CEX.IO Review: Is It a Scam? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

cex.io review

If you’ve been looking to buy or trade cryptocurrency, chances are good that you’ve heard of CEX.IO. It is, after all one of the longest-running Bitcoin exchanges around with over 700,000 active users.

The thing is, though: there are some seriously mixed reviews when it comes to CEX.IO – even more so than other exchanges (which is saying something).

One end of the spectrum proclaims CEX.IO to be one of the best exchanges while the other end screams that it’s a total scam. You do a little Google digging and you quickly find that CEX.IO is not faring too well when it comes to user reviews, with scores of less than 3/5 on BitTrust and 2/5 on TrustPilot.

And yet, it’s still managed to become one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges around. So what’s the deal?

To be honest, there’s a bit of truth to both sides. CEX.IO is not a scam – it’s a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange that offers enough advantages to deserve mention. But at the same time, it does suffer from notable downsides, which you should be aware of before signing up.

Which is why this is going to be one lengthy, in-depth review. Here’s everything – literally, everything – you need to know about CEX.IO!

What’s Special About CEX.IO?

CEX.IO was established in London in 2013, making it one of the oldest Bitcoin exchanges around. Back then, though, they were both a Bitcoin exchange and cloud mining provider. At one point, its mining pool was so large, it contributed to over 42% of the total Bitcoin mining power!

But as of today – 2017 – CEX.IO only operates as a cryptocurrency exchange with over 700,000 active users. It’s registered as a Money Services Business with FinCEN and as such, they apply Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policies to all clients so yes, identity verification is a must before you can buy cryptocurrencies via the exchange.

Okay, you say, that’s all good and dandy but how does it stack up compared to other exchanges? Good question, especially since CEX.IO has several unique points – both good and bad – that you absolutely must know about before you dive in. Here’s a quick look at the details!

  • Credit card to buy and sell Bitcoins. One of CEX.IO’s advantages is that it’s one of the few exchanges that allows users from most countries to buy and sell Bitcoins with a Visa or Mastercard. The fees aren’t too bad, either, as far as credit card purchases go, starting from 3.5% + $0.25 per purchase for USD and EUR and going up to 5% for RUB. 
  • Varied payment options. Apart from credit cards, you can also buy and sell cryptocurrencies with a wire transfer, a SEPA transfer (if you live in the EU), or via a Cyrypto Capital transfer.
  • Fiat to digital currency exchange. CEX.IO offers to fiat-to-crypto exchange, allowing you to buy Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), ZCash (ZEC) and Dash (DASH) with USD, EUR, GBP and RUB.

But the biggest differentiator between CEX.IO and other exchanges is that it gives you the option to buy directly with a Fill-or-Kill (FOK) order, which makes it extremely easy for beginners to buy Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Here’s how it works: The Fill-or-Kill (FOK) order allows for instant BTC and ETH purchases through a simplified bundle interface that looks like this:

cex.io review

As you can see, CEX.IO gives you a fixed price that is updated every 120 seconds and frozen for that same length of time. So within that 2-minute time frame, what you see is what you’re guaranteed to get.

You simply choose the amount you want to buy and and see exactly how much Bitcoin or Ether you’ll get in exchange.

Once you click the ‘Buy’ button, the order is executed immediately and in full – meaning that you are guaranteed to receive an amount that is equal or greater than the agreed amount, never smaller.

That bears repeating: The exchange guarantees that you receive at least the minimum amount of Bitcoin or Ether that was agreed upon.

Sure, you may also receive a larger amount if the price drops before your order is completed since cryptocurrency prices aren’t very stable. And you will be notified if your order can’t go through – either because of a lack of funds in your account or because cryptocurrency prices suddenly rise sharply – but for the most part, you’ll get what you ordered.

This Fill-or-Kill (FOK) order option is what differentiates CEX.IO from other cryptocurrency exchanges – it guarantees you a set price for a set amount, making the Bitcoin buying process easy peasy even for the newest investors.

But this sort of convenience comes with a price – and CEX.IO’s higher fees reflect this.

In order for Fill-or-Kill (FOK) to work, CEX.IO has to charge users a premium to make sure that they will always be able to guarantee these orders. And that is one of the biggest sources of criticism against CEX.IO…

Is CEX.IO a Scam?

The crypto community is not the most trusting community out there. And why should we be? After all, bad, bad things have happened to us. The Mt. Gox scandal. The recent Bitfinex hack. Not to mention a whole host of compromised hot wallets, phishing schemes, and the seemingly never-ending parade of Bitcoin scam sites.

So it’s no wonder we’re more than a little skeptical. Maybe even a little prone to dramatic declarations – especially when it comes to the word ‘scam’ – when a cryptocurrency exchange isn’t up to par.

But just because an exchange gives you some grief, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam. And in the case of CEX.IO, calling it a scam is misleading and inaccurate. Sure, the exchange isn’t perfect but it is a legitimate platform that has its downsides but also offers enough unique advantages to make it worthwhile for nearly a million users.

So let’s look at things from a more balanced perspective. Here’s a breakdown of exactly why CEX.IO has been regarded so negatively in various user reviews – so you can draw your own conclusions instead of being scared off from an exchange that might actually suit your needs.

Ready? Okay, the ‘scam’ accusations come into play due to 3 main things:

  • Fees
  • Slow withdrawal times
  • Customer service

Let’s go over them one by one, shall we?

What are CEX.IO’s Fees?

One of the biggest complaints about CEX.IO is about their high fees. And yes, they do have pretty steep fees for some services but for others? They actually offer fairly low fees.

So whether CEX.IO’s fees make it worthwhile for you (or prohibitive) all depends on what you want to use the exchange for.

Here’s a roundup of all the types of fees and how they stack up!

Easy Buy and Sell Fees

As you know by now, one of CEX.IO’s most distinguishing features is its Fill-or-Kill order, which allows you to quickly and easily buy BTC or ETH.

This convenience comes with a cost: a 7% fee.

That 7% fee for the easy buy and sell is charged directly from the fiat currency that you pay. So if you buy $100 worth of BTC, you’ll get $93 in total ($100 minus the $7 fee). If you buy $1000 worth of BTC, you’ll get $930 in total ($1000 minus the $70 fee).

Those are pretty steep fees for purchasing BTC! That being said, it does offer a very convenient way of quickly snapping up Bitcoin and can be a very useful service for beginners looking to get started in buying BTC.

Trading Fees

The good news is that while CEX.IO’s easy buy and sell fees are very high – their trading fees are not. If you’re not doing a direct purchase with CEX.IO, different (more advantageous) fees apply. Here’s a look at their Maker Taker Fees…

cex.io review

To trade on CEX.IO, you’ll need to fund your account with a bank transfer or a credit card, both of which has fairly low fees (see below under “Deposit and Withdrawal Fees”).

Once your account is funded and you start trading on the exchange, the most you’ll pay in transaction fees is just 0.2%, depending on your part in the trade.

Deposit and Withdrawal Fees

As far as deposit fees go, CEX.IO isn’t bad at all. Their bank transfer deposits are free and even the credit card deposit options are competitively priced compared to other competitors. For example, Coinbase charges 3.75% for credit card deposits, BitPanda charges 5% and CoinMama charges a whopping 6%.

cex.io review

For withdrawals, however, CEX.IO’s do get price-y. They even charge for €10.00 for SEPA withdrawals, which is not so great, especially when you consider that other exchanges hardly charge for withdrawals. For example, Gemini offers free deposits and withdrawals. And Kraken only charges €0.09 for SEPA withdrawal.

Of course, one way around CEX.IO’s deposit and withdrawal fees is by using Crypto Capital.

Margin Trading Fees

CEX.IO does offer margin trading and the fees are the same for both ETH and BTC, all pairs (BTC/USD, BTC/EUR, ETH/BTC, and ETH/USD), as well as leverage types:

cex.io review

One unique feature that CEX.IO offers is a risk-preventing system that guarantees that your balance cannot move to negative values by trading on leverage.

Storage Fees

Despite claims of CEX.IO’s high fees, when you take a closer look, you realize that most of their fees are reasonable and competitively priced.

But one fee we really do have a problem with are their storage fees, which is not mentioned anywhere except their Terms of Use page.

cex.io review

CEX.IO is unique in that it charges daily storage fees for storing any cryptocurrency as well as fiat currency until assets are claimed back by the user or the account goes to a zero balance. Even worse, as you can see, these daily storage fees aren’t cheap.

Rounding Policy

Another strike against CEX.IO is their Rounding Policy, which isn’t called a fee but functions in pretty much the same way.

Here’s how it works: For all financial calculations, CEX.IO uses a rounding policy in its favor. That means that CEX.IO automatically founds the fiat currency to the 2nd digit after the separator. For cryptocurrencies, the rounding depends on the type of crypto, with BTC, LTC, and NMC rounded up to the 8th digit after separator and DOGE rounded up to the whole unit.

It may not seem like much but it does give the observant user a sense of being nickel and dimed.

Overall, CEX.IO’s fees can range from very competitive to extremely high – depending on what you use the exchange for. There are some sneaky charges like the rounding policy and the storage fees that don’t feel so great on the customer’s part but to be fair, they are all stated upfront and laid out in plain detail so you know exactly what you’re getting before going through with the transactions.

CEX.IO’s Slow Deposits and Withdrawals

Another huge complaint and the main reason that CEX.IO has been called a scam by several alarmed users is due to their slow deposit and withdrawal times.

As you may already know, fiat-to-crypto exchanges can be slow to begin with, thanks to all the regulations that the ‘fiat’ portion of the transfer brings into the equation.

But even taking that into consideration, CEX.IO can be slower than average.

That’s led to a lot of users speculating on scammy practices, like CEX.IO potentially using customer funds for their own purposes instead of immediately crediting it to customer accounts. It’s also led to a lot of pissed off and worried customers writing terrible reviews on how long it’s taking to withdraw their fiat from CEX.IO.

So is this a big enough problem to make CEX.IO a no-go? Well again, it depends on what and how you use the platform for. Here’s what you need to know about this situation:

  • Fiat deposit can be slow. It’s not all the time and it doesn’t happen to everyone but it has happened to enough users for us to recommend that if you need to quickly transfer fiat so you can buy BTC or ETH at a good deal – make sure that CEX.IO is not the only exchange you’ve signed up with since yes, deposits can take longer to clear.
  • Credit cards are quick. While fiat bank transfers may take awhile to clear, CEX.IO is great for credit card purchases. The fees are one of the lowest out there, your card is verified within an hour or so, and you can quickly fund your account with reasonable, higher limits.
  • Know the fine print. Depositing and withdrawing fiat on CEX.IO isn’t always a nightmare – but it can be. And it’s written right into their fine print. In their Terms page, under Transactions 10.4., you’ll find this little bit of text: “The User acknowledges and agrees that Deposit and Withdrawal Transaction in Fiat currency may be delayed due to bank verifications and checks, for a period up to one (1) month.
  • Know what’s allowed. Also keep in mind that while CEX.IO is open to most countries around the world – they do have restrictions for several transactions for several countries. That means that depending on your country of residence, you may be allowed to deposit funds in a certain manner but not allowed to withdraw them in the same form. For example, if you’re an Indian resident, you have the option to fund your account via credit card yet if you wanted to withdraw back to a Visa card, you wouldn’t be allowed to do so. So make sure that the deposit and withdrawal options check out for your country of residence.
  • Withdraw in crypto. Whereas fiat withdrawals can be a pain in the butt, crypto withdrawals are not. So if you’re worried about having your fiat funds stuck potentially stuck in CEX.IO, you may want to use this exchange to purchase crypto with fiat and withdraw crypto to your private wallet.
  • Exchange to fiat at another exchange. Again, if you’re worried about slow fiat withdrawals from CEX.IO, you can always withdraw crypto to another exchange and then convert it to fiat for withdrawal.
  • You won’t lose your money. Fiat withdrawals can be slow with CEX.IO but we haven’t heard any reports of permanently denied withdrawals and CEX.IO is a legitimate company that can’t simply confiscate user funds. So yes, it sucks to have your fiat tied up for weeks and months but rest assured that you will get it back.

Overall, CEX.IO can take its sweet time when it comes to fiat deposits and withdrawals but many of the customer complaints can be avoided by simply understanding the fine print as well as knowing what CEX.IO is good at and what they’re not-as-good at.

Just keeping the above points in mind can help you navigate CEX.IO so you get the best of their services and save yourself the trouble of dealing with the rest.

CEX.IO’s Customer Service

As you know by now, CEX.IO gets a lot of slack for their customer service. And yes, this is one area that CEX.IO can definitely improve upon. But then again, so can pretty much every other cryptocurrency exchange – after all, it’s no secret that most exchanges aren’t winning popularity contests for their customer service.

So compared to cryptocurrency exchanges in general, CEX.IO’s customer support isn’t the worst. But it’s certainly not great, either. Here’s what you need to know about your options and how to best get ahold of them!

  • No phone number. As with most cryptocurrency exchanges, CEX.IO does not offer phone support. So if you get emails or find a website online that claims to be CEX.IO’s phone number – ignore it, it’s a phishing scam.
  • 24/7 chat support. What they do offer is a 24/7 chat function directly through their website. On every page, you can click on the ‘Help’ button which will open up a chat widget run by Zendesk. It only takes a few seconds to get a reply, which is great, but they are canned replies, which is not so great. That being said, the responses are detailed and should get you the info you need.
  • Submit a request. If you can’t find the help you need through their FAQs or the chat support, you can submit a request. Just keep in mind that it can take anywhere between a few hours to a few days for your request to get answered.

Okay, those are their official channels. But what if you’re not getting a response quick enough and you need help pronto? Well, there are a few other ways you can get a response:

On all the above channels, you can see that CEX.IO cares about their public reputation and they’ll usually be quicker to respond to support requests that have gone untaken care of. So they’re a last resort sort of option but they are an option.

Is CEX.IO Worth Signing Up For?

cex.io review

All in all, CEX.IO is one of the best cryptocurrency exchanges, especially for beginners. Yes, the service does have warts such as high fees for the easy buy/sell option as well as potentially slow deposit and withdrawal time for fiat. But there are just as many ways for you to use this service advantageously while avoiding the high fees and the inconvenience of slow fiat transfers.

And given that CEX.IO has several unique features, such as low-fee credit card purchases and international availability – it still deserves its place as one of the top cryptocurrency exchanges currently on the market.

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