Thanks to the advent of crypto-backed loans, anyone can put their coins and tokens to work without having to part with them permanently. Borrowing fiat, stablecoins, or other digital assets against crypto is a great way to achieve more while maintaining the upside potential of crypto. This market is expanding rapidly, along with the popularization of decentralized finance. Its services, referred to as crypto lending, are not limited to borrowing — users not only take out loans but also earn a yield on deposited cryptoassets.
Loan platforms may be run by a company or an automated protocol. For example, in CeFi (centralized finance), providers are legal entities with complete control over the process. They set interest rates, use a custodial asset protection system to store all crypto and fiat funds, and collect information about applicants for KYC/AML compliance. Clients enter into individual loan agreements, while the providers can form partnerships with other organizations.
DeFi loans are structured differently. They rely on smart contracts — self-executing agreements automating the distribution of loans and the setting and payment of interest. Typically, DeFi platforms are non-custodial, do not require KYC, and only focus on cryptocurrencies, not fiat.
On the one hand, DeFi crypto loans are more transparent — anyone can monitor all transactions via public blockchain explorers. On the other hand, users pay network fees for crypto deposits and withdrawals, while smart contracts may have technical vulnerabilities.
Why use crypto loans?
Interest rates vary according to market supply and demand, but they are generally lower than those in traditional finance (TradFi). The main advantages of crypto lending are:
- Transaction speed. As a rule, getting a loan in digital assets takes up to 10-15 minutes.
- Availability. Lending is accessible to any user, regardless of social status, income level, nationality, and geographical location.
- Low-interest rates. On average, the interest rates on cryptocurrency loans range from 2% to 11%.
- Opportunity to choose crypto as a loan currency. Popular platforms turn dozens of popular coins into lending tools, including the market cap leaders — Bitcoin and Ether.
- No credit history checks. Users can borrow digital assets if they can provide the collateral, regardless of credit history and income level.
The conditions of crypto lending vary significantly across the industry. For example, some loans come with excessive collateral requirements and lock-in periods limiting access to one’s assets. Risk-averse consumers may also be deterred by novel insurance mechanisms and the completely impersonal nature of smart contracts.
Where to get a loan: an overview of top platforms
Only some CeFi and DeFi platforms that advertise lending services have the reputation of robust and reliable market participants. Here are ten well-reputed platforms where users can get a loan.
MakerDAO is one of the pioneering decentralized applications (Dapps) in DeFi with the mission of creating a financial system accessible to everyone. Founded in 2018 on the Ethereum blockchain, it uses smart contracts to provide a transparent, safe, and reliable lending service. Two tokens — DAI and MKR, power the platform. The former is the sole loan currency. Collateral options include different ERC-20 tokens.
Maker Protocol, an automated market maker, issues all DAI stablecoins. Users receive tokens fully backed by the value of their pledged assets — LTV (Loan-to-Value) rates typically exceed 100%. The internal TRFM mechanism supports the value of DAI — it adjusts the target rate during dramatic market swings. Meanwhile, stability fees prevent users from minting more DAI than the market demands, thereby protecting the peg.
As an autonomous organization, MakerDAO offers a self-governing system giving users control over their funds without relying on centralized entities like banks. Aside from governance, MKR acts as a utility token and fuel for running smart contracts on MakerDAO. MKR holders can vote on four parameters (debt limit, stabilization fees, fines, and liquidation ratios) that determine how the platform works, make decisions affecting its development, and get a share of its profit.
CoinLoan is a trusted platform where individuals can borrow, deposit, exchange, and store cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and fiat. It boasts a zero-incident track record and an intuitive environment for parking idle crypto. In addition, the loans are impressively flexible, with crypto-to-fiat, fiat-to-crypto, and crypto-to-crypto options covering 25 assets with varying interest rates.
All loans are over-collateralized and come with adjustable duration and LTV rates from 20% to 70%. One may borrow funds for a standard or customized period between one month and three years.
One of the most significant advantages is CoinLoan’s status as a licensed and fully regulated platform under Estonian law. It also provides multi-layer protection for users’ funds and data, with insurance against any potential issues — a praiseworthy and rare combination. Finally, support for popular stablecoins like Tether (USDT) or PAX Gold (PAXG), along with fiat like euros and pounds, makes CoinLoan stand out as a versatile provider.
The Aave platform is a prominent DEX that specializes in overcollateralized loans. It also has a native token — AAVE is traded on most exchanges and may be staked on the platform to earn a yield. Instead of directly connecting lenders to borrowers, Aave relies on liquidity pools where assets are deposited. Crypto for all Aave loans comes from these pools.
Based on Ethereum, Aave currently supports nine other blockchains, including Avalanche, Polygon, Fantom, Harmony, and more. It boasts the third biggest TVL (total value locked) among DEXs, behind Lido and MakerDAO ($4.04 billion as of January 11, 2023).
Multi-chain support is one of the primary competitive advantages. Aave supports tokens created on different networks, and a special bridge feature lets users easily exchange them. In terms of LTV, users may borrow up to 80% of the market value of their pledged assets.
The Compound lending platform is one of the market leaders, with TVL of $1.7 billion. As its name suggests, users may earn compound interest on digital assets in addition to borrowing. Another peculiar aspect is the tokenization of assets inside its system — they become cTokens (an EIP-20 balance representation).
There are no minimum requirements for borrowers and lenders, trading fees, or slippage. As a result, Compound makes this space accessible to more users while also allowing lenders to earn a yield on modest amounts.
At the same time, newbies may find the Compound interface confusing — it is best suited to crypto holders familiar with DeFi. While the platform does not charge fees, users must pay a gas fee whenever they mint, borrow, liquidate, transfer, repay, or redeem digital assets. However, the biggest disadvantage is the limited range of available tokens. As Compound functions on top of Ethereum, it currently supports fewer than ten assets.
YouHolder, a Swiss-based company, is the official crypto partner of Torino FC and a trusted provider of crypto-backed loans. With $10 million worth of loans issued, its platform is an attractive resource for those seeking a reliable alternative to traditional banking services. As of now, YouHolder’s choice of collateral assets includes 50 major cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Stellar Lumens (XLM), and Ripple (XRP).
Clients may repay their loans using a credit card, bank account, or stablecoins. They can also manage their loan conditions, including duration (up to 364 days) and Price Down Limit, via the company’s app. LTV depends on loan duration and ranges from 50% to 90% (the latter is the highest in the industry). Another significant advantage is the opportunity to borrow fiat (CHF, EUR, USD) or stablecoins.
The high LTV allows users to benefit from more significant financial resources than ever, combined with enhanced convenience and security. With flexible repayment options and easy access to cash, YouHolder is an attractive option for anyone who wants to borrow against crypto.
Nexo is a blockchain-based platform for instant cryptocurrency loans. Its users can easily and quickly borrow fiat in exchange for collateralized digital assets. Since 2018, the company has issued loans worth over $7 billion. Unlike competitors, it supports over 40 fiat currencies.
Borrowing is straightforward and efficient — the funds will arrive in your Nexo wallet within 24 hours. Interest rates start from 0% APR (for Gold and Platinum clients), and there is no fixed payment schedule. Instead, users can repay their balance partially or fully when convenient.
Recently, Nexo has been making significant strides toward acquiring certain crypto firms that have found themselves in a difficult position. This acquisition process is seen as an expansion for the company, further solidifying its place in the crypto lending industry.
Nebeus is a comprehensive platform with a bundle of services, including borrowing, earning, trading, and asset insurance. Registered with the Bank of Spain, it offers relatively competitive loan conditions with LTV of up to 80% and duration between 1 and 36 months. Nebeus accepts ten cryptocurrencies as collateral, including USDT and BCH.
Users who rent their crypto to the platform (BTC, ETH, USDT, USDC, and more) can earn up to 12.85% RPY (rewards per year). At press time, Nebeus offers four crypto-renting programs with a maximum lock-up period of four months. The absence of fees for asset deposits makes it a competitive choice for those who want to make their money work.
Using the on-site interest rate calculator, you can see how much monthly interest each plan would bring. Borrowers make interest payments monthly, while those who rent out crypto earn monthly reward payments in any crypto. Finally, the Nebeus wallet enables instant transfers between crypto and fiat bank accounts, giving users quick and unhindered access to their funds.
Fringe Finance is a relatively new service that promises to open up lending markets for hundreds of crypto assets. It offers lending rewards and loans against altcoins denominated in the USB stablecoin, which is pegged to the US dollar. This system is decentralized — all operations rely on smart contracts.
The loans can serve any personal needs, from purchases to refinancing to additional benefits in the DeFi ecosystem. Those who stake their USB or FRIN tokens on Fringe Finance earn interest and rewards, while their stablecoins go into special pools from which loans are then issued.
Fringe Finance prioritizes security, aiming “to lead DeFi 2.0 into a no-hacks zone.” It is fully audited by HashEx, although smart contract insurance and liquidation insurance are still being integrated, according to the official website.
This lending platform is based on a decentralized protocol governed by DOP token holders — members of the DAO. Drops is revolutionizing how people view NFTs, as it allows the collateralization of non-fungible tokens. To borrow digital assets, a user must select a pool accepting their type of NFT and pledge their tokens. The loan amount may equal up to 30% of the collateral value.
Thus, NFT holders access liquidity without having to liquidate their valuable assets. The platform already supports a wide range of popular collections, including CryptoPunk, Bored Ape Ya, and other exotic digital collectibles.
Independence from traditional economic structures allows this Ethereum-based system to offer attractive loan rates with flexible terms. All operations are handled by smart contracts in a fully permissionless fashion. Drops aims to unlock new opportunities for financial freedom and become a community-driven metaverse park.
Founded in 2016, Salt Lending is one of the oldest crypto-lending platforms that offers a secure way of storing and borrowing cryptocurrencies. It began rapid expansion in 2018 and now provides services in North America, the EU, Asia, and Oceania.
Through the platform, customers may apply for loans in fiat or stablecoins with an LTV rate ranging from 20% to 70%. The loan amounts start from $1,000 and may exceed $1 million, with between 12 and 60 months to complete repayment.
Salt Lending does not charge any origination or prepayment fees — customers can make the most of their assets and manage finances on the go via a sleek mobile app.
Furthermore, borrowers can lower the monthly rate by participating in the StackWise program. The BTC, ETH, and USDC rewards for lending their crypto can push APR to $0.52%. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs may apply for business loans backed by crypto to scale a mining pool, cover payroll, or achieve other goals.
How to select a platform
Due to the sheer number of crypto lending providers, it is often difficult for beginners to make a choice. To identify reliable companies, consider the following parameters:
- The number of users. Look for providers with a large active audience. The number of customers reflects a lender’s popularity and confidence in its services.
- The total cost of the loan (typically, APR). The lower the APR, the cheaper it is to borrow. When considering the lowest interest rates, make sure the provider meets the rest of your criteria.
- LTV rate. The higher it is, the more you can borrow relative to the collateral. For instance, 70% LTV means the loan amount may equal 70% of the value of your pledged coins.
- Elimination (liquidation) threshold. This condition safeguards the lender when market turbulence makes loans riskier. For example, some platforms auto-liquidate collateral if LTV jumps to 90% and the borrower fails to pledge more assets. Thus, a lower LTV provides more room for crypto fluctuations.
Crypto lending is one of the most vibrant areas of decentralized finance. The number of participants is continuously growing, and so is the importance of crypto-backed loans. They already have significant advantages, including faster processing, low fees, and broader accessibility. As time passes, crypto lending may become a strong competitor to traditional finance.
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