This Middle East crypto exchange review analyzes the best cryptocurrency exchanges to buy Bitcoin and crypto in MENA.
With over 400 million people, the Middle East is a huge market that boasts some of the wealthiest nations in the world. Middle East countries have consistently ranked at the top of the list for the highest GDP per capita in the world. However, the Middle East is still lagging behind in terms of cryptocurrency infrastructure and adoption. With only a few cryptocurrency exchanges across MENA, it is hard for individuals to acquire digital assets. Cryptocurrencies are an exciting and new asset class that has the ability to generate above-market returns and outperform any financial assets in the long-term. Investing in Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies for the long-term is a good way for anyone to diversify their portfolio.
There are, however, some prominent cryptocurrency exchanges that you can buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies from. Before looking at the various cryptocurrency exchanges in the Middle East, it is important for you to look at factors that make a good crypto exchange.
Liquidity refers to the ease of buying or selling in the market. If an exchange is highly liquid, it means that there are a huge number of buyers and sellers. This is the optimal scenario since more activity in the market allows users to always get the best prices and transact much faster compared to a low liquidity environment. Crypto liquidity in the Middle East is low due to the availability of exchanges in the region.
The exchange should be extremely easy to use and intuitive for users. Ease of navigation throughout the platform enables users to access any features easily and directly enhances user experience.
Security is the most important aspect of any crypto exchange. The type of security mechanisms employed by exchanges is vital in ensuring that your coins are safe. Before you sign up for any exchange, you have to verify certain security aspects that include:
Low fees for buying and selling is always good for users, especially if you are constantly trading. It is always a good idea to compare the fees across exchanges. This is especially relevant in the Middle East, where the lack of crypto exchanges could result in a relatively high-fee environment.
Having responsive customer support would save you lots of time and anxiousness, especially in a fast-paced environment. Issues regarding your verification process, deposit or withdrawals, funds reflection, and trading orders should be solved quickly by the exchanges. Delays in responding to user issues could compromise your time, money, and mental well-being.
Fasset is a zero-fee, community-driven regulated exchange in the Middle East that was created due to the many issues faced by crypto users in the region such as high fees, below-average user interface, and inefficient onboarding process. It prides itself as a 0% fee exchange. Fasset is backed by Binance, which one of the largest crypto exchanges globally. The rationale for offering a zero-fee environment is to foster the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies in the region. This allows individuals to access coins in an affordable and decentralized manner. Fasset holds an authorization license under the Central Bank of Bahrain.
Fasset is one of the few exchanges in the region that supports fiat deposits from five Middle East countries that include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman as well as USD deposits. Not only that, it offers one of the highest numbers of cryptocurrencies, with over 20 coins available for users. One of the key advantages of Fasset is its focus on simplicity, with a simple interface to allow new users to navigate the exchange easily. Since they are backed by Binance’s deep liquidity pool, Fasset users will have access to near-market prices and instant order execution.
In the future, Fasset aims to foster stability portfolio management for cryptocurrency users by offering asset-backed tokens. These tokens will provide strong stability and would significantly reduce extreme price volatility risks given their tangible, real-world, economic-generative nature.
Currently, Fasset is in private beta mode to allow a fixed number of first users to test the platform before the actual launch at the end of 2020. Users can sign up here to be part of the beta first user.
Bitoasis is one of the most prominent and oldest cryptocurrency exchanges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It caters to two kinds of users. Firstly, those looking for simplicity can use their “Core” feature that allows them to buy Bitcoin in MENA easily. Secondly, sophisticated traders looking for complex indicators can use the “Pro” feature.
Bitoasis only accepts AED deposits and offers 16 cryptocurrencies and tokens in their exchange. A weakness for Bitoasis is that it currently does not support bank transfers, due to the complications surrounding their bank accounts. Therefore, anyone looking to acquire cryptocurrencies in Bitoasis can only do so via credit or debit cards, which incur a massive 4.5% fee. This alone represents a hindrance for cryptocurrency users given that the average global trading fees range around 0.1% – 0.5%. In terms of security, Bitoasis leverages on Hierarchical Deterministic Multisignature (HDM) wallet to provide the highest level of security to users.
Bitoasis does not fare well in terms of customer review, as can be seen from Trustpilot. There have been numerous complaints regarding the fiat transfer process as well as the exorbitant fees relating to trading.
Rain is a regulated cryptocurrency exchange in Bahrain that serves the greater MENA region. Launched in 2016, Rain holds the title as the first cryptocurrency exchange that acquired a license in Bahrain. It is also backed by BitMex, which is one of the largest cryptocurrency derivatives platforms globally. Rain supports local currency deposits across five Middle East countries, and offer only four cryptocurrency coins in its exchange.
Not only does Rain support retail investors, but it is also the first exchange in the GCC to offer institutional support for cryptocurrency services. One of Rain’s weakness is their high costs; Rain charges a fee of 1.5% on cryptocurrency purchases made via bank transfers, 4% made using debit or credit cards, and 1.5% of the transaction value a sale. The fees are exorbitant relative to the standard trading fees for any exchange.
Rain’s platform is easy to use and caters to retail investors looking to acquire cryptocurrencies easily. However, a point of contention is the poor reviews from users. They were rated 2.3 out of 5 in Trustpilot, with many users complaining about the withdrawal times, hidden fees, and slow response time.
Emirex is a UAE-based digital assets exchange that facilitates cryptocurrency and digital commodities trading. Launched in 2019, Emirex has a presence in the Middle East as well as Asia, offering a diversified range of services within the realm of the digital asset. It is backed by Alpha Sigma Capital, a digital asset fund focused on emerging cryptocurrencies and blockchain companies.
Emirex offers 26 coins on its exchange, which is one of the highest in the GCC. It also accepts three kinds of fiat deposits: AED, USD, and EUR. It also has one of the highest levels of liquidity across other exchanges in the Middle East. On the fees end, Emirex charges a flat fee of 0.1% for maker and taker fees. Additionally, there is a fee of 4.5% if users purchase cryptocurrencies via their credit or debit cards.
It could be relatively hard for new users to navigate across Emirex’s platform since it uses the traditional crypto-to-crypto global exchange layout with many trading features. Emirex platform appeals more towards the sophisticated crypto trader.
Local Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer marketplace that allows users to transact with each other via over-the-counter (OTC) trading. It is different from most crypto exchanges since it allows buyers and sellers to trade with each other on a fixed exchange rate. LocalBitcoins is just an intermediary that undertakes the role of an escrow in the pursuit of trade facilitation.
As its name suggests, LocalBitcoins only facilitates the OTC trading of Bitcoin. There is a LocalBitcoin platform for each country in the Middle East. Users that want to acquire Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies would simply access their country’s LocalBitcoin platform to liaise with the seller. Depending on the seller’s mode of payment, users can either transact using physical cash, bank transfer, or leverage traditional financial applications to correspond with the seller. LocalBitcoins have managed to attain a good customer review score on Trustpilot, with a 4.8 rating out of 5.
However, a significant drawback of LocalBitcoin is the cumulated fees that users are exposed to. Not only are their explicit fees of 1% above the general market standards, but a more important aspect is the premium that sellers charge buyers on the platform. Prices on LocalBitcoins are almost always higher than real-time market prices in a typical cryptocurrency exchange. This is a disadvantage to small investors looking to buy Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
The Middle East is still behind in terms of cryptocurrency adoption and infrastructure relative to the rest of the world. There are still major regulatory hurdles to overcome in order for the region to be a dynamic hub for digital assets. Users in the Middle East can still acquire Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies on the exchanges listed above.
Reviewing the best exchanges across the Middle East, only Fasset and Rain accepts local currencies across MENA. Taking into consideration various factors that include fees, currency and coin support, ease of use, and liquidity depth, it is clear that Fasset has the potential to be the most prominent exchange for users in the Middle East. Users who are interested to buy Bitcoin with zero-fees and experience Fasset’s private beta can sign up here.