Introduction to Kraken
Kraken is one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchanges, processing over $300 million worth of trades a day. Although they were a Bitcoin-only exchange for their first few years, slow to roll out support for other coins, Kraken now carries almost 40 coins and over 180 trading pairs, many of which have a sizeable amount of liquidity. They have long been recognized as one of the most morally upstanding, secure and fair crypto exchanges that there is, and as a result they have attracted a large number of serious traders who are fiercely loyal to the exchange.
Why choose Kraken?
Kraken has a deeply-rooted reputation for being honest and forthright that was earned through several years of good business practices. They now have 9 years of experience doing what they do, which is providing a dependable, secure way to buy and sell cryptocurrencies without an overbearing amount of KYC or fees. Kraken is open to customers almost everywhere in the world and the most basic version of account requires no personally-identifying documentation whatsoever.
In short, a Kraken account is a must-have for any serious cryptocurrency trader whether big or small, long considered a fundamental pillar of the cryptocurrency trading industry.
Brief history of Kraken
Founded by Jesse Powell in 2011, Kraken is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges still in operation, having withstood the test of time to become one of the most highly trafficked and highly liquid exchanges. The idea for Kraken came to Powell after he noticed that MtGOX began to falter after less than a year in operation, wanting to create a backup bitcoin exchange in case of MtGOX shut down for good. Indeed, this event happened in 2014, and Kraken was ready to pick up their customers.
By April 2014, Kraken was a high-powered operation, having received $5 million in investment funding and becoming one of the first exchanges to be listed on Bloomberg Terminal. In May 2015, Kraken became one of the first exchanges to allow margin trading. Over the course of the next few years, they expanded their trading lineup significantly, adding supporting for popular coins like Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, and Dash.
In December 2017, Kraken reported seeing registrations of as much as 50,000 new users in a single day. The company has since expanded from its headquarters in San Francisco, California to become a worldwide operation, with the majority of its offices located across Europe. With a multi-billion dollar valuation as a company, Kraken shows no signs of slowing down, firmly remaining in the top 10 of all crypto exchanges by any important metric.
Basics of getting started
Generally speaking, anyone can register for a Kraken account so long as cryptocurrency trading (and other services offered by Kraken) is considered to be legal in your jurisdiction. They more or less leave it up to the customer to be honest about what jurisdiction they fall under. There are a few places where service is expressly forbidden, including Washington and New York in the U.S., as well as Japan, and countries considered to be embargoed by the U.S. (Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, etc.).
How to register an account on Kraken
After clicking the “Sign Up” button in the upper-right corner of the screen, you will be asked to enter the following:
- Email address
- User name
- Country of residence
After entering this information, check the box to agree to the Kraken terms of service, solve the captcha, and press “Create Account”. Next, you will be asked to confirm your email address by clicking an activation link sent in an email by Kraken. After clicking the activation link, solve the captcha and press “Activate Account”. With that, your account will have been created and you are free to start using the exchange, but you will need to verify your account to begin trading cryptocurrency.
How to get verified on Kraken
After you have completed the account creation process, you will be brought a screen that says “Finish setting up your Kraken account”. Select step #1 by pressing the “Verify” button. First you will select whether you want a Personal or Business account; most likely you will be selecting the Personal option, unless you are indeed setting up Kraken for a business. For the purposes of this guide we will only be discussing how to set up a Personal account, of which there are 3 types:
- Starter. This is for cryptocurrency-only traders who do not plan on depositing any fiat (national) currency and has a daily withdraw limit of $5,000 USD (equivalent in cryptocurrencies). It requires provision of a full name, email address, residential (primary) address, and a phone number.
- Intermediate. This is for those who plan on doing trading with fiat currency and has a daily withdraw limit of $500,000 in cryptocurrency and $100,000 in fiat. It requires everything that the Starter account does plus an occupation, government issued ID, and proof of residence (such as a utility bill).
- Pro. This is for those who plan on trading serious amounts of money and need access to OTC (over the counter) trading. Daily withdrawal limits for both crypto and fiat are upwards of $10 million. It requires everything in Intermediate plus AML verification and financial statements.
For most traders, the Starter or Intermediate account will suffice. After deciding which account type is right for you, press the “Get Verified” button at the bottom of the corresponding selection to begin the verification process. After successfully submitting all of your information you will be returned to the Verify page.
The account verification process usually only takes a few hours but could take up to 24 hours to complete. You will be notified via email when your account has been verified or if for whatever reason your info or documents were rejected.
How to make a deposit on Kraken
This is the next step after your account has been verified. To make a deposit, click on the “Funding” tab in the top menu area. Here, you can see Kraken’s fiat and crypto deposit options. Fiat deposit options supported by Kraken include USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, CAD, CHF, and JPY. Check the “Show all assets” box if you cannot see the fiat deposit option for which you are looking. Simply click on the “Deposit” button to the right of the asset name which you wish to deposit. To deposit fiat, you must have an Intermediate or Pro level account.
There are several different fiat deposit methods available depending on where you are currently located, with the most common methods being bank wire transfer ($20 minimum, $4 fee), SWIFT ($20 minimum, $4 fee) and SEPA (1 EUR minimum, no fee). Different deposit methods have variable processing times, with some sending the money to your account instantly and some taking up to 5 business days.
Note that all first time fiat deposits will be subject to a 72-hour withdrawal hold. This hold applies to both fiat and cryptocurrency withdrawals.
How to trade on Kraken
Trading on Kraken is a bit different from most other exchanges in that the trading experience can be as simple or as advanced as you want to make it.
After pressing the “Trade” tab at the top of the screen, you will be brought to a basic order entry screen that shows by default the “Simple” order placement components for placing a XBT/USD trade (note that Kraken refers to BTC as XBT), which include a Buy/Sell toggle, coin amount field, price field, and Market/Limit toggle. Above this is some reference information for the current trade pairing, including its last price, 24 hour volume, weighted average and 24 hour highs and lows.
The market (coin pair) shown in this screen can be changed by clicking on the search icon in the top left of the screen, under the “Trade” tab. Here, markets can be searched by typing in the name or trading symbol of the coin or viewed as a list, either by all markets or by pairing back.
There are 3 different “New Order” levels available: Simple (default), Intermediate, and Advanced. For those who just want to place a basic market or limit order, Simple is the preferred option. For those who need a few customization options or want to trade using leverage (2-5x leverage is available for most markets), Intermediate is a good choice. For those who want to add extra conditions to a customized order, Advanced should be chosen. Both Intermediate and Advanced also offer time constraints.
Because Kraken is a very liquid exchange compared to most others, monitoring an orderbook isn’t necessarily a must and trades can be placed with the click of a single button. However, if you are a more technical-minded trader that would like to see a chart as well as an orderbook, this can be found by pressing the chart screen button to the right of the market reference information. This will open the more familiar trading screen in a new window, complete with orderbook, chart, and order entry screen.
Kraken’s chart trading screen (as opposed to the basic trading screen) is a bit cramped and outdated in style, but it is loaded with all the information that technical traders are used to seeing on cryptocurrency exchanges. It is recommended to use fullscreen mode by clicking the screen expand button in the chart area, to the left of the word “auto”. You can further expand the chart area by pressing the right-pointing arrow (“>”) in the divide between the price chart and the depth chart, which will hide the depth chart in the process.
Despite its somewhat old-fashioned presentation, the chart screen still has a lot of customization options, including changing the candle representations, selecting from a wide array of TA overlay options, and creating snapshots that can be downloaded as .png image files. To the right is an extensive orderbook of currently open buy and sell orders.
To place orders in the chart trading screen, you will need to first connect your account to the window by pressing the blue “Connect” button over the grayed out order placement screen (right column). After a moment, the order placement screen will be activated and you can begin placing orders. The different order types included in this screen are: Market, Limit, Settle Position, Stop Loss, Take Profit, Stop Loss Limit, and Take Profit Limit.
You can also choose the amount of leverage you wish to use by clicking on the appropriate Leverage setting. Clicking on the “Advanced” slider opens up time condition settings and the option to post a limit order only (this will prevent you from accidentally placing a market order if the price should suddenly change before placing the order).
Kraken also offers futures trading to Intermediate and Pro account customers, but it can only be unlocked after completing a series of questionnaires. Futures trading is not available to U.S.-based customers and those in some other regions, as well.
Kraken trading fees
Kraken’s fee schedule is based on a tiered system of differing Maker (limit order) and Taker (market order) fees. The lowest tier is for those who have conducted less than $50,000 worth of trades within the last 30 days, and consists of 0.26% Taker fees and 0.16% Maker fees. In the next tier (between $50,000 and $100,000 in trades in the last 30 days), fees are 0.24% Taker and 0.14% Maker. Tiers go all the way up to $10,000,000 in trades in the last 30 days, at which point the fees are 0.10% Taker and 0.00% Maker.
Overview of supported coins
Thought it was a predominately Bitcoin-centric exchange for several years, Kraken now supports a wide variety of other cryptocurrencies: about 38 different coins and tokens across 180+ different markets. Coins/tokens are paired with 7 different fiat currencies, 3 stablecoins (USDT, USDC, DAI), and 2 cryptocurrencies (XBT, ETH). The other coins/tokens currently traded at Kraken not already mentioned are as follows:
- Algorand (ALGO)
- Augur (REP)
- Basic Attention Token (BAT)
- Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
- Cardano (ADA)
- Chainlink (LINK)
- Compound (COMP)
- Cosmos (ATOM)
- Dash (DASH)
- Dogecoin (DOGE)
- EOS (EOS)
- Ethereum Classic (ETC)
- Gnosis (GNO)
- Icon (ICX)
- io (KAVA)
- Kyber Network (KNC)
- Lisk (LSK)
- Litecoin (LTC)
- Melon (MLN)
- Monero (XMR)
- Nano (NANO)
- OMG Network (OMG)
- Orchid (OXT)
- PAX Gold (PAXG)
- QTUM (QTUM)
- Siacoin (SC)
- Stellar (XLM)
- Storj (STORJ)
- Tezos (XTZ)
- Tron (TRX)
- Waves (WAVES)
- Ripple (XRP)
- Zcash (ZEC)
How to make a withdrawal
Similar to deposits, withdrawals are made by pressing the “Funding” menu tab and finding the asset you wish to withdraw, then pressing the “Withdraw” button to the right of its name. In order to make a withdrawal, you will first have to set up 2-FA, which can be done using Google Authenticator or YubiKey.
Fiat withdrawals can take anywhere between 0 – 5 business days and have fees of $0 – $35, depending on the funding method/provider. The minimum amount for a withdrawal ranges anywhere from $0 to $150, which is also dependent on the funding method/provider. Note that banks may charge additional fees on top of Kraken’s withdraw fee.
Cryptocurrency withdrawal fees are relatively standard for the industry, with the fee for a Bitcoin withdrawal being 0.0005 XBT. Most other coins and tokens will have much cheaper withdrawal fees, as is usually the case with crypto exchanges. The withdrawal minimum for Bitcoin is 0.005 XBT.
Though it has certainly been the target of several hacking attempts and DDOS attacks over the years, Kraken has never actually been hacked, making it the oldest, longest-running exchange to enjoy that honor. Needless to say, Kraken takes the security of their systems and customers very seriously, also offering a staff of hundreds of customer service agents to field customer questions on a 24/7 basis.
Two-factor Authentication (2-FA) is Kraken’s main mode of user security. It is required and can be done either with Google Authenticator or YubiKey. Once 2-FA has been set up, it can be applied to a combination of funding, trading and master key (API) privileges. You must enable 2-FA before making a deposit on Kraken.
Kraken has a mobile app for both Android and iOS devices called Kraken Pro. It is well designed but not incredibly intuitive, somewhat mirroring the experience of their desktop exchange. Orders can be placed rather easily and most other components of the exchange can also be found. It is a bit hard to conduct withdrawals from the app but other than that, Kraken Pro is probably on the better quality end of crypto exchange apps as a whole.
Benefits of Kraken (over competitors)
- Long-standing reputation for being safe, secure, and fair.
- Easy registration, available to users in almost all parts of the world.
- Highly liquid markets for a broad number of coins and trading pairs.
Limitations of Kraken
- Chart trading screen is a bit antiquated, not as well-designed as most other top exchanges.
- Doesn’t accept credit/debit card purchases for customers outside of Canada.
- Limited amount of leverage available for leveraged trading.
Wrapping it up
Kraken is an important utility for any serious cryptocurrency trader who values security and fair business practices. They are known for processing deposits and withdrawals quickly, possessing a knowledgeable and responsive customer support team, and offering a tremendous amount of liquidity for several popular trading pairs. Depositing and withdrawing fiat can be relatively costly depending on the service provider, and they lack the fancy derivative instruments and high leverage limits used by some of their flashier competitors, but other than that, there’s basically no reason not to have a Kraken account if you are a cryptocurrency trader, whether big or small.