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Coinbase requires you to link a bank account, or credit or debit card to your Coinbase account to purchase cryptocurrencies. Using a bank account allows for higher limits ($100/transaction, $2,500/week), but it also takes longer to verify transactions, so you will not see money in your Coinbase wallet for two to four days (depending on your bank). And when selling Bitcoin, once the sale is confirmed, it takes two to four days for the proceeds of that sale to show up in your bank account. With a credit or debit card, limits are lower ($200/week), but you can purchase digital currencies by simply transferring funds from that bank account to the site. For these transactions, Bitcoin shows up in your Coinbase wallet instantaneously. You can also sell Bitcoin to your PayPal account, effectively cashing out, as your Bitcoin will be exchanged for local currency. This transaction, too, is instantaneous.
Despite the intricate technology associated with and necessary for cryptocurrency investing, speculation and possession, Coinbase has created an apparatus that makes this process remarkably easy and familiar, almost like buying and selling stocks. This screenshot from the Coinbase site shows real-time cryptocurrency prices and doesn't look too different from your ordinary online stock tracker.
Coinbase has two core products: a Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX) for trading a variety of digital assets on its professional asset trading platform, and a user-facing retail broker of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Ethereum Classic, and Litecoin for fiat currency. It also offers an API for developers and merchants to build applications and accept payments in both digital currencies. As of 2018, the company offered buy/sell trading functionality in 32 countries, while the cryptocurrency wallet was available in 190 countries worldwide. On March 26, 2018, Coinbase announced their intention to add support for ERC-20 tokens.
Essentially, if you are interested in trading in digital currencies but don't want to get bogged down in the underlying technology, products like Coinbase are a way to begin a foray into a new form of currency speculation and investing. You do, however, lose some of the advantages of trading in a cryptocurrency and through the blockchain. On Coinbase, you have no pseudo anonymity—your name is attached to your Coinbase account and so is your bank account, so transaction history is relatively easy to track down. And if you're not working on the blockchain, there's not much you can do to ensure that the verification of your transaction history or your account is taking place on the blockchain. You are, instead, placing trust in the intermediary, in this case, Coinbase.