BlockFi Review: Earn Crypto Rewards and Interest on Your Crypto Investment
BlockFi lets you stash crypto holdings in an interest-bearing account generating APY as high as 7.5%. But there’s a catch: BlockFi’s interest accounts aren’t available to U.S. investors. However, other crypto products — like trading accounts, a credit card, and crypto-backed loans — are available to borrowers and investors worldwide.
- Long-term crypto holders
- Beginner crypto investors
- Generating crypto without mining
Even the most die-hard crypto evangelist can’t deny one of cryptocurrency’s biggest faults as an investment: Crypto investments typically don’t generate income.
Stocks produce dividends, property generates rent, and even savings accounts produce a trickle of interest over time. But your crypto wallet? Well, it just sits there like an old Ferrari in a barn, hoping not to be stolen or forgotten until the day you sell it.
Thankfully, BlockFi changes all that. Just like a traditional bank, BlockFi offers interest-bearing accounts, low-interest loans, and even a credit card — all based in crypto.
Since traditional banking and crypto seem like diametric opposites, you may be bursting with questions:
- How can BlockFi manage to offer up to 7.5% APY when traditional banks can’t break 1%?
- How much can you earn by moving your cryptocurrency into a BlockFi account?
- Can you still buy, sell, and trade your crypto while it’s in BlockFi’s hands?
- What are BlockFi’s fees?
- Lastly, if I’m new to crypto, is BlockFi a good place to start?
I’ll answer these questions and more as we investigate BlockFi.
BlockFi Pros & Cons
- Crazy-high interest rates — The BlockFi Interest Account boasts interest rates as high as 3.5% for non-stablecoins, which is far higher than the APY you’d get from a standard money market account with a traditional bank.
- Usability and simplicity — Despite a wide variety of crypto banking options, navigating BlockFi’s site is a breeze, with helpful tools like the crypto interest calculator to estimate your potential earnings.
- U.S. based and backed — Crypto holders who prefer locally-sourced platforms will appreciate that BlockFi is founded, funded, and based in the USA.
- Dedicated customer service team — Crypto platforms aren’t known for having live customer support, but BlockFi is the exception. Live reps are available from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, M-F.
- Impressive risk management process — BlockFi has some well-built systems in place to ensure they (and in turn, you), take on as little risk as possible.
- Geographic restrictions — BlockFi's interest accounts are not available to U.S. investors.
- Withdrawal fees — The BIA is a less ideal option for anyone who needs unlimited access to their crypto holdings.
- Obfuscated trading fees — There's a semi-hidden surcharge of up to 1% to mitigate BlockFi's risk as a direct buyer. This is lower than the competition, but some users find this model disingenuous.
- Middling loan options — A combination of volatile LTVs, origination fees, and merely decent interest rates make BlockFi’s crypto-backed personal loan offers uncompelling in the competitive personal lending space.
- Lacks transparency about the risks of crypto investing — Unlike some other platforms and exchanges, BlockFi is not as open to new investors about the high risks associated with cryptocurrency investing.
What Is BlockFi?
On its Mission page, BlockFi calls itself a “financial services provider in crypto” seeking to “redefine banking.” For simplicity, it’s not inaccurate to label them a “crypto bank.”
Interestingly, BlockFi wasn’t principally founded to disrupt the traditional banking world, but rather, to extend its reach. The company plans to leverage the decentralized nature of cryptocurrency to:
“provide credit services to markets with limited access to simple products like a savings account.”
BlockFi offers the following bank-y services:
- Trading accounts
- A rewards credit card (paid in crypto, of course)
- A dedicated customer service team
- Account security
- No hidden fees
Interest accounts unfortunately are no longer available to new BlockFi clients based in the United States. But new clients located outside the United States can still take advantage of BlockFi interest rates.
All BlockFi products are based on crypto. BlockFi is a place to store, manage, and generate interest on your crypto, while you keep your cash in your regular bank.
How Does BlockFi Work?
Setting up a BlockFi account is pretty quick and easy, with no real surprises to anyone who’s set up a bank account. All in all, expect to invest 10 minutes or less.
You’ll start by heading to app.blockfi.com/signup to enter some basic info, confirm your email, you know the drill.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll choose your account type.
Next, you’ll dive into the meat of the signup process, sharing your address, SSN, and proof of identity. If you feel like BlockFi might be overstepping, don’t worry — this is all standard, federally-required stuff to prevent fraud.
BlockFi’s colloquial tone is a nice touch:
Once you submit everything, BlockFi will take a day or two to verify your account.
Once that’s done, all that’s left is to move your crypto into a BlockFi Interest Account (BIA) and you’ll immediately and automatically start earning interest. You can even get a preview of how much interest you’ll earn by playing with the BlockFi interest calculator:
How Much Does BlockFi Cost?
True to their mission of “redefining banking,” BlockFi doesn’t intend to pepper its clients with hidden fees for every little action. Most of their fees are front-and-center on their fees page, with one minor exception that I’ll get to.
In terms of transparent fees, BlockFi charges fees for withdrawing from your BlockFi Interest Account. Here’s the current fee schedule for withdrawals.
For small-volume investors, these can be pretty steep fees, so you may not want to consider a BlockFi Interest Account if you think you’ll need to make more than one withdrawal monthly.
Why such high fees? Well, BlockFi charges high withdrawal penalties for the same reason the Fed punishes you for touching your 401(k) before retirement: Both institutions want you to leave your money alone.
The less often clients touch their money, the more effectively BlockFi can invest it — and more effective investing leads to higher BlockFi interest rates for everyone.
This isn’t a “fee” per se, but BlockFi states that withdrawals under 0.003 BTC and 0.056 ETH may take up to 30 days to process.
Lastly, BlockFi charges loan-related fees. Their current loan-related fee schedule can be found here under ‘Crypto-Backed Loan Rates.’ LTV is your loan-to-value ratio, meaning your collateral divided by your loan amount.
BlockFi’s “Hidden” Fee
Now, the only “hidden” fee I could find is BlockFi’s trading fee. Technically speaking, BlockFi doesn’t charge a flat fee for trading crypto on its platform like other exchanges do.
They do, however, bake a fee of sorts into the trading price itself.
Why the difference? Well, since the price of crypto is so volatile, BlockFi is taking on risk just in the 60 seconds it takes to facilitate the transaction. So to compensate for that risk, they add up to 1% on top of the market value and call the total price their “buying price.”
To be fair, BlockFi explains all this in an FAQ on their site. But many users still felt bamboozled when they realized they were paying up to 1% extra on every trade.
So while the “buying price” may be justified, BlockFi could almost certainly be more transparent about it. The fact that they claim “no hidden fees” on their homepage, but don’t directly address the whole “buying price” thing on their Trading Accounts page, feels a little disingenuous and oddly off-brand for such a transparent company.
But overall, BlockFi’s fees are well worth the services they offer.
BlockFi offers a compelling menu of features and services to crypto investors, ranging from crazy-high-yield interest accounts to low-interest loans. Let’s dive into each one.
BlockFi Interest Accounts
As you’ve probably surmised, BlockFi’s pièce de résistance is that high-yield BlockFi Interest Account (BIA).
While traditional banks struggle to offer more than 0.50% APY on interest-bearing accounts like savings and MMAs, BlockFi offers up to 7.5%. That’s truly insane — are there any caveats? (aside from the fact that these accounts aren’t available to Americans).
Well, their highest interest rates only apply to deposits of “stablecoins” like USDC and USDT. For the uninitiated, a stablecoin is a crypto-based currency that has a value that is tied to a real-world asset, like USD and gold. As the name implies, stablecoins are specifically designed not to appreciate or fluctuate like traditional cryptos, so their upside potential is extremely limited.
Thankfully, BlockFi interest rates on traditional cryptos are still dang high: up to 3.5% on BTC and ETH.
Of course, BlockFi interest rates may change over time, but the takeaway remains the same. With interest rates so much higher than traditional savings accounts, a BlockFi Interest Account is practically a no-brainer for anyone with a pile of crypto they don’t touch more than once a month.
BlockFi lets you take out a personal loan in USD, putting up your crypto as collateral. The minimum loan amount is $10,000 with LTV (loan-to-value) ratios ranging from 20% to 50%.
Your LTV ratio is the amount of your loan divided by the market value of your collateral. So for example, let’s say you want to borrow $10,000, and ideally, score BlockFi’s lowest interest rate of 4.5%. You’d have to achieve an LTV of 20%, meaning you’d have to have a $10,000 loan amount / $50,000 worth of crypto = 20% LTV.
Now, since BTC, LTC, and ETH aren’t stable forms of collateral, your LTV can fluctuate all over the place throughout the course of your loan. This may result in a change to your interest rate or even a cancellation of your loan.
Given the volatile LTVs, high origination fees, and ho-hum interest rates, you might find a better deal on a personal loan with a more traditional lender — especially if your credit score is above 700.
Read more: The Best Personal Loans Compared
The BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card
BlockFi puts a crypto spin on virtually every service offered by a traditional bank, and its credit card is no different. The BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card is a widely accepted Visa® that offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases…in crypto.
At first, receiving your 1.5% cash back in crypto instead of USD may seem like little more than a gimmick. After all, you can always just go buy crypto with cash.
But having your credit card automatically generate free crypto for you is a bigger deal than it initially seems for two reasons:
- It’s convenient. You’ll never have to remember to buy during the dip since you’ll be “buying” a little Bitcoin every day. No more crypto FOMO.
- It’s cost effective. Earning crypto through a credit card is one of the few ways to earn crypto without paying trade fees or commissions. It’s like mining for people who can’t afford (or find) a high-powered graphics card.
After making $30,000 worth of purchases with the card the rate will increase to 2% back in crypto on every purchase until the card anniversary date. The card has no annual fee and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees either.
My Experience Researching BlockFi
For years, crypto investors faced a tough daily choice: hold or sell. Holding didn’t generate income, but selling at the wrong time could induce fees, taxes, and FOMO. Staking recently became an option, but staked ETH is untouchable for a set period of time (like a CD).
That’s why I’m glad BlockFi introduced a compelling alternative to holding or selling: saving. Having an interest-bearing account option is a huge win for the crypto community, generating income, stability, and peace of mind for long-term investors. At least, long-term investors based outside the U.S.
But while BlockFi supports this pillar of the crypto community, it undermines another.
BlockFi has a bullish, often cringey “crypto bro” vibe to its website. For example, the company waxes lyrical about Bitcoin’s 230% annualized return in 2020 while never addressing the significant risks of crypto investing.
To me, this is a baffling direction for their site copy because the crypto community is trying to move away from this “crypto bro” culture. Crypto’s reputation for being dominated by young, cocksure white men isn’t just exclusive; it’s bad for business.
Plus, after naive investors lost $1.7 billion on Bitcoin in 2018, other big platforms like Coinbase have massively ramped up their learning centers to educate the public on the upsides and the risks of crypto.
It would be refreshing, then, to see BlockFi doing more to support the crypto community on both fronts: inclusion and education.
Who Is BlockFi Best For?
All things considered, who is the ideal BlockFi client?
Long-Term Investors Located Outside the U.S.
If you’re not American, and your crypto holdings are just sitting around, putting them to work for you in a BlockFi Interest Account is practically a no-brainer.
Unlike a traditional savings or money market account, the current interest rates compete with the rate of inflation and are enough to generate several hundred bucks a year in extra income.
Similarly, if you’re new to crypto, you’d be better off not day trading and instead letting your initial investment mature over time while you continue to learn the ropes.
A BlockFi Interest Account is an ideal destination for a beginner’s crypto investment, then, since it’ll incentivize you to hold the line while generating passive income.
Who Shouldn’t Use BlockFi?
While BlockFi’s services are undeniably compelling, they’re still not for everyone. Who is not the ideal BlockFi client?
Crypto Day Traders
When you compare BlockFi’s 3.5% APY (on BTC) to the measly 0.50% you’d get from a regular savings account, the choice is abundantly clear. But to a successful crypto day trader, 3.5% in a year probably doesn’t compare to what they can make in a week, or even a day.
If you’re already seeing big gains from actively managing your crypto portfolio, you probably won’t be too keen on locking up your crypto in an account that charges fees for withdrawals — even for 3.5% interest.
In a more general sense, if you’re a low to medium-risk investor looking for the right time to dabble in crypto, that time still hasn’t come. BlockFi interest rates are generous for sure, but they’re not enough to lessen the ultra-high risk of a cryptocurrency investment.
BlockFi vs. Competitors
Here’s how BlockFi compares to two other popular crypto exchanges:
BlockFi Crypto.com Gemini
Account types Trading, credit, loan, interest bearing Buy/sell, trading, futures/derivatives, lending, NFTs, interest bearing Trading, interest bearing
Cryptocurrency options 15 250+ 100+
Trading fees Up to 1% Up to 0.4% Up to 3.99%
Max APY 7.5% 14.5% (requires holding CRO tokens) 8.05%
Standout feature Earn interest on any supported crypto Very low fees Best-in-class security
BlockFi vs. Crypto.com
Crypto.com is a massive global crypto exchange that offers access to over 250 cryptocurrencies for trading, as well as a host of appealing features, including crypto interest accounts that pay up to 14.5%, crypto credit lines for borrowing against crypto assets, and even an NFT marketplace. Compared to BlockFi, Crypto.com offers way more features, but also adds a layer of complexity to the user interface.
Crypto.com offers higher interest rates on deposited crypto, but also requires holding a massive amount of its native token (CRO) to earn those rates. BlockFi doesn’t require holding any other crypto to earn interest, but restricts its interest-bearing accounts to non-U.S. investors only.
Crypto.com is an all-in-one platform designed for active crypto traders and heavy crypto users that want to do more with their crypto. BlockFi, on the other hand, is a well-designed app ideal for beginner investors that only need access to Bitcoin and a handful of other popular cryptocurrencies.
BlockFi vs. Gemini
Gemini is a reputable U.S.-based crypto exchange that offers access to a wide variety of cryptocurrencies and the ability to earn interest on a number of them. The Gemini Earn platform offers up to 8.05% APY on deposited crypto, and there are no lockup periods.
Both Gemini and BlockFi are designed for beginners, with super-simple mobile apps and easy-to-use trading interfaces. Gemini supports over 50 cryptocurrencies that offer interest, while BlockFi supports 15 cryptos on its platform. Gemini and BlockFi both offer up to 7 to 8.05% interest on certain crypto, but BlockFi does not allow investors in the U.S. to participate in its interest-bearing products, while Gemini Earn is open to all users.
Both Gemini and BlockFi offer secure platforms, but Gemini offers hot wallet insurance, and world-class custodial services for security-conscious investors. Overall, Gemini offers more options for U.S. investors, while BlockFi offers a simplified trading experience for users.
BlockFi is an excellent place for new and experienced crypto investors to stash their crypto and generate interest. Rates as high as 3.5% for non-stablecoins are impossible to ignore, as is the BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card, which offers 1.5% cash back in crypto.
Anyone HODLing the line for the long haul would be wise to keep their crypto in a BlockFi Interest Account. That way, like stocks and real estate, crypto can finally generate passive income.BlockFi Interest Account (BIA) Disclosure - BlockFI Interest Account (BIA) are no longer offered to new clients who are U.S. Persons or persons located in the United States. Existing clients that are U.S. persons or located in the United States will be unable to transfer new assets to their BIAs. “ The BIAs have not been registered under the Securities Act of 1933 and may not be offered or sold in the United States, to U.S. persons, for the account or benefit of a U.S. person or in any jurisdiction in which such offer would be prohibited.