Buy Bitcoins with Flexpin Vouchers in Canada

Canadians have a few choices when it comes to buying bitcoins in Canada. One of the methods involves using Flexpin vouchers to exchange for bitcoins using services such as Bitaccess. Check out this post about my experience using Flexpin vouchers to buy bitcoins in Canada.

I’d say the best way for Canadians to buy bitcoins is to use QuadrigaCX, which is a cryptocurrency exchange based in Vancouver. The challenge with using QuadrigaCX is many Canadians have trouble with (and/or hate to deal with) compliance. If you want full access to QuadrigaCX deposit and withdrawal methods, then you should follow all the Canadian AML rules by verifying your account. Check out this post for my tips on how to verify your QuadrigaCX account.

Trading Bitcoin Price Spreads Bitfinex, Poloniex, QuadrigaCX

As bitcoin gains popularity, more exchanges are emerging globally, each with its own pros and cons. With so many exchanges to trade on, deciding which one is right for you will depend on your trading strategy, and one strategy I’d like to highlight is spread trading. This means profiting from the different prices for bitcoins between various exchanges. In the example below I’ll use examples for Bitfinex, Poloniex, and QuadrigaCX.  I use QuadrigaCX as an example because this is the best place for Canadians to buy and sell bitcoins, and QuadrigaCX also offers a bitcoin/US dollar pair. Also keep in mind that Bitfinex & Poloniex use USD “tether” which is a representative token and not actual US dollars.

The strategies described below are probably best done using the API from each exchange. If you are not familiar with using web APIs, then the strategies below can still be used by entering your orders manually, but you can execute orders (and manage order books) much better using a program to enter orders for you instead of entering orders manually. Here are links to web API documentation for each exchange: Bitfinex API, Poloniex API, QuadrigaCX API.

Let’s take a look at the market on each of these three exchanges to see what the current spreads are. When I refer to the “spread”, I’m referring to the difference between the bid and ask prices posted to the exchange, and then I will compare the “spread” between each exchange to see if there are any profit opportunities.

At the time of writing, here are the current markets:

Poloniex 15,529 / 15,560

Bitfinex 15,526 / 15,538

QuadrigaCX 15,505 / 15,999

The first thing we should notice as we look at these bids and offers is the markets on Bitfinex and Poloniex are much tighter than the market on QuadrigaCX. There is a small difference (a fraction of 1%) between the bids and offers on both Bitfinex and Poloniex, but a few percent difference between bids and offers on QuadrigaCX. This is where the opportunity lies. Even though QuadrigaCX is based in Canada and largely deals with Canadian payment methods, they still post a USD market, but since moving USD in and out of QuadrigaCX is much less common than Canadian dollars, their USD markets are also much more shallow.

When evaluating these markets, we should also keep trading costs in mind. Explicit trading fees are the biggest expense, the only other expense being the implied cost of carrying the float of money required to make trades. Poloniex will cost about 0.25% per transaction (depending on your volume), Bitfinex will cost 0.20%, and QuadrigaCX charges 0.50% per transaction. So in order to make a profit, we need to at least cover these trading costs.

The lowest bid based on the price quoted above is QuadrigaCX @ 15,526 and the highest offer is QuadrigaCX @ 15,999. If you bought 1 bitcoin at 15,526 and sold at 15,999, your profit before commissions would be 473 (the difference between the buy and sell). But what are the fees? 77.63 on the buy side, and 80 on the sell side for a total of 157.63. So if you can make a market with a spread of 473 and incur 157.63 of costs, then your profit will be 315.37.

Is it this simple?  Well, yes and no. In one sense, anyone is free to post markets and wait for traders to take their bid or offer. But on the other hand, the market is wide for reason. Looking at the volume of trades on the BTC/USD market on QuadrigaCX, it can sometimes take more than an hour to go by between transactions. This light liquidity is the risk that you need to take in order to get the reward.

Another way to bridge this liquidity is to post bids and offers on QuadrigaCX, recognizing that the spread is the widest on this market, and when you do get filled on one leg of the trade, you can offset your risk by taking the opposite side of the trade on a more liquid exchange (such as Poloniex and Bitfinex). For example, if we post a bid of 15,510 and an offer of 15,900 on QuadrigaCX, and the 15,510 bid gets filled, we can still work our sell order on QuadrigaCX at 15,900, while we also work duplicate orders on other exchanges. We can work OCO orders (“order cancels other”) so that when one of our sales gets filled on one exchange, we cancel the other working orders. You can see how using a computer program (a “bot”) to do this type of trading is much better than doing it manually (unless you want to stare at a trading screen all day).

The program (or trading strategy) that you use must make the necessary calculations for you, so that your program (or you) can know where to place buys and sells. If you are writing a program to do this type of trading, you need to have the program run checks and make calculations, adjust orders according to formulas. You can either set cron jobs to refresh orders and calculations on specific time intervals, or have the program place buys and sells based on other triggers, or both. Once you understand how to price these types of markets, its really up to your imagination how to let the program run your trading strategy. You can take more or less market price risk, you can tie up more or less capital, you can have the strategy take a bullish or bearish strategy, and you can use other exchanges (such as Deribit) to hedge your risk.

If you are a programmer and you know how to use JavaScript, Nodejs, python, or other such languages to build these programs, but you don’t want to risk your own capital, I am happy to put up the money in exchange for your work, please feel free to contact me on this site, I’m always looking for more competent developers.

Trade Bitcoins, Ethereum, Litecoin Online

I frequently get asked about how to trade crypto currencies. Aspiring traders see the daily swings in the bitcoin price and wonder whether they should take up trying to pick the highs and lows by trading. This post will describe some trading methods and provide you with a list of venues where you can trade.

The first thing to understand about crypto currencies such at bitcoin, ether, and litecoins, is their value is represented by their market price which is simply set by the powers of supply and demand. There is no central authority that determines their market price, so if you want to profit from the daily price swings, you’ll need to have a trading strategy that takes advantage of this volatility.

You’ll also need to choose your trading venue(s). Where you trade will be based on your trading strategy, but also on your legal/tax jurisdiction. Since you’ll need to comply with the laws of your local government, you should choose exchanges that are compliant for you. The place where you trade will be different if you’re American, Canadian, European, Japanese, etc. And sub-state governments such as provinces and states will also have their own laws. It’s common today for each US and European state to regulate bitcoin differently so do careful research to ensure you are trading in a tax compliant way.

The place(s) where you trade will also depend on your strategy. If you are arbitraging the bitcoin price between different exchanges you’ll need to hold accounts at more than one place, and also have wallets that serve as conduits/transfer nodes for cash, if you’re making your trades manually you’ll be more concerned about the trading dashboard and other human readable analytics, but if you’re using a bot to conduct your trades you’ll need the best API access with easy to use functionality.

Here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to trade on QuadrigaCX, a Canadian based bitcoin exchange. Once you open your account, you can fund it with Canadian dollars using Interac if you verify your account. You can also fund your QuadrigaCX account with bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin without verification.

Once logged into QuadrigaCX, choose the “trade” tab from the header menu near the top of the page. As the image below shows, you’ll arrive at a page that shows the current market for CAD/BTC with a simple interface you can use to buy and sell. You’ll notice the best bids are listed on the left side in green, and the best offers are listed on the right side in red. These prices are bids and offers from other users on QuadrigaCX just like yourself who are buying and selling. You might be familiar with a market like this since it operates just like a stock market such as the TSX and NASDAQ.

 

 

You’ll notice on the image above, the current market has a best bid of $9,995.01 and a best offer of $10,000.06. This means another user is willing to buy at $9,995.01 and another user is willing to sell at $10,000.06. If you’d like to make a trade right away (a market order) you can sell to the user bidding $9,995.01 and buy from the user offering $10,000.06.  Depending on your trading strategy, you might only be willing to buy at $9,500, so in this case, you can place a order at that price and join the other bids in the order book. Your order will be placed with the quantity you determine at $9,500 until the market drifts down to that level and another user chooses to sell you their bitcoins at that price. Conversely, if you’d like to sell your bitcoins, but only at $10,500, you can place this order as well.

On QuadrigaCX, limit orders placed manually on the dashboard do not have expiration dates, so all orders are essentially good till cancelled (GTC).

As you review the order book from the image above, you will also notice an “amount” beside each price listed in the order book. This is the quantity being bid or offered by all users at that price. This quantity will help you determine whether your order can be filled entirely at the posted price or whether you should choose to pay up or offer down from the best posted price.

 

 

When trading, always keep the fees in mind QuadrigaCX charges an explicit fee of 0.50% per transaction. So if you buy 1 bitcoin at $10,000 CAD, your actual cost will be $10,050. You should also pay attention to the “spread”, which is the difference between the best bids and offers. Using the example above, with a current bid of $9,995.01 and an offer of $10,000.06 the spread is $5.05 or 0.06%. The spread represents an implicit cost of trading too.

Here’s an example of an easy to implement manual trading strategy with a bullish bias. Say you have $1,000 CAD to trade with, you’ve noticed the price of bitcoin is quite volatile, so you plan to make a market on QuadrigaCX to take advantage of this volatility. You will risk 10% of your account with each trade so your unit size will be 0.01 bitcoins since the current price is $10,000.

You place an order to buy 0.01 btc @ $9,993, which is slightly below the current market price using the example image above. You place the order and wait for the market to come to you, when your order is filled, place an order that is 3% above your purchase price (9993 * 1.03 = $10,292), enter your order to sell 0.01 btc @ 10,292 and leave the order in the market.

In the meantime, if you’re still feeling bullish, place another order below the current market, and if this order is also filled, place an order 3% above your fill price. Keep doing this until you reach the maximum value of your account. As you do this, the price of bitcoin will bounce around going up and down, and your orders will fill at prices where you make a spread between your buys and sells. You profit when the price of bitcoin trades within the range of volatility your limit orders imply, and you lose when the price of bitcoins drops straight down.

This is a simple market making strategy with a bullish bias that takes advantage of the volatile price of bitcoin. You can obviously tweak your own strategy to suit your own goals. You could use technical analysis to choose your entry and exit points, etc. Its completely up to you!

Follow this link for a long list of exchanges from around the world.

QuadrigaCX Common Account Verification Questions

Opening an account at QuadrigaCX is the best way for Canadians to buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, ethereum, and litecoin. If you are a Canadian who wants to begin trading or investing in cryptocurrencies on a safe Canadian based bitcoin exchange then you’ll need to open and verify your QuadrigaCX account. It might seem daunting at first, to give QuadrigaCX your personal information, but this is for your own safety since QuadrigaCX is complying with all Canadian money laundering law (AML) so you can be sure you’re following all relevant Canadian laws by using QuadrigaCX.

To verify your QuadrigaCX account, you can either connect your Equifax account, or you can upload your identification manually. The information required includes:

  • A Photo or scan of a Passport or Drivers license – must be in colour
  • A Photo or scan of a bank statement or utility bill showing your name and full address
  • A Photo of yourself holding the government issued ID that you have provided

When I registered, I took a picture of my drivers license from my phone, I downloaded a copy of my phone bill from Rogers.com, and I took a picture of myself holding my drivers license. A few minutes later, a representative from QuadrigaCX called me to confirm my identity, and even asked me to confirm some credentials listed on my LinkedIn profile.

 

 

Here are some common verification questions:

How long does ID & Address verification take?

ID & Address verification is processed manually by the QuadrigaCX Fraud & Compliance team and they aspire to process all new applicants within 72 hours. However, during times of incredible demand for crypto-currencies, there may be delays.

What do you require for ID & Address Verification?

QuadrigaCX uses a manual process performed by members of their Fraud & Compliance team.

Requirements:
– Photo or scan of a Passport or Driver’s license – must be in colour
– Photo or scan of a bank statement or utility bill showing your name and full address
– Photo of yourself holding the government issued ID that you’ve provided. In the same picture have a note that reads “ID VERIFICATION FOR QUADRIGACX.COM” along with today’s date. Make sure your face will be clearly visible and that all ID details are clearly readable.
– Business accounts are required to provide an extra document that supports you are in control of the company, such as articles of incorporation and corporate resolutions.

All of these requirements must be uploaded via the secure file upload within the verification section.

Does QuadrigaCX accept international IDs?

Yes, QuadrigaCX accepts IDs from almost all countries with the exception of the Unites States of America. Canadian Money Service Business (MSB) laws prohibit QuadrigaCX from servicing clients within the Unites States of America. QuadrigaCX will not service US citizens or clients utilizing bank accounts domiciled within the Unites States of America.

Do I need to be verified to trade on QuadrigaCX?

Verification is not required if you plan to fund your QuadrigaCX account with bitcoin, ether, or litecoin and then trade on the exchange for any other fiat or crypto currency.

How does the verification process work?

For Canadian users, QuadrigaCX offers two methods of verification. To become verified, users must complete at least one of the two verification methods:

  1. ID & Address verification where you securely upload copies of your ID and proof of address.
  2. Instant verification in partnership with Equifax where you are served multiple choice questions based on information within your credit file.

By completing either form of verification you enable numerous funding options. Users who complete ID verification gain maximum Interac Online limits and those who complete both methods of verification unlock additional access to EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) funding.

Do I need to be verified to withdraw?

Verification is not required withdraw any fiat or crypto currency from the exchange. Verification is only required to fund your account with CAD or USD.

What is QuadrigaCX?

QuadrigaCX is a crypto currency exchange, which allows users to buy and sell bitcoin, ether, litecoin, US dollars, and Canadian dollars on an open market. Users are able to place buy and sell orders in the QuadrigaCX marketplace to exchange their digital currency. This enables users to buy/sell their crypto currencies to others users who are also looking to do the opposite. QuadrigaCX has no control over the current price of Bitcoins traded in the marketplace.

What makes QuadrigaCX special for Canadian investors is that it complies with all Canadian money laundering laws (AML) and enables Canadians to trade their crypto currency on an established Canadian based market.

Clam Coin Interest Rates Soaring

Usually, the mining yield for Clam Coins, a proof of stake cryptocurrency, is high enough that I don’t use Poloniex to lend my clams, but over the past few days as the price of clam coins has been rising, the interest rate to lend/borrow clams has gone through the roof. At the time of writing, the lending/borrowing rate for clams on Poloniex is over 2% per day!

What are the reasons why the rate on clams is so high? Obviously there are far more users willing to borrow clams then are willing to lend them, the liquidity on clams is less than many other cryptos, and there are probably less clam users paying attention to the lending rates on Poloniex and so there is a lag of time between when the capital flows to Poloniex from the miners.

Generally, I’m bullish on the price of clam coins. For what its worth, they have recently broke out to the upside after trading in a tight range for several weeks on the Poloniex clam/btc market. Users who are interested in clams have a few ways to get in on this market, they can use Poloniex to exchange btc for clams, or they can bypass the exchange and use ShapeShift to send the clams to a miner like Just-Dice.

Deribit Suffers Loss – Remains Solvent

Deribit recently announced they have suffered losses due to liquidations triggered by margin calls. Essentially what happened was as the market prices changed, margin calls and forced liquidations were triggered, and the market did not have enough liquidity to fill all the orders in an orderly manner, so as positions were blown out, there was a big gap in fill prices to where theoretical prices might be. The beneficiaries were the market makers who let the market gap down, then filled margin liquidation orders at prices well below expected prices. The exchange made up the difference (since the liquidated positions were the result of margin calls), and then asked major market makers to eat some of the loss, which it sounds like they did.  Below is a copy of the text provided by Deribit.

The case highlights another situation where market participants are at risk since crypto financial intermediaries such as exchanges provide users with too little information about their financial position. With the absence of clearinghouses or independent rating agencies, users are left bearing a lot of risk, and its difficult for users to guage the magnitude of this risk.

Yesterday around 14.00 UTC we had liquidation algorithms of portfolio margin users creation a chaos in the 29 December future. This resulted finally in bankruptcies of more than 105 BTC. Further various client accounts had unjust losses due to liquidations as well.

 

We had to halt trading yesterday for a while to fix the issue before we could continue again. We are sorry for the downtime.

 

We solved the issue of the losses by contacting our biggest market makers and traders that have been making profits trading against the malicious algorithm at prices far above the market. We are grateful for their understanding of the incident and for their direct support of our exchange.

 

Further we decided to refill the insurance fund further such that all other traders will remain completely unaffected and no profits will be socialized among other traders in this session at all.

 

The total final loss left for the exchange amounts to around 60 BTC (or USD 235.000 at the time of writing). Please note that all users’ funds are safe and we as an exchange can, of course, handle a loss of 60 BTC. The exchange will continue operating as normal.

 

This was our first major incident since we opened doors for trading in the summer of 2016. We will work hard now to improve various liquidation algorithms such that this could never occur again. This might further delay the launch of new products like Ethereum futures and our upcoming Spot Exchange.

The insurance fund will also be replenished again with 25 BTC.

How to trade bitcoins on QuadrigaCX

Now that you’ve opened and verified and also funded your QuadrigaCX account, you are ready to trade some Canadian dollars and US dollars for bitcoins and ethereum. This post will explain how to make a trade on cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX.

After logging into your QuadrigaCX account, choose the “Trade” tab from the main menu. When on the “Trade” menu, you will see the current order book displayed for the default market (btc/cad) with the bids displayed on the left side of the page and the offers displayed on the right side. Stacked on top of the order book are order entry modules that you can use to place your order.

If you are unfamiliar with how a market works and/or how prices are formed, the first thing you do is examine the current bids and offers. The bids and offers listed are orders from other users who have placed orders to either buy or sell at certain prices. For example, if you see a bid price of $4,000 CAD for 2 BTC, this means that someone (or a number of users) has placed an order to buy 2 bitcoins at a price of $4,000 CAD.  Oppositely, if you see an offer for 2 BTC at $4,010 CAD, this means that someone (or a number of users) has placed an order to sell 2 bitcoins at a price of $4,010 CAD.

The “price” of bitcoins is simply the last time that a bid or an offer was matched. If you want to buy bitcoins with Canadian dollars, then examine the offers. Using the example above, the lowest price offered is $4,010 CAD for 2 BTC. This means that you can buy up to 2 BTC at a price of $4,010 CAD. If you want to buy 0.10 BTC, and this price meets your objective, then go ahead and enter your order to make a transaction. Using the BUY side order entry module on the left side of the order book, enter a price of $4,010 and quantity of 0.10 BTC. As you enter your order details, you will see that the order entry module dynamically updates to reflect your inputs. This helps you confirm the price and amount you wish to enter.

Once you have input your desired price and quantity, and reviewed your order, simply press the “buy” button located within the order entry module, and your order will be sent to the market. If the current offer was $4,010 and you enter an order to buy at this price, your order will be matched and filled. This will mean you purchase bitcoins at this price.

Conversely, if you’d like to sell bitcoins, the same mechanics are used to sell, but instead of trying to pay the lowest price, you are trying to sell at the highest.

Maybe you’d like to buy bitcoins, but only if they reach a certain lower level. Maybe you’ve determined that a price of $3,500 is the highest price you are willing to pay. You can enter these details in the order entry module, and your order will be sent to the order book where it waits until the market falls to this price, or you cancel your order. This is called a “limit” order. From what I can tell, there is no time limit to how long orders can sit.

QuadrigaCX is the best place for Canadians to buy and sell bitcoins with the most liquid order book and the most stable deposit/withdrawal methods. Please use this link to open an account as it will mean some referral revenue for me 🙂

A Few Good Crypto Investments

I get asked quite frequently (a few times a day) from friends about which crypto currencies to invest in. The post below provides my current thoughts that I hope will help my friends make better cryptocurrency investment decisions.

From my experience, most crypto investors approach the idea of investing in cryptocurrencies from the bottom up. They hear about a particular crypto currency and then consider whether its a good investment. I think a better approach is to step back and come up with a basic investment strategy, even putting it on paper or in an e-mail is a good idea. Think about your entire investment portfolio and consider how cryptocurrency investments fit with your overall mix. My first and main recommendation is to remember that investing in cryptocurrencies is very risky. Not only is there a risk of hacking and other technological risks, there are also major credit risks, and a almost complete lack of regulation. This means that if your crypto currency investments go sour (or get hacked) you very likely have no legal recourse. So think about the big picture and put things in perspective.

With risks in mind, I think crypto currencies should only make up a small portion of an overall investment portfolio, unless you are in the business of investing in cryptocurrencies, treat cryptocurrency investments as a hobby and a small portion of your overall portfolio.

In addition to a portfolio approach, I also encourage crypto investors to consider active investments, rather than just holding a particular crypto currency as cash. Most crypto investors imagine buying a particular crypto currency with the idea that it will gain in value and they’ll be able to sell it again in the future for a profit (relative to their home fiat currency). While waiting for this time to occur, they simply hold the crypto currency in a wallet or on an exchange. This is a highly speculative activity, and unless you have a particular trading process, I think in the long run the transaction costs and opportunity costs will eat up your speculative gains. But, if you want to take some risk, then buying and holding cryptos on account might still be profitable for you.  If you have a clearly defined process to make trading decisions, then you might get ahead.  Otherwise, my bots will earn your transaction fees 🙂

I think a better approach is a mix of some cash crypto investments (holding particular cryptos in wallets or on exchange) combined with some active investments where you can earn returns on your capital. This would involve investments where you put your capital at risk and earn returns in exchange, on top of your FX gains.  Below I describe three types of crypto investments where you can take risk to earn rewards.

The crypto capital markets are in an early stage of development and so you may find alpha is a lot easier to find than in mainstream fiat economies.

Gambling Bankrolls

Most of us are familiar with casinos where the financing of the games and the operation of the games are done by the same entity. This is the result of the scale required to run a modern land based casino, but also because of the regulatory structure in most advanced jurisdictions. New technology and the application of blockchains makes it possible to separate the financing of the casino from the operations. We are entering a world in which the bankroll is funded by one group of investors and the operations are done by a separate group. The way this works in practice with cryptos in this “open sourced” model is a casino operator will allow investors to contribute to the bankroll of the games. The operator will then run the games and the investors will receive the gains and losses from the other side of player’s bets. Every period, the operator takes a fee from the gains/losses and attributes the bankroll investors with their portion. The model also works when the operator takes a fixed fee each period.

There are many online crypto casinos operating with this model and new ones are emerging all the time. There are benefits for both the bankroll and the operator perspectives. The bankroll investors get a passive investment that involves only financial risk. The operators get access to capital and so they can focus on running/promoting the games.

The rates of return for bankroll investors can be quite high and depend on the volume of bets the operator can drive through the games. The bankroll risk also depends on the underlying volatility of the games as well as the volume. Offering games with high payoffs or even money payoffs will make an impact on the volatility of bankroll returns, but more bets overall will smooth out those returns. The market will find an optimal rate of return based on these factors.

The bankroll investors must also consider the credit risk of the operator, and this is this is the primary risk at the moment. If the operator is fraudulent, there are very few ways for the crypto currency investor to tell. Some statistical methods of past results can be used to determine the validity of the data, but other than that, a large amount of trust is put in the operator. This might scare away many investors from funding open sourced bankrolls, but the gains are also large and I think in many cases they compensate for the risk.  We’re talking about 40% annualized rates of returns on bankroll investments. As long as you stick to the best quality operators.

Here are some open sourced bankrolls to consider:

crypto-games.net

just-dice

bitdice.me

Each of these casinos are funded by a open sourced bankrolls, and each are all structured a little bit differently. The basic fees that you’ll pay are a percentage of gains attributed to your account each period. A fee of 10% seems to be the current industry standard. These investments can mostly be made with bitcoins, but other crypto currencies as well.

Margin Lending

A good way to earn extra income on your cryptos is to lend them out to traders on exchange. This “open sourced” margin lending is offered on a few of the major exchanges including Poloniex & Bitfinex. Their model is to allow traders to take margin loans from users on the exchange for a rate of interest and basic contract terms. There are margin requirements that traders must meet, and if they fall below these margin levels, their position is blown out by the exchange. The nice thing about these loans is since these exchanges are highly liquid, there is almost zero risk of default to the lender (except in the case of a catastrophic event). The main risk to the lender is the credit worthiness of the exchange. If the exchange fails or is hacked, lenders will likely suffer losses. This has happened on both Poloniex and Bitfinex in the past. Although both exchanges eventually refunded the losses.

The way these margin loans work is a user would deposit their crypto currency on the exchange, and then enter into the lending market for particular cryptos. Its an open market, so lenders can choose to work limit orders for particular loan terms and rates. My opinion is that using a bot by accessing the exchange thru their APIs to automatically build your lending book is the best method of investing. It can be time consuming to login each day to make your loans, and you also might find your capital sits idle if you don’t put it out to traders.

Mining

Mining cryptos is often times easier than you might think. As long as you’re not competing in the largest and most liquid cryptos. Its tough for a small time investor to earn an economic rate of return mining bitcoins or ethereum nowadays, but there are many new cryptos emerging and there are still lots of opportunities using cloud mining pools and proof of stake coins. There are a lot of cloud mining scams out there, so you need to be aware of the most reputable operators such as Genesis Mining and Minergate.

The toughest part of mining is the technical aspects of setting up the software. Using a mining pool takes away most of this challenge because you can usually just plug into a miner that’s already setup and receive your portion of the group’s reward based on the capacity you contribute.

Another good option to earn mining profits is to setup a proof of stake miner such as CLAMs, NXT, LSIK, and other proof of stake coins. Proof of stake mining rewards are based on the number of coins you have on the miner, and not your computing power. So proof of stake miners are useful for those with capital, but not as much computing power or technical skills.

Bitcoin Blockchain Slowing, Fees Rising

During its early days, one of purported benefits of bitcoins were cheap transactions. Transfers between bitcoin users could be made peer to peer in a trustless system without transaction fees. The design of the bitcoin blockchain rewards miners who update the blockchain by giving them newly created bitcoins at a pre-determined rate. The idea of mining rewards supporting the blockchain assumed the newly minted bitcoins would provide enough incentive to miners who would contribute enough computing power to keep the blockchain live. However, as bitcoin has grown, and the volume of transactions has increased, transaction fees are having an increasing influence on processing bitcoin transactions.

4 days ago, I initiated a transfer of 0.50 bitcoins from one address to another. This used to be a quick and painless transaction. A few years ago, I didn’t even need to attach a fee to my transaction, and it would get processed in a timely manner. But this time, I chose a low fee and my transaction sat in digital purgatory for several days. Not only did the transaction sit on the blockchain unprocessed, but of course, I could call the address on a blockchain explorer and see the transaction sitting there. In many other payment networks, there is a standard lag of time between transaction initiation and final processing, so there is a window of time where a transaction could be initiated and then cancelled. If you write a paper cheque and give it to a service provider, if something goes wrong in the time the cheque is being delivered and processed by the payment network, you can instruct your back to “stop payment”. There is currently no easy to use “stop payment” mechanism with bitcoins. So for 4 days, I watched my transaction sit on the bitcoin blockchain without any confirmations, hoping, wishing, waiting.

The whole experience brings up questions about the changing role of transaction fees to newly minted coins as the miner reward for blockchain updating. How has the role of transaction fees changed over time, and what can we expect to change in the future?

One of the challenges with the way bitcoin was designed is the hard coded cap on block size. Bitcoin actually has a limit of 1MB block size. Miners can mine blocks up to the 1MB fixed limit, but any block larger than 1MB is invalid. This feature of bitcoin has become more important as volume has grown. The transaction processing lineup has got so big, that participants need to assign a large(er) reward to their transaction in order to incentivise miners to process their transaction in a timely manner. The limited bitcoin block size fuels calls for forks such as Bitcoin Unlimited and provides incentives for the creation of competing coins.

We can measure the transaction fee rate, and compare changes over time to understand how transaction fees are changing, how it is impacting volumes, and how this might change in the future. There are online services that provides us with information we can use to set fees.

Here is a page called Estimate Fee that estimates the fee required to process a bitcoin transaction within a number of blocks.

If you are running the bitcoin client, you can see the command used to call this data. According to this page, in order for your transaction to be processed in 25 blocks, you will need to assign a reward (fee) of 0.00198749 bitcoins. At the time of writing, with bitcoins worth $2,500 USD, that fee is worth $4.96. If there are 135 blocks per day being processed at the time of writing, a 25 block transaction can expect to be processed in about 4.5 hours.

I don’t necessarily think that the limited block size will mean the death of bitcoin. Making something expensive to move might mean bitcoin becomes (or has already become) impractical to use as a means of retail payment. But a high transaction fee might have some other benefits. The network and first mover advantages of bitcoins might mean they will increasingly be used as a clearing currency, and since each transaction is just a number (each transaction “number”, whether a large value one or a small value one) it might make sense to only process large value transactions in bitcoins, not retail transactions.

The blockchain is only updated once a transaction moves value from one address to another. If payments are being made within a network, no transaction fee needs to be applied. If you deposit bitcoins on an exchange, you send your bitcoins from their current address, to an address at the exchange. Once on the exchange address, the exchange operator can hold the bitcoins for you, and you can transfer the bitcoins within the exchange without interacting with the blockchain, between other exchange participants, until the money needs to leave the exchange again (in order to process a withdrawal perhaps).

At the outset, many bitcoin enthusiasts thought bitcoin would provide an alternative payment network, and it does, but this doesn’t mean payment networks won’t exist within the bitcoin blockchain. I believe that with the rise of bitcoin transaction fees, there will be a greater incentive for payment processors to emerge within the bitcoin blockchain in order to clear transactions quicker and cheaper without having to interact with the blockchain itself, thereby avoiding the associated fees. Such a system still supports the development of bitcoins, because the bitcoin blockchain will still fulfill a function of money as a unit of account since payment network (unless they are fraudulent themselves) will still need to net off balances.