NOTICE: I’m leaving this review up and untouched below this notice because it was accurate when I wrote it. On 2016-12-07 Circle announced that they would no longer offer the service of buying and selling bitcoin. I am rescinding all recommendations of their service simply because they are no longer a Bitcoin related service. Whatever service they now offer may or may not be quality, but it certainly isn’t Bitcoin related. Therefore, the following review is considered outdated and depreciated.
I’ve been using Circle for over a year now. I mentioned in my review of Coinbase that they have everything under one roof. Circle is much more simple and it’s beautiful for it. For this reason I consider Circle to be quite evenly tied with Coinbase for the easiest on-ramp to the Bitcoin ecosystem. Granted, several of what are considered to be failings that Coinbase has are also failings for Circle. I’ll repeat them later in this review in case you didn’t read the first one.
Circle makes Bitcoin even easier than Coinbase, to be quite honest. But it’s not because Coinbase is particularly hard. It’s because Circle slimmed things down even further. Again, you can sign up in seconds, connect a debit card to your account in minutes, but you’ll be a Bitcoin user instantly upon purchase. Circle doesn’t make you use specific banks, limit you to credit cards, or restrict you to certain card issuers like Coinbase does. And they don’t make you wait for confirmations or settlement times to have access to your deposits.
You can also connect your bank account or credit cards, but debit cards are the preferred method of transferring funds. If you connect a bank account you may wait several days to receive your bitcoin due to money transfer times between banks. If you connect a credit card you may get charged cash advance fees. Note that these fees are not Circle fees. They are imposed by Visa and MasterCard. If you stick with a debit card charges are instant and Circle gives you access to your bitcoin immediately.
Let’s look at the Web Wallet first. The main screen is very clean and simple. You have one account. You can see your balance in both Bitcoin and US Dollars. You have two options: Buy Bitcoin and Sell Bitcoin. The price for one bitcoin listed underneath your balance is the same for both buying and selling. I want to emphasize here that Circle does not have fees for buying, selling, sending, or receiving bitcoin at this point. You can also see a list of your most recent transactions.
If you want to buy bitcoin you simply click on the Buy Bitcoin button, put in how much bitcoin you’d like to buy, select your payment method, and confirm your order with the Buy Bitcoin button at the bottom. Your payment method will be debited and the bitcoin you purchased will be deposited into your account.
If you want to sell bitcoin you simply click on the Sell Bitcoin button, put in how much bitcoin you’d like to sell, select the account into which you want the money deposited, and click Continue. Your bitcoin account will be debited and US Dollars will be deposited into whichever account you selected.
This is one spot where Coinbase wins a point against Circle. In Coinbase you can put in how much you want to spend in US Dollars and it tells you how much bitcoin you’ll receive. In Circle you have to fiddle with how much bitcoin you’d like to buy to get close to the US Dollar amount you want to spend. The same applies to selling.
At the top of the page there are three tabs other than the Account tab, which is the default. There are also Transactions, Send Money, and Request Money.
If you want to send money go to the Send Money tab, input either an email address or a Bitcoin address of the person to which you wish to send money, enter in the amount you wish to send, either in Bitcoin or US Dollars, select which payment method you wish to use, and click Continue.
If you want to request money from someone else go to the Receive Money tab, input the email address of the person from whom you wish to receive money, put in the amount you wish to receive in either Bitcoin or US Dollars, and click Continue. Notice that in either case you can also input a message for either transaction.
Circle also has an App on both Android and iPhone. The one thing I dislike about this app is that it logs you out every 30 days and you have to enter your password in again. Other than that, it’s a great Mobile Wallet for new users. All of the same features of the website are included in the Mobile Wallet and it’s very intuitive.
And that’s Circle. Again, it doesn’t have as many features as Coinbase. I think that’s one of the things that makes me recommend Circle over Coinbase to the older people in my family, the ones less likely to get into day trading, wanting to be their own bank, creating various accounts for different reasons. It’s a system for buying, selling, and transferring money and they don’t even have to know Bitcoin is involved.
It’s not a feature I recommend, but it is worth noting that Circle can function as a wallet for US Dollars as well. If you don’t want to mess with Bitcoin (which I’m assuming doesn’t apply to you, the reader, because you’re here) you can go into the Settings, to Currency, and set your account to function on US Dollars. Bitcoin will still be used in the backend, but you won’t have to mess with it.
As with Coinbase I have to mention that, when you sign up for Circle, you’re trusting them with your money. It’s important enough to bear repeating: Just as if you hand someone your cash money you no longer own the money. If you give someone control of your private keys you no longer own the bitcoin. Circle can close down your account at any time and restrict your access to your bitcoin. They can also track the things for which you use your bitcoin. That being said, just like I suggested with Coinbase, once you get past the new users stage I mainly recommend people use Coinbase as a broker: to buy bitcoin and send them to a wallet they control and to receive bitcoin to sell for US Dollars.
But whether you choose to use Circle as your primary wallet or as a bitcoin broker, having an account is free and, as I said before, I really like their service and lack of fees. Circle offers the same referral program that Coinbase does, meaning if you use a referral link from me and buy $100 worth we both get $10 worth of bitcoin for free. The problem is that every referral link must be unique. If you want to take advantage of this offer, use the Contact page and ask me for one. I’ll get it to you as quickly as I can. If not, just sign up For Circle.