CoinJar is without a doubt one of the biggest names within Australian bitcoin, despite moving headquarters over to the UK in recent years, so I was looking forward to testing out the purchase experience. Sign up is easy and its interestingly presented more like a social media account that a bitcoin service, I was asked to create a username and upload a profile picture. The first thing I noticed was a video available to help me get started, the first time I have seen such a visual introduction for new users, the problem however was that the video no makes no mention of how to place a deposit and just buy some bitcoin. Heading back to the dashboard I could see that I needed to verify my identity before I could get started. CoinJar requested much more information than I have been used to, including previous addresses, after uploading some documents including my drivers licence the wait began.
It took three days to receive an email confirming that my documents passed verification, not ideal if I was hoping to buy bitcoin in a hurry. This was disappointing from such an established service, but I have to say this was simply my experience while testing and potentially not the normal time frame.
With the verification obstacle tackled I returned to my CoinJar account and after a bit of clicking around eventually found details on how to make a deposit, CoinJar accept both POLi pay and BPAY transfers. I chose BPAY, its a service most Australians should be very familiar with seemed the most convenient option. The transfer was easy but I had to wait another two days to receive an email telling me the funds had been received and were showing in my CoinJar account.
Finally ready to trade my dollars for bitcoin I headed to the payments page. CoinJar has chosen some unusual terminology in actually getting some bitcoin, rather than simple buying bitcoin as many services offer, instead I prompted to transfer funds from my 'Cash account' to my 'Everyday Bitcoin' account. It was certainly not a clear process and I found it to be unnecessary complex but it was quick, when I reviewed and confirmed my transfer I could see the bitcoin in my CoinJar wallet almost instantly.
For the purpose of my reviews I have been trying to navigate services and purchase bitcoin as quickly as possible. With CoinJar, the fact it took me a frustratingly long time to see any option or mention of making a deposit to trade dollars for bitcoin was not great. It is clear a lot of work and thought has be placed on the design of the service, yet as a newcomer I felt let down by a lack of direction and explanation of how it all worked. Some prompts on how to navigate the process would have been great to see, especially on the somewhat convoluted payments page which for some reason avoids the term 'buy bitcoin' at all costs.
It is a friendly, bright website and the inclusion of a welcoming video is a nice touch but for me does not go far enough. Once you have got to grips with how CoinJar like to operate however, it does seem like the service itself is easy to use as far as trading back and forth between bitcoin and Australian Dollars. The interface is great, my issue was simply that not enough focus has been placed on that nervous first purchase to fill me with confidence.
Security is as robust as you would expect from such a large player within the Bitcoin community, although its important not to take it for granted. Like many services two-factor authentication is recommend, and the option to have SMS verification is a really great feature I wish more services adopted. You can select the option to receive a verification code straight to your mobile each time you log in, making sure you are in full control of your account access.
Support also, is at the top end in comparison to similar services, with a deep knowledge base section you can search through. CoinJars size however does tend to lead to somewhat impersonal replies, I received a clearly scripted reply to a quick enquiry which is understandable but unfortunate when compared to some of the personable response I have received from other services. I felt much more like a regular bank customer rather than a member of a pioneering community exploring bitcoins potential.
CoinJar offers an odd cross between a traditional bank account, a bitcoin exchange and a social media platform. While I did struggle to get set up and make my first purchase, the site design and responsiveness of the trade between various accounts are impressive and provide a level of sophistication lacking from some services. It's a service I could certainly recommend to people interested in bitcoin and willing to invest some time to learning CoinJars unique structure.
The additional services offered by CoinJar go above and beyond other Australian exchanges, including hedged accounts and a CoinJar swipe card you can use to spend bitcoin in your account like a regular debit card. These innovations insure that CoinJar will be a useful tool for everyday bitcoin spending and are great for the wider adoption of bitcoin in Australia.
Review date: August 2016.
Update: September 2016. CoinJar has responded saying the purchase experience has been improved in response to this review. I will amend this review during my next round of reviews.