This is not exclusive to crypto, so be careful.
Crypto news articles and some commentators in this space will often warn you about scams posing major threats to retail and institutional investors.
However, there’s another list of activities here that are legal but unethical, which I will be focusing on today.
To clarify, these are all 100% legitimate actions by companies, provided that they display the information before their client finalises a crypto transaction….at least that’s what they should be doing.
For these examples, I would place the onus on the user (at least the more tech-savvy ones) for not doing their due diligence before proceeding with a transaction, with their naivety costing them way too much in charges.
1) Exorbitant swapping fees
Other than standing in long queues, there’s nothing I hate more than having to fork out exorbitant fees for buying, selling or trading goods, or in this case, crypto.
Some desktop and mobile wallets are reasonably priced and offer a good user experience; others can be rather unscrupulous when it comes to swapping crypto despite being flashy.
I use a third-party service to provide updated balances for my crypto assets linked to a hardware wallet. These updated balances mostly refer to liquid staking derivatives and wrapped tokens, e.g., stETH, rETH, WBTC, etc., whereby the wallet balance is usually refreshed every 24 (max 36) hours for staking rewards.
I was astonished by the total fees involved when I played with this wallet’s swap feature.
They requested more than $100 to carry out a transaction of about 2 stETH ($3,400).
It doesn’t sound like much (2.94%) in terms of percentages, but this is a joke.
Transferring 1 BTC to 15.8, ETH demanded a $900 fee for the trade. For 10 BTC, this would set you back $9,500 in charges.
Get the f$#k outta here.
They’re taking a page from the playbook of conventional forex companies, who would generally charge X % or a minimum amount per currency conversion.
Herein lies the first problem where crypto noobs get caught out: Fees for crypto transactions are NOT based on the value being traded, unlike the legacy financial system.
Crypto transactions conducted directly on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cardano, XRP, etc., incur the same cost irrespective of how many coins are sent across their network.
The gas fee is the amount of gas used to do some operation multiplied by the cost per unit gas. The fee is paid regardless of whether a transaction succeeds or fails.
When you swap from one of these tokens to BTC, ETH, ADA and other assets, I have seen transaction fees well above $100.
For just one transaction.
What makes me laugh is that they tell you on the same screen that the ETH network fee is only a few dollars despite the hefty costs.
All jokes aside, I’ll give them credit for being transparent and honest about it upfront….even though it’s still a rip-off.
I also acknowledge that this company charges slightly less when converting XRP, SOL, ALGO and other assets with lower costs to reflect the more economical network fees.
Before continuing, I understand that we are transferring assets from one blockchain to another, and companies have costs to cover (and profits to make).
Nonetheless, 2.94% is still steep.
For comparison, I came across Changelly, another regulated platform specialising in buying, selling and exchanging crypto for individuals and businesses. Here’s a breakdown of their costs for ETH to BTC and vice-versa.
On our platform, there is a 0.25% exchange fee that applies to all transactions. The platform charge for converting the minimum amount, which is 0.02 ETH, is 0.00000411 BTC ($0.11). The fee for exchanging one Ether is 0.00020516 BTC ($5.73).
The network fee, on the other hand, is always 0.0005 BTC (~$14), regardless of the amount of the transaction.
How much should you expect to pay? When accounting for typical network fees for ETH and BTC (see above), a company’s exchange fees and (some) profit, I would say $35 should be an absolute max for trading 2 ETH.
FYI, I haven’t used this company and have no connection to them. From my research thus far, I would be more inclined to use them than the exorbitantly priced alternative, which I won’t name.
I know that ETH gas fees were nonsensical at the height of the NFT craze during 2021-22, and some might still assume this is the case.
However, to still be charged exorbitant fees when they are significantly higher than a typical transaction directly on Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc., baffles me.
This leads to a very disappointing assumption: There are enough clueless people who still believe spending over $100 – for a transaction is justified.
Here’s the real kicker: from one perspective, I don’t blame them.
Why? Thinking of remittance services that help people exchange value from one currency to another, they have, for decades, charged people dozens (perhaps more than $100) for certain transactions, e.g., high $ amounts involved, swapping from a lesser-known currency to another, and so on.
Nonetheless, the fees aren’t cheap, and that system is still inefficient, albeit improving.
So, you get some average Joe or Jane conditioned to believe that this service can justify charging large amounts of money for settling coin or token swaps.
To clarify, I get that the service performing the fee (understandably) charges their commission for these trades and would most likely need to pay higher prices for prioritised transactions, i.e., dynamic pricing, primarily involving supply and demand.
Yet, the fees remain high, even though a priority trade directly on Ethereum would typically cost less than $1.50.
When accounting for greater costs of trading ERC-20 tokens using a DEX, e.g., Uniswap, 1Inch, dYdX, Balancer, etc., a high-speed transaction should (at the time of writing) shouldn’t set you back more than $10 for a trade, which is still pricey.
Pardon the details, but perspective is important here.
Point of the story: Eliminate X number of intermediaries, and you will usually pay less.
For “some” balance, I admit that this convenience can be justified for certain people.
2) Atrocious exchange rates
Those of us who are savvier than the average person know that fees are only part of the story.
Certain companies are honest and take low fees/commissions whilst offering a reasonable exchange rate.
Then you’ve got people who unscrupulously offer sweet FA for every dollar or dollar equivalent of BTC, ETH, etc.
What complicates matters for less experienced people involved in crypto is when you’re directly converting from one crypto to another without going via a familiar fiat currency.
It’s not the end of the world for small trades here and there. But, switching significant sums or conducting multiple daily transactions can make a huge difference in the long run.
So, what’s the solution? Fortunately, we have a plethora of crypto exchanges and DEXes nowadays that can offer competitive rates and fast settlement times, with seamless connectivity for hardware and other non-custodial wallets.
To learn about the different options available, these resources are good starting points:
No hidden fees, but always check the exchange rate, too.
Image by Natalya Bardushka on Shutterstock
3) Steep withdrawal fees (for cash and certain crypto assets)
Before proceeding with any withdrawal, look at the fees involved for crypto withdrawals and cashing out in your local currency.
By now, your country should have a domestic exchange that charges no or negligible fees for cashing out in your local currency (assuming that buying, selling and trading crypto in your state/nation is legal).
If you’ve previously used a major exchange and want to cash out your holdings, be wary of currency conversion fees through these platforms.
For example, one exchange (without naming names) requested $20 for me to cash out from USD to AUD, which I find ridiculous.
To their defence, part of me believes that most of that is a charge from this outdated, inefficient legacy financial system involved in currency conversion when sending funds to and from regular bank accounts.
Nonetheless, I found it annoying and sought an alternative.
What did I do? I decided to cash out into XRP and send it to a local exchange, which doesn’t charge me for deposits and cashing out into my local currency, AUD.
Why XRP? Because it often has a dirt-cheap withdrawal fee of less than a cent (<0.02 XRP) and settles transactions very quickly. SOL is another good option here, and other digital assets could also be used.
In the process, I saved about $19 for something that took up to 10 minutes.
Nothing new about this
Call me a tightwad, but $30 here and $100 there all add up over the years, particularly when dealing with crypto investments.
Ultimately, many costs involved boil down to convenience. Even if someone is paying an excessive amount, some will still justify it, particularly when factoring in peace of mind, avoiding hassle and, above all, saving time.
Yes, time is money, but there are times when the additional cost of convenience is not justified for most people.
Here’s a quick story to reinforce my point.
Years ago, I requested a quote for tinting my car’s windows. The car dealership quoted 500 AUD (~$321), whereas by going directly to the tinting place, they requested 310 AUD.
Funnily enough, they told me that the car dealership also uses their service.
So, the dealership charged 190 dollarydoos (38%) extra just to drop off and pick up the car (round trip), despite it being about half a mile from the car-tinting shop.
However, in this case, you’re making over 150 USD an hour – as an arbitrary figure – perhaps you could justify it….but we know that most people don’t, so it’s not worth it for them.
As per supply and demand, we witnessed the extreme lengths people went for toilet paper and other essentials during the pandemic, not to mention the sheer panic of it all.
Apologies in advance if I came across as somewhat antagonistic towards these forex companies.
I have a confession: I detest the fees the old-school forex companies charge – as opposed to modern alternatives such as Wise and OFX – and have a very negative view of banks. These two things lead me to crypto – cheaper and faster ways to send money overseas and to have full control of your money, respectively.
Let’s end this on a positive note.
Fortunately, with a much broader adoption of crypto assets comes more reputable options and greater competition, which often translates to cheaper fees.
However, just like many aspects of society – where people should make basic comparisons of fees and rates – there will always be individuals who don’t understand what is a reasonable price to pay (albeit subjective) and others who prioritise convenience at all costs.
As always, each to their own. I am all for giving people options.
I decided to share this to increase the likelihood that you will have a more positive experience in crypto…unless you unwittingly fall for other scams in this space. In that case, I recommend this piece to ensure that you stay ahead of the game with crypto and general cyber security.
Having more positive stories from people’s involvement in crypto ultimately helps all of us who want to see this space flourish, not just for technological advancement, but on a personal level, to make some neat profits simultaneously.
- N.B. None of this is financial advice; I am not a financial advisor. You are ultimately responsible for crypto investments, let alone in any asset class.
- This is not paid advertising, and I have no connection to Changelly.
- The opinions expressed within this piece are my own and might not reflect those behind any news outlet, person, organisation, or otherwise listed here.
- Please do your research before investing in any crypto assets, staking, NFTs and other products affiliated with this space.