Bitcoiners love to ‘hodl’ but sometimes you need a large amount of fiat and you need it fast. Getting a big loan quickly from a traditional bank can be very difficult to get and also time-consuming.
But because Bitcoin is such a highly liquid asset, there are institutions that will take it as collateral for a loan and give you cash in as little as 24 hours.
These types of loans go by many names, such as “Bitcoin Collateralized Loans”, “Bitcoin Backed Loans” or just “Bitcoin Loans” for short.
Since Bitcoin is not only a form of currency, but also a store of value, it can be used like other assets as collateral for a loan.
A Bitcoin loan is similar to a traditional loan offered by banks, except there are hard credit checks, there are no strings attached to the money, and interest rates are the same for everyone. That is because most of the risk is not on the lender but on the borrower, since the borrower is putting up more than enough Bitcoin to cover the loan and interest payments.
Bitcoin loans are a great way to get cash quickly. And there are all sorts of reasons you might need that. You may want to pay down credit card debt with unreasonably high interest rates or pay for an unexpected medical emergency. Whatever the reason, Bitcoin loans turn around faster than traditional loans and require less bureaucratic overhead because your credit score, good or bad, is not a factor.
Other reasons to take out a Bitcoin backed loan include acquiring funds to travel the world, buy a home, diversify a portfolio by investing in other asset classes, invest in a business, or pay off other high-cost debt.
So, once a user has weighed the pros and the cons of taking out a Bitcoin-backed loan, they can look at some of the following offering Bitcoin-backed loans.
Here is a deeper look at a couple popular Bitcoin loan companies:
BlockFi was my first choice when looking to use crypto as collateral for a fiat loan. BlockFi's friendly and professional staff helped make for a very smooth process from start to finish.
New York-based non-banking lender BlockFi is one of the most popular companies offering cryptocurrency-backed loans.
The company had raised $1.5 million in seed funding earlier in 2018 from SoFi, Kenetic Capital, and ConsenSys Ventures. This was followed by a massive $52.5 million fundraising round led by Galaxy Digital Ventures.
BlockFi will use $50 million of the fresh capital infusion to provide loans to its customers. Moreover, BlockFi founder Zac Prince, who originally comes from a consumer lending background, had hinted in July this year that the company’s lending to corporate, retail, and institutional investors was nearing “eight figures,” though he didn’t provide an exact number.
So, BlockFi is a credible name in the cryptocurrency-backed lending space that one can look at to collateral their Bitcoin and get access to funds in fiat currency. Let’s see how it works.
BlockFi’s website says that it takes just two minutes for a user to apply for a Bitcoin loan. Once a user submits the application, the BlockFi team will review the application and present the applicant with loan terms in a matter of just few hours. Once the user accepts the terms and sends the collateral to BlockFi, the company will wire the loan in USD directly into the applicant’s bank account.
BlockFi claims that applicants can get the money into their accounts in just 90 minutes from the start of the application. That’s what makes the company one of the fastest crypto-backed lenders in the U.S., where it currently operates in 46 states. In fact, the process of applying for a Bitcoin loan on BlockFi is not a very complicated one. Let’s take a more detailed look at the application process and some of the other points that potential applicants need to be aware of.
Consumers looking to apply for a Bitcoin-backed loan on BlockFi will have to visit the company’s website where they will have to sign-up by providing the name, email address, password, country, state, and phone number. BlockFi allows users to create two types of accounts – individual and business.
Once the sign-up is complete, the applicant can feed in the required loan amount, when they’ll know the amount of cryptocurrency that they’ll have to put as collateral, and the documentation needed for KYC/AML purposes. More importantly, BlockFi won’t carry any checks on the applicant’s credit, so the credit score would remain unaffected.
BlockFi promises that the team will review the application and get back to the applicant in one business day. Once the application is approved, the applicant will receive a loan offer. However, BlockFi claims that it can arrive at a decision in just two hours if the application is received within business hours.
If the applicant is satisfied with the loan offer, they accept the same and send the collateral Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Ether to BlockFi’s custodian – Gemini – and get the loan amount wired into their account.
You can use the step-by-step guide below to sign up for your loan quickly and easily:
Go to BlockFi.com and click on “Get Started”
Fill out the form below with your info. The email must be real since BlockFi will send a verification email to it
Verify your email by clicking the link in the email.
After verifying your email, go back to the blockfi site and choose Crypto Loans. You will then be asked to submit your documents for KYC.
Complete the KYC verification. When you scan your ID remember that it must be clear as a blurry scan can cause the KYC verification process to fail
After completing KYC, return to the website and log in. Select Deposit, shown below.
Click on the New Loan button
At the form, select which cryptocurrency you’d like to use as collateral.
Fill in the dollar amount in USD you’d like to get a loan for and select Calculate Your Offer
Select which Loan to Value (LTV) percentage you’d like to use.
The higher LTV of 50% requires a lower amount of collateral but has a higher interest rate and is more likely to get liquidated in a major price movement..
Fill out this form with your bank info and your intended use of the funds and select Proceed
You will receive an email response from BlockFi within 24 hours
Read the offer agreement, and, if it looks good, you can sign the agreement
BlockFi will then provide you with a crypto address to send your coins to. Using your wallet, input the address or scan the QR code given to you by Blockfi.
Make absolutely certain that the asset you are sending to Blockfi matches the coin you chose in step #8. If, for example, you send Litecoin to an Ether address, you will lose your Litecoin.
Within a day of the collateral being received, BlockFi will send either USD to your bank account via a wire transfer or a stablecoin to a wallet address of your choosing.
BlockFi’s interest rates start as low as 8%, and they aren’t dictated by a customer’s credit score. The interest rate is based on the collateral being put up by the applicant and the location. Additionally, BlockFi charges a loan origination fee that averages around 1% to 2% of the loan amount, which is determined by the loan amount requested by the applicant, their location, and the credit history.
You can find full rate breakdowns below:
The offer will also mention the amount of Bitcoin that the user needs to put up as collateral to get the loan. BlockFi states that it provides a loan up to 50% of the value of the crypto collateral pledged by the applicant. The minimum loan amount that a customer can apply for is $2,000, which means that he or she will have to put double that amount in terms of Bitcoin as collateral.
The maximum loan amount that BlockFi users can offer is $10,000,000. Additionally, the loan will run for a maximum period of 12 months, during which the borrower can choose to make only interest payments on a monthly basis using crypto. At the end of 12 months, the borrower can either pay off the principal in one lump sum payment, or refinance the loan at the same rate. Another notable feature of BlockFi is that it doesn’t charge any prepayment penalty, so a borrower can repay the loan at any time during those 12 months and get back the collateral to their specified address.
BlockFi borrowers need to keep a watch on the value of the Bitcoin they have pledged as collateral. If the value of the collateral significantly drops, it will set off a trigger event and the borrower will have to add more collateral to the account in order to maintain the 50% loan to value (LTV) ratio.
BlockFi states that the first trigger event will occur when the LTV hits 70%, which would happen if the price of the cryptocurrency drops 50% from the value it was at when the loan was originated. Once the trigger event happens, the borrower will have 72 hours to provide additional collateral or will have to close the loan by paying the outstanding amount.
In all, BlockFi gives owners of Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ether a great way to get access to funds based on their crypto holdings without having to sell them off. The company’s rates are also quite competitive, though users will have to be aware of the fact that they might need to post more collateral or pay off the loan in three days if the value of the cryptocurrencies fall substantially.
Unchained is UNcomplicated, refreshingly simple. Top-notch customer service. Super-cold storage. Unchained conveniently facilitates the efficient use of (my coins), tax-favorably, in my case.
Unchained Capital is another crypto-finance company that potential borrowers can look at to get a loan on their crypto holdings. The company closed a $3 million seed funding round in June 2018.
The basic idea of what Unchained Capital is doing is similar to BlockFi – allowing crypto investors to diversify their holdings into other asset classes by putting Bitcoin or Ether as collateral in return for U.S. dollars. Listed below are some of the key features of the company’s loan offering.
Unchained Capital provides both business and consumer loans, so whethor you need money for a personal matter or an urgent business need, Unchained Capital has you covered.
There are some restrictions though. One is that Unchained’s reach is limited as compared to BlockFi since it doesn’t offer loans in all states, and which states they do support varies based on whether its a business loan or a personal loan.
You can check out which states support which kinds of loans using the map below:
If an applicant is in Unchained’s jurisdiction, they will have to log on to their website to sign up for an account and complete the loan application process. The company requires the usual KYC/AML documentation. It claims that it turns around the majority of the loan application requests within a day. Once the loan is approved, the borrower will have to send the collateral – either Bitcoin or Ethereum – into Unchained Capital’s cold storage vault that’s dedicated to the loan.
Once Unchained Capital receives the collateral, the loan will be disbursed into the borrower’s bank account. Like BlockFi, Unchained Capital doesn’t carry a check on the applicant’s credit score, though they may conduct a soft credit pull. In case of a business loan, Unchained Capital requires that the business provides information about all of its officers, directors, and shareholders who have a stake of more than 20% in the business.
The minimum loan amount for domestic loans is $10,000, while for international loans it is $100,000. The maximum loan amount is $1 million.
To apply for a loan, you can follow the instructions in the video below:
Unchained Capital charges interest rates between 8% and 14% for loan durations ranging between 3 months and 36 months. The company also charges loan origination fees of 1%-2%. The borrower will then make monthly interest payments for the duration of the loan, while the last payment will also include the principal amount.
Unchained Capital also gives the borrower an option of renewing the loan at the end of the tenure with “potentially” new terms so as to defer the principal repayment. Additionally, the company doesn’t charge any prepayment penalties, allowing the borrower to close the loan at anytime without any additional charges.
Unchained Capital has a loan to value ratio of 50%. This means that customers can borrow $1 for every $2 of crypto collateral that they deposit. As such, a borrower needs to have at least $20,000 worth of Bitcoin or Ether in order to get a loan from Unchained Capital to meet its minimum lending amount.
However, in case the value of the collateral drops by 25%, Unchained Capital will make a call to the borrower and request for additional collateral or a principal repayment. In case the borrower doesn’t act and the value of the collateral goes down by 45%, Unchained Capital can take over the collateral and sell the same to recover the principal and any outstanding interest amount.
In case the value of the cryptocurrency increases and the loan to value ratio hits 40%, borrowers can request partial return of the collateral under certain terms and conditions.
However, this is where the similarities of a Bitcoin lending program end. The first thing that users need to keep in mind is that Bitcoin isn’t controlled by a government or some central authority, so there’s some risk involved.
For instance, if a user is borrowing from a lender located in another country by keeping their Bitcoin as collateral, he or she will find it difficult to hold the lender accountable in case the regulatory conditions of that country change for the worse. Additionally, the volatility of Bitcoin prices means that you’ve got to be prepared to pay up additional collateral in case the value of the cryptocurrency declines.
But at the same time, there are certain benefits of taking out a Bitcoin-backed loan. For instance, a Bitcoin-backed loan is ideal for users who don’t want to sell their cryptocurrencies just yet, but want to monetize them at the same time. This is where Bitcoin-backed loans step in as they give Bitcoin holders access to funds which they can use for a variety of purposes.
The rising popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is changing the financial services industry in a big way. Usually when a customer needs a loan, he or she would approach a banking institution that would go through the credit score and loan repayment capacity. The customer might have to put down some collateral as well and probably wait for the banking institution to follow their long process before getting the loan.
However, the evolution of the financial technology sector has given rise to concepts such as peer-to-peer borrowing and lending in fiat currencies. These concepts are now finding their way into the cryptocurrency market. For instance, someone holding Bitcoins can get a loan from one of the many companies offering Bitcoin loans out there by keeping their digital currency holdings as collateral.
As mentioned before, there are several differences between a Bitcoin backed loan and a traditional bank loan. Here we will cover these differences in greater deptch by reviewing how traditional loans work and comparing them with Bitcoin loans.
In a traditional loan, your credit score is used to determine what kind of credit risk you are (meaning how likely or unlikely you are to pay back your loan). This risk affects the rate at which interest is charged on the loan (aka the “interest rate”).
The more risk you are to a bank, the higher your interest rate will be. Bitcoiners who need money fast and have bad credit can make use of Bitcoin loans by avoiding credit checks that may disqualify them. More on that below.
Traditional loans also have lots of strings attached to the money. You are severely limited on what you can and cannot spend the loan money on. Banks don’t want you taking out a mortgage for a house and spending it on a ferrari. To prevent this, they usually hold onto the money in an account, and you must ask for permission before making any purchases.
This process requires lots of documentationa and a constant back-and-fourth between you and your banker for every expense you want to make. The bank can also repossess any of your assets if you fail to pay back the loan.
All of these factors mean traditional loans require a great deal of financial analysis and oversight from start to finish. That means getting the loan can take a lot of time, which may not be good for you if you need the money fast. This is made even worse if you are rejected for the loan anyway, which makes the whole process a total waste of time.
To make matters worse, your credit score can be lowered when a bank does a "hard inquiry" on your credit reports from the reporting agencies. This is standard practice for all loan applicaitons.
For one of the best illustrations of how traditional loans work, this video from MoneyCoach is amazing:
The steps to get a Bitcoin backed loan are basically as follows:
Pretty simple, right?
That’s because Bitcoin loans aren’t hampered by a lot of the barriers of traditional loans.
Bitcoin backed loan institutions do not care about your credit score. With a Bitcoin collateralized loan, most of the risk is removed since you are putting up more value in terms of Bitcoin than the value you are borriwing in US dollars. If you fail to repay the loan, the loaner will just sell your Bitcoin to recoup their money.
Therefore, you ability to ever repay the loan is of much less consequence than it is in a traditional loan.
As mentioned above, traditional loans have lots of rules about what you can spend the loan money on. But with Bitcoin loans, the lender already has your Bitcoin, so you are free to the money in whatever way you see fit (so long as its legal). Again, most of the risk to the loaning institution removed in a Bitcoin loan. If you fail to pay back the loan, the only person likely to lose is YOU.
While it is nice to have a loan that is so easy to qualify for and can be obtained so quickly, you have a lot more to lose than a negative credit score if you fail to pay back your loan. You will lose your Bitcoin instead.
After all, a Bitcoin is a Bitcoin no matter who gives it to the loaning institution.
The bank’s decision of whether or not to approve the loan is, therefore, quite simple, and it comes down to only two questions:
Does the borrower have enough Bitcoin to put up as collateral?
Did the borrower pass KYC?
If the answer to both of those questions is “yes”, then the loan will be approved.
As you can see, Bitcoin loans are a pretty straightforward deal compared to traditional loans.
Since they do not need to run credit checks, loaning institution operations are greatly simplified, making it much easier to hand cash over quickly and at a lower cost than traditional banks.
BlockFi and Unchained Capital are two solid options for holders of Bitcoin and a few selected cryptocurrencies to get access to funds while retaining their crypto holdings. However, there are some basic differences between the two. BlockFi has a lower entry barrier as compared to Unchained Capital, and it is operational in more areas.
However, Unchained Capital’s advantage is that it provides loan for a longer duration, and also offers discounted interest rates for short-term loans of 3-6 months as a part of a limited-time promotional campaign. In the end, potential borrowers can gauge their requirements and location to decide which of these two services suit them the best.