A crypto exchange planned to charge some users monthly ‘inactivity’ fees—then it changed its mind

July 6, 2022, 3:34 PM UTC
Updated July 6, 2022, 6:54 PM UTC
People talking at the Bitstamp Ltd. booth at the Blockchain Week Summit
Bitstamp announced last week that as of August 1 it would charge some users a fee for "inactivity."
Benjamin Girette—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Update, July 6, 2022: This article has been updated to reflect that Bitstamp canceled its plans to institute an inactivity fee.

One of the oldest crypto exchanges said last week it planned to charge some customers for “inactivity,” but after public outcry, it has had a change of heart. 

On Wednesday, Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, canceled a plan to charge some users a 10 euro ($10.17) monthly fee for inactivity. 

“Listening to our customers is part of our service DNA. Bitstamp’s goal has always been to be a secure, reliable trading platform that provides industry leading services, and we do not intend to deviate from our path,” Bitstamp’s CEO JB Graftieaux wrote in a press release.

The planned “inactivity fee” would have applied to Bitstamp users with less than 200 euros in their account and who had not traded, deposited, withdrawn, or staked assets for the previous 12 months. Users in the U.S. were not going to be subject to the fees, but users based in every other country were.

“Nobody loves fees (we don’t either!) but keeping inactive accounts on the books is a cost, and in order for us to continue providing great services to all our customers, we made the hard decision to implement the Inactivity Fee,” Bitstamp wrote in a blog post announcing the change on July 1.

Although it canceled its inactivity fee, Bitstamp would not have been the only exchange to institute such a policy. Equities and crypto exchange Etoro also has a $10 monthly inactivity fee charged to a user if they haven’t logged into their account in 12 months.

On social media, crypto fans criticized Bitstamp’s plans, saying it was just another sign of desperation for the industry during what could be a prolonged crypto winter. 

Investors are fleeing the crypto markets after a major downturn has decimated the prices of everything from Bitcoin to NFTs. Trading volumes have been falling for crypto assets across the board in 2022, and the global cryptocurrency market cap fell below $1 trillion in June. Bitcoin, which makes up 42% of the crypto market, according to CoinMarketCap, fell 56% in the second quarter, the second-worst in its history and its biggest quarterly decrease in 11 years, according to crypto analytics firm Arcane Research.

In a Tuesday tweet before Bitcoin canceled the “inactivity” fee, one of its competitors, OKCoin, also called out exchanges charging such costs. 

“Looks like some other exchanges are starting to add a new fee called an “inactivity fee”… Not here, #HODL all day, week, month, year, or however long you want,” OKCoin tweeted on Tuesday.

As trading volumes drop, crypto exchanges in general have been looking to branch out from trading fees, their main source of revenue. In May, the largest U.S.-based crypto exchange, Coinbase, publicly launched an NFT marketplace to try and diversify its business, although it has struggled to gain traction.

Last month, the U.S. affiliate of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX, expanded beyond crypto trading by offering a new service for no-commission stock trading to a select group of U.S. customers. 

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