Bisq Review 2023: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Athena Alpha

What is Bisq? Bisq is an exceptionally well developed, mature and decentralised P2P exchange that takes the form of an app you install rather than a websites you visit. While doing our Bisq review we found a thriving market – especially in USA and Europe – where you can easily buy up to 2 BTC per transaction depending on which of the 50+ payment methods they support.

Self-custodial wallet
Uses Tor and E2EE
Perfect Privacy & Security score
Low Maker fees
Decentralised network & governance
Requires your PC to be on to trade
Setup can be hard for beginners
Requires a security deposit to trade
High Takers fees

What Makes Bisq Exchange Special

Non-KYC + Private Wallet: The most important thing about Bisq is that it’s entirely non-KYC and uses your own self custody private wallet. This takes the form of an automatically generated Bitcoin Wallet inside the app itself and you can even connect the entire app to your own Full Node too.

Decentralised: Many exchanges, protocols and other applications claim to be decentralised… but most (basically all) aren’t. For context, in testing over 20+ exchanges we’ve only come across two that are truly decentralised. Bisq is one of them and they go even further because even their governance structure is also completely decentralised.

Perfect Privacy & Security: Bisq is one of only two exchanges that scores a perfect 30/30 for our Privacy & Security tests which is not easy! It requires no personal information, is completely decentralised, randomly generates a new account for you on startup, is peer-to-peer, uses the Tor network by default and end to end encrypts everything.

Excellent Maker Fees: It has one of the lowest Maker fees we’ve ever seen from any exchange, their Taker fees are reasonably competitive too. These fees can also be further reduced by using their BSQ token to pay for the trade fees.

Feature Rich: With a wide array of supported currencies (and even other shitcoins) and payment methods, it works across a huge array of countries and has support for every platform regardless of whether you’re on Linux, Windows or macOS. It’s entirely free and open source, has excellent instructions on how to verify the downloaded files authenticity, has a thriving and helpful community and a very mature Wiki if you run into troubles or have questions.

Where Bisq Exchange Falls Down

Requires Your PC To Be On: As Bisq is an application that you have to run on your computer, it means that for someone to take your offer or interact with it in any way, your PC must be on. While this does ensure higher security as everything is 100% under your control, it can be a pain if you’re out and about.

Requires A Security Deposit: As it uses an escrow account to ensure trades are secure, you need to put in a small deposit (15%) to start a trade. This can make things hard for Beginners who have no bitcoins at all.

Technical: While the trading interface is modern and pretty (even has dark mode!), it can still be a bit confusing and technical for those that have never used trading interfaces before. Their trade limits and account signing can also take a bit of time to understand too.

Who Bisq Is Best For

  • Users who want the highest level of privacy and security
  • Users who insist on using a fully decentralised exchange (or can’t use centralised ones)
  • Users wanting to buy decent amounts of Bitcoin in one go (upwards of 2 BTC)
  • Advanced users that have a good grasp of Bitcoin and how trading interfaces work

Quick Bisq Review

Detailed Bisq Review

Can confirm, 100% properly decentralised

Truly Decentralised

Unique to Bisq is how the program is governed and developed. It’s not only completely open source, but you can be paid to help develop it via the trading fees that Bisq collects. Users can also vote on decisions about the exchanges future through their DAO.

This not only helps maintain the integrity of the entire ecosystem, but it ensures that it cannot be shut down. As there’s no company to sue, no centralised servers to block or cut off it’s much more resilient to censorship and surveillance. While many other exchanges are peer-to-peer (P2P), most aren’t actually decentralised and rely on a centralised order book system to coordinate the actual trade.

Perfect Marks On Privacy & Security

It’s not an easy task to perfectly ace our Privacy & Security tests, but Bisq sails through them like a hot knife through butter. From E2EE, to having Tor enabled by default to being able to specifically configure the software to use your own private Full Bitcoin Node. We consider it to be what every other exchange should aspire to.

This security does come at the cost of having to leave your computer on all day/night, however with the release of version 1.9.0, you can now access Bisq via an API. This means that it’s now possible to build a web interface that connects back to the Bisq daemon running on a server or Node somewhere. For example, someone could build an Umbrel Bisq app allowing the entire application to run on your Full Bitcoin Node.

Complex Trade Limits

Each of the 50+ Bisq payment methods have their own trade limits

One of the few downsides to Bisq is its complex trade limits and account signing setup. While we fully understand why this is required and fully support it in the application (as it keeps users safe and limits what damage scammers can do), it can be a bit hard to understand and “get going” for new users.

This is because when you first create certain Bisq payment methods, you will only be able to buy a small amount of bitcoin (usually around 0.01 BTC). This is for the following payment methods: “SEPA, SEPA Instant, Interac e-Transfer, Zelle, Revolut, Chase QuickPay, Popmoney, MoneyBeam, Uphold, and any kind of bank transfer”.

The reason for this is that for these payment accounts a bad actor can buy bitcoins and then do a charge back on the fiat side to scam the other trade partner out of their bitcoins. To help mitigate this Bisq uses trade limits and account signing. Here’s how it works:

  • Payment Account Created: You install Bisq and add your SEPA payment account. Once added, you will only be able to buy a maximum of 0.01 BTC at first
  • First BTC Buy: Once you make your first Bitcoin buy, your payment account is “signed”
  • 30 Days Later: After a month, the buying limit on your payment account is raised to 50% of the maximum trade limit. As the limit for SEPA is 0.25 BTC, 50% of that = 0.125 BTC
  • 60 Days Later: After two months, the max buying limit for your payment account is allowed

As you can see, it’s not a huge pain as it only needs to be done once, but it’s still a lot more convoluted than just clicking a big “buy” button on some website somewhere. To help guide you through this one time process, check out our full How To Buy Bitcoin On Bisq guide.

We should also note that this account signing and limits dance does not apply to selling bitcoin. To get more details you can see their wiki page on account limits as well as a full list of their fiat payment methods.

Excellent Maker Fees

Even though Bisq fees have just recently increased, they’re still quite low compared to nearly every other exchange. While many other exchanges charge 1%, 2% or even 4% you can create your own offer to buy or sell bitcoin on Bisq and only pay 0.15%.

As Bisq is governed by their DAO, the other interesting thing about these fees is that they’re proposed, voted on and approved exclusively through the DAO and thus, the users of Bisq itself. This means you don’t have some faceless corporation just constantly jacking up fees to bleed their users dry. If you want, you can actually take part in the DAO and vote on fee rates.

If you want to, you can also purchase some of their wrapped Bitcoin token (BSQ) and use that to access even cheaper Bisq fees. This is entirely optional and can be toggled on/off during each trade.

Mature, Feature Rich Platform

Possibly one of the best aspects of Bisq is just how feature rich and mature the entire platform is. It’s available on Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems meaning no one misses out and it even has an API that you can build your own apps to interface with.

It was originally launched in 2014, so has been around for almost a full decade now which is almost as old as Bitcoin itself! This means that the code base has been able to go through over 130 public releases, be refined immensely and have many critical bugs found and squashed making it much safer for its users.

One downside for many open source projects is the lack of documentation as they’re often a work of passion or are only maintained by a handful of developers. This means they don’t usually have the time or skills to write extensive and high quality guides or information on things.

This isn’t the case at all with Bisq which is a breath of fresh air. They have a huge wiki, excellent getting started guides and even high quality videos showing you how to do everything from your first trade to answering common questions. If something isn’t there, their huge community forum surely has something to help you.

This long life also shines through when you see all the various options and features that Bisq has available. From its DAO to being able to connect it to your own full node to other less common things you don’t normally find on exchanges such as full coin control when sending coins to another wallet, Bisq is sure to have what you crave (except for electrolytes).

User Interface

Bisq Decentralised Exchange Example
Bisq Order Book

If you’ve never seen or used a trading interface before Bisq can have a bit of a steep learning curve. As far as trading interfaces go though, it’s remarkably clean, modern and well polished. With both light and dark modes, easy drop down menus to switch between currencies and tokens as well as multiple different views it works great and is very easy on the eyes.

Beyond looks, everything is set out in a logical and industry standard way and the fact that it’s been built by users for the users (and no one else!) really shines through. When things need to be copied, such as account details or transaction ID’s, there’s always a handy copy button to click.

When you need to back up, export, import or get detailed logs for whatever reason, there’s a handy button to click and it just works. If an error does occur there are clear error codes, explanations and community help posts to back it all up.

One of the top things a UI can do to be excellent is just be stable and work consistently well and Bisq delivers on that due to its long history and hard work by all the developers involved.

Bisq Alternatives

Is Bisq Safe & Should You Use It?

Absolutely yes! While we do nit pick a bit here and there on things such as the account signing or trading interface, these are only small things and don’t take long for most people to become accustomed to.

The result is then an incredible piece of software. More than software, Bisq has created what we consider to be the pinnacle of exchange privacy and security that all other software should strive for. While there’s other exchanges that are good or even great, none of them can match Bisq for its feature set, amazing documentation, trade limits, battle tested code base and branding. We’re really not kidding here, it is stunningly good software.

In the future, we can’t wait for someone to develop a Bisq Umbrel App that fully allows it to run on your own full node and interface with it. This would allow you to access it via a web app from anywhere and mean you would no longer need to keep your computer on during trades.

The future looks bright for Bisq and we hope more people download, use and support their efforts to create what is a truly and 100% properly decentralised, peer-to-peer, safe and private way to exchange bitcoin for fiat currencies without trusting any third parties. Just how Bitcoin was intended to be used.

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