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Crypto savings accounts guide

Earn high yields on your cryptocurrency assets, but there are risks involved.

The financial industry has witnessed a rising number of crypto savings accounts advertising high earning rates. But unlike traditional savings accounts in Hong Kong, a crypto savings account is built to hold your crypto investments. And such accounts don’t come with the same safety nets you might be used to.

The more you learn, the better equipped you’ll be to decide if the rewards of this new breed of accounts outweigh the risks.

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Name Product Mobile view Crypto Banks table Yield rate Deposit fee Cryptocurrencies Cryptocurrencies
Gemini Earn
  • Yield rate

    Up to 8.05%
  • Deposit fee

    1.49%

  • Cryptocurrencies

    28

Up to 8.05%
1.49%

28

BTC, ETH, LTC, DAI, LINK, MKR, AAVE, YFI, UNI, UMA, BAT, ZRX, SNX, COMP, REP, BAL, 1INCH, KNC, CRV, SUSHI, XTZ, DOGE, MATIC, AXS, GRT, MANA, USDC, BCH
Buy, sell and store 70+ crypto and supports 7 fiats including HKD. Pro-level platform with a wide range of function. Sign up with ease and with only a single ID. And you may get started with as little as US$5.
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What are crypto savings accounts?

A cryptocurrency savings account (also referred to as a crypto interest account) is typically a product offering on a crypto exchange that lets you earn interest on your digital assets.

Crypto-based savings accounts works similarly to traditional saving accounts at banks: you deposit your funds (in this case, crypto tokens instead of fiat currency), the platform will lend it out to borrowers and you’ll accrue interest on top of your deposit.

How crypto savings accounts work (7 features to watch for)

Not all crypto savings accounts are created equally. Some may offer higher yields, while others offer stronger security. And within these elements are often more nuanced tiers and distinctions you’ll want to understand before signing up.

Account types

As crypto evolves, so too will the types of savings and interest accounts you can choose from. Some crypto savings accounts offer limited services, while others are all-in-one platforms that work as part of a cryptocurrency exchange.

Investors in Hong Kong will find three main ways to start earning interest on their crypto investments:

  • If you’re new to crypto or don’t own any yet, consider a crypto savings account that allows you to deposit and withdraw fiat currency while handling all the crypto transactions for you in the background.
  • If you already own crypto, consider a crypto savings account like BlockFi, which pays interest on your deposited cryptocurrency.
  • To buy, sell and earn interest in one place, compare crypto exchanges like Nexo, Gemini or Crypto.com, which lets you automatically earn interest on assets you buy or trade.

Supported coins

Many providers and platforms offer savings accounts limited to popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.

Some accounts don’t require you to deposit crypto to start, and so it may not matter which coins are accepted.

Interest and earnings

A top factor to weigh is the account’s advertised APY — or the return on your investment. Unlike traditional savings accounts in Hong Kong, the APY reflects a percentage of the cryptocurrency in your account as an asset, which can fluctuate depending on supply and demand. And you don’t always earn your interest in the same way as you do for a traditional savings account.

You typically earn in-kind interest with crypto banking products — meaning, you get paid in the interest of the crypto you’re earning interest on. Because these accounts earn interest in-kind, volatility doesn’t power the return. For example, a 4% LTC account will yield 4% over the year. But if the price of LTC drops by 50%, you could end up with a lower cumulative total in fiat currency than your initial deposit.

Some platforms implement a split APY feature, where a percentage of returns are paid in a native cryptocurrency token. A crypto savings account may be advertised as having a 12% APY, but that high of a return requires you to receive 2% in the platform’s native coin. Or you might need to hold a specific number of the native coin before you’re eligible for the highest APY.

Interest payments also depend on the crypto savings account or platform you use. You could see your interest paid out in the same cryptocurrency you deposited, in a different cryptocurrency or government-backed fiat currency, like HKD.

Compounding and frequency of payments can also vary by account or platform. Most accounts compound daily, though a few compound monthly or weekly — or, like Crypto Earn, not at all.

Access to your investment

Some providers require you to lock in your crypto for a set time to earn the maximum APY — part of validation of your asset. Once it’s validated, it needs to be added to the blockchain before you can earn rewards on it.

For example, Crypto Earn’s account requires you to lock in the equivalent of $40,000 worth of its native Crypto.com Coin (CRO) for six months to earn its high 14% APY.

Another factor to consider is how easily you can withdraw your initial and earned deposit. For example, Nexo only gives you up to five free withdrawals a month, depending on how much of its native coin you keep in your account.

Private key control

Unlike traditional savings accounts in Hong Kong that allow you control over your money, not all crypto savings accounts allow you to keep control over the keys to your crypto.

Noncustodial wallets like Coinbase leave you in control of the private keys to your cryptocurrency. You’re the sole owner of your cryptocurrency across transactions on the platform.

Custodial accounts like Nexo require you to hand over your private keys, trusting the platform to act as the custodian for your crypto and manage it on your behalf.

Security

Cryptocurrency is a part of what’s called decentralised finance — or DeFi — which relies on a peer-to-peer system called the blockchain. It’s a system separate from centralised finance that’s regulated by the IRD. And so consumer protections like ___ you might be used to won’t apply here.

You can mitigate risk by researching well-established cryptocurrency platforms that prioritise security. Two-factor authentication is good, but cold storage — or storing your assets offline in a place that’s not as easy to hack into — is much stronger. Platforms like Nexo extend coverage by partnering with third-party insurance companies to protect your assets against breaches or employee-related theft.

Search the headlines and forums like Reddit for news on the platform you’re interested in to weed out negative coverage around known vulnerabilities.

Country availability

You may not be able to sign up for particular platforms available internationally due to regulations by the IRD. Currently, most crypto savings platforms operate under an exemption to the Payment Services Act and recently, products like Binance Earn were taken off the Hong Kong market as directed by the IRD.

Are crypto savings accounts safe?

Due to the volatile nature of the cryptocurrency markets, crypto savings accounts aren’t insured by a government body like the Hong Kong Deposit Protection Board’s Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS). If the platform supporting a crypto savings account or wallet fails or is hacked, insurance isn’t in place to recover your funds.

How to protect your funds

Confirm if the platform offers its own insurance policy. Some crypto banks like Nexo partner with insurers to offer a level of protection. Others like Crypto.com rely on a native cryptocurrency token as its store of value, which can be used to make up for lost funds under specific circumstances.

Carefully read any details of insurance protection to understand assets it does and doesn’t cover. It may protect only cryptocurrency and not any fiat cash reserves held on the platform.

3 benefits of using a crypto savings account (and 3 drawbacks)

If you own crypto or are curious about buying it, a crypto savings account can help you earn money on your investment and even spend it on everyday goods and services.

  • High potential returns. Crypto savings accounts advertise rates as high as 14.5% APY, which dwarfs the 1% APY national average for traditional savings accounts in Hong Kong.
  • Access to your crypto. Some crypto savings accounts allow you to link to a debit card. This flexibility improves the functionality of your crypto that you’d otherwise need to convert back into cash before spending it.
  • Repeat customer benefits. The more you use a platform’s or exchange’s services, the greater your benefits may be. Celsius and Nexo support graduated loyalty tiers that help you earn bonus rewards, loan discounts and free withdrawals as your total token holdings grow.
Drawbacks

Crypto savings accounts differ from traditional savings accounts in Hong Kong in key ways you’ll want to weigh before signing up.

  • Not insured by DPS. Crypto savings accounts are not eligible for DPS. If a crypto bank fails or a hacker steals funds from the platform, those funds may never be recovered. Even with internal measures, cryptocurrency holdings are unlikely to be as well protected when compared with cash reserves held in a traditional bank account.
  • No control over private keys. When depositing cryptocurrency into a crypto savings account you may be required to relinquish control of the asset’s private keys. It is the private keys that dictate whether a cryptocurrency can be sold or transferred. By depositing funds into a third-party platform you’re trusting that chosen platform to look after your cryptocurrency correctly.
  • Withdrawal restrictions. With a traditional savings account, you are usually free to withdraw your savings whenever you would like to. Unfortunately, a crypto savings account is usually much more stringent. Since there’s no standardised rule, a platform is free to implement any policy that they feel works best.

Crypto savings accounts vs. traditional savings accounts

Crypto savings accounts look and act similar to traditional savings accounts you’d find at your local bank in Hong Kong. They accept and store your cryptocurrency, allowing you to earn interest on your deposits.

However, these accounts don’t often offer the key safety nets like DPS, not to mention that your staked tokens can also drop in value, diminishing your overall returns. And while you could earn tempting rates as high as 14.5% or more on your savings, your interest is paid in cryptocurrency — meaning how much you earn can vary depending on the coin or token’s value.

Depositing HK$10,000 into traditional vs. crypto savings accounts

A savings account at a major bank in Hong Kong offers an average APY of only 0.005% or less as of November 2021 (according to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong).

In contrast, for an equivalent of HK$10,000 deposited in BTC, the average APY is 4.50%. If you choose to deposit the same amount in USDC instead, the average APY increases to 8.44%, nearly 10 times the interest rate for a typical savings account.

How to open a crypto savings account

Each platform or exchange requires different steps to sign up — for instance, some platforms allow you to onboard fiat currencies while others only allow deposits and withdrawals in cryptocurrency.

To start, look for a Sign up or Register button on your platform’s site, and follow the steps required.

Platforms are required to comply with anti-money laundering regulations and “know your customer” policies that require government-issued ID, including photos, as well as proof of address.

Bottom line

Crypto savings accounts are now offering cryptocurrency investors a way to put idle cryptocurrency assets to work. The interest rates are multiple times higher than those the traditional banking sector in Hong Kong offers now and the range of cryptocurrency asset accounts is constantly expanding.

While interest rates may be high, crypto savings accounts aren’t as well regulated as traditional savings accounts and there’s no protection from DPS. In fact, the IRD still deems cryptocurrency assets as being unsuitable for most retail investors. Many accounts also have some limitations with withdrawal and overall custody of cryptocurrency, with recent regulations resulting in Binance placing restrictions for certain services on Hong Kong users.

For those with substantial cryptocurrency holdings that are willing to overlook short-term market volatility, depositing a set percentage into a crypto savings account can help boost passive returns.

For more information on more crypto banking features check out our crypto banking homepage.

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