ZenGo review: Is the clever crypto wallet app truly right for everyone?
Rating as of based on a review of services April 19, 2022.
ZenGo is a crypto wallet/marketplace rolled into one that replaces private keys with facial recognition – a move that massively improves both security and convenience. Toss in 24/7 customer service, a crisp UI, and the ability to lend/stake for up to 8% APY, and you have a superb wallet option that’ll delight crypto investors of all experience levels.
- Buy from your wallet
- No private keys
If there ever was an aspect of cryptocurrency tech that could use a little innovation, it would be private keys.
For the uninitiated, your private key is a long, automatically generated passcode that you use to access your crypto and NFTs.
Since private keys are easy to steal online, many investors choose to store them offline in a “cold wallet” like a hard drive or a piece of paper. But a physical cold wallet can get stolen too, or end up in a landfill locking you out of your $500 million bitcoin fortune.
That’s why the value proposition of ZenGo is so refreshing.
A small team in Israel has designed a crypto wallet that not only streamlines the process and improves security – it eliminates the need for private keys altogether.
What is ZenGo?
ZenGo is a crypto wallet that aims to eliminate all of the headaches and shortcomings that come with traditional digital wallet usage.
Founded in Tel Aviv in 2018, ZenGo’s most clever innovation so far has been to eliminate private keys in favor of facial recognition. This subtle-yet-brilliant move massively improves both security and convenience at the same time.
That being said, every time I vet a crypto-based startup I always ask myself:
- Is this just another faceless fintech aiming to make a quick buck, or
- Is this company genuinely trying to move the needle forward and fulfill Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision of decentralized finance?
Well, judging by the impassioned language on their mission page, ZenGo blessedly falls into the latter category. The leadership team seems to truly believe in a “borderless economy” and the power of a decentralized global financial system. A safer, cheaper, and more convenient wallet is their contribution to that vision.
How does ZenGo work?
Credit where credit’s due, for a wallet app to maintain a high rating like that is one helluva feat. I’ve seen crypto apps that clearly paid for hundreds of fake 5-star ratings and still couldn’t maintain 4+ stars.
That’s because crypto wallet users are about as forgiving as Russian Olympic figure skating coaches, and I completely understand why. Broken wallets create headaches and lose money. So for ZenGo to maintain 4.6 stars is a good sign.
Anyways, once you download the app and open it, you’ll eventually land on a screen that asks you to enable biometrics on your phone (read: register yo’ face).
Once you’ve enabled facial recognition in your phone’s security settings, ZenGo will allow you to progress to the main screen.
The first thing you’ll notice is that you can claim $10 in free BTC for making a $200+ purchase. Nice. You can also import crypto from another wallet or exchange, and finally, start exploring the app at your own pace.
Tapping the third option, you’ll land here:
BTC, ETH, and USDC auto-populate in your wallet, but you can manually add assets in the top right:
Back in your Wallet, you’ll quickly notice one of ZenGo’s more surprising features: the ability to buy from within the app itself: Tap “Buy” underneath the crypto you want and you’ll be brought to a crisp, clean Buy screen where you can view your Receive address, the amount of the crypto you have in your Wallet currently, the Market Price at the moment, and of course, the Buy button.
Finally, under Actions, you can see everything else that ZenGo will let you do with that specific crypto:
Interestingly, ZenGo doesn’t market itself as a crypto marketplace with a wallet attached – but rather – a wallet with the ability to buy, sell, and trade from within.
I suppose they focus on the wallet aspect because crypto marketplaces are a dime a dozen these days, but ZenGo’s wallet functionality is truly game-changing.
More on that in a bit. How much does all this innovation cost?
How much does ZenGo cost?
Unlike some of its competitors, ZenGo is refreshingly transparent about its fees.
Well, as transparent as a crypto wallet/exchange can be.
See, most of the fees associated with brokering crypto are in constant flux, out of the platform’s control, dependent on the specific crypto, or a messy mix of all three.
Therefore, when asked about their fees, a lot of crypto marketplaces simply shrug and say “it depends” – which is a frustratingly aloof approach when you’re trying to plan trades and crunch numbers.
That’s why ZenGo gets kudos for at least trying to lay it all out. Check out their most up-to-date info on their fee and limits page.
Now that we have some idea of what ZenGo’s fees are, how do they stack up?
Well, 1.99% on purchases using a bank account is pretty high – as is the $125 purchase minimum. So considering the fee to receive crypto is 0%, you might be better off buying your crypto on a platform with lower fees and sending it to your ZenGo wallet.
Still, the convenience of buying and selling directly from within your wallet – and the transparency surrounding the fees – are both a nice touch.
Features of ZenGo
Purchase crypto directly from the wallet
As mentioned, ZenGo lets you purchase crypto directly from your crypto wallet.
To anyone less familiar with crypto, this may seem like a no-brainer feature to include, but it’s surprisingly absent from most crypto wallets. Instead, the wallets serve merely as a receptacle; you have to buy your crypto elsewhere and send it to your wallet where it’s safe behind your private keys.
Now, it’s worth repeating that buying crypto straight from ZenGo may be convenient, but it’s not the cheapest method. There’s a 1.99% base processing fee plus spread/network fees and a $125 minimum purchase amount – so it makes more sense to buy your crypto elsewhere and send it to your ZenGo wallet address.
But if you prefer the one-tap convenience of buying within the app, the option is there for you!
Keyless Wallet™ (with facial biometrics)
Now, onto the real juicy stuff.
ZenGo’s chief innovation is that it secures your wallet using biometrics – not private keys. This not only lends convenience (no need to remember passcodes or secret phrases), it also eliminates having a single point of failure for hackers to exploit.
Instead of a single private key, ZenGo uses a double-encryption method where their servers and your phone each store a separate “secret share.” If one gets exposed, it’s worthless without its sibling. You can think of it like having two keys at opposite ends of the nuclear submarine.
Now, to log in to ZenGo, you only need to show your face. That makes ZenGo more like a cold wallet than a hot wallet in spirit; in order to access your funds, a bad guy would have to be in the same physical location as you.
On the topic of innovation, ZenGo has also thought up a clever way to ensure you can access your funds even if the company goes under.
That’s a big deal, since any long-term HODLers reading this know that the collapse of a marketplace is a bigger threat to your crypto savings than it should be.
Anyways, their solution is incredibly complex – and the bottom line is this: your long-term HODLings are safe here.
Excellent customer support
ZenGo calls their own customer support team “Legendary.”
Everything ZenGo has touted about themselves has proven true so far, so I headed into the Help Center with high hopes.
Thankfully, I truly was impressed with how quickly – and accurately – their 24/7 chat line addressed my inquiries. I tried to stump Felipe with some humdingers, but he nailed each response within two minutes:
It’s impressive enough that a mobile crypto wallet even has a customer service line – and the fact that a human responded within two minutes is doubly impressive. Experiences may vary, but I sense that you’ll be in good hands with ZenGo.
ZenGo Savings (i.e. staking/lending)
ZenGo lets you generate up to 8% APY by either staking or lending your crypto.
The current rates for lending are as follows:
- Bitcoin (BTC): 5% APY*.
- Ethereum (ETH): 4% APY.
- Link (LINK): 4% APY.
- Dai (DAI): 8% APY.
- Tether (USDT): 8% APY.
- TrueUSD (TUSD): 8% APY.
- USD Coin (USDC): 8% APY.
- Nexo Token (NEXO): 7% APY.
The cool thing about staking/lending is that it a) pays higher than a traditional savings account and b) your funds remain liquid, unlike a CD. As long as you commit to the initial 33 days, you can pull your crypto whenever you need it.
The drawback here is that the SEC is cracking down hard on crypto lending. They’re suing BlockFi for $100 million, and who’s to say they won’t target Nexo (ZenGo’s third party lending partner) next.
I’m not saying your crypto would disappear overnight, but do keep an eye on the regulatory landscape if you choose to lend your crypto.
My personal take on ZenGo
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and typically when I review a crypto wallet or service there’s something fatal in the overall package. Unclear leadership, greedy fees, or inaccessible customer support are the most common culprits.
But despite my best efforts, I really can’t find a chink in ZenGo’s armor. ZenGo hasn’t just covered all the bases; they’ve pushed the envelope. I’m genuinely impressed by their clever approach to private keys, which make life so much easier for wallet-holders (as well as helping us sleep at night).
In short, I can see why the company maintains a 4.6-star rating on both the App and Play stores, and have very little critical to say about it.
Who should use ZenGo?
With ample security, instant login, the ability to buy from within the app, and excellent customer support, there’s no better one-stop-shop for a crypto greenhorn.
Anyone buying, selling, or trading crypto on a daily basis will appreciate how ZenGo eliminates the need to move funds between your marketplace and your wallet – by rolling them into one product.
Who shouldn’t use ZenGo?
Advanced, high-volume traders
Experienced crypto HODLers – the ones who prefer buying large amounts at low fees and storing them in a cold wallet – won’t find much to chew on with ZenGo. To grizzled veterans, the platform’s conveniences may simply feel like limitations, and they’d rather stick to their advanced trading techniques.
Anyone who doesn’t want to share their biometric data
There’s no getting around it; using ZenGo requires you to share your facial recognition data with an overseas for-profit company. If that leaves a weird taste in your mouth, you might prefer to stick with the relative anonymity of using private keys.
Pros & cons
- Easy login — No more passwords or secret phrases - ZenGo lets you instantly log in with your face.
- Innovative security — ZenGo’s clever Keyless Wallet™ and Chill Storage™ techniques create impassable gaps for hackers - and even ensure your funds remain accessible if ZenGo goes under.
- Impressive customer service — Experiences may vary, but I was able to reach a human and get two difficult questions answered within five minutes.
- Transparent fees — ZenGo’s fees may be lengthy and convoluted, but at least they’re visible!
- Staking/lending options — ZenGo allows for both the lending and staking of a limited selection of crypto for up to 8% APY.
- Nice coin variety — ZenGo supports 75 cryptos, roughly half of which you can buy directly from the app.
- High fees and purchase minimum — Purchasing crypto directly from your ZenGo wallet incurs higher-than-average fees (1.99% to 5.99% plus spread and network fees) plus requires a $125 purchase minimum.
- Ho-hum signup bonus — ZenGo will give you $10 worth of BTC for buying $200. A 5% bonus is nice, but competitors offer more.
- Doesn’t interface with cold wallets — Should you decide to export your private keys to a physical storage medium, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way since ZenGo doesn’t directly interface with any third-party cold storage apps.
ZenGo vs. the competition
|Unique features||No need for private keys - log in using facial recognition||Coinbase Learn lets you earn free crypto for watching short videos/taking quizzes||Copy Trading lets you automatically copy the trades of your favorite crypto influencers on the platform|
|Purchasing fee||1.99%||$0.99 to $2.99 flat fee + 1.49% of the purchase amount||0.75% to 4.5% depending on the asset|
|Security||Keyless Wallet™, Chill Storage™, regular security audits, etc.||2FA, AES-256 encryption, offline cold storage, crime insurance, etc.||2FA, hot and cold storage, 24/7 SOC team monitoring, etc.
For years, Coinbase has been the Ellis Island for anyone entering the crypto world. With an intuitive UI, easy monitoring tools, a wide variety of cryptos, and the longevity/security of a publicly-traded company, Coinbase has a lot to offer newbies – and plenty of incentives to keep them around.
Coinbase’s standout feature is Coinbase Learn, where you can earn free crypto just for learning about crypto. The rate is impressive, too; I earned about $1 worth of XLM for every minute of learning.
eToro U.S. is secretly a “lite” version of eToro global that’s slowly fleshing itself out as it overcomes regulatory hurdles. Even in the meantime, the streamlined version has plenty to offer.
eToro is best considered the “social” crypto investing destination. You can follow and comment on other traders’ walls and automatically copy their trading activity using Copy Trader. That makes eToro ideal for passive investors who still want to stay connected.
As a piece of fintech, ZenGo doesn’t just innovate upon what’s broken; it masters the essentials. Quite frankly, fixing the issues surrounding private keys would be enough – but then they had to add in 24/7 customer support, an effortless UI, and the ability to trade, stake, and lend from within the app.
While its high trade fees and limited selection of “just” 75 cryptos may turn off some advanced traders, everyone else will be happy with everything that ZenGo has to offer.
For everything you need to know about investing in crypto, check out How to invest in cryptocurrency: A beginner’s guide.
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