What Is Coinbase Commerce?

Coinbase Commerce is the digital payment service that allows merchants to accept payments in a variety of digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. These payments are received directly into a merchant-controlled wallet.

Key Takeaways

  • Coinbase Commerce is a service that facilitates crypto transactions between customers and merchants.
  • The service supports a variety of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USD Coin.
  • Both customers and merchants benefit from the low transactional cost of cryptocurrency payments offered by Coinbase Commerce.
  • Coinbase Commerce accounts are on-chain payments, which removes the possibility of any fraudulent transactions being executed.
  • Coinbase is the biggest name in crypto exchanges, and Coinbase Commerce processed $135 million worth of cryptocurrency payments in 2019.

How Coinbase Commerce Works

In an attempt to capitalize on the big potential available within the global cryptocurrency-based payment systems and to serve merchants worldwide, Coinbase Commerce is operated by the leading cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase. It enables merchants and businesses across the globe to accept payments from anywhere in the world in the enabled cryptocurrency of their choice.

Coinbase Commerce integrates with a merchant’s checkout workflow or can be added as a payment option on the shopping portal. Any cryptocurrency payment made by a customer gets credited to the merchant’s Coinbase Commerce account from where it can be transferred to the desired wallet.

In late January 2020, Coinbase hired the former head of Product for Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart and Google Shopping VP of Product, Surojit Chatterjee, to become Coinbase’s chief product officer, indicating that Coinbase wants to leverage its market-leader position to push crypto transactions to widespread, public adoption.

Coinbase Commerce and Merchants

Merchants need to know these important things about adding Coinbase Commerce to their payment systems:

  • Transferring crypto from a customer's wallet to the merchant Coinbase Commerce account will incur a network processing fee that goes to the miners in the network (not Coinbase Commerce).
  • Transaction fees are variable and depend on the size of the transaction and the number of transactions you process. According to Coinbase Commerce's FAQ page, these fees for Bitcoin "tend to be $1.00–$5.00, and fees for other currencies tend to be under $1.00."
  • You cannot convert your crypto payments to fiat currencies (like the U.S. dollar) unless you have an account at a cryptocurrency exchange. Coinbase.com is an exchange, but Coinbase Commerce and Coinbase.com the exchange are not the same thing (even though they are run by the same company).

Any merchant worldwide can sign up for the Coinbase Commerce platform using a valid email address and a phone number. It uses a two-factor authentication mechanism based on the Google Authenticator app that introduces an additional layer of security.

The Coinbase Commerce platform supports payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, and USD Coin. While these cryptocurrencies are gaining more currency as vehicles for payment, they are not as common as dollars, either physically or electronically. Merchants who want to accept payments in crypto should do the math on the fees associated with many small transactions and the cost of converting that to a fiat currency (like dollars) to pay suppliers or taxing authorities that do not accept crypto payments.

Integrating Payments From Customers

Coinbase Commerce makes the most sense for businesses selling services online, like freelance web developers or any business whose product is cheap to produce with little overhead and is delivered mostly online. For those merchants, Coinbase Commerce has integration with leading e-commerce platforms like Shopify and OpenCart. Below is the full list of eCommerce platforms supported by Coinbase Commerce.

Coinbase Commerce eCommerce Integrations

Shopify

If you have a Shopify store, you can get started accepting payments right away by adding Coinbase Commerce as an alternative payment method from within Shopify.

WooCommerce

A WooCommerce payment gateway that allows your customers to pay with cryptocurrency via Coinbase Commerce.

PrestaShop

A PrestaShop payment module that allows you to receive payments in cryptocurrency via Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

Magento

Accept cryptocurrencies on your Magento 2 store with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

OpenCart

Accept cryptocurrencies on your OpenCart store with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

Zen Cart

Accept cryptocurrencies on your Zen Cart store with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

Drupal

Integrate Coinbase Commerce into your Drupal site, hosted on GitHub.

osCommerce

Accept cryptocurrencies on your osCommerce store with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

WHMCS

Accept cryptocurrencies on WHMCS with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

Spree

Accept cryptocurrencies on your Spree store with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

X-Cart

Accept cryptocurrencies on X-Cart with Coinbase Commerce, hosted on GitHub.

Gravity Forms

Accept cryptocurrencies on Wordpress using Coinbase Commerce's Gravity Forms integration, hosted on GitHub.

Merchants with more complicated needs can also set up an API with Coinbase Commerce. Unfortunately, as of 2020, Coinbase Commerce does not offer any test or sandbox accounts, though the company promises on its website that it's a feature they hope to deploy in the future.

The Coinbase Commerce accounts are completely separate from the standard Coinbase trading accounts that are used for trading and investing in cryptocurrencies. It means that the holdings in the Coinbase account will not show up in the Coinbase Commerce account and vice versa, even if the account holder is the same.

Coinbase Commerce simply acts as a mechanism for a user or merchant to receive the payments and does not have or maintain any information about a user’s cryptocurrency and/or their private keys. Similarly, Coinbase Commerce does not offer an option to the merchants to access customer details.

Coinbase Commerce for Customers

Customers can pay merchants who use Coinbase Commerce with their crypto hot wallet. There are many different wallets in many different formats, but each one does essentially the same thing: It shares a public key with a merchant who has enabled Coinbase Commerce, and the merchant uses that key to access the customer's funds on the blockchain.

The easiest integration from the customer's perspective is to have a Coinbase account and pay from there, but any crypto wallet will work.

How Secure Is Coinbase Commerce?

One of the touted benefits of cryptocurrency is its security, but that rigid safety comes at a cost: If you lose your key, you can't reset your account. And if someone steals your key, they can empty out your account relatively anonymously.

Coinbase Commerce also relies on seed phrase recovery to secure transactions. Seed phrases are a list of words that store all the information needed to recover Bitcoin funds on-chain. They are a common feature in many crypto wallets, and you can even buy seed phrase keepers that etch your seed phrase into a physical, metal wallet. All transfers, including refunds, will require inputting your seed phrase.

Whatever you do, don't lose your seed phrase or let it fall into the wrong hands. According to the Coinbase Commerce FAQ, "Unfortunately we do not currently have a way to generate a new seed phrase within Coinbase Commerce. Once your funds are in a secure location, we recommend opening a new Coinbase Commerce account, and either recreating relevant Checkouts or reintegrating this new account with an eCommerce platform."

After the necessary setup, a merchant gets access to the Coinbase Commerce dashboard that allows them to view and operate on the different cryptocurrency balances, payments, checkouts, and other necessary details.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Coinbase Commerce

Advantages

Merchants benefit by getting access to a global customer base and a seamless, hassle-free mechanism to receive borderless digital currency payments. Both the customers and the merchants benefit from the low transactional cost of cryptocurrency payments, compared to the high transactional charges levied by a credit card. Using such virtual token payments also eliminates foreign exchange rates and foreign transaction fees that many credit cards charge.

All the customer payments made through the Coinbase Commerce accounts are on-chain payments, which means that all payment transactions get recorded in real-time on the respective cryptocurrency blockchain network and remain dependent on blockchain mechanisms for the necessary validation and authentication. It takes away the possibility of any fraudulent transactions being executed.

In late 2019, Coinbase announced full integration of customer payments to Coinbase Commerce from a Coinbase wallet. This means paying with crypto may be easier as more people adopt it as a payment method. Coindesk reports that "Coinbase Commerce processed $135 million worth of cryptocurrency payments for thousands of merchants in 2019, which represents a 600% increase in the number of unique transactions via Coinbase Commerce since 2018," which is surely a good sign for users seeking a better, faster, and easier interface.

Disadvantages

Reviews of Coinbase Commerce also point out some flaws that both merchants and customers should know. Though on both sides of a transaction, Coinbase makes paying for goods and services with crypto easier, especially for people who are not fans or first adopters, the interface isn't seamless.

Coinbase users should be aware that the Coinbase exchange is not the same as the Coinbase wallet, which was originally developed under the name Toshi. If, for example, a user has bought crypto on the Coinbase exchange app in iOS, they will have to download the Coinbase Wallet app separately to spend their money.

Users also say Coinbase's support infrastructure is lacking. If you are having a problem, and you don't know why it's breaking or how to fix it, you may not get a quick answer.