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Bitbuy Review

Bitbuy Review: Fast and Responsive but High Fees

Bitbuy in Brief

Bitbuy has been quietly building a small but dedicated following from its home base in Toronto. To set itself apart from other Canadian crypto exchanges, Bitbuy focuses on providing fast sign-ups, easy trades and quality customer service.

As the exchange plans to expand to the global stage, now may be a good time for Canadians to take a look at what Bitbuy has to offer. Our Bitbuy review will cover everything you need to know about this fledgling exchange.

Pros

  • Canadian dollar-based exchanges
  • Five popular cryptocurrencies.
  • Quick verification and first deposits.
  • Direct customer service.

Cons

  • No crypto-to-crypto exchanges.
  • High fees compared to international exchanges

What is Bitbuy?

History

Adam Goldman and Ademar Gonzalez originally called their bitcoin exchange InstaBT when they founded it in 2013. Their vision was to provide a simple way for Canadians to buy bitcoin which they could then trade on other platforms.

As Goldman recounted later in a blog post, “We felt that once an individual learned about bitcoin and the blockchain, their question was always “How or where can I get some bitcoin? To address this recurring question, we created InstaBT.com….”

The company evolved into Bitbuy over the subsequent years with the addition of over-the-counter services for high-volume traders and an expanded lineup of cryptocurrencies.

When the company unveiled its expanded range of services in 2016, Gonzalez explained that “We created Bitbuy.ca when we realised there wasn’t a safe and secure way to purchase Bitcoin without some extensive technical know-how… The bulk of our success hinges on our ability to efficiently and skilfully create services and infrastructure as opposed to outsourcing our development capability.”

Bitbuy had established a small but dedicated following, but growing the business was going to require a greater focus. Goldman explained to the Hustle Harder podcast that a private equity firm bought the company in early 2018. “We are preparing to scale the business and expand into several different markets around the world,” Goldman said.

The first step in that process came in mid-2018 when the company reorganized its services under the Bitbuy brand. Along with the rebranding, the company lowered fees, upgraded its experience on mobile and added features to make crypto trading even easier.

Leadership and investors

Leadership at Bitbuy exchange
Source: Bitbuy

Bitbuy is now one part of First Ledger Corporation, a blockchain services provider that offers a range of consulting, merchant and other services. Goldman continues to lead the company. Gonzalez served as the chief technology officer until the buyout in early 2018 when a new executive team joined the company.

  • Adam Goldman, Founder and President: Goldman held a variety of software development and IT positions while getting his crypto businesses up and running.
  • Chris Ragobeer, Chief Technology Officer: Ragobeer’s career has been in enterprise IT and consulting with a focus on mobility.
  • Jordan Anderson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing: Most of Anderson’s sales career was at Yahoo!’s subsidiary in Canada. He joined Bitbuy shortly after Yahoo! became Oath.
  • Dean Skurka, Vice President of Finance and Compliance: Skurka’s brief career in the financial industry began in early 2016 when he joined Fuller Landau as an associate. He joined Bitbuy in January 2018.

Update: The January 28 acquisition of Bitbuy and First Ledger Corporation was made by Toronto-based advisory firm Halpern & Co. The firm’s principal, Bobby Halpern, is a licensed accountant and former merchant banker who has invested in several Canadian cannabis and blockchain startups.

Protecting customers’ coins

Legal and regulatory compliance

According to Canadian regulator FINTRAC, Bitbuy does not qualify as a money services business (MSB) under current regulations. In anticipation of changing regulations, however, Bitbuy acts as if it is a registered MSB.

Coin listing policies

Bitbuy only supports the highest-volume cryptocurrencies and does not provide criteria for listing other coins.

Network security

Bitbuy does not discuss details of its IT security infrastructure beyond saying that they keep 95% of their customers’ coins in cold wallets

2-Factor Authentication (2FA) protects customers’ accounts at log-in as well as when performing actions within the account. Unfortunately, Bitbuy’s 2FA implementation relies on text-based authentication, which has security vulnerabilities. Using a 2FA app like Authy or Google Authenticator is not an option.

Customer support

Bitbuy promotion
Source: Bitbuy

Bitbuy’s customers can find answers to general questions in the company’s knowledge base. Like most exchanges, Bitbuy offers an email-based ticketing system for account-specific support.

Unlike many of the large exchanges, you can speak with Bitbuy representatives directly. As the company explains, “We consider this service an important part of our mission—simplifying the trade of digital currency for all Canadians.”

Bitbuy reputation

Bitbuy is not as well known as Canada’s large exchanges like QuadrigaCX or Coinsquare. For those people who have used Bitbuy, the experience seems to be fast and seamless. Comments in r/BitcoinCA are generally positive despite the company’s reliance on manual processes.

Bitbuy does not have a dedicated forum, but does try to foster its community of users with monthly giveaways as well as active engagement in Reddit and on social media.

How to Join Bitbuy

Who can join?

Bitbuy accepts applications from Canadian residents only. Once verified, customers can use their Facebook or Google accounts to quickly sign into their Bitbuy trading account.

Verification

Begin verification on Bitbuy
Source: Bitbuy

Individual accounts

Bitbuy complies with Canada’s Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) regulations. Before you can trade on Bitbuy, you must go through the exchange’s verification process.

You must submit a photo of your Canadian government-issued photo ID, a selfie holding the ID and photo of a document proving you live in Canada. A full list of acceptable proof-of-residency documents is available here.

KYC Verification Documents on Bitbuy
Source: Bitbuy

Finally, you have to promise that you’re not a “politically exposed” person.

bitbuy validation
Source: Bitbuy

In most cases, the verification process takes about 24-36 hours to complete, but may take up to three business days.

Business accounts

Although Bitbuy focuses on individuals, the company does let people trade on behalf of a Canadian business. Customers must prove that they have the authority to do so and must provide copies of the business’ articles of corporation and corporate resolution.

Bitbuy’s corporate parent, First Ledger Company, offers a range of crypto services for businesses.

What Can You Trade on Bitbuy?

Bitcoin on Bitbuy
Source: Bitbuy

Cryptocurrencies

Bitbuy supports four cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and litecoin.

Fiat currencies

The Canadian dollar is the only fiat currency Bitbuy supports.

Currency exchanges

Rather than offering a full trading platform, Bitbuy offers a currency exchange service. Customers can exchange the Canadian dollar with any of the four listed cryptocurrencies. Bitbuy scans the major crypto exchanges to find the best available rates and places the trade in real time.

You cannot trade with other Bitbuy customers or make direct crypto-to-crypto trades.

Advanced trading

Bitbuy does not offer advanced trading options at the moment. Responses from the exchange to comments on r/BitcoinCA promise that functions like limit orders are on the development roadmap. No timeline is available.

First Ledger Company, the exchange’s parent company, does offer an OTC trading desk. Institutions and sophisticated traders who want to place large orders without impacting the exchange rate can contact First Ledger about OTC services.

Trading Tools and Fees

Trading interface

The Bitbuy web app has a clean, modern user interface that is clearly designed to make the experience as easy as possible for people to buy cryptocurrency.

Bitbuy account page
Source: Bitbuy

Selecting a cryptocurrency takes you to a basic market page that shows the price history. You won’t find any of the analytical tools that advanced exchanges offer, but those tools are overkill for the kind of service Bitbuy offers.

Bitcoin account in Bitbuy
Source: Bitbuy

Mobile app support

Bitbuy does not have dedicated mobile apps, but its website works in mobile browsers.

Deposits and withdrawals

Fiat currencies

Bitbuy only supports the Canadian dollar.

Deposits can be made via Interac, Flexepin or wire transfer. There are no fees for dollar deposits..

Withdrawals can be made via wire or Interac transfer or through a direct bank transfer. Fees start at 1.75% for Interac and electronic bank transfers. At 3%, the fees for expedited bank transfers are the most expensive, but the transfer happens within 2 business days. For smaller withdrawals, Interac electronic transfers take only 24 hours to complete.

Digital currencies

Update: At the time of this review, Bitbuy required customers to initiate crypto deposits through email. The exchange has since added the ability to make the request through the web interface. Otherwise, the process is the same. Within a business day, Bitbuy staffers send an email with the receiving wallet address the customer can use to send the deposit.

You cannot use the exchange’s website to deposit cryptocurrency. Instead, you must email Bitbuy support with the public address of the sending wallet and the amount of the deposit. Bitbuy will respond with the receiving wallet address.

The website lets you make cryptocurrency withdrawals to your personal digital wallet.

Bitbuy does not charge for cryptocurrency deposits or withdrawals.

Transaction fees

Bitbuy’s trading fees, 0.5% on sales and 0.75% on purchases, are fairly high in comparison to other Canadian exchanges. Einstein Exchange, for example, has a flat 0.25% fee. NDAX only charges market takers and, even then, the fee is only 0.3%. Canada’s market leader, QuadrigaCX, has a 0.5% fee.

Looking outside Canada, Kraken accepts Canadian dollar deposits and charges market makers and takers no more than 0.16% and 0.26%, respectively, for their trades.

Referral Program

Update: At the time of our review, Bitbuy users could refer friends and family and earn 20% of the trading fees the new customers made. A revamped referral program accompanied the website refresh. Now the existing Bitbuy user and the new Bitbuy user will each receive a $20 account credit upon completion of the new user’s first trade.

Final Word

Bitbuy’s small size and narrow focus have worked in its favor. Customers seem to be happy with the exchange’s responsiveness as well as the support group’s personal service. The changes Bitbuy has made this year, from executive hires to website redesigns, are obviously just the first steps along the exchange’s growth path.

But there are some things new customers will want to watch for. Right now, Bitbuy is heavily dependent on manual processes for things like crypto deposits. As other exchanges learned during last year’s hypergrowth, manual processes don’t scale well. When growth stresses these systems, the customer experience is the first thing to break.

The second question is whether Bitbuy’s use of customer service as a differentiator is sustainable in the long term. Another lesson from the hyper-growth period is that support centers don’t scale quickly. As the exchange adds more customers and expands beyond Canada, will it be able to sustain its reputation for reliable customer service?

For new traders

Canadians who are just stepping into the world of crypto investing will appreciate the easy-to-use interface of Bitbuy’s web app. Without a lot of clutter, the site makes trading dollars for crypto straightforward. In addition, Bitbuy’s support options give novices a place to turn to for help.

For advanced traders

Experienced traders frustrated with the larger exchanges could use Bitbuy as a convenient on-ramp and off-ramp. Funding dollar purchases of crypto from Canadian banks is quick and easy. Traders aren’t limited to converting their cash into bitcoin. With other popular cryptocurrencies available, Bitbuy lets experienced traders make more strategic decisions for their purchases.

At the same time, Bitbuy’s small size and one-size-fits-all design limits experienced traders’ options. Combined with higher fees, these may be enough reasons to go elsewhere.

Christopher Casper

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