In the recent decade, we have seen the rise of cryptocurrencies as an alternative asset with real utility that has captivated many investors and developers. With the rise of crypto, we have also seen several successful companies that have crafted a space for themselves in the market.
This is the case with Blockfi, a company described as “the future of finance,” which allows you to take out collateralized loans and earn interest on your crypto.
As stated on the official website, BlockFi is a way for individuals and institutions to invest and hold cryptocurrencies and generate income in so doing. For those of you who are either interested in getting started or are questioning the entirety of its existence, you’ve come to the right place.
The following review will unveil everything there is to know about BlockFi, from how to open a Blockfi account, to the products and services offered and the different options/;” available.
What is BlockFi?
Founded in 2017 by Zac Prince and Flori Marquez, BlockFi is a fintech-focused digital assets platform that aims to redefine conventional financial services. In other words, BlockFi exists to provide credit services to markets and people who are confined to limited options. To put things into perspective, not everyone has access to a savings account, and BlockFi wants this to become an issue of the past.
What supposedly allows BlockFi to stand out compared to other cryptocurrency platforms is that all of their products match market-leading rates. Moreover, this company proclaims to be the only independent lender with legit, credible backing. Now that the general idea behind BlockFi has been covered let’s cut to the chase and go over the products and services.
What products and services are offered through BlockFi?
As far as products and services go, BlockFi carries quite the variety. Starting with the products, individuals can choose from:
BlockFi Interest Account (BIA)
With the BlockFi Interest Account (BIA), cryptocurrency holdings can earn up to 8.6% APY. As of April 2021, individuals can earn 6% APY on Bitcoin, 8.6% APY on stablecoins (GUSD, PAX, USDC, BUSD), 5% APY on PAXG, 5.25% APY on Ethereum, 5.5% on LINK, 9.3% APY on USDT and 6.5% on Litecoin.
Once an account has been set up and cryptocurrencies have been deposited, interests will be accrued and paid out at the beginning of every month. The compounding effect will increase the annual yield for every individual account holder.
Having said that, all BIA holders will get one free crypto withdrawal and one free, stable withdrawal per calendar month. Generally speaking, withdrawals can be made as pleased. Of course, this would imply incurring withdrawal fees. For instance, the withdrawal limit for 100 BTC per 7-day period is 0.00075 BTC. Similarly, for ETH Holders, 5,000 ETH per 7-day period would give rise to 0.02 ETH in fees. For the complete list of fees, visit here.
BlockFi Trading Account
BlockFi Trading is a suitable account for anyone wanting to buy, sell, or exchange various cryptocurrencies. Like the BIA account, the trading account also allows one to earn interest. The team behind this company provided the following example to ensure that everyone is on board with how this account works:
“If you deposit 1 BTC on December 1st and convert BTC to ETH on the 15th, you will earn ~ 14 days’ worth of BTC interest and ~ 16 days’ worth of ETH interest when you receive your interest payment on Jan 1!”
BlockFi Crypto-Backed Loans
BlockFi currently offers USD loans collateralized by crypto assets. Specifically, individuals will have to give BlockFi their respective cryptocurrency holdings as a security for the loan requested. The process is deemed fairly easy, as all that is required of individuals is to apply for a loan, wait up to 24 hours, and within two minutes of arriving at a decision, the loan will be funded in USD, GUSD, or USDC. The amount will appear directly into one’s bank account or crypto wallet.
This is not to say that BlockFi will give money to just about anyone. In fact, the interest rates on a loan will be calculated based on the loan amount, credit history, and location. Fees will also be broken down on a report compiled by the team and the amount of crypto needed as collateral. Once the offer has been reviewed and individuals decide to accept it, BlockFi’s custodian, Gemini Trust, will take it from there.
This is clearly a desirable way to get a loan, seeing that individuals are asked quick and to-the-point questions, can get the loan on hand much quicker, and above all, no one will be forced to sell their holdings earlier than expected. It is important to note that BlockFi affirms that they do not pull hard or soft checks on an individual’s credit, leaving credit scores unaffected.
Soon-Approaching BlockFi Rewards Credit Card
BlockFi Rewards Credit Card is the only Bitcoin rewards card ever to exist. It is currently not available; however, there is a waitlist for anyone to reserve a spot. As this is being written, it seems like only 235,259 cards will be distributed at the beginning.
Once approved, a credit limit in USD will be provided with an instant 1.5% cashback in BTC on every transaction. The rewards will then be transferred to BIA monthly. The benefit of such a card is that it can be used anywhere Visa is accepted (both online and in-person). Who can forget the sleek design made in metal as opposed to out-of-date plastic!
Here are some of the features of the BlockFi Rewards Credit Card worth going over:
- $250 in BTC as a signup bonus for purchases/spending worth $3000 within the first 3 months
- 3.5% BTC rewards on all purchases in 4 to 6 months of card ownership (maximum reward of $100)
- 2% extra APY on the average daily stablecoin balance, paid in BTC (maximum reward of $200)
- 0.25% back in BTC on all eligible trades (maximum reward of $500 per month)
- $30 in BTC for every client referral (on top of Refer-A-Friend program)
Now that the products are covered, let’s turn our attention to the services and others that are accessible:
As the name suggests, institutional services are specifically for market makers, investment funds, or crypto businesses. Through this service, institutions can expect customizable lending and borrowing terms for cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and even US dollars.
Given that BlockFi aims to “bridge the gap between trading crypto by funds or market makers and their need for backward compatibility to the world of traditional securities,” the team made sure to have lending inventories (all enterprise-grade regulatory compliant) available.
All in all, this service is led by a billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures as well as Susquehanna (a global quantitative trading firm), Akuna Capital (trading firm specializing in data-driven solutions and automation), and CMT Digital (a crypto-asset trading desk) among others.
BlockFi Partner Program
By becoming a partner at BlockFi, commissions can be earned for every qualified referral. Unlike most affiliate programs that provide very little support, the team at BlockFi is willing to, for the qualified candidates, provide comprehensive training and ongoing support, partner-only offers, and promotions, all while supporting each partner with their respective track earnings.
At the time of writing, the earning potential is 0.5% on all deposits made within one’s network. For every qualified referral, the maximum commission one can earn is $1000. These payments will be made directly to a bank account or via PayPal. Finally, no cap has been placed on how many referrals one brings to the table.
If affiliate marketing isn’t the route one wishes to take, BlockFi’s Refer-A-Friend is another way to generate income. For every person who signs up using a provided referral code and deposits $100 or more into a BIA, the referrer and the friend will earn $10 in BTC.
This can be done by signing into the BlockFi dashboard, clicking on the “Refer A Friend” button on the top right corner, and having friends register for an account through the provided URL. The perks only get better with more referrals. For instance, after five referrals, every referral will get a $20 BTC bonus, with friends who sign up earning $10 BTC.
BlockFi Mobile App
The BlockFi Mobile App is no different from the official website, except that the former promotes convenience. Everything from the BIA to borrowing cash and referring friends can be done using a cellular device (iOS and Android compatible).
What are the features of BlockFi?
Regarding BlockFi features, everyone should know that this company is:
U.S.-based and Regulated
BlockFi is supposedly one of a few retail-focused, interest-earning platforms based in America and complies with the country’s regulations.
Services for Any Level of Expertise
Whether individuals are just getting started in the world of cryptocurrencies or are well versed in its existence, all products and services offered by BlockFi are meant to welcome everyone with open arms. Knowledge is power, and the team affirms that they will actively educate their clientele so that even a beginner can follow along with an expert.
Top-Tier Risk Management Processes are in Place
Aside from redefining financial services, the BlockFi team avows to make the company scalable with true staying power. To limit risks that would otherwise throw them out like many cryptocurrency projects, the team strayed away from holding ICOs. Even with their loan portfolio, performance is deemed “perfect” because borrowers and the BlockFi team incurred losses.
Another aspect of risk management, pertaining more so to clients, is security. Precisely, when cryptocurrencies are sent to BlockFi, in reality, a regulated custodian like Gemini is the one to receive it. From there, the BlockFi team may lend cryptocurrencies to multiple institutional counterparties.
Backing from the Biggest Names
BlockFi is backed by some of the biggest names in the industry, including Akuna Capital, Arrington XRP Capital, AVON Ventures Castle Island Ventures, CMT Digital, Coinbase Ventures, ConSenSys, Galaxy Digital, HashKey Digital Asset Group, Kinetic, Morgan Creek Capital Management, LLC, PJC, Purple Arch Ventures, Recruit Strategic Partners, SoFi, Susquehanna, Three Arrows Capital, Valar, Winklevoss Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Tiger Global, Paradigm, HRT, Parafi Capital, Jump Capital, Gaingels, Third Prime, CMS, and TVC.
Robust Security Strategy and Transparency
The BlockFi team continues to work on expanding its security program across multiple layers, with emphasis placed on transparency. By transparency, they may mean security updates, proactive risk management, enlisting their entire workforce in the security process, and/or increasing industry involvement. For any questions related to security, the rightful team can be reached by sending an email to email@example.com.
No Hidden Fees or Minimum Balances
Earlier, we mentioned that transparency remains at the core of BlockFi’s values, which seems to hold. Specifically, there are no hidden fees or minimum balances needed to upkeep accounts, and everything has been clearly listed on their official website.
Flexibility is clearly evident across BlockFi as a whole. For instance, individuals can choose which cryptocurrency they would like their interests to be paid in (i.e., BTC, stablecoin, or any other available cryptocurrencies). There’s also the ability to fund one’s respective BlockFi accounts using either a crypto wallet or bank account. This feature is accessible through the BlockFi Mobile App as well, which not only promotes flexibility but also convenience. Finally, applying for a loan with BlockFi is straightforward, with some room for flexibility in how the funds can be received.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Who can use BlockFi products and services?
BlockFi services to individuals and businesses worldwide. It is also accessible in all 50 U.S. states with offerings including interest-earning accounts, low-cost USD loans backed by cryptocurrencies, and fee-free trading, a rewards credit card currently in the works with Visa.
How long does it take to get a business or a regular account with BlockFi verified?
Compared to regular accounts, which should be completed within minutes, business accounts require additional documentation during the sign-up process. At the time of writing, the team at BlockFi affirmed that approvals can take anywhere between 10 and 15 days. If a regular account approval has not been provided within 48 hours, an email should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting a closer look.
What is the minimum BlockFi account balance required of people?
While there is no minimum balance forced on individuals, it is important to note that there are fees that will be incurred just with any crypto-related account. As long as the fees are covered, the minimum balance requirement can be taken lightly.
What are the legitimate email addresses belonging to BlockFi?
With fake email addresses on the rise, extra measures should be taken to avoid compromising personal data. That said, listed below are all possible email addresses belonging to BlockFi:
- Customer Support: email@example.com
- 2FA and Other Notices: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Other: email@example.com
- Account Management: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Investigations: email@example.com
- Security: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Partnerships: email@example.com
- Private Client Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Institutional Sales: email@example.com
Does BlockFi help to prepare for taxes?
For U.S. taxpayers, BlockFi may provide two separate reports related to the BIA and any trading activity performed throughout the year. Having said that, the IRS will see any generated income as a taxable event in the U.S., and the same goes with cryptocurrencies. The interest incurred on the BIA, for example, will be subjected to reporting through the 1099-Miscellaneous form. Those who have earned more than $600 in interest plus bonuses in 2020 will have to fill out 1099-MISC form, which has been available since January 31, 2021. For more on tax implications, click here.
How are BlockFi and Gemini related?
BlockFi is under the custody of Gemini Trust Company. Gemini Trust Company, LLC, is a New York-based trust company and has become a Qualified Custodian chartered by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) under Section 100 of the New York Banking Law and is subject to NYDFS capital reserve requirements. In other words, BlockFi’s cryptocurrency holdings are held by Gemini, which of course, is a regulated company.
Meet the BlockFi team
The leadership team is starting to expand since we last looked into BlockFi. For starters, we have the CEO and Founder, Zac Prince, who has held many leadership roles at multiple tech companies. Having started in AdTech, he has played a major role in two successful acquisitions, namely Admeld (acquired by Google) and Sociomantic (acquired by DunnHumby).
Right by his side is Co-Founder and SVP of Operations Flori Marquez, who spent much of her career managing alternative lending products. As per her profile, “she helped build, scale and optimize a $125 million portfolio for Bond Street,” which to this date has been acquired by Goldman Sachs.
The duo has managed to complete their Series C of $350 million in less than six months, and as per a PR Newswire issued in March 2021, Zach expressed confidence in what the future holds for digital assets. Precisely, he was quoted saying:
“Digital assets will continue to democratize finance, serve as a hedge against inflation and expansionary monetary policy, and promote innovation in financial technology and accessibility to financial services.”
Flori, who focused more so on BlockFi, shared, “Our goal for BlockFi has always been for it to facilitate cryptocurrencies going mainstream and each day provides more evidence that is exactly what is occurring […] I am incredibly proud of how quickly we added new professionals and products to meet market demand and excited to continue adding talent and products in the months ahead.”
Then we have Chief Risk Officer Rene van Kesteren who used to work at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Managing Director of ML Professional Clearing/Prime Brokerage. During his time there, he has built the equity structured lending platform with a focus on risk and regulatory compliance frameworks. As significant as the roles of the former three members are, we also have Chief Technology Officer Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya, who spent the last few decades creating reliable and resilient distributed systems for mission-critical services.
Newer members to the team include General Counsel, Jonathan Mayers, Chief Financial Officer, Tony Lauro, Chief Compliance Officer, David Spack, Chief Security Officer, Adam Healy, SVP of Finance, Amit Cheela, and SVP of Marketing, Andrew Tam. For more on each team player, visit here.
How to Sign Up for a BlockFi Account
The sign-up processes consist of four simple steps:
Step 1: Fill in the information requested on the BlockFi sign-up page.
Step 2: Once the demographic and contact information have been filled out, individuals can also enter a referral code (if applicable) and accept the Terms and Conditions.
Step 3: Following step 2, individuals will have to complete the KYC/AML processes and provide proof of identity (usually a passport, driver’s license, or other government-issued ID).
Step 4: Once approved and ready, depositing funds to the account can be done by simply clicking on the “Deposit” tab and choosing between cryptocurrency, bank, or stable coin transfer.
Then, it is a matter of depositing funds and accruing interest income along the way. Of course, numerous products and services (as mentioned above) that one can browse through.
Final Thoughts: Is BlockFi Legitimate?
Overall, BlockFi is a fintech-focused, digital assets platform that literally offers financial services typically offered by conventional financial institutions. What might the twist be? All products and services are available for everyone, as the team at BlockFi aims to normalize accessibility to all. Based on the analysis provided above, the BlockFi team is continuously improving its offerings while ensuring that the perks for individuals and businesses outweigh the cons.
Speaking of the perks, no other service can offer the interest-generating potential that BlockFi currently has in store. In fact, they succeeded in also creating other means of making money, whether it be the Refer-A-Friend program or the BlockFi affiliate marketing program. Who can forget the Rewards Credit Card with BlockFi and Visa, which can be used anywhere Visa is accepted? The latter is definitely not offered by conventional institutions, which makes considering BlockFi more viable.
However, everyone needs to keep in mind that as rewarding as earning interest and other income streams can be, the risks are just as high. For instance, savings are not protected against any bank-related failures, and indices like the APY and loan interest rates can greatly fluctuate, seeing that they are backed by what’s currently taking place in the market. At least, BlockFi is transparent about everything, and here is an extract provided by the team that summarizes the risks:
“Digital currency is not legal tender, is not backed by any government, and the BlockFi Interest Account is not a bank account nor a brokerage account, and is not subject to FDIC, SIPC, or other similar protections. Interest rates, withdrawal limits, and fees are subject to change and are largely dictated by market conditions. This is not a risk-free product, and loss of principal is possible.”
As for the question of legitimacy, our research suggests that BlockFi is, in fact, legitimate and is nowhere near a scam. We are basing this off of the number of companies that have backed BlockFi up so far, as well as the fact that the Gemini Trust Company is 1) a well-established company that complies with rules imposed by the New York State Department of Financial Services and 2) they are the custodian for BlockFi, which to a large extent enhances safety and security of all crypto assets.
Most of all, BlockFi’s emphasis on protecting its users is above and beyond. This is clear in their ongoing efforts to minimize controllable risks, provide resources that keep every individual (in the U.S.) prepared for tax purposes, and keep everyone well-informed on BlockFi offerings in terms of both the pros and cons.