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Until recently cryptocurrency investors had few or no options for earning a return on their crypto holdings or using them to access cash. But BlockFi is one cryptocurrency platform that’s been working hard to change that.
BlockFi offers up to 8.25% interest on your crypto assets by lending them out to institutional borrowers. And you can borrow cash against your crypto with same-day funding and no prepayment penalties.
Is BlockFi a viable alternative to more traditional financing options like high-yield savings accounts or personal loans? In this BlockFi review, we cover all the key benefits, costs and risks to help you decide.
What Is BlockFi?
Founded in 2017 by Zac Prince and Flori Marquez, BlockFi is a U.S. domiciled cryptocurrency platform. That’s a rarity as many of the leading cryptocurrency sites are based overseas where they don’t have to contend with oversight and regulations at both the state and federal levels.
BlockFi specializes in offering crypto interest accounts and crypto-backed loans. And its model has been incredibly successful at attracting both clients and venture capital funding. It now manages over $15 billion in client assets and has generated over $200 million in interest for those clients.
BlockFi’s impressive list of corporate backers includes leading companies such as Valar Ventures, Morgan Creek Capital, CMT Digital, Castle Island Ventures and Coinbase Ventures. In its most recent financing round (Series D), BlockFi received over $350 million of funding at a $3 billion valuation.
If you’re considering opening an account with BlockFi, here are the platform’s most notable products and terms that you should know about.
BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIA)
With a BlockFi Interest Account (BIA), you earn up to 8.25% APY interest (as of October 1, 2021) on over 10 cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. Here is the full list of currencies on which BlockFi currently pays interest:
|Bitcoin (BTC)||Up to 4.5%|
|Ethereum (ETH)||Up to 5%|
|Litecoin (LTC)||Up to 4.75%|
|Chainlink (LINK)||Up to 3.5%|
|USD Coin (USDC)||Up to 8.25%|
|Gemini Dollar (GUSD)||Up to 8.25%|
|Paxos Standard (PAX)||Up to 8.25%|
|Paxos Gold (PAXG)||Up to 3.25%|
|Tether (USDT)||Up to 8.25%|
|Binance USD (BUSD)||Up to 8.25%|
|Dai (DAI)||Up to 8.25%|
|Uniswap (UNI)||Up to 3.25%|
|Basic Attention Token (BAT)||Up to 3.25%|
The rates listed above are accurate as of October 1, 2021, but could change at any time based on market dynamics. But BlockFi’s BIA product is not presently available in the states of New York or Kentucky.
The specific yield that you receive for your crypto or stablecoin BIA holdings is determined by BlockFi’s interest rate tiers. For example, if you hold 1 BTC, you earn the maximum 4.5% APY on only the first 0.10 BTC. You earn 1.0% APY on the next 0.10–0.35 BTC. And you earn just 0.1% APY on any remaining BTC.
You accumulate interest inside your BIA on a daily basis. But payouts are made monthly on the last day of the month. You can receive your payout in any of BlockFi’s offered currencies, not just the currency(ies) that you hold.
Do you need cash to cover a large purchase or investment? If you don’t have a high income or excellent credit score, it can be difficult to qualify for traditional financing. If you own cryptocurrency, you could sell it to convert it to cash. But this isn’t ideal either as you forfeit the potential to earn any future returns on your assets once they’re sold.
With BlockFi, however, you can use the crypto that you hold as collateral to borrow up to 50% of its value as cash. Interest rates start at 4.5%. Each loan lasts 12 months with no prepayment penalty. And you can apply for refinancing at the end of your term to move back your payoff date.
Applying for a BlockFi crypto-backed loan takes only about two minutes and the funds can arrive in your bank account in as little as 90 minutes. BlockFi charges a 2% origination fee on all of its loans. But the interest rate that you’re charged depends on your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Here are the current rates:
|Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio||Interest Rate|
Note that if the cryptocurrencies you hold decrease in value, you could face a margin call on your loan. The first margin call would occur at 70% LTV, at which point, BlockFI gives you 72 hours to add collateral or pay down some of your balance. However, if your LTV reaches 80%, BlockFi will begin selling some of your assets to bring your LTV back to 70%.
Easy-to-use Trading Platform
Some platforms require you to purchase your crypto on a separate exchange and then transfer it into your crypto savings account. And you can certainly do this with BlockFi as well. But you don’t have to. It’s easy to buy, sell or exchange cryptocurrencies on BlockFi.
There aren’t nearly as many cryptocurrency pairs available on BlockFi as you can find on some other exchanges. And it doesn’t provide any advanced trading tools. But you immediately begin earning interest on your assets after you buy them. And this is a benefit that most exchanges can’t match. Also there is an option to set up recurring trades on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
BlockFi also advertises that its trading platform is “fee free.” But while there are no direct fees, you still pay indirect costs in the form of the spread. And BlockFi says that spread is typically around 1%, which is much larger than you’d pay in direct fees on a variety of platforms including Coinbase Pro, Gemini, Kraken and Crypto.com.
Strong Security but No FDIC or SIPC Insurance
BlockFi’s relationship with security is a bit complicated. On the one hand, the fact that it’s licensed and regulated throughout the U.S. is reassuring. It also uses strong encryption and offers a variety of tools to keep your account safe including two-factor authentication and allowlisting.
But on the other hand, BlockFi doesn’t just store its clients’ assets. It lends a large portion of them out to institutions and corporations. So even though it uses as its primary custodian, Gemini (which has strong security measures and provides custody insurance), only BlockFi’s “reserves” are actually stored on Gemini’s servers. This means that you should consider whether its lending model is sustainable. The good news is that so far it has been. As of March 31, 2021, none of its borrowers were showing any signs of default.
It’s important to understand that cryptocurrency is not legal tender. That means BlockFi can’t offer the same FDIC insurance that comes with a high-yield savings account at a bank. And there’s no SIPC insurance to protect you if BlockFi fails as a business.
Finally, on July 19, 2021, BlockFi received a Cease and Desist Notice (PDF) from the New Jersey Bureau of Securities stating BIAs are unregistered securities under New Jersey law. Over 20 states have since joined New Jersey in scrutinizing BlockFi’s practices.
BlockFi contends that its BIAs are not securities and it plans to engage in discussions with state regulators. However, this is a developing legal situation that both existing and potential clients should monitor.
Credit Card That Earns Bitcoin Rewards (Just Launched)
You’ve heard of cashback credit cards. But you’ve probably never heard of a “bitcoin back” credit card. But that’s exactly what BlockFi now offers its clients.
The BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card earns 1.5% back in bitcoin (BTC) on every purchase that’s made with the card and 2.5% after you’ve reached $50,000 in annual spending.
And new cardholders earn 3.5% in BTC during their first three months using the card. Plus, the BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
Exclusive Products for Institutions
If your corporation or institution is looking to gain access to digital markets, BlockFi can help. It provides loans of cryptocurrency, stablecoins and USD to institutions.
It also offers treasury solutions for corporations that want to use cryptocurrencies as reserve assets. And institutional investors can take advantage of BlockFi Prime, which is an advanced trading platform available 24/7 around the globe.
BlockFi Pricing and Fees
BlockFi does not charge any deposit fees, regardless of the method that you choose. However, it allows only one free crypto or stablecoin withdrawal per month. If you need to make withdrawals more often than that you’ll be charged a fee that varies by currency. With bitcoin, for instance, the fee is 0.00075 BTC (about US$43 as of this writing).
There are also withdrawal limits for each of BlockFi’s offered currencies. For example, you can’t withdraw more than 5,000 ethereum (ETH) within a 7-day period. See all withdrawal limits and fees here.
BlockFi doesn’t charge direct trade fees. Instead, it passes costs along to traders through the spread. This spread can vary from trade to trade.
BlockFi says that this spread is usually around 1% but could be higher if the asset’s liquidity is low. And borrowers pay a 2% origination fee (taken out after the loan is paid in full) in addition to their loans’ interest charges. This makes it difficult to compare BlockFi’s buying and selling fees to other exchanges.
Lastly, if you opt in to the “Interest Flex Payment” features, you’ll be charged a 1% administrative fee. This feature allows you to choose the currency that your interest payments are made in. This 1% fee will be deducted from your monthly interest payouts.
How to Open an Account With BlockFi
In our test, it took only about five minutes to open an account with BlockFi. You begin by providing your name and email address. After you’ve verified your email, you can start the full application process.
Note that you will be asked to provide several pieces of personal information, including your Social Security number, address and phone number. You also need to verify your identity by entering a code sent by SMS to your mobile device. However, in my case, BlockFi didn’t require me to upload a photo ID.
Once you’ve verified your identity, you can immediately connect to your bank account or exchange to fund your account with cash or crypto. Or if you’re not ready to add funds, you can skip this final step and begin browsing your account’s dashboard and available tools.
In addition to its help center, BlockFi offers an AI-powered smart assistant (called BotFi) that is designed to help clients find answers to common questions in minutes. It also offers a contact form for existing loan borrowers to submit a request for assistance.
BlockFi doesn’t publish its customer service phone number publicly. But once you’ve funded your account, you’ll find it inside your account dashboard. BlockFi’s phone representatives are available Monday through Friday, 9.30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time.
During my test of BlockFi, I was pleased to find that I was able to open my account quickly and with no issues. I also was impressed with the simplicity of the user interface. The clean, uncluttered design makes it easy to find each of the platform’s key functions.
I wasn’t surprised to find that BlockFi’s trading options (for individual accounts) are basic. While it does offer the ability to set up recurring trades, that’s where the extra features end. You need to look elsewhere if you want a trading platform that offers advanced charting and technical analysis tools.
What Others Are Saying About BlockFi
BlockFi currently has a 3.9-out-of-5 rating on Trustpilot from 215 reviews. The BlockFi mobile app has a 3.3-star rating on the Apple App store and 3.4 stars on the Google Play store.
Several satisfied customers mentioned the simplicity of the platform. However, several negative reviews mention that the mobile app would often log them out of their account after a few hours. Others complained about slower-than-expected withdrawal times.
BlockFi is not currently accredited or rated with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). However, it is currently in the process of responding to complaints that were posted on the platform.
BlockFi Pros and Cons
Licensed and regulated in the U.S. — Many cryptocurrency exchanges are based outside the U.S., but BlockFi is headquartered in Jersey City, NJ, and has willingly subjected itself to the oversight of federal and state regulatory bodies.
Attractive interest rates on crypto savings — BlockFi’s interest rates are not the highest that you can find in the crypto savings account industry, but they are much higher than are typically offered on standard or even high-yield bank savings accounts.
Reasonable interest rates on crypto-backed loans — Despite not requiring a credit check, BlockFi’s loan interest rates start at just 4.5%.
New “bitcoin back” credit card — BlockFi’s rewards card earns an unlimited 1.5% back in bitcoin on all purchases.
Financial backing from industry leaders — BlockFi is backed by an extensive list of institutional investors including some of the most well-known names in the cryptocurrency industry.
Customizable services for institutions — BlockFi offers a variety of unique financial solutions for corporations, from cryptocurrency trusts to 24/7 trading and personalized lending options.
Zero-trust security mindset — As it implements its security policies, BlockFi plans for the worst-case scenarios so that it can provide the strongest encryption and best account protection tools to its clients.
Limited number of supported coins — BlockFi offers only 13 cryptocurrencies and stablecoins, which is fewer than many of its competitors.
No federally backed insurance protection — BlockFi isn’t a bank or a broker and assets inside its BIAs are not protected by FDIC or SIPC insurance.
Opaque pricing structure for crypto trades — BlockFi fees are based on a spread, which can vary by trade so it’s confusing to know exactly what the fees are.
Withdrawal fees may apply — BlockFi clients are limited to one free crypto or stablecoin withdrawal per month. After that, you pay a withdrawal fee.
Ongoing legal crackdowns — It’s too early to predict how things will proceed, but the recent allegations from 20-plus (and counting) state securities boards are concerning and something that investors will want to keep an eye on over the coming weeks and months.
Alternatives to BlockFi
BlockFi clients earn daily interest on their crypto assets, but they have to wait till the end of each month to receive their interest payouts. Not so with Nexo. It sends crypto interest on a daily basis.
Currently, Nexo users can earn up to 12% interest on 20 currencies. It also offers $375 million of custodial insurance and is available in over 200 jurisdictions.
Like BlockFi, Nexo offers only one free crypto withdrawal per month on its Basic account. However, clients can move up to higher loyalty tiers (Silver, Gold and Platinum) to have more free withdrawals up to a maximum of five per month.
If you want the assurance that you’ll always be able to withdraw your crypto free, you may want to open a crypto savings account with Celsius. It never charges withdrawal fees. It also doesn’t charge origination fees or early termination fees on its crypto-backed loans.
Celsius clients are currently able to earn interest on over 30 cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. And the highest yield that it offers is an eye-popping 17%.
Is BlockFi Right for You?
If you’re looking for a low-cost crypto platform that pays solid interest on a few cryptocurrencies and stablecoins, BlockFi could be a great choice. It could also be worth considering if you’d like to get cash from your crypto assets without having to sell them.
However, if you want the best trading tools or the most supported currencies, you may want to consider a different platform. You can check out our cryptocurrency investing guide to see a few more of the exchanges that we recommend right now.