Gemini Basic Account Review August 2019

Gemini, which calls itself "The Regulated Cryptocurrency Exchange," was founded by the Winklevoss twins in 2014. As of writing, the basic Gemini platform allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Zcash.

Although I foundBitcoin interesting back in 2011, I didn't buy any until much more recently. I used to be a skeptic about Bitcoin. I still am. But I used to too. (My apologies to the late Mitch Hedberg.)

That said, I've been using Gemini and other platforms, like Coinbase, to buy Bitcoin, for the same reason I buy gold.

Why I Buy Bitcoin

The risk of being banned from the economy--financial deplatforming--has been growing steadily for years, especially as society gradually becomes cashless.

As people become more and more politically polarized, a growing minority wishes to exclude those with opposing views from economic life. This includes trying to get people fired from their jobs, boycotting their businesses, starting harassment campaigns, and so on. Companies seem to be getting in on the hysteria. For example, JP Morgan Chase recently closed people's accounts because of their political views. In the past Chase has also porn stars' accounts. Another example is Wikileaks being deplatformed from pretty much every financial service.

Society is getting increasingly cashless. Our paychecks are direct deposited into our bank accounts. We use debit and credit cards, as well as mobile apps, to pay for almost everything. We can send payments to our friends online, or write a check. If you are so inclined, you never have to touch physical currency again.

This is greatly convenient, but with the convenience comes a great danger. You can wake up one morning and discover that all your accounts are closed, or worse, frozen.

I don't want to get into the ethics of financial deplatforming of people and business for social transgressions. My point is that, as part of my emergency fund, I have and will buy more gold and Bitcoin (and store physical cash) because other people are willing to exchange these for goods and services. If I am ever banned from using the mainstream financial system for writing, saying, thinking, or being something wrong, gold and Bitcoin are a sort of emergency savings that will allow me to eat. They will also come in handy if there is social or governmental collapse. While I have more confidence in gold not going to zero in the near future (but it probably will when asteroid mining becomes a reality), Bitcoin is a lot easier to transport and convert into goods, services, and currency. I just need to remember the 12 word phrase that is the seed of my Electrum wallet, a computer, and an internet connection.

Why I Initially Chose the Gemini Exchange

I tried out Coinbase, but I didn't like that there were fees to transfer your coins away from the exchanges. I also didn't like that limit orders weren't available for the basic account. At the time (and this might have been a misunderstanding on my part), I thought there was a monthly fee for a higher account tier that let you transfer coins for free and place limit orders.

Kraken and the other crypto exchanges were not available in my location (New York), but I discovered that Gemini was. When I opened my account, Gemini let you place limit orders. It no longer does in the basic tier.

What I Like About Gemini's Basic Account

It gets the job done for my purposes, but not much beyond that. I liked that they had limit orders, but now you have to use the ActiveTrader account.

I do like that there are no fees (at the time of writing) to transfer your Bitcoins out of Gemini and into your own wallet if you do 10 or less withdrawals per month.

The sign up process was relatively straightforward and quick. My identity was verified and the account was opened the same day.

What I Don't Like About Gemini's Basic Account

No Limit Orders

As I mentioned, they took away limit orders for the basic account. Apart from my experience trading illiquid stocks and options where people and machines will take full advantage of market orders to give you the worst price possible, I like limit orders because I don't have to watch the price of the thing I'm buying. A limit order allows you to buy the asset for a specified price, which is not necessarily the market price at that instant. The price of the asset might be much higher than I want to pay for it when I place the order. If the asset comes down to what I put as my limit, the order is filled without any further action on my part. The reverse for selling, where my sale order is filled when the asset rises to meet my asking price.

Really Annoying Login Process

Gemini uses two factor authentication for when you log in. That in itself is a good practice. I don't like their implementation.

First, the default second factor is a seven digit code that Gemini sends as a text. This is knownnot to be secure for years now.

Second, you have to receive a text every day to continue logging into the Gemini Exchange because it only remembers your computer for 24 hours. That is really annoying. By contrast, Coinbase remembers your device for 30 days.

Third and worst, if you try to log in but don't enter the second factor code and then keep the browser open, it keeps sending you text messages with new codes every five minutes either until you log in or 15 times, when your account is locked from too many login attempts.

I tried to sign in, but it was 24 hours after my last login. Gemini sent a text to my phone, which was far away. I figured I'd work on something else and sign in later. When I got to my phone, I had 15 texts from Gemini, each with a new code. When the last one didn't work, I discovered that Gemini wouldn't send me a new one for a day. I was locked out of my account.

I'd like Gemini better if the "trust this device" feature would last longer than 24 hours, there were more 2FA options (like Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator, etc), and it didn't repeatedly text you just because you didn't sign in immediately.

Note that Gemini does offer 2FA with Authy, which is much more convenient, but they don't advertise this fact and I only came across it by accident. If you already use a different authenticator, you will have to deal with setting up and using a new app. If you use Authy, then you're all set.

By contrast, Coinbase lets you use any authenticator app you want. It also supports and encourages the use of security keys that comply with the U2F/WebAuthN standard.

Convoluted and Expensive Fee Schedule

Gemini's trading fees are based on the US dollar amount of your trade. The lowest fee, percentage wise, is 1.49% of your web or mobile order over $200. That's not bad for cryptocurrencies, which can move that much in a second. Nevertheless, if your order is for $10 or less, Gemini will charge you $0.99, which is 9.9% of the order total. Compare this same order at Coinbase Pro, where your fee would be $0.03.

Basic accounts are also charged a 0.5% "convenience fee" for every order, so the actual lowest fee for basic accounts is 1.99% of the order.

Note that Gemini is no worse in this regard than Coinbase, which has the same fee schedule for basic accounts, along with the 0.5% convenience fee, which they call a "Spread." However, at the time of writing, Coinbase Pro charges less per transaction than Gemini's ActiveTrader platform.


A big caveat is in order, which is another thing I don't like--everything above might be outdated by the time you read this. It seems like the new breed of financial companies change their service offerings, pricing, and policies extremely often compared to traditional financial institutions. You can sign up for the platform with a set of expectations only to find out everything is different the next time you log in.

Gemini Mobile App

Everything I've said above about Gemin's web platform applies to the mobile app. The usability is good and the app loads quickly. The user interface is intuitive, making it easy to find what you're looking for.

I wanted to post what the app looks like, but for security purposes the app blocks screenshots.


The Gemini basic account gets the job done for someone like me, who is in the process of accumulating cryptocurrency and transferring it to a private wallet. If Gemini is the only exchange available in your area, it is a viable solution.

Nevertheless, if you want to save on fees and use limit orders, consider Gemini's ActiveTrader platform. If available in your location, also consider Coinbase Pro.

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