Table of Contents
Bisq is a decentralized bitcoin exchange network that enables secure, private and censorship-resistant exchange of bitcoin for national currencies and other cryptocurrencies over the internet.
Below is a compilation of frequently-asked questions about Bisq, how to use it, and how to help the project.
Bisq is a peer-to-peer trading network, not a website or “app” or other centralized service. It’s software you run on your own hardware, which connects to other people running the Bisq software to facilitate trades. It’s open-source and community-driven.
And you can trade bitcoin for fiat currencies with it!
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 (no matter how nice the landlord may seem to be).
With Bisq you’re always the owner—not just owner of your bitcoin, but also owner of your data.
- Bisq does not hold any bitcoin. All bitcoin used for trading is held in 2-of-2 multisignature addresses controlled solely by the trading peers themselves.
- Bisq does not hold any national currency. National currency is transferred directly from one trader to the other using traditional banking and payment services.
- All Bisq data is transferred over its own secure peer-to-peer network, which is built on top of the Tor network—no central servers. This means there are no data honeypots, rendering large-scale hacks of customer information databases impossible.
- Bisq does not know anything about traders who use its network, and no data is stored on who trades with whom.
- Bisq does not require registration, so your privacy is protected, and you can begin trading instantly.
- Bisq is code, not a company. It is an open-source project organized as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) built on top of Bitcoin.
See more in the Introduction.
Bisq’s software is free/libre open-source licensed under Version 3 of the GNU Affero General Public License.
Thanks to strong incentives encouraging traders to play fairly, the vast majority of trades on Bisq go smoothly and quickly.
Bisq employs three primary mechanisms to achieve security:
- All bitcoin traded with Bisq is secured in a 2-of-2 multisignature address.
- Both traders are required to pay security deposits, which are refunded after trades are completed.
- Trade disputes are handled through a 3-tier mechanism that includes end-to-end encrypted trader chat, mediation, and arbitration.
When trading fiat currency for bitcoin, there is always some chargeback risk, as fiat transactions can often be reversed.
To mitigate this risk, Bisq:
- only supports payment methods which are known to make chargebacks difficult—this is why Bisq does not support PayPal and credit cards, for example. See more on chargeback risks.
- employs an signing mechanism that forces 0.01 BTC buy limits until a buyer’s integrity (not identity!) is verified.
Some people find Bisq’s interface intuitive, but many people don’t. Check out this tour video to help you make sense of the interface, and then check out the Bird’s Eye View of a Bisq Trade video for a high-level overview of how Bisq trading works.
Then check out the getting-started guide to see how to get up and running quickly.
As of April 2021, Bisq contributors have designed a whole new beautiful interface that should make Bisq significantly more intuitive, and are also in touch with a talented UI developer to turn the design into code. You can follow progress on this initiative here.
While Bisq can technically support any market, only a handful of markets are consistently active on Bisq—mainly because they offer good payment methods and had strong on-the-ground support to bootstrap them in the beginning.
Note that a weak offer book in a particular market doesn’t -necessarily- mean trades don’t take place in that market. It could be that there are people lurking there that will happily take an offer if you take the initiative to make one (this is often the case in markets like CAD, AUD, and GBP, for example).
You can check trade history for your market by going to
Trades and picking your currency from the dropdown.
If your market has no recent trades, a little more work will need to be done to get it going. At a minimum, payment methods common in your market should be added (suggest them here), and some form of marketing should be done to get users and market-makers to bootstrap a market.
Bisq contributors are more than happy to help if you can help with guidance, connections to people who can help, and/or events and translations and other vehicles for reaching your target demographics.
I heard I need bitcoin in order to buy bitcoin on Bisq…but I don’t have any bitcoin. What can I do?
Yes, the chicken-and-egg problem with Bisq is real.
Here are some ways to get just enough bitcoin to do your first trade on Bisq:
- try to obtain some yourself using these suggestions
- hop onto the
#buy-bitcoinchannel on Keybase and make a deal (see more here)
Trading fees are calculated as a percentage of trade size: 0.1% for makers and 0.7% for takers if paid in BTC and about half of that if paid in BSQ.
Keep in mind that you’ll also need to pay mining fees for the on-chain transactions, as well as a deposit to lock into the multisig escrow. You’ll get the deposit back in full after the trade completes successfully.
Bisq’s current trade protocol requires 4 on-chain transactions. Takers pay for 3 of these transactions and makers pay for 1 of them.
Therefore, to make trading on Bisq as cost-effective as possible, consider making your own offers at times when mining fees are lower.
Other things you can do:
- make offers to trade larger amounts of BTC (bigger offers tend to get better pricing)
- pay trade fees with BSQ (BSQ trade fees tend to be about half of BTC trading fees)
Security deposits create strong incentives for buyers and sellers to follow the rules of Bisq’s trading protocol. Deposits are locked into multisig escrow along with the bitcoin being traded, and are returned to each user when the trade is complete.
If a trade is disputed through a mediator or arbitrator, some or all of the offending party’s security deposit may be awarded to the counterparty. Examples of protocol violations include a buyer failing to pay a seller, paying with a different account or with a different name, or a seller failing to acknowledge receipt of a buyer’s payment.
Most Bisq trades complete without any problem thanks in part to the incentives that security deposits create.
See full trading rules.
Trading limits vary based on payment method, since some payment methods are more secure than others.
Relatively safe payment methods such as Japan’s Furikomi and Australia’s PayID are set to allow trades of up to 1 BTC, but other payment methods such as Zelle and SEPA have a cap of 0.25 BTC. See the full list of payment methods and limits.
Altoins are not possible to charge back, so all altcoin trades have a limit of 2 BTC.
See payment methods.
If you’d like to suggest a payment method to be added, please submit a new issue.
Bisq doesn’t handle fiat at all – it only handles BTC. Trades are settled outside of Bisq, meaning fiat payments are sent outside Bisq via traditional banking services.
Bisq merely matches peers and sets incentives (e.g. locking a BTC security deposit from both peers, as a sort of escrow) to encourage both trading peers to act in good faith. This is also why you need bitcoin to begin trading on Bisq.
There is no automatic order matching on Bisq, and trades are settled manually by humans. As a result, trades are not completed as quickly as they would be on centralized exchanges, but can still be fairly quick.
Some payment methods are instant (e.g., Faster Payment) while others can take a few days (e.g., SEPA).
As far as Bisq is concerned, the deposit transaction needs to be confirmed once before the buyer can send payment. Bitcoin transactions take about 10 minutes to confirm, so with quick traders and quick payment method, a Bisq trade can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Altcoin trade periods are always 1 day (or 1 hour for Altcoins Instant trades).
See the list of payment methods for complete details.
Bisq is standalone, open-source software that you can inspect before running on your machine, and as a result, you don’t have to trust that any server is logging your personal details (as you would in the case of a website).
As for the trading process, your payment information is stored locally on your machine, and only your trading partner (and your mediator or arbitrator, in case of a dispute) can ever see it. All data exchanged between users is encrypted and signed.
To transmit data from one user to another, Bisq uses a P2P network built on top of Tor, which provides a high degree of anonymity. The user doesn’t need to do any additional work for all of this to work—it is all integrated in the application.
Yes. There are no central servers on the Bisq network—so all peers are responsible for keeping their offers online.
If you have published an offer, your Bisq application needs to stay online so it can react when another trader wants to take your offer (the multisig deposit transaction is created in the take-offer process). Be sure you have deactivated your computer’s standby mode so your Bisq application can stay online (monitor standby is not a problem).
If your Bisq application does go offline, your offer will get removed from the distributed offerbook. It will be re-published the next time you start your Bisq application.
After an offer has been taken and the trade process has started, neither trader needs to be online continuously, but each trader will need to be online periodically to check if any action is needed on their side (e.g. sending fiat/altcoin, confirming payment receipt, etc).
No, but you may find it convenient to keep a small amount of trading capital there.
When entering a new trade on Bisq, you will get the option to transfer funds from your Bisq wallet -or- send funds from an external wallet.
Likewise, when concluding a trade on Bisq, you can withdraw your funds to the Bisq wallet or to an external wallet.
Generally speaking, Bisq doesn’t deal with banks at all. All fiat transfers take place directly between users.
But there have been reports of banks closing accounts upon suspecting bitcoin activity. As a result, Bisq requires that the “reason for payment” field always be left BLANK when making a payment (if the payment method offers such a field).
If a reason is required, it should be something trivial like a “-” or “payment”. If you want to use something else, please agree on an alternative with your peer using trader chat. See full trading rules for more information.
Common Technical Niggles
If Bisq won’t open, try right-clicking the app and clicking
Bisq seems to bog down my computer. When I open it, CPU and memory usage spike. Can this be prevented?
Bisq has had memory usage and CPU usage issue on certain operating systems in the past, but these issues should be resolved now. You can manually set the max RAM usage by following these instructions.
Chances are Bisq is probably just trying to sync blockchain data. New releases of Bisq include data stores updated at release time to reduce this syncing time, but as a release gets older (i.e., beyond 3-4 weeks old), the data stores get older, and syncing takes longer. Just let it finish and your computer resources should go back down to normal again.
See this article for a tip on fixing this issue.
Bisq provides a 3-layer mechanism for resolving disputes: trader chat, mediation, and arbitration.
Trader chat enables traders to resolve small issues themselves privately over end-to-end encrypted chat right in Bisq. If this doesn’t work, traders can engage a mediator to examine the situation and suggest a payout. In rare circumstances that mediation fails, a trader can choose to engage an arbitrator to re-examine the situation and make a payout.
Veteran users: please note that the arbitrator role changed significantly with the launch of the new trade protocol on v1.2.
With the launch of the new trading protocol in v1.2, multisig escrows went from 2-of-3 to 2-of-2 arrangements, so that only the two trading peers have control of trading funds (instead of the 2 trading peers and an arbitrator). With no keys in the multisig escrow, it is no longer possible for a mediator or arbitrator to collude with another trader to release funds maliciously.
Mediators and arbitrators are still bonded roles, however, because even though they cannot sign a payout transaction to resolve a dispute, they can -advise- how to resolve a dispute, and it’s important that they be responsive, responsible, and fair when doing so.
What happens if the person buying bitcoin does a chargeback after the bitcoin has been released from the multisig address?
Bisq only supports payment methods for which chargebacks are not easy (e.g., this is why PayPal and credit cards are not supported). But there is still a little chargeback risk with banks. If a bank executes a chargeback after the BTC has been released, there is nothing a mediator or arbitrator can do.
Bisq’s goal is to make this scenario as unattractive as possible, using three primary mechanisms:
- Account aging requires newly-created fiat payment accounts on Bisq to have lower trade limits, and those limits are increased over time.
- Account signing requires higher-risk payment methods to be signed upon verifying the integrity of a trader before account aging kicks in. Until such accounts are signed, buy limits are set to 0.01 BTC.
- National currency payment methods which are found to be used for chargebacks are quickly removed.
Such mechanisms are also problematic for protecting privacy and for keeping the service decentralized.
Bisq has a built-in end-to-end encrypted chat mechanism that you can use to talk to your trading peer while the trade is in progress.
The Bisq DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) is a decentralized governance mechanism for the Bisq software, built on Bitcoin. It takes the place of a company. How good can decentralized software possibly be if it’s still controlled by a single entity, like a company?
Decentralized software is no good without decentralized governance.
That’s why Bisq is not a company or legal entity of any kind—instead, it’s organized as a DAO. The DAO handles the software’s funding and strategy-making to enable the Bisq network to thrive, and at the same time, harden it against attacks on the infrastructure that powers its leadership and operation.
In a nutshell, the Bisq DAO enables Bisq to become even more censorship-resistant, a core principle of the project from the very beginning.
Read more about the Bisq DAO in this introductory article.
The primary purposes of the Bisq DAO are financing the project and determining strategy.
- Trading fees are distributed directly from traders to contributors with a token (colored bitcoin) called BSQ.
- Strategy is determined collectively through voting done in the Bisq software and recorded on the Bitcoin network.
Learn more about how this actually works in this series of short 3-5 minute videos.
See this article for a full list of resources to learn more.
First of all, you are NOT required to use the BSQ token or Bisq DAO to use Bisq.
But there are benefits to doing so: you’ll pay lower trading fees by using BSQ instead of BTC.
But why have the BSQ token at all? Because it enables Bisq contributors to be paid for their work without any central wallets or points of control. When you buy BSQ, you’re directly paying a Bisq contributor for their work, and in the process, helping to sustain the whole project. The dynamic this token enables is not possible with plain bitcoin.
When you use BSQ to pay trading fees, it’s destroyed and ‘burned’ out of existence.
Bisq already earns revenue from trading fees. It’s not launching this DAO and BSQ token for -earning- revenue—it’s doing it to -distribute- the revenue it already earns to more people without any central points of control.
BSQ tokens are issued every time a contributor’s compensation request is approved through voting, and the tokens are destroyed every time a trader uses BSQ to pay trading fees.
BSQ issuance is not a 1-time event, and its purpose is not to raise capital. You can see a walk-through of the BSQ issuance process in this video series.
You could. All you’d have to do is pay your trading fees with BTC instead of BSQ. But we hope you don’t, because doing so would render the project unsustainable.
Before the Bisq DAO, trading fees went to just a couple of wallets owned by specific Bisq contributors (arbitrators). All other contributors were not paid. Bisq needs its contributors to be paid in regular, predictable ways to ensure continual (and reliable) development, service, and growth; the Bisq DAO enables this to happen by distributing trading fees to all contributors in a totally decentralized way.
Check out the contributor checklist. We’d love to hear from you!