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Getting into cryptocurrencies: what options do UK consumers have left?

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With big names like Binance recently coming under increasing UK regulatory scrutiny, and even suspending GBP withdrawal services, what reliable options do UK consumers have left for accessing – and cashing out on – their crypto?

Crypto regulation can differ a lot by jurisdiction; not every crypto service will be open to UK residents and, of those that are, not all will have the same levels of provision in place when it comes to regulatory compliance. That might leave you wondering, how best to get into crypto if I’m in the UK? This guide will address that question specifically from the UK consumer perspective.

Zumo

Zumo is a UK-based crypto wallet and payments platform that allows UK users to hold, trade and send cryptoassets alongside pound sterling in an easy-to-use mobile app.

From a UK user perspective, one of the challenges with crypto can be finding a reliable way to deposit – and withdraw – your British pounds. Because Zumo is a UK Financial Conduct Authority registered crypto business partnered with a UK FCA regulated electronic money institution, UK consumers have more assurance that they will have a reliable way of getting their pounds in and out. With Zumo, users enjoy the advantage of depositing and withdrawing their British pounds free of charge – without the same worry that those services might be suspended or shut down.

Zumo also has the handy added feature of a linked debit card, which means you can choose to sell your cryptos into pounds in-app, and then spend those pounds anywhere that accepts Visa. The card comes in two versions: a virtual card, which can be used anywhere online, and a physical card coming later in the year that will allow you to shop in-store and withdraw from ATMs, too.

The whole ethos of the app centres around usability and providing users with an accessible way to get started with crypto. UK users will be glad to see GBP price displays, transparent fee notifications, (also displayed in pounds), and a GBP-denominated smartfolio portfolio tracker. This is in addition to further perks available exclusively for UK users, including a popular refer and share scheme and regular crypto giveaways.

Zumo has one final trick up its sleeve: as a non-custodial solution, users’ crypto assets are not stored by Zumo itself. Instead, they are held on the blockchain and users are given direct personal ownership of the private keys that control that access. Basically, you become your own bank. This differentiates it from many of the other options available to UK users, where people are trusting the platforms themselves to look after their digital assets.

The Zumo app can be downloaded for both Apple and Android devices. As an extra incentive, new UK users who download and activate the Zumo app by 26 July 2021 will be entered into a giveaway for £10,000 worth of Bitcoin SV.


Cex.io

Cex.io was established in London in 2013, making it one of the oldest currently operational crypto exchanges. Though it has since extended its operations worldwide, including to 48 US states, Cex.io continues to serve UK users with a wide range of cryptocurrency trading options for their British pound deposits.

From a UK consumer perspective, one of the positive things about Cex.io is its reliability and UK regulatory compliance. Unlike many other centralised crypto exchanges, as of the time of writing Cex.io has never been hacked, and it has also made sure to comply with legal requirements in the countries in which it operates, including FCA registration in the UK.

Like Zumo, getting your pounds in and out is free of charge – though CEX.io users need to be careful, as some withdrawal methods will charge you heavily, for instance a fee of 0.3% + £25.00 for a regular bank transfer.

If you’re keen to gain exposure to a wide range of different cryptocurrencies, UK users will be pleased to hear that CEX.io offers some 85 different digital assets, with a good range of GBP trading pairs, offering a convenient route via which to convert your pounds into crypto without having to go through an intermediate currency.

On the flip side, users may notice a decided difference in feel and usability when compared with the newer generation of crypto apps aimed at making getting into crypto as easy as possible as well as the pure technical functionality. How important this is will of course depend on your particular situation and requirements, and where you are in your crypto journey.

Finally, it pays to consider how much control over your money you want to have. With CEX.io (and any other similar ‘custodial’ solution), you trust the platform itself to protect your money. If something goes wrong with the platform, you run the risk of losing everything. This is where non-custodial solutions have the advantage: because you’re being given direct control of the private keys that control access to your money, you’re self-reliant – regardless of what happens with the platform.

eToro

eToro is a global trading platform that allows users to trade not just cryptocurrencies but a variety of other asset types including stocks and ETFs.

In recent times, eToro has expanded its cryptocurrency offering to include rapid crypto trading on the main eToro platform, an eToro Money crypto wallet, and an advanced crypto trading exchange called eToroX.

eToro’s main point of appeal for UK users will be the speed and convenience of obtaining cryptocurrencies – although this does come at the expense of increased costs and lesser security in comparison to some of the solutions on this list.

However, eToro does offer access to a good range of crypto assets (there are 120+ supported by the eToro wallet) and it may be particularly attractive to those already trading other assets on the platform. The eToro trading platform itself is regulated in the UK by the FCA, and it is registered with the FCA as a cryptoasset business. eToro has also become known as a social trading platform, where users can copy the trades of experienced traders, and this is something that may also appeal to potential crypto enthusiasts.

On the other hand, UK users should be aware that pound deposits and withdrawals are not as straightforward as the others on this list. The eToro platform trades exclusively in USD, which means that any GBP deposits or withdrawals will be subject to foreign currency conversion fees any time you want to fund or withdraw money from your account. Likewise, eToro is the only one in this list to charge an unavoidable withdrawal fee – a $5 flat fee, with a minimum withdrawal of $30.

For those interested in the linked eToro crypto wallet, it’s important to know that, once you’ve sent your assets from the exchange to your wallet, you can’t currently send them back again – to move them, you would need to transfer your crypto out into an external wallet. Also, if you’ve used PayPal, Klarna or a debit/credit card to fund your account, eToro will block you from making a wallet transfer for up to 60 days depending on the level of your account. Each transfer is manually authorised, and may take up to five business days. As a result, many users may be content sticking to the convenience of the main trading platform, though they should be aware that their funds remain unprotected.

Final thoughts

For UK users, the good news is that there are still a range of credible options out there not only to gain exposure to cryptocurrency, but also to be able to get pounds in and out of the crypto ecosystem.

Which solution you end up going for will depend on your particular requirements and priorities, whether that’s convenience of use, minimising costs or minimising your risk. Ideally, the best solutions must offer the chance for all three.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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