Binance US is the latest major crypto exchange to launch Ethereum staking on its platform.
The company announced on Wednesday that users can now stake the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap and earn rewards at a starting rate of 6% APY.
That’s a sizable step above major competitors like Lido and Coinbase, which currently offer 3.5% and 3.25% APY, respectively, on staked ETH. Crypto lending platforms like BlockFi and Nexo offer only 4% and 5% APY on ETH staking, respectively, despite using a relatively high-risk, high-reward business model.
Staking rewards, however, are subject to change based on Ethereum transaction fee volume among other factors, according to Binance US.
“As the Ethereum network continues to transition towards The Merge, we are thrilled to now offer ETH staking with some of the highest APY rewards in the industry," Binance US CEO Brian Shroder said in a press release.
The “merge” refers to Ethereum’s long-awaited upgrade that will combine the network’s consensus layer, known as the beacon chain, with its execution layer, which is the current Ethereum mainnet. This merge will complete Ethereum’s transition from a proof-of-work consensus mechanism to proof of stake
The merge is currently expected to take place sometime between September 13 and 15. After that time, Ethereum users will be able to stake their ETH to help secure the network while earning passive ETH rewards in the process.
Based on the beacon chain’s current numbers, the Amber Group, a crypto financial services firm, has estimated that rewards for validators could range between 8% and 12% APY. But there’s a catch.
In order to be a solo staker, users must pledge a minimum of 32 ETH to the network. That’s worth roughly $50,000 at current prices, which prices out most average users.
As such, users have quickly gravitated towards using centralized staking platforms, known as staking pools, instead. Although these providers earn fees that cut into stakers’ profits, they significantly lower the financial barrier to entry. Binance US, for instance, only requires 0.001 ETH to get started, which is roughly $1.50 worth of ETH at today’s prices.
But this has also raised concerns regarding the potential centralization of the Ethereum network, and how that may affect its ability to remain censorship-resistant as U.S. regulators increasingly set their sights on crypto.
At the moment, just four staking providers—Lido, Kraken, Coinbase, and Binance—control nearly two-thirds of staked ETH. That means that a few large companies currently have a significant role in validating transactions on the network, which has raised concerns that some transactions could be censored at the protocol level given the Treasury Department’s sanctions against Tornado Cash last month.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted in mid-August that he would sooner shut down his company’s staking business than censor transactions. It’s yet unclear how other centralized companies would react if threatened by regulators.