Founded in 2014, Bittrex quickly became one of the largest global cryptocurrency trading platforms before ceasing US operations in 2023. At its peak, Bittrex offered access to over 350 coins and pioneered innovative products like staking rewards.
While Bittrex Global continues serving most international users, the shutdown of Bittrex’s US business marks the end of an era for the American crypto industry.
In this 2023 review, we’ll take a retrospective look at Bittrex’s rise to prominence, its features and fee structure, security measures, and reputation over the years before its decline. We’ll also cover what users can expect as Bittrex winds down operations.
A Brief History of Bittrex
Here are some of the key milestones in Bittrex’s history since its founding in 2014:
February 2014 Bittrex is launched by former security professionals from companies like Amazon and Microsoft. The new exchange focuses on security and compliance from the start.
August 2016 Custom tokens are introduced, allowing projects to launch tokenized assets on the Bittrex platform.
May 2017 Bittrex implements automatic KYC identity verification, a rarity at the time for crypto exchanges.
December 2017 At the peak of the crypto bubble, Bittrex reportedly has over 200,000 users and lists nearly 300 coins.
October 2018 Bittrex opens a Malta-based international exchange known as Bittrex Global to service non-US users.
July 2019 Bittrex blocks US customers from trading 32 assets to improve regulatory compliance. Affected users are given a one-month withdrawal period.
August 2020 Bittrex Global lists its first tokenized stocks allowing 24/7 equity trading.
March 2022 After years of gradually reducing services, Bittrex announces it will be halting US operations by the end of 2022.
April 2022 Withdrawals, trading, and new signups are disabled for US Bittrex users as the wind-down process begins.
What is Bittrex?
Prior to its decline, Bittrex was a leading centralized cryptocurrency exchange platform that allowed users to easily trade hundreds of digital assets.
It was founded in 2014 by Bill Shihara, Richie Lai, and Rami Kawach, cybersecurity professionals previously from Microsoft, Amazon, and BlackBerry. Bittrex quickly differentiated itself by emphasizing improved security and regulatory compliance.
At its peak in 2017, Bittrex offered:
- Support for over 250 cryptocurrencies.
- Advanced trading platform with technical analysis tools.
- Innovative products like staking rewards.
- Cutting-edge account security features for the time.
- Options for individual and corporate accounts.
- Worldwide availability with support in most countries.
Bittrex helped drive cryptocurrency mainstream by providing a robust and reliable platform for both new and experienced crypto traders. However, in later years, it failed to keep pace with increased regulatory scrutiny and competition.
How Did Bittrex Work?
When operational, here is how the Bittrex exchange enabled users to easily invest in and trade cryptocurrencies:
- Account Creation: Users registered with an email address and password. Limited identity verification was required.
- Funding Account: Users could fund their account via wire transfer, crypto deposit, or debit card purchase.
- Trading Interface: Bittrex provided an advanced trading platform comparable to traditional brokerages.
- Executing Trades: Users could place market, limit, and other types of exchange orders. Margin trading was also supported.
- Safe Storage: Users could store coins safely in Bittrex wallets, protected by industry-leading security features.
- Transaction History: Bittrex provided detailed records of trading activity, deposits, withdrawals, and account balances.
- Withdraw Assets: Users could withdraw supported crypto assets to external wallets at any time. Some coins had minimum withdrawal amounts.
In many ways, Bittrex helped set the standard for seamless, secure cryptocurrency trading. Next, let’s look at some of its notable features and offerings.
Bittrex Account Options
Bittrex provided both personal and corporate account options:
The standard Bittrex account for individual users. Required only an email and password to open. Offered full access to all trading features.
Special accounts for firms and institutions. Required company documentation and underwent additional verification. Unlocked higher withdrawal limits and exclusive services.
Accounts for non-US users operated through Bittrex Global. Offered access to additional coins and features banned for US customers. Not subjected to US regulations.
While anyone could open a basic personal account, corporate accounts provided vetted access for larger firms and funds to trade and manage crypto safely.
Bittrex Security Features
As a crypto exchange founded by security professionals, Bittrex implemented cutting-edge security technologies and protocols for its time:
Cold Storage: The vast majority of digital assets held in air-gapped offline cold storage for improved protection.
2-Factor Authentication: Optional two-factor authentication via authenticator apps or U2F security keys.
IP Address Whitelisting: Users could whitelist approved IP ranges for account access to block unauthorized logins.
Address Whitelisting: Whitelisted withdrawal addresses to prevent assets being sent to unknown wallets.
Encrypted Emails: Optional end-to-end encrypted email communications for enhanced privacy.
Bug Bounty Program: Rewards paid to security researchers for responsibly disclosing vulnerabilities.
AWS Hosting: Enterprise-grade web application firewalls, DDoS protection, and data encryption.
Bittrex’s security far exceeded the industry standard at the time. However, with the rise of institutional-grade custodial platforms and DeFi innovations, Bittrex failed to keep pace on security features in more recent years.
Supported Cryptocurrencies on Bittrex
During its heydey, Bittrex offered access to over 250 different digital assets and regularly added the latest up-and-coming coins and tokens:
Bitcoin (BTC): The first and most widely-traded cryptocurrency. Bittrex offered extensive BTC pairs.
Ethereum (ETH): The second largest crypto asset used in decentralized finance and NFTs.
Litecoin (LTC): A faster alternative to Bitcoin for cheaper payments.
Basic Attention Token (BAT): The native currency of the privacy-focused Brave browser.
0x (ZRX): An open protocol facilitating decentralized exchanges on Ethereum.
Golem Network Token (GNT): Enables a decentralized computing marketplace.
And over 240 more coins and utility tokens across every category – from privacy coins like Monero to stablecoins like USD Coin. Bittrex aimed to be a “one-stop shop” for crypto.
Due to evolving regulatory guidance, many assets were gradually delisted for US customers leading up to Bittrex’s closure. International users retained access to more coins through Bittrex Global.
Bittrex Fees and Limits
As a centralized crypto exchange, Bittrex generated revenue through various trading fees and commissions:
Trading Fees: Between 0.35% – 0.10% based on 30-day trading volume. Discounts rewarded high volume traders.
Withdrawal Fees: Charged nominal amounts to cover network costs when withdrawing crypto assets.
Debit Card Fees: 3% convenience fee when buying crypto with debit cards. Bank transfers were free.
Staking Fees: When enabled, Bittrex took 15% of staking income as platform fees.
Margin Trading: Interest, margin funding fees, and liquidation penalties applied for leveraged positions.
Account Limits: Withdrawals capped at 3 BTC daily and 100 BTC monthly for unverified accounts. Higher tiers lifted limits.
While Bittrex’s trading fees ranked among the lowest, withdrawal and debit card fees were somewhat higher than competitors like Binance and Kraken. Overall, fees remained competitive compared to other major centralized exchanges.
Bittrex Staking Rewards
A unique innovation pioneered by Bittrex was integrated staking rewards that allowed users to passively earn income on idle crypto holdings:
Automated Staking: Bittrex securely handled the staking process in exchange for a 15% fee on rewards.
Daily Reward Accrual: Staking income was calculated daily and credited to user accounts weekly.
Support for Multiple Assets: Eventually expanded beyond just ARK to include VET, XTZ, ALGO, ATOM and more top coins.
Easy Earnings: Users simply had to enable staking on eligible assets in their Bittrex account to start earning rewards.
However, due to evolving regulatory guidance around cryptocurrency yields, Bittrex was forced to discontinue its staking program for US customers in mid-2021 before fully winding down operations in 2022.
Bittrex Trading Platform & Tools
Bittrex offers an advanced trading platform comparable to traditional online brokerages:
Candlestick Charts: Real-time and historical pricing charts with technical indicators. Customizable layouts.
Multiple Order Types: Instant trades or conditional limit and stop-limit orders.
Trading Pairs: Ability to directly trade between hundreds of digital asset pairs.
Customizable Interface: Configurable modules like market depth trackers, open orders, and order history.
API Support: Allowed users to automate trading through custom software and bots.
Mobile App: iOS and Android app so users could trade on the go.
For newcomers, the platform offered ample capabilities to analyze markets. But for professionals, the charts and tools lacked some of the sophistication found at dedicated trading platforms.
Bittrex Customer Support
As a crypto-only exchange, Bittrex took more of a technology-driven approach to customer support typical of cryptocurrency platforms:
Support Center: Searchable knowledge base and help center with FAQs.
Support Tickets: Allowed submitting account and technical issues via online forms.
Email Support: For general inquiries and communications.
24/7 Live Chat: Provided real-time chat with customer support agents around the clock.
Social Media: Maintained an active presence on Twitter for updates and community interaction.
No Phone Support: Did not offer phone-based customer service. Support tickets were the default channel.
While Bittrex scored points for offering 24/7 live chat, phone support was notably absent. But this was the norm among early crypto exchanges.
Bittrex International vs Bittrex Global
In October 2018, Bittrex opened a separate international exchange called Bittrex Global to service non-US users:
- International exchange was originally based in Malta then Liechtenstein.
- Offered access to additional coins banned for US users.
- Developed new products like tokenized equities and derivatives.
- Subject to fewer regulatory requirements than the US exchange.
- Currently operates Bittrex International after a rebrand in October 2019.
- Continues serving most customers outside of the United States.
- Has expanded to over 300 crypto assets.
- Attempted a failed pivot into decentralized finance.
- Saw steadily declining volumes as users migrated to larger platforms.
Bittrex Global persevered following the US shutdown, but its long-term outlook remains uncertain given management and performance issues.
Pros and Cons of Using Bittrex
Here is a balanced look at some of the key advantages and disadvantages of using Bittrex before it ceased operations:
- Offered access to hundreds of cryptocurrency trading pairs.
- Developed innovative staking rewards and tokenized equities.
- Competitive trading fees with discounts for high volume traders.
- Robust and reliable trading platform with advanced options.
- Strong focus on security and compliance from the start.
- Gradually reduced coins and features available to US customers leading up to closure.
- Lack of phone customer support and slow ticket resolution times.
- Failed to keep pace with competition on fees, coins, and platform capabilities.
- Declining reputation, volumes, website traffic, and new users in final years.
- Confusing intermittent customer bans during wind-down process.
While Bittrex delivered an exceptional crypto trading experience for its time, it ultimately could not adapt to evolving industry trends and regulations.
The Decline of Bittrex in 2022
After steadily reducing services for US customers since 2018, Bittrex announced in March 2022 it would be formally halting operations by the end of 2022. What led to the downfall of this once prominent exchange?
Regulatory Pressures: Bittrex fell behind implementing controls required by enhanced US crypto compliance policies.
Stiffer Competition: Major exchanges like Coinbase, Binance.US, and Kraken offered lower fees, more coins, and superior features.
Class Action Lawsuits: Suits filed over disabled accounts accused Bittrex of trapping user funds.
Loss of Market Share: Trading volumes and website traffic declined as users migrated to competitors.
Management Turnover: Founders and senior leaders gradually left the company over time.
Declining Operations: Technical issues, minimal product development, and customer service problems plagued final years.
While Bittrex cited regulatory burdens as the reason for closure, the exchange was ultimately surpassed by more agile competitors and struggled with internal leadership issues.
The Bittrex Wind-Down Process
With US operations ceasing, Bittrex enacted a wind-down process to try closing accounts in an orderly fashion:
March 2022: Bittrex announces it will fully shut down by December 2022 and requests users withdraw funds.
April 8, 2022: Withdrawals, trading, and new signups disabled for US accounts. Some users inexplicably banned.
April 15, 2022: Bittrex sued for illegally trapping user funds, suppressing account closures.
May 2022: Bittrex pushes closure timeline into early 2023 blaming unforeseen difficulties.
September 2022: Bittrex allegedly blocks disabled accounts from closing without explanation.
December 2022: A class action lawsuit was filed accusing Bittrex of preventing users from reclaiming their assets.
January 2023: Many users still awaiting the closure of accounts and withdrawal of funds.
Based on the messy wind-down process thus far, it remains uncertain whether Bittrex will be able to fully return all US user funds in an orderly manner. The exchange has processed some withdrawal requests, but problems clearly persist.
What Users Can Expect as Bittrex Shuts Down
For US-based traders, Bittrex is effectively closed for good. Here is what users should expect with accounts being closed:
All Cryptocurrency Assets Returned: Bittrex aims to eventually return users every last satoshi of their crypto holdings. But delays are likely.
Normal Withdrawal Fees Charged: Any remaining withdrawal fees for transferring crypto out will still apply per Bittrex’s fee schedule.
FIFO Order for Processing: Requests are allegedly handled on a first-in, first-out basis based on age of support ticket.
Ongoing Account Closures: Users are asked to periodically check if account closure enabled and resubmit withdrawal requests if still pending.
Limited Customer Support: Expect very slow responses given reduced operations. Persistence is key.
No Firm Timeline: The shutdown process is clearly taking longer than projected. Users may face a prolonged waiting game.
The best advice for US Bittrex traders is to remain patient, diligently follow up if your funds are still stuck, and avoid any legal threats that could cause your account to be deprioritized or banned indefinitely.
What Are Alternatives to Bittrex?
With Bittrex ceasing operations in the US, former users will need to migrate to a new cryptocurrency exchange platform:
Kraken: A top regulated US exchange praised for security and customer support. Low fees and access to staking rewards.
Gemini: Regulated US exchange founded by the Winklevoss Twins in 2014. Offers fewer coins but solid security and service.
KuCoin: A smaller but rising exchange with hundreds of altcoins. Not available to US users but popular internationally.
FTX US: Rapidly growing US exchange started by former Wall Street traders. Strong liquidity and funding options.
Coinbase: The most popular mainstream US crypto exchange. Very beginner-friendly but higher fees.
Binance.US: US partner of the world’s largest exchange. Competitive fees and wide selection of altcoins.
Evaluate each alternative across security, fees, supported cryptocurrencies, customer support, and other key factors. Also consider diversifying across multiple exchanges to reduce risks.
To Recap: The Life and Death of an Early Crypto Leader
Bittrex entered the nascent crypto space in 2014 with an innovative exchange that set new standards in security, reliability, and advanced trading capabilities. For early adopters, Bittrex represented a vast new frontier of digital assets to discover and trade.
However, the exchange ultimately failed to stay ahead of the curve as the industry matured. Increased competition, regulatory pressures, lawsuits, and management issues led to its gradual decline into eventual insolvency.
While a few alternatives like Bittrex Global soldier on internationally, Bittrex’s shutdown marks the end of an era for US crypto pioneers
In another related article, Binance vs. Coinbase: A Complete Comparison for Traders