Kraken Canada Review for 2023: Easy to Use & Great Altcoin Selection

Kraken logo displayed on a laptop screen

    Kraken is a global cryptocurrency exchange and is considered one of the best crypto platforms in Canada. It is beloved for its wide range of cryptocurrencies and advanced trading features. It’s also a popular choice among Canadian crypto enthusiasts thanks to its user-friendly interface that flips seamlessly from the beginner-friendly standard platform to the more sophisticated Kraken Pro platform for experienced traders. You’ll also enjoy access to features like staking, an NFT marketplace, and margin trading. On the downside, I don’t love the high fees for instant card purchases, account deposits, or withdrawals. I tested the Kraken crypto exchange myself to help you make an informed decision. Here’s how it went. 

    Trading Fees

    Basic Platform

    • Markup/down: 1% approx
    • Transaction fee: 1.5-6.5%, approx

    Kraken Pro

    • Maker Fee: 0-0.20%
    • Taker Fee: 0.001-0.26%

    Trading on Kraken’s classic platform is quite pricey compared to the more advanced Kraken Pro platform. Also, some fees are disclosed on the site, while others are not. Having said that, there is much better pricing transparency accessible through your dashboard after you create an account. 

    Kraken charges two fees when you buy or sell: a markup/markdown plus a transaction fee. Both fees are variable based on market conditions, the size of the trade, the coin/trading pair, and the payment method. All fees are disclosed prior to confirming your transaction. 

    I bought $20 worth of Bitcoin (BTC) on the standard platform. Kraken charged me a 1.04% markup on the price of BTC plus a transaction fee. This markup seems pretty standard and was identical to the markup Coinbase charged me. 

    Kraken vs Kraken Pro

    If you’re an active trader or plan to make large trades, you can access the free Kraken Pro platform which offers lower fees based on a 30-day rolling volume. Kraken discloses its volume-based fee structure on the public website, but the fees are also easily accessible from your Kraken Pro dashboard. Keep in mind the trading volumes are listed in USD, and trades made on the classic platform do not count towards your 30-day volume on the Pro platform.

    You can easily toggle between the two platforms by clicking the dotted icon on the top right of your dashboard and selecting Kraken Pro. From the Pro dashboard, you can go back to the classic platform by clicking on the same dotted icon and selecting Kraken

    Kraken review: how to access Kraken Pro platform
    Kraken review: How to switch back to the classic platform from Kraken Pro

    Kraken Pro offers advanced trading tools and analytics for more experienced traders, like a live order book, customizable charting tools, spot trading, limit orders, margin trading, and more. You can also easily fund your account from this platform. However, you will not be able to perform direct buys with a payment card.

    For more data on a coin, click on Analytics on the top left of your dashboard. This will open another dashboard with charts tracking price, aggressor differential, trade count, rolling volatility, trading volumes, as well as order book imbalance & slippage. 

    Funding Methods & Fees

    • eTransfer: 0.5% (min $10.00, max $30)
    • Debit-Credit & Credit Card: 5%-6.4% +
    • Canada Post: $1.25 + 0.25%
    • Wire Transfer: $0.00
    • Bank Transfer (SWIFT): $3.00 
    • Crypto

    Kraken offers various funding methods, including wire transfers, bank transfers, credit/debit cards, eTransfers, and even in-person funding at Canada Post locations. I don’t love that it costs money to fund your account by eTransfer, which is the most convenient option for me. For example, Bitbuy, VirgoCX, and NDAX all offer free eTransfer deposits. 

    Having said that, I do appreciate that Kraken allows you to fund your account in-person at a Canada Post location, where you can use your debit, credit card, or cash.

    You can buy crypto directly from the classic Kraken dashboard with a debit-credit or credit card, but you cannot prefund your account this way. While instant card purchases are the quickest and most convenient, they are definitely the most expensive way to buy crypto. These fees are variable based on market conditions, the specific coin being purchased, and the size of the trade. 

    I tested different amounts to see how much it would cost to buy BTC with my Tangerine Visa-Debit, and here’s what I was quoted: 

    • $20: $1.28 (6.4%)
    • $50: $2.84 (5.7%)
    • $200: $10.59 (5.3%)
    • $1,000: $51.97 (5.2%)   

    Domestic wire transfers are free, but bank transfers through the SWIFT system cost $3.00. Kraken’s fees do not include any fees charged by your financial institution and any applicable intermediaries, which are outside their control.

    You can also deposit crypto to your Kraken account from an external wallet, and most crypto deposits are free. However, there are deposit minimums that vary by coin. Confirm the deposit minimum of your desired coin before making the transfer, or it won’t be deposited to your Kraken account.

    Purchase Limits

    Purchase limits vary by user based on your level of account verification and whether you are depositing fiat or crypto. For me, there is no limit on the amount I can deposit from an external crypto wallet, but there are limits on my eTransfers and card purchases. Here’s a breakdown of my funding limits:

    eTransfer

    Kraken reivew, deposit limits on eTransfers and debit/credit cards

    Debit/Credit Card

    Withdrawal Methods & Fees

    • EFT: 0.35%
    • eTransfer: $10.00
    • Bank Transfer (SWIFT): $13-$35

    I love that Kraken offers direct deposit into your Canadian bank account by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t notice this was an option until after I had sent an eTransfer back to my account.

    It cost me $10 to cash out my balance of $48.66 by eTransfer, which is a whopping 20% of my transaction! Had I done an EFT instead, it would have only cost me $0.17, which is a negligible 0.35% of my transaction. Lesson learned. 

    Bank transfers through the SWIFT system cost either $13 through Bank Frick, or $35 through Etana Custody. 

    The nice thing about Kraken is that it will suggest the most cost-effective bank partner based on the size of your transfer and where it’s going. You can withdraw your crypto off the platform to an external wallet and the fee for this varies by coin and blockchain network. 

    Setting Up Payment Methods

    I love how clean and simple the Kraken classic platform is. Anyone can use it, regardless of experience level. Before you start trading, you’ll need to set up your payment methods first. To do this, head to the top right corner of your dashboard and click on the profile icon. Select Payment Methods and click on the Add Payment Method Button. 

    You can add cash to your account by eTransfer, wire, or bank transfer. Or you can add a debit-credit or credit card for direct purchases, but I don’t recommend buying crypto this way because it’s too expensive. 

    Having said that, my Tangerine Visa-Debit seems to be accepted by most platforms I’ve tried. Some prepaid cards are accepted while others are not, it’s very hit or miss. My KOHO Prepaid Mastercard was accepted on Kraken, but not my Wealthsimple Cash Card

    Once your payment methods are set up, you can fund your account from your dashboard. Click on Deposit to fund your account with CAD or another supported currency, or to transfer in crypto from an external wallet. 

    How to Buy Crypto on Kraken

    Once your account is funded, click on Buy, select your desired coin and how much you’d like to purchase, and then click on your desired payment method. Kraken will let you preview the order and applicable fees before confirming the transaction. If everything looks good, click the Confirm button to execute the trade. 

    I prefunded my account with $50 CAD and decided to buy $20 worth of Bitcoin (BTC). The markup was 1.04% higher than the BTC live market price. I was also charged a $0.30 transaction fee, which is 1.5% of the trade value.

    When you add the markup and the transaction fee together, it cost me a total of 2.54% to buy BTC on Kraken. The markup is pretty standard. The transaction fee isn’t ideal, but it’s significantly cheaper than Coinbase’s transaction fee. This same trade on Coinbase cost me a whopping 8.54% in total fees. 

    How to Sell Crypto on Kraken

    Selling is just as easy. Click on Sell, enter an amount, and click Review to see the fee disclosure. Click Confirm to execute the transaction. 

    I decided to sell my entire BTC balance of $18.91. The markdown was 1.06% lower than the BTC live market price. Unfortunately, Kraken was more expensive than Coinbase, which gave me a 0.92% markdown. However, Kraken’s transaction fee was much lower at just $0.28, equal to 1.5% of my transaction value. 

    When you add the markdown and the transaction fee together, this trade cost me a total of 2.56% in fees. For perspective, my total trading fees on Coinbase cost me 9.22%!

    What Coins are Available on Kraken?

    As an altcoin trader, I like Kraken for its extensive selection of over 200 coins. Of course, you’ll find the reigning champs like Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Cardano (ADA), Dogecoin (DOGE), Shiba Inu (SHIB), and many more popular coins. 

    You’ll also find small-cap, obscure coins. That’s great news if you’re looking to scoop up a hidden gem before it goes parabolic. For example, I hold a small bag of Siacoin (SC) which is hard to find on most exchanges in Canada, but it’s available on Kraken. 

    Additional Features

    Kraken offers additional features like an NFT marketplace, staking, and margin trading. But if you’re new to crypto, I recommend starting with simple spot trading or the quick buy feature on the standard platform. Kraken also provides educational resources, which are great if you’re still learning about crypto trading or want to test out some new strategies. 

    NFT Marketplace

    Browse over 250 NFT collections across three different blockchains (Ethereum, Polygon, Solana) and enjoy no gas fees. You can easily navigate to the marketplace by clicking on the dotted icon on the top right of your dashboard and selecting NFT Marketplace

    Staking

    Staking allows you to earn passive income on certain coins in the form of crypto regards. Kraken offers an excellent selection of 14 different staking coins, including the popular ones like Ethereum, Cardano, and Polkdot as well as less common tokens like Secret Network, Mina, and Kusama. You can earn up to 26% APY.  Staking is easily accessible from your Kraken Pro dashboard by selecting Earn at the top left of your screen.

    Margin Trading

    If you’re looking for more advanced trading tools, you can take advantage of margin trading from the Kraken Pro dashboard. You can trade with up to 5x leverage, but you first need to pass eligibility requirements, such as beneficially owning at least CAD $5 million in financial assets.

    Crypto Education

    If you’re looking to learn more about crypto in general, or diver deeper into trading strategies and analytics, visit the Kraken Blog. There’s an entire section dedicated to Crypto Education. Here, you’ll find articles covering Blockchain & Crypto Basics, Market Insights, and Market Reports compiled by Kraken crypto experts. 

    Opening Your Account

    Opening an account with Kraken is a breeze. The entire process takes about 5 minutes and is pretty painless. Visit the Kraken site and follow the prompts. 

    You’ll be asked for the obvious stuff like your email address, phone number, and to create a username and password. You’ll also have to provide personal identity and financial information as part of Kraken’s financial regulation requirements. At the end, you’ll be sent a verification email with a link to activate your account. 

    Is Kraken Safe?

    There’s always a risk whenever you engage online, especially when it involves money and other financial assets. But Kraken is generally considered safe thanks to its comprehensive security measures. Here are key aspects of its security:

    Cold Storage: Over 95% of all digital assets on Kraken are stored in cold storage, which means they are kept offline and away from potential online threats.

    Encryption & Surveillance: All account information on Kraken is encrypted. Additionally, their physical servers are protected with enhanced security measures including 24/7 surveillance by armed guards.

    Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Kraken allows you to enable 2FA, adding an extra layer of security to your account.

    Withdrawal Confirmations & Account Timeouts: You’ll receive email notifications for withdrawals, and there are account timeout features for added protection.

    Bug Bounty Program: Kraken encourages the identification and reporting of system vulnerabilities by offering rewards through its Bug Bounty program.

    Would I Recommend Kraken?

    Kraken is a solid choice for beginners and advanced traders alike, especially if you’re looking for obscure altcoins on a regulated platform. Its combination of competitive trading fees, multiple funding options, and a user-friendly interface, along with a strong focus on security and compliance, makes it a platform worth considering. 

    I don’t love the funding fees, which can add up quickly to reduce your trading capital and profits if you’re not careful. But they’re not the worst out there, with Coinbase swiping the highest funding fees of the platforms I’ve tried so far. However, both Kraken and Coinbase lose to Bitbuy, NDAX, and VirgoCX who all offer free funding options. 

    I found Kraken’s markup/markdown to be competitive at around 1%, which is on par with Coinbase. Because both are international platforms with a massive user base, the high liquidity contributes to lower spreads. By contrast, Bitbuy might be a popular Canadian-based platform, but it charges a 2% trading fee in large part because its size pales in comparison to Kraken and Coinbase. 

    These are important factors to consider if you intend to trade altcoins frequently vs. a more conservative buy-and-hold strategy limited to the established blue-chip coins.

    Overall, I was happy with my Kraken experience and will continue to use this platform for altcoin trading. As always, remember to trade responsibly and do your research before diving into the world of cryptocurrency trading. 

    Happy trading!

    Heidi Unrau is a senior finance journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she kicked-off her financial career in retail banking as a teller. She quickly progressed to become a Credit Analyst and then Private Lender. This hands-on industry experience uniquely positions her to provide expert insight on loans, credit scores, credit cards, debt, and banking services. She has been featured in publications such as WealthRocket, Scary Mommy, Credello, and Plooto. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to the Freakonomics podcast, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a bowl of ice cream. Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada and her blood type is coffee.