Bisq Review 2022: A Decentralized Exchange That’s More Complicated Than Most Investors Need

An image to accompany a review of Bisq Illustration by NextAdvisor
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Bisq is a peer-to-peer network where you can exchange Bitcoin for fiat currency and other cryptos. 

The company states that while Bitcoin’s motto is “Be your own bank,” Bisq’s is “Be your own exchange.” Bisq operates as a platform to connect with other people for direct crypto trades, as opposed to centralized exchanges that serve as the central platform for transactions. While Bisq is probably unnecessarily complex for newer investors, you might find it appealing if you’re an advanced investor who prioritizes anonymity and full control of your crypto. 

All transactions on Bisq must involve Bitcoin, and you need to fund your wallet with it before starting. Bisq requires no identity verification and is noncustodial, so you maintain full control of your funds.

Bisq runs over the Tor network, a browser that anonymizes its users and their activity, and connects to what has been described as the “dark web.” While there is nothing inherently wrong with regard to Tor and the dark web, the privacy it guarantees users also provides cover for illicit (and anonymous) activity. For most everyday crypto investors, a more mainstream exchange like Coinbase or Gemini is likely to be a simpler choice — and without such a direct connection to the dark web.

Before You Start

No matter where you buy it, cryptocurrency is a highly volatile, speculative investment. Only invest in crypto what you’re prepared to lose, and make sure you have other financial priorities in place first: save money in an emergency fund, contribute to retirement savings, and pay off any high-interest debt balances.

Pros and Cons of Bisq

Pros

  • Anonymized, decentralized peer-to-peer network for exchanging Bitcoin for fiat and cryptocurrencies

  • Support for over 120 cryptocurrencies and global fiat

  • Many ways to exchange fiat currency for Bitcoin, including ACH, Amazon eGift Cards, face-to-face transactions, U.S. Postal money orders, and more

  • Bisq does not require personal information or a bank account to use the platform

Cons

  • All currency exchanges require Bitcoin

  • Higher exchange rates set by individual users

  • Cannot purchase coins directly using a bank account, credit card, or debit card

  • Confusing interface for new Bitcoin investors

  • No learning platform for new cryptocurrency investors

Bisq At a Glance

  • Decentralized peer-to-peer network using Bitcoin to transact
  • Bisq doesn’t facilitate currency transfer or hold currencies
  • Low comparative transaction fees compared to other exchanges
  • Transaction fees fund the community DAO (decentralized autonomous organization)
  • Transactions can be anonymous, based on agreements between buyer and seller

Cryptocurrencies Available on Bisq

You can exchange Bitcoin for over 120 different digital currencies and an array of fiat currencies, depending on what users add to the market. Crypto options currently include:

  • Ethereum  (ETH)
  • Litecoin (LTC) 
  • Monero (XMR)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • BSQ (BSQ)
  • Grin (GRIN)

Because Bisq is decentralized, you do not need to create an account or share personal information to get started. Instead, Bisq recommends you create a new wallet file to facilitate trades, send security deposits, and pay trading fees. Instead of syncing with a cloud-based software online, the wallet file — as well as the password and encryption — lives offline and only connects to the blockchain when coins are exchanged.

You can select from over 50 transaction methods ranging from sending a U.S. Postal Service money order to exchanging an Amazon eGift card. To trade Bitcoin using an altcoin, you must link another wallet accepting those coins. Currently, the most popular offers in altcoins include Monero, Ethereum, and the Bisq BSQ proprietary coin. 

Once you and another user agree to buy or sell Bitcoin, you will communicate within the Bisq platform to coordinate payment details. Both parties will make a deposit on Bisq as a measure of good faith, which will be refunded once the trade is complete. 

Bisq Exchange Fees

Each buyer sets the price they want to buy Bitcoin at, while sellers offer the prices they are willing to sell for. When you log in, you’ll see the current available offers on both sides.

Some offers may be higher or lower than the Bitcoin market rate plus fees at other exchanges, which is something to keep in mind when considering any exchange. Plus you’ll get the anonymity of peer-to-peer exchanges. Instead of registering with a major crypto exchange similar to opening a bank account, you can sell your Bitcoin and exchange very little information in the process. 

When you and another user agree on a sale, Bisq charges a transaction fee, which is then paid into the community decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). The company states that its DAO is based on a self-contained economy where governance is guided by software but ultimately determined by the community. The DAO is tasked with keeping the Bisq community software online, along with setting transaction fees on a quarterly basis.  

The trading fees are payable using Bitcoin or the Bisq community token, BSQ. When paying using Bitcoin, the trading fees equal 1% of the total amount being traded. The buyer will pay 0.88% of the fee, while the seller will pay 0.12% of the fee. Comparatively, paying in BSQ cuts the fees in half because the tokens directly support the community. The exchange fees are adjusted every quarter by members of the DAO. 

Trading Fees Per 1 BTC Exchanged

BTCBSQ
Seller0.001212.78
Buyer0.008889.44

The Bisq community also institutes per-trade limits, depending on payment method. For example: If you buy and sell Bitcoin using Amazon eGift Cards, your per-transaction limit is set at 0.25 BTC, with 24 hours to complete the transaction. But if you do a face-to-face deal, where you meet in real life, your per-transaction limit is one Bitcoin, with a four-day window to finish the exchange. 

Bisq Security

The platform’s security features assume you understand key cryptocurrency terms and how crypto environments work. Without a basic knowledge of how to exchange tokens online — or their inherent value — Bisq may offer more risk than reward. 

Because Bisq is not centralized, the platform does not hold any assets, so neither Bitcoin nor hard currencies are available directly for trading on Bisq. Much like Uber connects riders with drivers, Bisq connects those who want to purchase Bitcoin with those who want to sell theirs. This way, you do not have to connect your bank account or personal crypto wallet directly to buy or sell.

Bisq requires both parties to put down a refundable security deposit to ensure the transaction is completed. If things don’t go right, the platform offers a three-tier dispute resolution process of chat, mediation, and arbitration.  

While there are several layers of protection for transactions, you are encouraged to be extra cautious with your information. As with any time you use your own off-platform wallet, there’s no way to recover a lost password or seed phrase if you lose it. As a result, your information and holdings could be lost forever. If you do plan on using Bisq, be sure to not only write down your secure password and seed phrase in a safe place, but also run regular data backups to ensure your information remains secure. 

Additionally, because Bisq is a peer-to-peer network, there is always potential for targeted cryptocurrency scams. One of the most common scams involves a demand for Bitcoin payment that claims to come from a government agency or utility. As of right now, a government agency will never request Bitcoin as a monetary payment — but if you do send the money to another wallet, it will likely be gone forever. 

Who Is Bisq Best For? 

Although anyone can use Bisq to manage peer-to-peer Bitcoin transactions, the network was designed for the cryptocurrency power user who wants total control over their personal information and how it is used. New investors should stick to more mainstream crypto exchanges for simplicity and the extra security that often comes with them.  

As with any cryptocurrency market, it’s key to understand how the platform works and where you can safely withdraw Bitcoin to use as an investment, or to exchange for other digital assets. If you aren’t comfortable transferring Bitcoin between crypto wallets, this may not be the best platform for your needs. 

How to Open an Account with Bisq

Because Bisq is entirely decentralized, you do not need to create traditional accounts to use it. Instead, the process begins by downloading the software and installing it to your computer. Currently, Bisq is available on Windows, MacOS, and several versions of Linux. 

After starting up and connecting to the Bisq network, which is built on top of the Tor network for anonymity, you will have to create a Bitcoin wallet within the system. Bisq does offer video support to walk new users through the setup process with information on how to secure and backup a crypto wallet. 

Bisq Exchange Compared to Others

BisqGeminiCoinbase
Coins120+ cryptocurrencies, but users must either buy or sell Bitcoin — no direct trading from one altcoin to another70+ cryptocurrencies150+ cryptocurrencies
Fees0.1% of traded amount for seller, 0.7% of traded amount for buyer0.50% convenience fee; $0.99 to $2.99 transaction fee; 1.49% transaction fee for trades over $2000.50% spread; Trading fee between 1.49% and 3.99% (or $0.99 to $2.99 flat fee)
Wallet StorageKeep coins in the Bisq software on a cold storage wallet, or transfer to your wallet of choiceKeep coins on Gemini account, Gemini Wallet option, or transfer to your own walletKeep coins on Coinbase account, Coinbase Wallet option, or transfer to your own wallet
Minimum Trade0.06 BTC (with an absolute minimum security deposit of 0.01 BTC)$2$25

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bisq a safe place to trade Bitcoin?

Bisq is a peer-to-peer network, which connects people who want to trade their Bitcoin for other assets. Although Bisq does a reasonably good job of ensuring safe transactions, there is still a risk of fraud. The platform encourages you to connect with other users using the app’s encrypted chat feature, and go through the three-tier resolution system to settle disputes.

Are there any exchange fees on Bisq?

Sellers list their exchange rate on Bisq, which can be greater or lower than the current market exchange rate. Once a buyer and seller agree on a transaction at an exchange rate, both parties pay a fee to Bisq, which is used to power the decentralized autonomous organization that powers the software and exchange.

Is it legal to buy Bitcoin on Bisq?

Yes. There are no restrictions to buying or selling Bitcoin on Bisq.

How can I pay for Bitcoin on Bisq?

Bisq allows you to pay peers for Bitcoin using over 50 different methods accepted around the world, ranging from the traditional methods of ACH transfers and bank wires, to more obscure ways including sending Amazon eGift Cards and U.S. Postal Service Money Orders. As part of setting up a wallet on Bisq, you will have the opportunity to set your preferred payment method and connect with others who want to buy or sell Bitcoin using those exchanges. You can also buy or sell Bitcoin using altcoins, but offers may vary based on demand.