Coinbase and GDAX are two of the largest crypto exchanges, both in the US and worldwide. Fun trivia bit: both platforms also have Coinbase as their parent company and operator.
In general, each would serve as a great springboard for your crypto trading journey, but since we are talking about two distinct platforms, it is natural to expect some differences between them. In this article, we will explore the distinctions and help you determine which can be pros or cons under specific circumstances.
Established in 2012, Coinbase is the largest crypto exchange in the US by trading volume, so it’s much larger than GDAX on that count. It’s mainly because Coinbase is focused on retail customers, while GDAX is designed with institutional and professional traders in mind. Besides crypto trading solutions, Coinbase offers Bitcoin wallets.
Coinbase currently boasts over 10 million customers in 32 countries. While the GDAX roster is more limited, even though the exchange is available in the same regions.
Coinbase vs. GDAX: The Key Difference
Before getting into details, let us start with the main difference between the two. It is that Coinbase offers the conditions for a basic buy/sell transaction, while GDAX is designed for those who want to trade, that is, open long/short positions. The goal of Coinbase users is to buy and hold the cryptocurrency and sell it at some point. They may also want to deposit crypto funds and convert these to fiat money and vice versa. In the case of GDAX, clients aim to profit from the quotation movement: they invest funds in crypto pairs and often use stop orders to manage their trades. It’s a typical trading process, the same as with stocks, forex pairs, or contracts for differences (CFDs).
In other words, Coinbase is quite basic, while GDAX offers more advanced features, targeting professional traders and institutional players.
Unlike Coinbase, GDAX also allows margin trading, which means that traders can boost their potential profits while assuming higher risks. They can go for up to 3:1 leverage, meaning that they can open a $999 position with only $333 of their own funds. The rest of the funds are essentially borrowed from GDAX.
Besides dabbling in margin trading, GDAX investors can submit different orders, such as:
- Market orders;
- Limit orders, including the advanced options – Good ‘Til Canceled (GTC), Immediate or Cancel (IOC), Fill or Kill (FOC), and Post Only.
- Stop orders.
These order types are great for managing risks more successfully. You can read more about these here.
Coinbase vs. GDAX: The Platforms
Coinbase’s web-based platform is quite intuitive and has very basic features. Sophisticated traders may consider the lack of technical indicators or other features a drawback, but this actually makes the interface clear, user-friendly, and straightforward. The platform has a mobile version and a downloadable application.
Since the GDAX platform is designed for more advanced traders, its interface is more complex. However, investors can enjoy a real-time chart with several tools, among them candlestick/line chart styles, six timeframes (from one minute to one day), and two exponential moving averages (EMA12 and EMA26). The web interface also displays the order book, trade history, the spreads, and the order options. It’s actually quite convenient if you are a trader.
GDAX is the platform of choice for many traders because it offers flexible APIs too.
Coinbase vs. GDAX: The List of Cryptocoins and Fiat Currencies
In both cases, the list of cryptocoins is rather modest. Coinbase offers trading in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Ethereum. There were rumors that the exchange would add Ripple soon, but Coinbase refuted them. When it comes to fiat money, the exchange operates with popular currencies, including USD, EUR, and GBP.
With GDAX, customers can trade the same cryptocoins – BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC — and at this time they trade the cryptocurrencies in pairs with fiat currencies or with another digital coin. The following pairs are available for trading: BTC/USD, BTC/EUR, BTC/GBP, BCH/USD, ETH/BTC, ETH/EUR, ETH/USD, LTC/BTC, LTC/EUR, and LTC/USD. However, the availability of these pairs varies across regions and you can read more about that here.
Coinbase vs. GDAX: The Deposit/Withdrawal Situation
With Coinbase, the funds can be moved in and out through several deposit/withdrawal options. US citizens have access to the full list, being able to deposit or take out funds via credit/debit cards (VISA and MasterCard) and bank wire transfers or by linking their exchange account with a US bank account (ACH). US customers are also the only ones that can use PayPal for withdrawals for a 3.75% fee.
VISA and MasterCard are the only options available to customers in Australia and Canada. In addition to wire transfers and credit/debit cards, Europeans can also use SEPA transfers for a fee of 0.15 euro.
A credit/debit card transaction comes with a 3.99% fee attached, while the wire transfer fee is 1.49%. In the US, the wire transfer fee for a deposit is $10.
No fees are charged for transactions in BTC.
GDAX doesn’t allow money transfers in and out via credit/debit card, nor can US customers withdraw their funds using PayPal. Since the trading platform is available in the same countries, its clients can deposit or withdraw funds using bank wire transfer, SEPA (in the EU), and ACH transfers (US). The fees are as follows:
- 0.15 euro for SEPA;
- No charges for ACH;
- $10 for a USD wire deposit and $25 for a US wire withdrawal.
The great thing about Coinbase and GDAX is that you can easily move funds between the two. The transfers are free and instantaneous.
Coinbase vs. GDAX: Other Differences
Here are some other differences and additional things for you to consider:
- Unlike Coinbase, GDAX has a list of taker fees that can reach 0.25% for Bitcoin, but there is no maker fee. It doesn’t mean that Coinbase requires no taker fees; it’s just that it doesn’t display them. “Any such transfer fees will be disclosed to you at the time of the transaction,” reads the official site.
- GDAX has a withdrawal limit of $10,000/day for individuals and $50,000/day for institutional traders. Deposits are generally unlimited. Coinbase doesn’t display such information but from what we know, the withdrawal limit seems to be $10,000/day and $15,000/week.
- Both platforms offer similar customer support services of decent quality and have a good reputation. GDAX is known for an incident that happened in June 2017, when the ETH/USD price plunged from $319 to as low as $0.10 for a few seconds.
Yes (up to 3:1)
BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC
BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC
Cryptocurrencies, Bank wire transfer, ACH, SEPA, Credit/debit card, PayPal for withdrawal
Cryptocurrencies, Bank wire transfer, ACH, SEPA
The Final Note
As we mentioned above, Coinbase is the ideal choice for those who simply want to buy a cryptocurrency at a certain price, while GDAX is meant for professional traders. If you have some experience trading stocks or forex pairs, you will have no problems with the GDAX platform and it may actually feel quite basic to you.
When it comes to reputation, both platforms have had to face complaints now and then, but this is inevitable for exchanges with millions of users.
Finally, whenever you use an exchange or an online wallet, please make sure your computer and/or mobile devices are secure. Moreover, leaving cryptocurrencies on any exchange is risky, and the safest practice is to keep your coins in wallets for which you control the private keys.