Since the 2017 bubble that brought widespread awareness to bitcoin, buying cryptos has become progressively easier for average retail investors. Despite the harsh crypto winter of 2018, gateways to invest in crypto have become more plentiful and accessible. Despite increasing institutional pressure to regulate or even ban cryptocurrencies, there’s never been an easier time to enter the crypto market. Here, we will review some ways for holders of SGD to buy into cryptocurrencies.
Tokenize.exchange is a fiat-crypto and crypto-crypto exchange founded and headquartered in Singapore. They are expanding operations in Asia and were recently granted Recognised Market Operator status by the Securities Commission of Malaysia. Tokenize supports SGD deposits and withdrawals from/to Singapore bank accounts without additional fees1. This helps you avoid the hefty fees that credit cards and other escrow wallets typically charge. Trading fees start at 0.8% for fiat-crypto and 0.25% for crypto-crypto trades, both of which can be reduced 50% (0.4% & 0.125% respectively) by paying in the exchange’s proprietary TKX token. Tokenize has a 3-tier membership system which can be upgraded by paying and staking a sum of TKX. As a premium member (a perk of being in the CryptoKnight community), trading fees are 0.5% and 0.2% respectively (0.25% & 0.1% with TKX). As with most exchanges, crypto withdrawals are not free and start at 0.2% depending on your membership tier. There are about 20+ cryptos available, though not all trade directly against SGD.
Verdict: If you’re new to crypto, it’s a good idea to start on Tokenize’s platform to get familiar with trading cryptocurrencies. The interface is clean & simple to use, rates are competitive, and there is a decent selection of cryptos available. If you are liquidating your position, you should consider opening a Tokenize account to transfer your fiat back to a bank account.
1 The only exception is when depositing funds without completing SGD1,000 worth of trades, which will subject you to a $100 admin fee
Poloniex was founded in the US and later acquired by Circle Internet Financial, the peer-to-peer payments technology company. Initially, its popularity grew rapidly due to the variety of altcoin-bitcoin trading pairs listed on the exchange. In recent times, it has been overtaken in trading volume by newer exchanges like Binance and KuCoin.
Poloniex recently introduced a fiat deposit and withdrawal feature accepting wire transfers from Singapore bank accounts. When making a USD deposit, it is automatically converted into USDC (an ERC-20 token) at no cost to you. Although Poloniex does not charge for fiat deposits and withdrawals, most Singaporean banks do. To keep costs low, open a DBS account and use the remit feature to deposit funds. The SGD to USD conversion is processed free by DBS though the exchange rate is not the most competitive. As all Singapore banks charge an admin fee for incoming wire transfers, avoid withdrawing your fiat currency through Poloniex.
Trading fees on Poloniex follow a Maker/Taker structure starting at 0.15%/0.25% respectively and reduces with increasing trade volume. Crypto withdrawal fees vary, and can be viewed through your account.
Verdict: With the introduction of fiat deposits, Poloniex has really moved up the pecking order for me. The key advantage it has over Tokenize is the larger selection of cryptos available: 50+ on my last count. With the volatility of crypto prices, it may also be useful to hold some USDC as a hedge and earn interest in the meantime.
BinanceSG is the Singapore branch of one of the world’s largest crypto-crypto exchange Binance. Since opening earlier this year, Singapore users can purchase crypto at a flat 0.6% trading fee with SGD. To use BinanceSG, you’ll also need an xfers account wallet to hold your fiat (think GrabPay). Coins currently on offer are BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH and BNB (the ERC-20 version). You can also purchase crypto with your credit card at an additional 3.5% transaction fee on top of the trading fee.
Verdict: Although Binance is one of the biggest exchanges in the market, their Singapore branch is still starting out. At this stage, other platforms offer lower trading fees and larger coin selections. There is also the small additional hassle of opening an xfers account. However, you can expect the team to ramp up operations to compete with the competition soon. In the meantime, open an account and enjoy a $20 referral bonus when you complete a small $100 trade.
Gemini is based in the US and founded by the Winklevoss twins previously known for their involvement with Facebook. Unlike other centralised exchanges, it is licensed and regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It has 5 cryptocurrencies available for trading as of August 2019: BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH and ZEC. For default mobile and web platform, trades are charged a flat 0.5% convenience fee & 1.49% or more in transaction fees. If you are a trader on their ActiveTrader platform, rates are much lower with Maker/Taker fees of 0.25%/0.35%. Gemini currently does not charge for crypto withdrawals.
Verdict: Although my first purchase of crypto was made on Gemini’s platform, I do not use their platform often. The exorbitant trading fees and limited selection of coins available more than offset any benefit from free withdrawals. Like Poloniex, you’ll need to set-up wire arrangements, but there are extensive guided instructions if you need help.
Coinbase is one of the older US-based exchange founded in 2012. It’s trading fee structure is similar to Gemini, with a spread fee of 0.5% and transaction fees of 1.49% or more. As SGD deposits are not yet available, you need to pay for crypto purchases with a credit/debit card at 3.99% fees. There is a decent selection of 20+ cryptocurrencies to choose from. Though this is nothing to shout about, there is an Earn feature that is worth a mention. By watching videos and completing some tasks and quizzes, you can earn ~$100 worth of cryptos. Withdrawal of cryptos is free.
Verdict: I included Coinbase mainly because of the Earn feature: I mean who doesn’t like free money? Unfortunately, ZEC and ZRX have been snapped up by previous learners, but there’s still XLM, EOS, BAT and DAI available. Use my referral links here and here to get some free crypto today!
Crypto.com is not a centralised exchange, but more of a financial services firm. However, I bring them up because of their aggressive expansion in the consumer/retail space. Starting with a debit card to facilitate crypto spending, they have since diversified to interest, loans and even investment services. Currently, you cannot link your Singapore bank account to purchase crypto with SGD. However, like Binance SG and Coinbase, you can charge your credit card to buy crypto with the same 3.5% transaction fee. If you already have crypto, you can use their platform to buy other cryptos at close to market rate with no charge. There are >40 coins you can purchase with 7 fiats and the team is adding more coins as we go along. Crypto withdrawal fees are on par with other exchanges and can be found on the app’s settings page.
Verdict: I like crypto.com’s Earn service because of the high 8% p.a. interest on popular cryptos & stablecoins. This is higher and more stable than coinlend (not to mention traditional banks), with no risk of a margin market crash. All you need to do is stake (i.e. not touch) a minimum of 50 MCO and lock up the crypto for 3 months. To avoid paying 3.5%, you can buy MCO on other exchanges before transferring to your crypto.com wallet for staking. Staking also allows you to enjoy card benefits of free Spotify and 2% rebates on spending (both paid in MCO). To sweeten the deal, there’s an attractive referral programme where you and I get USD50 in MCO if you stake 50 MCO.
7. Liquid (Honourable Mention)
Another good platform I used in the past is Liquid. With trading fees starting at 0.1%, free crypto withdrawals and the convenience of FAST transfer, Liquid was ideal for buying crypto. The icing on the cake was the coinlend API allowing lending of SGD deposits at rates of ~4% p.a. Unfortunately, local banks closed down their Singapore account, making it necessary to wire funds overseas instead. Nevertheless, it is still a good exchange for new users with a decent variety of coins
Ultimately, there’s no best exchange. For rare coins, you will need to access >1 exchange in order to buy in. As exchanges improve regulation and coin options, the future is bright for investors looking to buy into crypto.