Bisq Review 2023: The MOST Decentralized Exchange?
Bisq.network is a decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchange platform that allows users to buy and sell digital assets securely and privately. With its innovative approach to trading and emphasis on user autonomy, Bisq.network offers a reliable and anonymous alternative to traditional centralized exchanges.
Ah, DeFi… Does it get any better than being in full control of your finances with no boundary-overstepping authoritarian entity breathing down your neck and telling you what you can and can’t do?
Decentralized Finance and Decentralized Exchanges have become a true foundational pillar of cryptocurrency thanks to their trustless and permissionless framework that places everyone on an even playing field regardless of location, status, or background, with no annoying KYC account creation needed and nobody capable of censoring freedom.
DeFi has become a true libertarian’s dream and the entire DeFi sector is growing in value transacted and adoption, comparable to the explosion of the internet in the 90s. But not all DEXs are created equal, this Bisq review will help you determine if this decentralized crypto exchange is right for you.
Bisq Review Key Takeaways:
Bisq is a software that does not rely on web hosting for traders to be able to buy or sell Bitcoin for fiat or trade for other cryptocurrency assets. Bisk is a secure, private, trustless, and decentralized peer-to-peer network that has become a popular trading platform for those who enjoy financial privacy to trade crypto.
|Spot Cryptocurrencies Listed:||20+|
|Security:||Highly secure for users who practice basic cyber security and follow good internet hygiene.|
|Fiat Currency Support:||20+|
Deposit: Bitcoin only
Buying and Selling can be done with over 50 payment methods including direct-to-bank account methods.
Review: What is Bisq
Bisq may just be the most decentralized exchange in the game. Many crypto projects and even DeFi protocols claim to be “decentralized,” but just how decentralized are they, really?
Decentralization is not binary, it is not black and white, and there are varying degrees and scales of decentralization. Centralization can happen at the team level, the node level, the network level, the validator level, the hashrate, and even just from the number of active wallets and users on a network or holders of a token. A token could be created and used in a decentralized manner but if one wallet holds 90% of the tokens, or there are only 3 validators, that isn’t very decentralized now, is it?
I won’t cover all the different levels of centralized aspects of crypto projects as Guy happens to have a fantastic video where he covers just that here:
Bisq is one of the oldest decentralized exchanges in existence, created all the way back in 2014, which is ancient in crypto years, predating the likes of Uniswap and Quickswap even.
Bisq is not a web-hosted DEX like Uniswap but is open-sourced software that is downloaded onto your computer, which further reduces counter-party and centralization risk. Because Bisq is software, not a website run and hosted by another entity, it speaks to the true ethos of crypto and decentralization where the user is in full control and doesn’t need to trust or rely on any third party.
With a DEX like Uniswap or one of the dozens of Uniswap clones, the website is at risk of censorship as they are hosted online and we have already seen the Uniswap team fall under the watchful eye of regulators and face investigatory scrutiny.
With Bisq, because it is simply software downloaded onto our computers, and there is no company in control of the protocol, users can use Bisq to trade on a pure peer-to-peer network to swap Bitcoin and other cryptos for fiat in a truly decentralized and private environment.
Bisq is completely open-source which is a huge green light when asking yourself, “is Bisq Safe?” As anyone can go in and verify the code for themselves, and the fact that Bisq has been around for so long and has had their code verified plenty of times by users from all over the world, traders on Bisq can rest easy knowing there are no back-door clauses or malicious code in the software.
Founded all the way back in 2014 by renowned crypto enthusiast Manfred Karrer, Bisq was designed to eliminate the need for third-party monetary transactions and has remained a widely popular DEX for nearly a decade now. The fact that this platform has remained active and hasn’t “sold out” or swayed from its original mission to keep Satoshi’s vision alive is a true testament to what a fantastic platform Bisq is for the buying and selling cryptocurrencies.
Bisq Exchange Key Features
As mentioned, Bisq works quite differently from the majority of other Decentralized Exchanges out there. Because it is not web-hosted and the user remains in control, this community-driven DEX is a shining example of DeFi in its truest form.
In Bisq’s own words that sums it up brilliantly:
“The difference between Bisq and other so-called decentralized exchanges is as stark as the difference between owning your own home and renting someone else’s- in the former case you have full control over the property, and in the latter, you’re always subject to the landlord's whims and demands.”
Users have come to love Bisq as they know they always remain the owner and in control, not just of their crypto, but also of their data. There is no collection or selling of user data, hallelujah!
Let’s cover Bisq’s highlight reel:
- Bisq does not hold any Bitcoin or other crypto assets. All Bitcoin used for trading is held in 2-of-2 multisignature addresses controlled solely by the trading peers themselves. Bisq has no control or access to the user’s funds.
- Bisq does not hold any national currency. National currency is transferred directly from one trader to the other using traditional banking and payment services. We will cover this further in the article
- All data is transferred over Bisq’s secure peer-to-peer network, which is built on top of the Tor network with no central servers. This means there are no data honeypots and large-scale hacks of customer information databases is impossible.
- Because there is no KYC and Bisq’s utilization of TOR, the company, nor servers know any information about the traders who use the network, and no data is stored on who trades with whom.
- Bisq is not a company, it is simply software code. It is an open-source project organized as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)built on top of Bitcoin.
There is also a Bisq mobile app for IOS and Android, but this can only be used to receive notifications and monitor trades, the app cannot be used for actively trading, buying, or selling.
Thanks to the Bisq DAO, this network of users is governed by a self-sustaining and censorship-resistant Decentralized Autonomous Organization, that is built on Bitcoin.
DAOs are a revolutionary concept, and are, in my opinion, the fairest and most democratic system ever created by humanity. As advanced and automated as blockchain technology and smart contracts have become, sometimes there will still be a need for some sort of decision-making to be done by people.
Instead of all the power being held by a few at the top, which almost always leads to corruption and greed, DAOs are often run and controlled by a group of users on the platform and members of the community who are incentivized to do what is right for the platform and the community.
In the team’s own words, here is the “Why,” behind the Bisq DAO:
The Bisq DAO allows for decision-making to happen in a decentralized manner without the need for traditional organizational structures which have legal and jurisdictional restraints, along with single points of failure risk.
The Bisq DAO has been running on the Bitcoin network since 2019 and has never had any major risks or disruption in the governance of the platform.
Through Bisq’s BSQ token, the Bisq DAO enables value transfer from traders to contributors without the need for centrally held bank accounts or wallet addresses. This makes it possible for trading fees to be distributed to project contributors without the need for banks, corporations, or other legal entities, keeping Bisq sovereign.
Bisq uses BSQ, a Bitcoin-based coloured coin to distribute revenue from trading fees to contributors. Contributors are issued new BSQ for their work and BSQ is burned when traders use it to pay for trading fees. Bisq stakeholders vote on each BSQ issuance request so there is no central entity that collects or creates BSQ.
As there is no CEO, board of directors, or leadership team, it is the Bisq stakeholders, traders, and contributors who own Bisq and make the decisions that are pertinent to the platform. Through social consensus via voting, Bisq’s future strategy and positioning are determined.
How Traders Can Make Bisq Sustainable
By trading Bitcoin for other crypto assets or fiat using Bisq, traders play a key role in the sustainability and usability of the project. Traders can help the ecosystem and fuel development by buying BSQ from contributors. This helps solidify Bisq as the best censorship-resistant place to buy and sell Bitcoin and crypto assets.
By holding BSQ, traders can benefit from trading discounts if they choose to pay trading fees in BSQ, leading to a mutually beneficial framework for traders, contributors, and the Bisq ecosystem.
How Contributors Can Benefit
Contributors can do things like vote on compensation requests, work on protocol developments and collaborate with other devs to benefit the community. By contributing positively, contributors earn BSQ, which they can sell to traders for BTC, creating another positive feedback loop.
If you want to learn more or get involved with the Bisq DAO, you can find all the additional information on bisq.network/dao
Additionally, here are the links to the Bisq community across all their socials and platforms:
All trading fees are paid to fund the Bisq DAO and fees can be paid in BTC or the Bisq BSQ token, which provides traders with a discount of up to 50%.
The combined BTC trading fee rate is 1%, broken down into 0.12% by makers and 0.88% by takers. The minimum fee to avoid dust is 0.00005 BTC
For BSQ, the fee rate is targeted to 0.5%, which is broken down into 0.06% by makers and 0.44% by takers with the minimum being 0.03 BSQ.
Here is a table that shows the trading fees per 1 BTC:
Any Bitcoin withdrawals from the platform will be subject to the standard network fees.
Bisq KYC and Account Verification
Bisq requires zero KYC or ID verification. Some payment methods as determined by the bank or payment provider may require KYC or an email address
Bisq has been designed to maximize traders’ safety from both an informational and functional standpoint. No trader information is collected, stored, or used in any way and there are no centralized servers where trading history or information is stored. This keeps user identity safe from hackers, data breaches, and allows for anonymity.
Bisq also does not hold or manage any funds, as it is not a company, just software that connects two parties in order to conduct transactions, there is no central point of failure risk or any risk of the company running off with user funds.
Thanks to the highly secure protocol communicating over an encrypted TOR network and no reliance on a third-party hosted website, trading on Bisq is incredibly safe and secure, as long as a user’s computer is free of viruses and malware which could expose the private keys of the Bisq wallet.
As each trade requires a refundable Bitcoin security deposit, the risk of fraud inherent in P2P trading is also minimized as funds need to be placed in an escrow wallet to dissuade bad actors and anyone with malicious intent.
Just as with any self-custodial crypto solutions, the onus of security is ultimately on the user. Things like strong passwords, and a virus/malware-free computer are paramount in ensuring the safety and security of crypto funds.
Bisq has been operating for nearly a decade with only one notable security issue that is worth mentioning. In 2021, there was a flawed security patch that resulted in a hacker making off with 250k worth of funds from 7 users. Bisq fixed the patch and compensated the victims.
Cryptocurrencies Available on Bisq
Bisq supports 20 cryptocurrency assets available for buying including Bitcoin, Doge, Ethereum, stablecoins, Monero, and more, along with over 20 fiat currencies including USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, CAD, Thai Baht, South African Rand, Mexican Peso, India Rupee and plenty of others.
With no location restrictions, Bisq truly is a global exchange and supports fiat payments from both developed and developing nations, along with many nations that seem to need Bitcoin the most as they are suffering from increasing levels of inflation.
You can find a full list of supported assets on the Bisq Markets Page.
Bisq Exchange Platform Design and Usability
Unlike web-hosted DEXs like Uniswap, Pancakeswap, SundaeSwap, or the plethora of other DEXs out there, Bisq is downloadable software that can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, Debian/Ubuntu, Red Hat, Linux or Qubes.
In order to use Bisq, you will need to have a Bitcoin wallet with some Bitcoin funds already in it, around 0.002-0.01 BTC should be enough. Each Bisq download comes with an option to create a new BTC wallet to integrate with the exchange, or you can import an existing wallet.
The reason you need to hold BTC before you can trade is that each trader must lock a Bitcoin deposit in a multisignature escrow until the trade is complete, this is done with the attached Bitcoin wallet and creates an element of trust between both trading parties.
The need to hold some BTC in escrow prevents issues with fraud and issues relating to chargebacks. BTC will also need to be held to cover network and trading fees as well.
Pro tip: If you are planning on using Bisq, it is probably because you are interested in privacy and anonymity and reading that you need to hold Bitcoin first before you can buy Bitcoin is a bit like the chicken and the egg problem. You are most likely not going to want to purchase Bitcoin from a centralized exchange to fund your DEX wallet as that defeats the purpose. Fear not, as here are some tips to fund your Bisq wallet anonymously:
- Use Bisq’s Matrix Room to get your first Bitcoin Satoshis. This chat site is an informal market for small BTC trades designed to help traders safely and securely acquire the BTC needed to make their first trade on Bisq.
- Buy some BTC from someone you trust, and they can send a small amount to your Bisq wallet address.
- Bitcoin ATMs often allow you to deposit cash and receive some Bitcoin with no ID or KYC needed.
- Use a peer-to-peer payment site like LocalBitcoins to buy your first BTC. Note that LocalBitcoins is not legal in all jurisdictions, be sure to check your local laws.
- Attend Bitcoin meetups, and use marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist to see if you can find someone looking to swap Bitcoin for cash. Just be very careful here so as to not get yourself scammed.
Then once you have a bit of Bitcoin in your Bisq exchange wallet you are ready to start buying, selling, and trading.
Using the Bisq exchange requires a few more steps than your standard web-hosted DEX. Once the software is installed on your computer you will need to back up your keys and write down the seed phrase, as you would do with any self-custodial crypto wallet. There are three very important steps to take after downloading the software:
- Set a wallet password- Bisq is an exchange that comes with a built-in Bitcoin wallet to seamlessly integrate with the exchange, so you will need to set a wallet password to prevent unauthorized access.
- Write down the seed phrase- Same as with any cryptocurrency wallet, the most important step you can take is writing down the seed phrase. We cover seed phrases and wallet safety in our How to Keep your Crypto Secure article.
- Back up the data directory- This creates a backup of the data and stores it on your computer in case a restore is ever needed at a future time.
These options can be found by navigating to the Account tab on the top:
From there you will see the various account options and wallets:
To backup the data directory you will need to select the “Backup” tab, open the directory, then copy the parent Bisq folder somewhere safe on your computer.
To trade Bitcoin on Bisq, you will need to set up a way to send or receive other funds. Bisq handles the Bitcoin side of the trade, the fiat aspect will need to be handled through payment services such as banks, money orders, cash, or altcoin wallets.
Here is a look at the most common fiat payment methods for Euro and USD:
When using the platform, here is what the market tab looks like where users can access a depth chart, see the price of BTC, and the number of buyers vs sellers:
You can also see a list of the users on the platform looking to buy and those looking to sell.
When looking to trade, making an offer can often get you a better price and provide you with more control as you can determine the payment method and deposit percentage, though simply taking an offer already advertised may be more convenient.
Under the “details” tab, users can see the entire real-time summary of all the trading activity happening on the Bisq network, showing all the offers from people looking to buy or sell crypto and how many offers are up for each different fiat or crypto asset:
When you are ready to buy or sell Bitcoin, you will see two tabs conveniently titled at the top of the interface:
This is where you will likely spend the most amount of time on the platform. Here you have the option to take or create new offers to buy or sell BTC.
When creating an offer, making an offer will be more beneficial than taking an offer as Maker fees are ~80% lower than taker fees, plus you get to determine the parameters of the trade such as price, payment method, security deposit percentage, etc.
From the buy or sell BTC tab you will see a giant green button to create a new offer:
From there you will be able to select the trading account you want deposited into, or withdrawn from, the currency, amounts, and security deposit options:
Then you can sit back and wait for someone to accept your offer, easy peasy.
When you accept an offer to buy Bitcoin and have confirmed your payment method, you will be taken to a confirmation screen that will give you the transaction ID.
Once you receive a confirmation of your accepted order, you will receive a notification that requires your attention.
This will provide you with any further instructions you need to complete the trade, like if the seller decides to use a security question or if an email address is required to complete certain payment methods.
The portfolio tab is fairly straightforward, this area will show any currently open offers, open trades, and your trading history.
Here is a great diagram from Bisq that shows the basic high-level flow of the trading process to summarize what we covered above:
After using centralized exchanges and web-hosted DEXs myself for years, I did find the Bisq platform to be a bit of a learning curve at first, as is common anytime one tries a new product, but once I got used to it and took a few detours around the getting-started guide, the platform quickly became very straight forward and easy to use.
I don’t know if I would necessarily consider Bisq to be “beginner-friendly” as it comes with all the complexities of DeFi and self-custody, but once you get familiar with the platform and add your payment methods and successfully complete a trade or two, I did find the user interface to be very straightforward and user friendly. It is a no-frills way to trade with no fancy bells and whistles, just a well-functioning peer-to-peer trading network that works great.
I am a big fan of Bisq and after doing the deep dive for this review, I do intend to use the platform a lot more going forward as it really is a fantastic way to remain anonymous while buying and selling crypto assets. Unfortunately, since the big KYC crackdown on centralized exchanges, you bet the government knows exactly how much crypto you hold if you use one of the major exchanges.
I never condone hiding anything from the government or doing anything illegal, but when it comes to true financial freedom, financial privacy, and self-sovereignty, nobody, not even Uncle Sam needs to know how many Satoshis you are stacking. If you are a follower of Satoshi and are interested in Bitcoin for the purpose it was intended, this screen capture from the Bisq site sums it up beautifully:
The last thing I will say about usability and design is that not only does this piece of software work seamlessly as intended, but they also have a fantastic help section that provides step-by-step walkthrough tutorials, helpful videos, and everything you need to get started using Bisq like a pro. Visit the Bisq Wiki to learn more and familiarize yourself with all the ins and outs of the platform.
Deposits and Withdrawals at Bisq
As mentioned, the first thing you will need to do is fund your account with some Bitcoin. Once that is done and you are ready to trade. One thing I like is the flexibility as there are about 50 different payment methods to purchase Bitcoin and receive payments for selling Bitcoin, including but certainly not limited to:
- Amazon eGift cards
- ACH/SEPA, AUS Pay, Faster Payments, Advanced Cash, Wire transfers, etc.
- Cash by Mail, Cash Deposit, Money Gram, Western Union
- Zelle, WeChat, Uphold, Skrill, Strike, etc.
You can find a full list in the Payment Methods Directory.
For the buying and selling of Bitcoin with/for fiat, you will need to connect one of these payment methods to the Bisq platform, such as a bank account for wire transfers or one of the other methods to send or receive fiat payments.
Bisq Token (BSQ) Uses
BSQ token is a coloured coin on the Bitcoin blockchain. One BSQ token is defined to be 100 Satoshi. Outside of the Bisq ecosystem, a BSQ token looks the same as holding a few Satoshi, but on the Bisq platform the tokens have the following properties:
- The Sats take on the market value of the BSQ token
- The owner of the Satoshis is given the power to participate in Bisq governance functions
BSQ is only available to be purchased on the Bisq platform and is only recognized by Bisq software. Note that BSQ should not be sent to a Bitcoin wallet address, only the Bisq wallet address that is available with the platform upon download should be used.
Keeping in true decentralized fashion, BSQ was “fair launched,” similar to Bitcoin. There was never an ICO and no BSQ is sold to raise capital, meaning the authorities will have very little justification to be able to label it as a security and it should be safe from regulatory scrutiny.
You can learn more about the BSQ token, issuance, and technical details by vising the BSQ Wiki.
Bisq Customer Support
Bisq does not have “Customer support,” in the traditional sense. As there are no employees and no company, all support queries are handled by the community.
The Bisq community is faithful, dedicated, and happy to lend a hand to any Bisq users in need. There are multiple channels and ways to receive support, with the methods I found most useful being the Bisq FAQ and Wiki.
The FAQ and Wiki are incredibly well laid out and populated with multiple useful articles, walkthroughs, and how-to guides that should be able to resolve the majority of issues and answer most questions.
If support is needed, the following platforms are available for community members to reach out to:
For this review, I accessed the Matrix chat, Telegram, Bisq forum, and Reddit to check out the quality of support and responsiveness myself. Reddit, Telegram, and the Matrix chat were quite active with a decent-sized community of between 2k-7k across various platforms.
Though the number of community members was not as high as I was expecting for a platform that has been around since 2014, the members on these social platforms are active with plenty of community discussion happening. Questions from community members appear to be answered often within minutes and the support is friendly and helpful.
Bisq Top Benefits Reviewed
From everything I’ve uncovered and my own experience after using Bisq, this platform truly is a fantastic way to buy and sell Bitcoin for fiat, and swap Bitcoin for other altcoins.
The fact that everything is done securely, privately, and in a true decentralized and trustless manner is great as it speaks to the true ethos of cryptocurrency and supports the reason why many of us got into crypto in the first place. It is all about taking control over our own finances, not needing to rely on any third party, and becoming financially sovereign. Bisq makes this possible in a way that is more effective than any platform I have come across.
What can be Improved
The most disappointing thing I noticed was the lack of adoption by the greater crypto community. With Bisq being such an incredible and revolutionary platform, it is a shame to see it only has a few thousand active community members and users of the platform.
The reason for this is most likely that Bisq receives no external funding, there are no VCs to “hype” the project, and no company to fuel marketing campaigns. This is a good thing as it keeps Bisq completely decentralized but also hurts the platform as not many crypto users know about it.
The low number of users leads to low trading volume and liquidity, as is a common issue with DEXs, making Bisq it not suitable for whales, institutions, or those looking to place large trades. This will hopefully increase over time with Bitcoin adoption.
There is also no advanced trading interface or charting functionality making Bisq not suitable for day traders or those looking to actively trade using technical analysis.
Bisq Review Conclusion
Bisq was founded to keep the true spirit and ethos of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency alive, and it fulfills that mission incredibly well.
By providing a highly safe, secure, and decentralized place for P2P trading, Bisq is a solid way to buy and sell Bitcoin and trade for other crypto assets.
While the platform is a bit alien and unfamiliar to set up at first, once it is up and running it is an incredibly user-friendly and great place to conduct cryptocurrency transactions privately and anonymously, it is clear to see why it has been such a popular platform for crypto enthusiasts since 2014.
Bisq is ideal for anyone interested in financial privacy and looking for a censorship-resistant KYC-free platform to trade peer-to-peer. Due to the lack of charting functionality and advanced order types, along with the inherent slow confirmation times that come with Bitcoin transactions, Bisq is not suitable for active day traders or frequent users of technical analysis to perform trades.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, Bitcoin can be bought and sold for fiat and can be traded for over 20 different altcoins including Ethereum, Monero, and a plethora of stablecoins.
Asking “is Bisq Safe and Trustworthy” is the equivalent of asking if you trust yourself. Because this is software that is downloaded on your own local computer with zero centralized entities having access or control over the software or any funds, it is as safe as it gets.
If you trust yourself and your computer, then you can trust Bisq. Of course, using Bisq means that other factors of good computer hygiene and security are important. You can learn about all the steps you can take to ensure that you remain safe online and keep your crypto safe in our article: Crypto Safety 101. I highly recommend checking out that article before deciding to use Bisq or use any self-custodial hardware or software crypto wallets.
Bisq and Binance cater to two very different groups of traders. Binance is completely centralized and requires full KYC and ID verification and is not suitable for privacy hawks who believe in financial anonymity.
Binance is better suited for active traders due to higher levels of liquidity and full charting and advanced order-type capabilities. Binance also offers a far greater selection of tradeable assets, and markets, plus has an NFT marketplace and a crypto card. Binance is a full-service crypto hub, which you can learn more about in our Binance Review.
Bisq is better suited for those looking for a peer-to-peer decentralized way to anonymously buy and sell Bitcoin and other crypto assets and provides a method for selling Bitcoin for fiat without the need for a third-party intermediary between the buyer and seller.
Bisq and Uniswap are both decentralized exchanges, each with their strengths and weaknesses.
Uniswap has deeper liquidity and a far better selection of tradeable altcoins than Bisq, but as it is a web-hosted platform there is an inherent third-party and single point of failure risk. Uniswap also does not feature fiat support.
Bisq is the better option for those looking to sell Bitcoin for cash and purchase a limited selection of cryptocurrency for fiat and supports over 20 different fiat currencies.
Bisq is a decentralized, open-source piece of downloadable software that allows users to trade and sell Bitcoin for fiat and other crypto assets peer-to-peer with no single point of failure, centralization, or censorship risks. The exchange does come with a built-in Bitcoin wallet that integrates seamlessly with the platform.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.