Gemini Review: Complete Exchange Overview
Gemini is perhaps one of the most well known and recognizable cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States.
Founded by the Winkelvoss twins, Gemini is a large New York based exchange that offers many traders a quick and easy “Fiat on-ramp” into 6 different cryptocurrencies. The exchange has also been innovating in a number of ways and have expanded their marketing greatly.
However, with so much competition, is Gemini still worth it?
In this Gemini review I will give you everything that you need to know about this exchange. I will also give you some essential tips that you need to consider.
Gemini was launched in 2015 and is based in New York, USA. It was founded by Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss. For those who do not know, these were the twins that won a Facebook settlement and invested the bulk of this into Bitcoin back in 2013.
Gemini is registered as a New York State Limited Liability trust. This means that they are officially regulate by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS).
They currently offer their users the ability to buy 6 different cryptocurrencies. They also have some of the easiest methods for getting USD both onto and off the exchange (covered below).
Although the core product of Gemini is their cryptocurrency exchange, they have expanded into a number of other product lines. These include the likes of custody services and block trading.
Gemini is open to both individuals and institutions in 45 US states as well as Canada, Hong Kong, the UK, Singapore and South Korea.
Is Gemini Safe?
Gemini is perhaps one of the safest exchanges currently on the market. To date, they have had no security breaches of any kind.
This perhaps comes down to a number of factors including their regulatory status, coin management, internal protocols, user security and Insurance policies.
Image via Medium.com
Let’s take a look at each of these individually.
When it comes to the safety of their coin holdings, Gemini has a pretty robust protocol in place.
Firstly, they keep the vast majority of their coins in “cold” and “cryo” storage. This means that they store these private keys in an offline state that cannot be accessed by anybody from the outside.
These keys are kept on multiple different devices and locations. They also make use of multi-signature technology which means that no single individual can sign a transaction out of their cold storage.
When it comes to their “Hot Wallet”, Gemini also has a range of redundancies and protections. For example, their Hot Wallet environment is hosted on AWS which is itself one of the most secure infrastructures.
They also have tiered access controls and administrative access to production environments requires two factor authentication. Finally, they also store these Hot Wallet keys in Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) which have some of the most highly rated hardware.
Something that is quite unique about Gemini is that they have FDIC insurance for their USD account balances. This means that US traders with Dollars in their Gemini account are insured by the Federal government (up to $250k).
FDIC Coverage rules for single accounts. Image via FDIC
They also keep their USD in segregated accounts at another FDIC insured bank based in the USA. This means that they are legally distinct from those funds that are held by the company for their business.
Finally, when it comes to their coin reserves, they operate a full reserve digital asset exchange. This means that all account balances on the exchange are backed up 100% by crypto or USD.
Gemini has also included a number of tools and features on the user side to protect individual accounts from intrusions.
For example, they have standard two-factor authentication which is required to operate an account. This could help protect your account from the threat of phishing.
Of course, they also have a number of other standard user security protocols including strong passwords, address whitelisting and account rate limiting.
Gemini also employs some essential operational security at the exchange and company level.
For example, none of the founders or managers can access the coins individually. They conduct background checks on all their employees and they keep no keys on site at their offices.
They also have advanced Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) protections and make use of internal only section of their website not accessible to the outside.
Finally, Gemini is one of the few cryptocurrency exchanges that has completed the SOC 2 Review. This was done by a Deloitte & Touché LLP and you can read more about that here.
When it comes to asset coverage, Gemini is rather on the light side compared to some of their large US competitors.
Below are the coins that are offered on Gemini:
So, while these are a reasonable selection for a “Fiat Gateway” it is still much more limited than those on exchanges such as Kraken for example.
Something else that you will have no doubt heard of is the Gemini dollar (GUSD). This is the 100% USD backed stablecoin that was issued by Gemini. As they are a stablecoin, they are pegged 1:1 to the US dollar and as such could be a good option for “hodling” crypto gains.
Key parties involved in Gemini Dollar. Image via Gemini
This is an ERC20 token that is available on a number of different exchanges. The Gemini exchange is the central issuing authority that you can use to cash out of these tokens. When you send GUSD to Gemini then these are converted into USD balances that you can withdraw.
Fees are one of the main considerations at Gemini. This is especially the case given the broad selection you have at other exchanges.
When it comes to trading fees, Gemini has a different fee schedule depending on which platform you are using. So, let’s take a look at these different rates.
Web Trader & Mobile
If you are using the standardized trading platform on Webtrader and mobile then you have a pretty basic fee schedule based on the amount that you purchase.
For these simple buys on the Website as well as on the mobile, you are charged two fees. These are the “Convenience” fee which is set at 0.5% as well as the actual transaction fee.
Below are the transaction fees that apply to different transaction sizes:
|$10 or Less||$0.99|
|From $10 & $25||$1.49|
|From $25 & $50||$1.99|
|From $50 & $200||$2.99|
|Greater than $200||1.49%|
You will be surprised to know that these fees are exactly the same as those of the Coinbase instant buys. However, they are still a bit high compared to a number of newer exchanges.
ActiveTrader is the advanced trading platform and order book that I cover below. It has a different fee structure based on the maker-taker fee dynamic.
These fees are dynamic and operate on a sliding scale based on volume. Essentially, those traders who do more volume over the past 30 days will get a reduced fee.
Gemini ActiveTrader Fee Schedule
We found this fee to actually be quite high. These are much higher than the maker / taker fees that you will find on Coinbase’s Pro Platform or a host of other large Fiat Gateways.
Surprisingly, Gemini also has a different fee structure for those traders that are making use of its API. Most exchanges charge the same for these fees as they do on their normal trading exchange.
Like the ActiveTrader fees, these operate on a sliding scale with the Maker / Taker dynamic.
Gemini API Fee Schedule
As you can see, these are much lower than those on the ActiveTrader for example. This could be because they are trying to encourage more volume and liquidity from algorithmic crypto traders.
Thankfully though, when it comes to transfer fees, Gemini performs pretty well in this department.
They charge no fees on Fiat USD withdrawals and deposits. This includes all methods of transfer from ACH to Bank Wire and Gemini Dollar redemption.
On the crypto transfer side, you will pay no fees for deposits which is standard across exchanges. However, something that is unique at Gemini is that they will not charge you for 10 crypto withdrawals a month.
While withdrawal or “mining” fees are generally really low at these exchanges, it is no doubt a nice touch that Gemini is offering this to their traders for free.
If you have decided that you would like to give Gemini a go then you will have first have to create an account and go through the registration process.
You can start the registration process here. You will be given a choice of whether to sign up as an institution or an individual. We are assuming that you are signing up for yourself so hit “Individual”.
Then you will need to select your residence to make sure Gemini is operational there. Once done, you will be given the below registration form which requires some standard personal information on yourself.
Gemini Registration Form
Once you have given this information over, Gemini will ask you to set up your 2FA with a phone number. This is required if you want to go onto the next step. They will also send you a verification email immediately.
Once done, they will require you to complete their KYC procedures and fully identify yourself. They will require your SSN as well as some identity documentation.
In the case of those users that are based in the USA, then your state issued Driver’s Licence should be sufficient. However, if you are based in another country then they will need a Passport copy and a proof of address.
Once you have sent over your documents, then these will have to be verified by the compliance team at Gemini. This will take about 2-5 days depending on how backlogged their support team is.
Once you have been verified you are ready to start trading. However, you will first have to fund your account…
Funding / Withdrawal
Given that Gemini was set up to be a quick and effective fiat gateway, it is pretty efficient when it comes to US dollar funding and withdrawals.
Perhaps your best bet to get Dollars onto the exchange is through the use of an ACH Bank Transfer or through a Wire Transfer.
The ACH Bank Transfer is only available to those users in the United States and is instantaneous. Bank wires can be made both locally and internationally although the latter could take 2-5 days.
For those in other countries, unfortunately Gemini only accepts fiat deposits in USD so you will have to convert beforehand. If you are based in Europe you could consider Bitstamp for example.
If you want to fund your account, then it is pretty simple. You first have to add a funding source for the USD. Here you can link up your bank account for quick and easy access (will also help on the withdrawal).
Steps to Deposit USD into Gemini
Alternatively, if you are wiring the funds then you can instruct your bank to send funds to Gemini’s. You can find the wiring instructions here.
Before sending USD to the exchange, be sure that you are aware of the limits that apply. There are daily limits on ACH funding. There are no wire deposit limits although you do have a minimum requirement of $100. You can see all limits here.
Withdrawals are just as simple and they can be initiated right there on your dashboard. These will be paid to the bank account that you have linked up.
Of course, you can always fund your account in crypto. All you need to do is select “Transfer Funds” in the top left and then select your coin of choice.
Depositing Crypto in Gemini
Once here, you will have to generate your Gemini crypto address. This will generate the long form address as well as a QR code. Once you have sent your coins, you can monitor a block explorer to see when it has officially confirmed.
Withdrawals are just as easy. You will need to copy the address of your offline wallet and then initiate a withdrawal out of Gemini. You have the option to whitelist your crypto address which means that only certain address are allowed to be used for a withdrawal.
Withdrawing Bitcoin From Gemini
There are no restrictions on withdrawals for crypto however, you are not allowed to withdraw to Zcash t-addresses. These are shielded address that provide anonymity for ZEC. You have previously covered Zcash anonymity if you are interested in it.
Now that you have your funds on the exchange, you can start buying / selling crypto. As we mentioned before, the Web Trader is the simple trading interface at Gemini.
This is probably the most beginner friendly and it is the most efficient way for you to get your hands on some coins. It is also pretty well laid out and intuitive.
The Gemini Webtrader Interface
If you are on your Dashboard, you will head on over and select the coin that you want to buy on the left column. Once you have done that, you will have the option of whether to “Buy”, “Sell” or create an alert. Alerts will send you push notifications when the price reaches a certain level.
Once you have selected what action you would like to take, you need to confirm your order as well as the total amount that you are going to get. Your order will execute automatically once done.
As you will probably note, the Webtrader is not for the advanced traders among you. It is merely a gateway where you will buy a set amount of coins from Gemini.
If you are a more advanced trader and you would like to set larger orders on an exchange book then you can make use of the Gemini ActiveTrader platform.
The ActiveTrader is the upgraded version of the Gemini Marketplace and is currently only available on request. You will need to create a ticket and ask for access.
ActiveTrader’s interface is similar to most of the other exchanges that you have seen. It is driven by a continuous market orderbook, advanced order types and improved trading tools and resources.
Below is a screenshot of the ActiveTrader interface. You have easy access to your account administration at the top (funding / withdrawals etc). Just to the left of that, you can easily switch between the markets. You can also change the color scheme of the interface in the top right.
Gemini Active Trader Interface
On the left of the platform, you have your standard order forms (covered below). Then in the middle you have your charts and below that you have the market order books and your previous orders / open positions below.
Something that we were quite disappointed with on the Gemini ActiveTrader was the charting functionality. This was really quite basic and the only things that you can do is change the chart type and time-frame.
Moreover, they have combined their liquidity chart into their order book. This is really clunky and it is actually impossible to make any judgement about the order flow sentiment on the exchange.
So, not an amazing charting package from a Crypto Technical Analysts perspective…
On the flip side though, Gemini does have pretty impressive trade execution through their state of the art matching engine. This is because their trading infrastructure is hosted at Equinix’s NY5 datacentre.
When it comes to the order options on Gemini ActiveTrader, these are pretty standard although much more advanced than the simple “buy” and “sell” on the Web Trader.
Gemini Order Form Functionality
Let’s take a look through some of these order options:
- Limit Order: This is an order that is placed at a pre-specified price & quantity. It will get executed when the market moves to that level
- Market Order: This is an order that will be placed in order to be executed immediately. This means that it will be placed at the current “bid” for a sell and the “offer” for a buy.
In addition to these standard orders, you also have some additional options around the limit orders that you are placing. These include the following:
- Maker-or-Cancel: With this, the order will only be executed if it gets you the “maker” fee that we mentioned above. If it is unable to place your order as a maker then it is cancelled.
- Immediate-or-Cancel (IOC): With this order, it will execute all or part of the order immediately. All of those orders that cannot be filled will then subsequently be cancelled (partial orders)
- Fill-or-Kill (FOC): With this order type, the order is executed immediately and entirely or not at all. This differs from the IOC in that there is no possibility of partial orders.
Something that Gemini does have that other exchanges do not is their crypto auction marketplace. These are daily auctions that they hold for the crypto assets they list.
The auction is a great idea because it creates a period of elevated liquidity on the exchange which traders can use for price discovery. You can view the auction schedule and details here.
Auction Order Forms & Charts at Gemini
If you want to partake in this auction then you will need to switch your active trader interface over to the “Daily Auction”. Here you will see an overview of the results of previous auctions as well as the resulting price.
In order to enter the auction, you will have to place an order. These are called “Auction-Only (AO)” Limit orders. With these, you specify a price / quantity and on conclusion of the auction, it is settled at said price or better. Any portions that are not executed are cancelled.
One more option that you have on the Gemini ActiveTrader is the chance to execute block orders. These are large block trades that are kept away from the continuous order books of the exchange.
There are number of minimum order size requirements in order to place a block order. These are the following:
- Bitcoin: 10BTC
- Ethereum: 100ETH
- Zcash: 200ZEC
- Litecoin: 500LTC
- Bitcoin Cash: 100BCH
In order to place a block order, you will need to switch over to this interface on the Gemini ActiveTrader. This works much the same as the standard exchange expect that you are placing orders for large off-book block orders. You can see a list of all the previous orders on the platform.
You will use the same order form and with this, the order is also a limit order and is termed the “Indication of Interest (IOI)”. This is a pretty simple order that initiates Gemini’s block trading workflow to source the required liquidity for the order.
Gemini has also developed a pretty nifty and functional mobile App. This is the mobile version of their web trading platform and has all of the same functionality.
So, this App will let you buy / sell crypto and set push alerts on your Gemini account. It is pretty well laid out with a simple and intuitive interface.
However, this app will not give you access to the ActiveTrader platform or any of the advanced trading functionality or order types which is a bit unfortunate. That being said, the App is competing with the likes of Coinbase which is just as simplified.
In order to get the best idea of the Gemini App user experience, it is helpful to take a look into the reviews that users have been leaving in the respective app stores. Below are the ratings:
As you can see, the reviews are pretty high for a cryptocurrency App. This is an initial vote of confidence for us. However, there have been a number of complaints recently about the fees that Gemini charges (which we covered).
Something that we did find encouraging is the fact that the developers and support team are very responsive to the comments in the App Stores. This shows that they are at least being proactive and digesting the criticism.
Gemini Customer Support
The level of customer support that we get is an important criterion for us when deciding on an exchange. So, how does Gemini’s customer support stack up?
There are a limited number of ways for you to reach their customer support. Perhaps the best way to deal with an account specific query is to lodge a support ticket.
You can raise this support ticket in your account area. If you want to get the most effective answers to your questions then you should make sure that you are clear and provide all relevant information. You will also get email notifications about your query being sent to you.
Gemini Ticket Support Submission and Live Chat
They also do have a live chat function but this appears to not be that functional. It is not fully manned by an agent and will subsequently send out a query to a support – not ideal.
Of course, if you have still not managed to get any responses from them through these channels then you can always reach out to them on their support email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, they do not have telephone support unlike Coinbase.
Something else that Gemini does have that could limit your frustrations is their official status page. This will give you a full overview of their services such as market uptime, wallet functionality etc.
Finally, if you had a more general question about something on the exchange then you could always check out their FAQs. These are pretty extensive and do cover most of the questions that a beginner trader could have.
If you are a developer then you may be interested in the Gemini API functionality. This is especially true given that the fees it attracts are lower than the ActiveTrader.
Gemini offers both a Public and a Private REST API. The Public REST API will give you access to the current order book, the recent trading activity as well as trader history.
The Private REST API will give you full trading functionality with account specific endpoints. For example, you can place / cancel orders as well as see your active orders. You can see your trading history and get your available balances.
If you are more interested in streaming data then you can use the Websocket API. You have both a private Order Events API as well as a public Market Data API. You can read much more about the API in Gemini’s official docs.
If you want to make use of the API, you will probably first want to test it out in the Sandbox environment before trading on a live account. This will give you demo funds that you can place fake orders with.
Generating Gemini API Key
Once you are confident that you want to move onto live API trading then you will need to generate your API key. This can be done right in your account by clicking on the “API settings”.
As mentioned above, Gemini also operates a custody service. This is basically means that they will look after your coins using their advanced cold storage mechanisms.
This could be an ideal solution for large institutions that are looking for the most secure way to store large holdings of coins. Of course, they are also willing to look after the coins of individuals should your holdings be big enough.
There is a 0.4% yearly custody fee to use it and you will have to allow a minimum of 1 business day for the coins to be released. There is also a withdraw fee that they charge of $125. You can read more about the custody service here.
Unfortunately, these cold storage funds are not insured by any agency which is a conundrum for institutions. Most custody solutions for other assets have some form of insurance.
What We Didn’t Like
While the Gemini Exchange is no doubt one of the most reputable exchanges out there, we could not complete this review if we did not list the things that we didn’t really like.
Firstly, although their web trading fees are inline with Coinbase, their other fees are much higher than the competition. For example, the ActiveTrader fees are higher than nearly all the competing exchanges with advanced trading platforms.
We were also not too impressed with their asset coverage. They don’t cover some of the really important altcoins in the space including Ripple (XRP), Stellar (XLM) and a host of others. They need to step up their game in this department.
Moreover, although ActiveTrader is only in testing, it is still nowhere near as advanced as we would have liked. The charting package is similar to the basic or standard package on the main Coinbase exchange.
Finally, although Gemini is seen as an easy USD fiat onramp, they don’t provide support for any other currencies. This is despite them offering their services in countries like the UK and Canada. For example, Coinbase offers support in USD, GBP and EUR.
Our Gemini review found them to be well established and reputable with a industry leading security, volumes and trading infrastructure built behind it.
Moreover, its comforting to know that Gemini operates as a New York Trust company with the benefit of FDIC insurance. One does not have this level of protection at offshore exchanges.
Of course, there are some things that it needs to improve on if it is to stave off some of the competition. Coinbase is expanding and there are other global exchanges that are eating into Gemini’s volume. If they are receptive to feedback, perhaps they can improve on these shortcomings.
So, should you consider Gemini?
We would encourage you to do your own research, but if you are looking for a well regarded, insured and semi regulated fiat gateway exchange – then they could be for you.
Featured Image via Gemini