The Best (and Worst) Crypto Loan Providers of 2023

Crypto loans and on-chain credit are changing the lending market — will we avoid mistakes from the past?

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Artwork by Crystal Le

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With a growing list of crypto lending platforms, you can not only take a loan out on your crypto holdings, but you can use on-chain credit to apply for a loan. But is it a good idea? The industry is rife with instances where platforms shut down and depositors lost access to their accounts. 

Despite the reputation of bad apples, opportunities abound for both borrowers and lenders. Crypto loans can be a good alternative to traditional forms of credit. But to learn from the mistakes of the past, we need to highlight important considerations.

What is a crypto loan?

A crypto loan is a type of loan that requires you to pledge your cryptocurrency as collateral to the lender in return for immediate cash. Many platforms offer these loans in stablecoins, other cryptocurrencies or fiat currency. And for credit based crypto lenders, they use a variety of on-chain and off-chain credit to secure loans for customers.

How to find the best crypto loan platforms for you

First, you will want to compare the technical, counterparty and liquidity risks of each platform. They look fundamentally different between centralized, decentralized and credit based crypto loan issuers.  

  1. Technical risks range from data center security breaches, protocol and pricing oracle failures, and smart contract hacks. 
  2. Counterparty risk refers to the possibility that borrowers may default on their loan repayment. Traditional lending minimizes this risk through credit checks and thorough applicant assessments. In crypto lending, this is often mitigated through over-collateralization. Decentralized credit based crypto lending platforms use centralized authorities, collective review and on-chain credit to make assessments. They use various ways to decentralize the approval and funding process, but none of them are default proof. 
  3. Liquidity risk in crypto lending refers to the potential failure of a platform’s reserve or liquidity pool to satisfy market demand. Because the industry lacks universal auditing standards, proof-of-reserves and FDIC insurance, platforms run greater risks of market contagion and liquidity failures. All platforms differ in how they mitigate these risks. DeFi lenders rely on algorithms to keep their automated market making protocols liquid and CeFi lenders use traditional accounting and proof-of-reserves.

Secondly, the way platforms address these risks all impact the cost to the borrower. So you will also want to compare collateral requirements, loan-to-value ratios and interest rates of different platforms.      

This article narrows the best crypto loans to the most reputable and longest-serving products. It forms part of the Blockworks series on Crypto Loans, which contains helpful information on how crypto loans work, the benefits and the risks.

Read more: The Best Bitcoin Loans of 2023

Top centralized crypto lending platforms

Nexo

ProsCons
– Flexible repayment plans
– Support for various crypto assets
– User-friendly interface Fiat on-ramp and off-ramp
– Exchange platform for swapping cryptocurrencies Prompt customer support via LiveChat and email
– Proof-of-reserve auditing
– The token-tied loyalty model makes navigating special offers confusing
– Certain assets are only available for buying and not depositing to Nexo accounts
– Nexo’s Yield products increase counterparty risk
– Not available to US customers 

USP: Credit line offered at 0% APR 

Type: CeFi, Multi-coin

Launched in 2018, Nexo is a centralized crypto lending platform and one of the oldest-serving providers of such services. Nexo users instantly receive a credit line when they deposit crypto on the platform and can borrow either stablecoins or supported fiat currencies. The platform requires users to over-collateralize their loan positions and provides a clear liquidation threshold and flexible repayment options.

Nexo uses a loyalty tier system to calculate interest rates. They offer 6.9% to their highest rated tier and 0% if their LTV is below or equal to 20%. So if you posted $10,000 in BTC as collateral, you could use a credit line of approximately $2,000 at 0% APR. 

Nexo users climb tiers by increasing the ratio of NEXO tokens to the rest of their portfolio. But price volatility can make it difficult to monitor this ratio and cause unsuspecting users to pay greater fees. 

Users can also earn up to 12% APR from staking stablecoins and NEXO and up to 15% in high interest savings accounts. These interest rates vary depending on the amount deposited and the tier of your account. 

The platform also lists a wide range of assets and enables users to add collateral to their accounts anytime during the loan duration. Nexo stores its funds with institutional-grade custodian BitGo and provides real-time proof-of-reserve attestation from an independent auditor to verify that it has sufficient backing for all deposited user assets.

YouHodler 

ProsCons
– High 364% APR interest on Dual Asset Product
Support for various crypto assets
– User-friendly interface Fiat on-ramp and off-ramp
– Exchange platform for swapping cryptocurrencies Highest LTV is 90%
– Interest savings accounts lower than competitors 
– Not available to US customers 
– Company experienced a data breach in 2019
– No proof-of-reserves Higher interest rates on stablecoin loans

USP: 364% APR yield on Dual Asset Product 

Type: CeFi, Multi-coin.

YouHolder, a cryptocurrency lending platform, was created in 2018. They offer crypto loans with 90%, 70% and 50% LTV ratios with different interest rate fees, load durations and price down limits. They have a rather high interest rate on loans made out in stablecoins. They charge about 26.07% APR for loans made in USDT and USDC but 0% on loans in BTC and ETH. 

The company also offers a new yield generating option called Dual Asset Product. It offers up to 364% APR in 1-5 day increments. The product is similar to yield farming AMM liquidity pools in that users add liquidity to a stablecoin/cryptocurrency pair of their choice. 

But instead of depositing both assets, they choose one. The platform only makes the payout in stablecoins if the price of the cryptocurrency is above the starting price. 

For example, say you deposited 1 BTC to the BTC USDT pair for 1 day at a 364% APR. If the price went up by .5%, you would get the deposited amount back in USDT + 1% in interest. But if the price dropped .5%, you would get the deposited amount back in BTC + 1% interest. Users can still lose money through this yield bearing product if they sell their crypto payouts at a loss.  

Bankrupt CeFi platforms (the worst options of 2022) 

The crypto bear market made 2022 a rough year for centralized crypto lending platforms. Market contagion spread from Terra/Luna’s collapse leaving a series of platforms in its wake. Here is a list of some of the crypto lenders that filed for bankruptcy in 2022.

Celsius

Celsius was one of the most aggressive CeFi lending platforms – offering customers up to 17% annual interest. The crypto loan issuer froze withdrawals in June 2022, just a month after the Terra/Luna implosion. They cited “extreme market conditions” as the reason why. And in July, the company filed for bankruptcy. Celsius had over 1.7 millions users. But in March 2022, Justice Martin Glenn ruled that these users can get up to 72% of their deposited funds back. 

Voyager

Voyager, the crypto exchange and lending platform froze withdrawals and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the collapse of crypto hedge fund 3AC in June 2022. They disclosed over $500 million in exposure to the failed fund. Customers also hope to recover 72% of their lost funds once the bankruptcy is complete. 

Vauld

Vauld, a crypto lending program based in Singapore, froze customer accounts and filed for protection from its creditors on July 4th 2022. At the time of filing, they owed $402 million to creditors. And while 90% of that debt is in customer deposits, no plans to reimburse depositors have been announced. Instead, the Peter Thiel-backed company has twice extended the creditor protection period as they continue to restructure. It is set to expire on April 28, 2023. 

Bable Finance

Bable Finance, a Hong Kong crypto lending platform that served crypto mining companies, institutions and high net worth borrowers froze all customer accounts on June 17, 2022. They did this just days after Celcius’ announcement and cited the same market volatility as why. A few days later on June 20, they entered into talks with counterparties on debt reconstruction. But on March 6, 2023 they filed for moratorium protection from creditors to launch a new DeFi platform and stablecoin with a similar collateral design to algorithmic stablecoins. They plan to use this scheme to pay their $766 million debt to creditors. 

BlockFi

On Nov. 28, 2022, BlockFi declared bankruptcy. Three weeks prior, the crypto lending platform froze customer withdrawals citing a “lack of clarity” into the line of credit promised by FTX. But in December, BlockFi worked with the bankruptcy court to implement a plan to return deposited funds back to its customers. This move is different from Voyager and Celsius because it means that customers could retrieve their funds before bankruptcy hearings are over. 

These CeFi lenders all fell victim to leverage and over exposure to risk. But in the 2021 run up, many felt the pressure to offer more aggressive yields to compete. And for a brief time, customers were able to make 17% to 20% from savings held on these lending platforms. The takeaway was that if the product seemed too good to be true, then you were likely the product. These lenders wanted customers at all costs to finance their unsustainable scheme.

While news of CeFi lender bankruptcies have died down, there is always the potential risk for more. Extra caution may be prudent when choosing lenders that offer unrealistic yields. 

Top decentralized crypto loan platforms 

Aave

ProsCons
– Non-custodial cryptocurrency lending with on-chain transparency
– Aave supports a wide variety of crypto assetsUsers can earn through incentives while borrowing
– Aave offers a permissioned protocol ideal for high-profile and institutional investors
– Users take on considerable token risk as most pool assets are correlated
– The protocol’s decentralized nature means users must proactively manage their positions to avoid liquidation
– Aave’s interface may be a little complicated for first-time users
– Aave offers yield-generating products, which increases counterparty risk

USP: Decentralized crypto lending platform

Type: DeFi, Multi-coin

Aave is a DeFi protocol allowing investors to borrow against crypto. The protocol initially launched on the Ethereum network but has since expanded to 15 other ecosystems, including Polygon, Avalanche and Optimism.

Aave facilitates crypto loans by providing lending pools where users can deposit assets to earn interest. Borrowers can, in turn, tap into these pools by depositing crypto as collateral to borrow stablecoins or other assets available on the pool. 

Depending on the assets, Users can borrow up to 35% to 80% of the value of deposited collateral and choose between a fixed or variable interest rate. Aave protocol liquidates a position if the collateral value drops below a specified threshold and the user fails to deposit more collateral upon margin calls.

Compound

ProsCons
– Non-custodial cryptocurrency lending with on-chain transparency
– Compound offers a relatively user-friendly interface
– Compound offers reasonably competitive interest rates
– Compound provides additional tools such as advanced transactions and position migrator to help lower network fees 
– Supports fewer assets than other DeFi protocols
– Users face smart contract risks as is the case with all DeFi protocols
– The use of COMP tokens to incentivize borrowing introduces further risks in addition to the danger of using highly-volatile assets as collateral
– Being deployed only on Ethereum means users incur high network fees

USP: Non-custodial cryptocurrency lending platform with on-chain transparency

Type: DeFi, Multi-coin

Compound is a DeFi protocol built on the Ethereum network. Users can deposit crypto to earn interest or use it as collateral to borrow from Compound’s liquidity pools. Compound supports major Ethereum-based assets, including wrapped bitcoin (WBTC), ether (ETH), compound (COMP), chainlink (LINK), uniswap (UNI), and staked ETH tokens.  Users can draw out loans in these assets or use the USDC stablecoin.

Users automatically receive a credit line on Compound based on the value of deposited assets. The dashboard presents an overview of the health of a user’s loan position and the maximum LTV on each asset. Like most DeFi protocols, users must regularly check their position to avoid liquidation.

Fuji Finance

ProsCons
– Users can access competitive interest rates from different pools
– The platform provides a user-friendly interface for managing crypto loans 
– The platform supports borrowing stablecoins with ETH, providing relative security against market drawdowns
– The platform is transparent about its fees, including a rebalancing fee to guarantee the best rates
– Fuji supports fewer assets compared to other protocols
– Fuji’s planned cross-chain infrastructure may introduce a greater security risk

USP: DeFi aggregator for users to to find crypto loans at the best interest rates

Type: DeFi, Multi-coin

Fuji Finance is a DeFi aggregator for users to access crypto loans at the best interest rates from different protocols. Fuji analyzes multiple lending pools and uses its routing contracts to let users access these offers from a single platform. 

Users can view their open loan positions, health factor, and liquidation price on their account dashboard.  Fuji features a refinancing feature that automatically optimizes loan positions when a competing protocol offers improved rates. There are no repayment schedules, although users must maintain a healthy LTV to sustain their loan position.

In addition to Ethereum, Fuji is live on Polygon, Arbitrum and Fantom. The platform also plans to introduce cross-chain collateralization, enabling users to access liquidity using collateral deposited on a different chain. 

Crypto lending platforms offering loans with no collateral

Goldfinch Finance

ProsCons
– Provides borrowers access to credit who are outside of traditional banking
– No over-collateralization 
– Lower interest rates: Goldfinch aims to provide more affordable credit by cutting out intermediaries and using a unique credit scoring system
– Decentralized: Since Goldfinch is built on the Ethereum blockchain and managed by a DAO – offering greater transparency into governance and risk
– Crypto price volatility: Since the value of crypto assets can be volatile, borrowers may face the risk of having their collateral liquidated if the value of their crypto assets drops significantly
– Risk of default: There is always the risk that borrowers may default on their loans, which could result in a loss of principal for lenders
– Limited liquidity: Lenders may not be able to withdraw their funds immediately, as the length of loan terms on Goldfinch may be longer than other investment options

USP: Credit based crypto loans with no over-collateralization 

Type: DeFi, Multi-coin

Goldfinch is a decentralized credit based crypto lending protocol on the Ethereum blockchain. According to their website, this protocol is governed through a community DAO – meaning that all changes to protocol configurations and parameters are voted on by governance token holders.  

Their core mission is to provide credit to underserved communities around the world. They argue that the over-collateralization of most other crypto lenders limits the scope and purpose of crypto loans. And as result, most of it is used to leverage investments within the ecosystem. They see untapped opportunity in using the borderless limitations of cryptocurrency and smart contract platforms to offer credit based loans for real world use cases.   

Read more: What Are Real-world Assets? DeFi’s Newest Yield

In credit-based lending, borrowers are evaluated based on their creditworthiness, which is determined by factors such as their credit history, income, and other financial indicators. Since Goldfinch is a protocol governed by a DAO, they don’t directly run credit checks and require loan applications like traditional institutions. Instead they use a system that evaluates creditworthiness through the collective assessment of other participants.

Bitcoin only CeFi lenders  

Ledn

ProsCons
– Proof-of-reserves attestation
– Transparent fees
– Repayments available through bank transfer or stablecoins
– Customer support available through email and LiveChat
– Charges a 2% admin fee
– The minimum collateral requirement makes the platform unfriendly to small borrowers
– Ledn also offers investors a savings/yield product, creating rehypothecation risks

USP: Simple and easy-to-use platform for accessing Bitcoin-backed loans

Type: CeFi, Bitcoin only

Founded in 2018, Canada-based Ledn is another crypto loan platform with a relatively impeccable record. Ledn employs BitGo as its official digital asset custodian. The platform primarily offers interest-yield products for bitcoin and USDC holders. Ledn users can borrow against BTC at a 9.9% annual interest rate plus a 2% admin fee.

Ledn requires users to deposit at least $1,000 worth of bitcoin collateral, with the option to borrow up to 50% of the deposit amount. The platform issues loans within 24 hours of a user’s request and requires no repayment schedule as long as the user maintains a healthy LTV.

Unchained Capital

ProsCons
– Transparent fees and charges
– Users can verify via a multi-signature  contract that deposited assets are not rehypothecated
– Only interest payments are required monthlyLive customer support
– The application process is manual, and approval may take up to a week
– Origination fees and relatively high-interest rates
– Unchained Capital’s 40% LTV means access to less capital compared to other crypto loan providers

USP: Bitcoin-backed loans offering a multisig self custody solution

Type: CeFi, bitcoin only

Bitcoin-focused financial services firm Unchained Capital offers a facility to borrow cash against BTC. Interested borrowers can complete an online application with Unchained Capital and receive a loan quotation. The platform requires a minimum collateral amount of $10,000, with users only able to borrow up to 40% of the deposited asset.

If approved, the borrower transfers the bitcoins to a designated address and receives the stablecoin collateral on their account. Unchained Capital requires monthly interest payments on its bitcoin loans. Users can choose to spread interest payments across 6 or 12 monthly payments, with the principal repayment only required at the end of the loan duration.

Get the most out of crypto loans

Bitcoin and crypto loans are inherently risky because of the volatile nature of the underlying assets. However, investors can make the most of such loans by choosing platforms offering the highest security level for client assets. 

At the most basic level, users should be able to verify that all deposited assets are fully backed and not subject to any form of rehypothecation. Platforms that offer low-interest rates on borrows typically have greater risks of reusing user collateral to earn a yield and subsidize fees for borrowers. Having a yield product also increases the chances of the platform needing to rehypothecate users’ funds to meet up with promised interest rates for depositors.

Meanwhile, it is essential that customers have multiple options to deposit more collateral if their loan position is at risk of liquidation. All loan terms, including interest rates and associated fees, must be transparently agreed upon by both parties before the loan issuance.


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