about 20 minutes each on: blockchain fundamentals, crypto fundamentals, decentralization, Web3 & Metaverse, trading fundamentals, and trading and investing strategies.
If that isn’t enough, Binance has its own YouTube channelwith a staggering 919 videos.
And for people who want to go even further, there’s Binance Research, which institutional-grade analysis, in-depth insights, and unbiased information to all participants in the digital asset industry.” This can be accessed through the menu hidden under the tic-tac-to logo on the website.
In short, Binance provides a thorough and complete range of education and information about cryptocurrencies.
Customer support is not Binance’s strong point.
There are three ways to access customer support:
Many of the complaints on Trustpilot have to do with unsatisfactory customer service.
Binance may be confusing for beginners because there’s just so much there. I mean, if you just want to buy $100 worth of Bitcoin and you’re faced with 350 different coins, all sorts of derivatives, jargon you’ve never heard of, pages and pages of research…it can be overwhelming.
And yet there are also some very simple parts to the platform. Places where you simply see the price for the coin you want and buy it. You don’t have to ring all the bells and blow all the whistles. You can explore the additional facilities at your leisure and try them out as you learn more. In that respect, Binance is a good place to start because it allows you plenty of room to grow as a cryptocurrency trader.
The one thing we do have to warn you about though: the company does face regulatory hurdles in many countries. The US authorities are coming down heavily on it and warning of many improprieties. I wouldn’t deposit my life’s savings on this site.
Regardless of how or what you trade, the broker you choose should be safe to use, affordable, and offer everything you need to trade at your best. That’s why we’re highly selective. We only feature brokers regulated by a trusted authority and we make it easy to compare their fees & features, so that you can make an informed choice.
Help Me Choose A Broker