Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro [2021]: Is it Worth it to Upgrade?

Coinbase and Coinbase Pro allow you to trade many popular cryptocurrencies, but one is geared toward new investors and the other toward experienced traders.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Lance Cothern | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro

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Governments typically control currencies around the world, but cryptocurrency is changing that. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized currencies not issued or sponsored by a country. Instead, they’re managed by computers that record transactions on something called the blockchain.

You can use cryptocurrency as a payment method to buy and sell products or services as long as both parties agree to use the currency. Cryptocurrencies have also become a unique investment opportunity for people willing to take the risks associated with them.

If you want to buy or sell cryptocurrency as an investment, you may want to set up an account with a cryptocurrency exchange. One popular cryptocurrency exchange to consider is Coinbase. But should you go with the standard Coinbase membership or their more advanced service, Coinbase Pro? Here’s the information you need to decide.

In this article

Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro

Coinbase and Coinbase Pro are operated by the same company, Coinbase, Inc., which recently became a publicly-traded stock. Surprisingly, the company doesn’t have a headquarters. Instead, the CEO describes Coinbase as a decentralized company.

Coinbase was founded in 2012 to enable people to send and receive Bitcoin safely. Today, both platforms — Coinbase and Coinbase Pro — allow people to buy, sell, send, receive, and exchange a variety of cryptocurrencies.

Coinbase Coinbase Pro
Mobile app iOS, Android iOS, Android
Fees Buy/Sell transactions:
  • About 0.50% spread fee
  • Greater of a flat fee (based on region, product feature, and payment type) or a percentage-based fee (based on payment type). Flat fees range from $0.99 to $2.99. Percentage-based fees are 1.49% - 3.99%.

Cryptocurrency conversions:

  • Spread fee of up to 2%

USD deposit method:

  • Free ACH Transfer
  • $10 wire deposit
  • $25 wire withdrawal
  • 2.5% PayPal
Trading fees:
  • Maker fee between 0.00% and 0.50%
  • Taker fee between 0.04% and 0.50%

USD deposit method:

  • Free ACH Transfer
  • $10 wire deposit
  • $25 wire withdrawal

Miner fee:

  • Disclosed at time of transaction
Available cryptocurrencies 56 cryptocurrencies currently supported in the US, including:
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Uniswap (UNI)
57 cryptocurrencies currently supported in the US, including:
  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Tether (USDT)
  • Uniswap (UNI)
Buy/deposit methods
  • Bank account (ACH)
  • Debit card (buy only)
  • Wire transfer (deposit only)
  • PayPal
  • Bank account (ACH)
  • Bank account (bank wire)
  • Cryptocurrency deposit
Sell/withdrawal methods
  • Bank account (ACH)
  • Debit card (withdraw only)
  • Wire transfer (withdraw only)
  • PayPal (withdraw only)
  • Bank account (ACH)
  • Bank account (bank wire)
Order types
  • Buy, sell, exchange, send, and receive cryptocurrency
  • Buy, sell, trade, send, and receive cryptocurrency
  • When trading, you can use market, stop, or limit orders.
Other features
  • Automatically schedule recurring purchases
  • Vault protection with time-delayed withdrawals
  • Secure offline storage
  • Protected by insurance
  • Address book and whitelisting
  • API access to develop trading bots
  • Advanced tools and order types
FDIC insured May be FDIC-insured if money is held in USD at a U.S. bank, but Coinbase may invest the money in other options that aren’t FDIC-insured. May be FDIC-insured if money is held in USD at a U.S. bank, but Coinbase may invest the money in other options that aren’t FDIC-insured.
Best for... People new to cryptocurrency who want to get their feet wet Dedicated cryptocurrency traders serious about investing
Visit Coinbase Visit Coinbase Pro

How does Coinbase work?

Coinbase provides its users a place to buy, sell, send, or receive up to 56 different currencies in some capacity by using fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar or euro. They also allow you to convert cryptocurrency from one to another. Converting cryptocurrency is done in trading pairs, essentially pairing one cryptocurrency with another.

The service targets cryptocurrency beginners by offering a simplified platform to buy and sell. There aren’t advanced features you have to learn to use the platform, such as stop or limit orders. You don’t have to pay a fee to sign up for an account either.

To use the service, you can fund your account in several ways. You can fund with a bank transfer using either an ACH or wire transfer, but there may be fees associated. It takes time for funding to reach your account, so your cryptocurrency transactions can’t complete until your funds clear. You can also buy cryptocurrency instantly using your debit card, but a 3.99% fee applies for this service.

Coinbase does charge fees to use their cryptocurrency exchange. There is a 0.50% fee for facilitating the transaction as well as a flat dollar amount fee or variable fee, whichever is greater, based on the payment method and the amount of your transaction.

Let’s say you decide to buy $40 of cryptocurrency using your bank account. The flat fee for that amount would be $1.99. The variable fee would be 1.49% or $0.60. In this case, the greater fee of the two is $1.99, so that is what you would be charged. You will add this to the estimated 0.50% spread fee of $0.20 to get a total fee of about $2.19.

Visit Coinbase

How does Coinbase Pro work?

Coinbase Pro, which the company renamed from their old GDAX brand, takes cryptocurrency transactions to the next level and targets more sophisticated cryptocurrency investors. Surprisingly, there isn’t an extra one-time or subscription fee to sign up for a Coinbase Pro account.

Like Coinbase, Coinbase Pro supports buy, sell, send, receive, and conversion transactions. Coinbase Pro supports 57 cryptocurrencies and 54 trading pairs, although certain pairs aren’t allowed in the state of New York.

Coinbase Pro has a more user-friendly fee model than Coinbase does. It doesn’t charge the flat or variable dollar-amount fee based on the payment type that Coinbase does. Instead, it uses a maker-taker fee model. This is a percentage-based fee that changes based on the kind of buyer or seller you are. The fee percentage also decreases as the dollar-amount volume you trade over the previous 30 days increases.

For example, the taker fee (for orders that take liquidity) is 0.50% if you traded less than $10,000 over the last 30 days but it decreases to 0.20% if you traded $100,000 to $1,000,000 over the same period. On a $5,000 transaction, the 0.50% fee would amount to $25 but the 0.20% fee would only amount to $10.

The maker fees (for orders that provide liquidity) are more favorable than the taker fees once you reach the $50,000 trading average over the last 30 days. The maker fee is 0.15% for traders with $50,000 to $100,000 in trades while the taker fee is 0.25% for the same trade dollar amount range.

The Pro version of the crypto exchange provides features active traders likely want access to, including stop and limit orders rather than just market orders. This allows traders to use advanced strategies to execute their cryptocurrency transactions and hopefully earn more significant returns.

In addition, more detailed tools and information are available when using the Pro platform, including real-time orderbooks, charting tools, and trade history. Coinbase Pro even offers API access if you want to incorporate bot-based trading as part of your strategy.

What both cryptocurrency exchanges excel at

Both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro excel in a handful of shared areas.

No fee to open an account

Both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro let you open an account for free. While you will incur fees when using both Coinbase platforms, you don’t have to pay a fee to start an account.

Security

Cryptocurrency exchanges need to take security seriously and both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro do this. All accounts use two-step verification, which requires you to enter your username, password, and a code from your mobile phone to access your account. Without access to your phone for authentication, someone can’t access your account even if they know your password.

Coinbase works to safely store your cryptocurrency offline, also known as cold storage, which prevents potential theft from hacking. 98% of cryptocurrency funds are transferred to offline storage and secured in safe deposit boxes and vaults worldwide to avoid possible theft. Data is stored both on drives and paper backups, providing redundancy.

Some cryptocurrency is stored online so the exchange can provide liquidity for trades. All online-stored currency is insured. Additionally, U.S. dollar cash balances held in a Coinbase account may be FDIC-insured if your money is stored in a U.S. bank. However, Coinbase may also opt to keep your cash in U.S. Treasuries and money market funds, which don’t provide FDIC insurance.

Cryptocurrency options

Both exchanges offer slightly different cryptocurrency options. That said, they both provide over 50 cryptocurrencies to choose from.

6 important differences between Coinbase vs. Coinbase Pro

Coinbase and Coinbase Pro have differences that may make you choose one service over the other.

1. Fees

Overall, Coinbase Pro offers a lower fee structure than you'll find with Coinbase fees. In particular, Coinbase Pro doesn’t charge the flat or variable dollar amount fee per transaction based on the payment method and transaction amount. The maker-taker fees can be lower with Coinbase Pro than Coinbase’s 0.50% spread fee depending on the dollar amount of trades you make over the last 30 days.

2. Complexity

Coinbase was designed for people wondering how to buy bitcoin and other currencies. It’s meant to be an option to help people get started with purchasing and selling cryptocurrency. As such, it is much simpler than Coinbase Pro. This ease of use can benefit new traders who don’t need to get overwhelmed with options when starting with cryptocurrency.

Coinbase Benefits

  • Buy and sell popular digital currencies
  • Invest over time by scheduling buys daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Apps for Android and iOS

3. Whitelisting addresses

Coinbase Pro offers the option to add whitelisted cryptocurrency wallet addresses to an address book. Once you add addresses, you can only send cryptocurrency to those whitelisted addresses. This prevents accidentally sending money to an account you didn’t intend. Coinbase does not offer this feature.

4. Order types

Coinbase Pro offers access to order types Coinbase doesn’t allow. Specifically, you can use stop orders and limit orders in addition to the standard market orders. Stop and limit orders give you more control over your cryptocurrency purchases and sales, which can be vital if you use cryptocurrency for active vs. passive investing.

5. API access

API access won’t mean much to the average person. However, traders who use bots to make automated purchases and sales transactions need access to this technology. Coinbase Pro offers API access but Coinbase does not.

6. More trading tools

People looking to buy or sell cryptocurrency casually may not need access to the real-time orderbooks, charting tools, and trade history Coinbase Pro offers. Users who want these tools can only get them with Coinbase Pro.

Which cryptocurrency exchange should you choose?

Choosing between Coinbase and Coinbase Pro should not be a difficult decision for most people. People new to investing money who simply want to own a little bit of cryptocurrency may want an easy way to buy and sell positions. Coinbase provides this without the added complexity of a professional trading platform, but it does charge higher fees for the service.

Coinbase Pro better fits active traders and serious investors who want to invest in cryptocurrency in a more in-depth manner. Their advanced tools, lower fee structure, and more advanced order types give more experienced investors additional options to attempt to earn a profit from trading cryptocurrency.

FAQs

Is Coinbase Pro as safe as Coinbase?

Coinbase and Coinbase Pro have similar safety features, but Coinbase Pro has one additional feature that adds extra security. Coinbase Pro users can store and whitelist cryptocurrency addresses. By using whitelisting, you can only send cryptocurrency to those addresses. This reduces the chance of unintentionally sending cryptocurrency to an incorrect address.

Can I transfer from Coinbase to Coinbase Pro?

Yes, transferring funds between Coinbase and Coinbase Pro is free and instantaneous. Both services do use separate digital wallets, though, so you have to actively transfer your funds.

Is Coinbase instant withdrawal?

Coinbase does support instant withdrawal of U.S. dollars if you have an eligible Visa Fast Funds or Mastercard Send enabled debit card. These withdrawals take about 30 minutes in most cases but can take up to 24 hours. To use this service, there is a 1.5% transaction fee with a minimum fee of $0.55.

Is Binance cheaper than Coinbase?

Overall, the crypto exchange Binance does offer a lower fee structure than Coinbase. To start, there are no deposit fees with Binance. Binance charges two trading fees. The first is a spot trading fee of as much as 0.10%. They also have an instant buy/sell fee of as much as 0.50%.

These fees are compared to Coinbase’s 0.50% trading fee. Withdrawals made by wire cost $15 with Binance and $25 with Coinbase. Debit card deposit fees are higher with Binance, though, at 4.5% compared to Coinbase’s 3.99% debit card buy fee.


Bottom line

Buying and selling digital currency as an investment or using it to make purchases is a personal decision. You must decide if investing in digital assets is a good fit for your financial goals. If it is, you then have to determine how to make transactions with the cryptocurrency of your choice.

Both Coinbase and Coinbase Pro allow you to do this, but Coinbase Pro offers lower fees overall. However, newer cryptocurrency investors looking to get their feet wet might be overwhelmed with all of Coinbase Pro’s options.

If you’re trying to decide between these two platforms, Coinbase may be better for people just getting started. At the same time, Coinbase Pro provides cheaper trading and more in-depth features for more serious cryptocurrency investors or traders.

Disclaimer: All rates and fees are accurate as of Apr. 23, 2021.

Coinbase Benefits

  • Buy and sell popular digital currencies
  • Invest over time by scheduling buys daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Apps for Android and iOS

Author Details

Lance Cothern Lance Cothern, CPA is a personal finance writer and founder of MoneyManifesto.com. Lance's work covering several personal finance topics has been published in U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Credit Karma, Investopedia, and several other publications.