Review: ViaBTC Mining Pool (Negative)

In my last series of cryptocurrency related products/services reviews I gave a positive review to the ApeSwap Exchange on the Binance Smart Chain which has continued to be a great exchange and live up to that review.

Today we will be reviewing the ViaBTC mining pool (for multiple cryptocurrencies and not just Bitcoin, lots of harder-to-find alts and that is why I’m using it) and they will not be so fortunate. Let’s jump right into it!

ViaBTC Overview

ViaBTC is a fairly large mining pool that has a fairly comprehensive selection of cryptocurrencies you can mine all in one place. It also includes some hard-to-find alts that only have a handful of pools available if you happen to have an ASIC for one of those coins.

They have mining pools available for the following currencies: BTC, BCH, XEC, BSV, DCR, FCH, LTC, ETH, ETC, ZEC, ZEN, DASH, XMR, CKB, LBC, HNS, RVN, STC.

I am using it as the pool for my Goldshell HS1 Pro and my Goldshell LB1 miners:

Goldshell LB1 and Goldshell HS1 Plus ASIC Miners
Goldshell LB1 and Goldshell HS1 Plus ASIC Miners

Most of these currencies are altcoins that not very many people want to hold (myself included) and are available on very few exchanges making them also difficult to trade/convert. This leads us into the most useful feature of ViaBTC which is converting those altcoins to BTC (or others are also available) for you (manually or automatically) right at the pool level.

Mining Pool Performance

As a pool ViaBTC has functioned very well for both LBRY (LBC) and Handshake (HNS). The reason I switched to it in the first place is some of the other pools were dropping my connection causing the Goldshell miner to get stuck until I rebooted it.

After switching to ViaBTC this problem went away and I haven’t had any performance or connection related issues. The pool has paid out consistently and reliably. This part of ViaBTC seems to be the part they know how to do!

Conversion / Autoconversion

ViaBTC - Conversion / Autoconversion* Feature (autoconversion not guaranteed)
ViaBTC – Conversion / Auto Conversion* Feature (auto conversion not guaranteed)

Here is ViaBTC’s “Auto Conversion” section. Despite the name, it has never auto-converted anything for me once. Ever. This is despite it being set to convert “hourly” and the option also being enabled (second to last column on the right).

The minimums for using the “convert” button or “manual” conversion are pretty steep. It is a minimum of 100 HNS and 100 LBC to be able to convert them.

As you can see above I have well above the minimum 100 LBC to manually convert. Despite this and the hourly convert to BTC option enabled it will not convert until I hit the convert button and put in my two factor authentication (2FA) code from Google Authenticator.

The good news is that the auto-withdrawal part of this process does seem to work. I log in and periodically convert my amounts and then I will leave the converted BTC in there and let the automatic nightly withdrawal send it to me (saves on fees, more on that in a moment).

Withdrawals / Autowithdrawals

The fees for manually withdrawing on ViaBTC are outrageous (at least for BTC) but if you let the automatic nightly “batch” withdrawal where a bunch of transactions are all pooled together you seem to pay substantially less in fees and the fees are more reasonable if you let it go to this “nightly” withdrawal.

If you request a manual payout the fees are quite steep. How steep?

ViaBTC - Withdrawal
ViaBTC – Withdrawal

Exactly 0.000404 or $17.88 each at time of writing. Ouch.

You may have noticed the warnings plastered everywhere to transfer to CoinEx. I don’t have a CoinEx and if you don’t either then prepare to take it in the shorts on fees (although leaving withdrawals for the nightly withdrawal batch cycle helps but the minimums are steep and take weeks with my tiny little ASIC miners to reach 0.001 BTC).

Deposits

Do not deposit funds to ViaBTC. Period.

Why? Because if something goes wrong you are going to have to deal with their customer service which is the worst I’ve ever personally encountered in cryptocurrency. I only made two deposits and one of them was lost so that is a 50% loss rate out of 2.

I sent a HNS deposit from Bob to my ViaBTC HNS deposit address. I took these today and my live ViaBTC deposit address is still unchanged from this original transaction:

ViaBTC- HNS Deposit Address (taken at time of writing, still unchanged since original deposit)
ViaBTC- HNS Deposit Address (taken at time of writing)
Bob HNS Wallet - Deposit to ViaBTC Transaction
Bob HNS Wallet – Deposit to ViaBTC Transaction

and my final result:

ViaBTC - Deposit History
ViaBTC – Deposit History

Only my LBRY (LBC) deposit made it and the HNS one still has not to this day. Don’t do it!

Customer Service

So what is the customer service experience like? Frustrating. It’s all via email. There is no “web portal” for this ticket system outside of a web submit form that also just sends them an email.

Let’s take a look:

Ticket #315125

ViaBTC Support Ticket #315125
ViaBTC Support Ticket #315125

This looks like a promising start. I got a prompt reply stating that the transfer was delayed due to a “node upgrade” and that they would keep me informed once it’s been added to my account.

That’s a great response! It’s also literally the last response I would ever get from them.

My follow up question at the end went ignored and is unanswered to this day.

Ticket #328710

I submitted another ticket referencing the first one and explaining what had happened again and this was the only response I received:

ViaBTC - Ticket #328710
ViaBTC – Ticket #328710

Hmmm, now that’s puzzling. I seem to be getting Chinese characters in the response this time. To the Google Translator!

ViaBTC - Customer Service Response Chinese to English Translation
ViaBTC – Customer Service Response Chinese to English Translation

Ah hah! I doubt most ordinary/sane users would go through the effort of trying to translate a message like this or even realize there actually was a message in there.

Basically they closed my other ticket with no response and merged it into my existing ticket. The same ticket which has had no response for several months now. That’s a lot of HNS node upgrade downtime! It may be time to hire some new crypto engineers if it is taking months to upgrade a HNS node. There’s probably been a dozen more versions since this supposed upgrade.

Ticket #358867

I opened this ticket today before publishing to see what happens with and will update the article later based on it. I did not wait for their response this time because frankly they already have passed several red lines for me to reach my overall conclusion and recommendation for the service.

Here’s the ticket:

MIME-Version: 1.0
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2021 17:13:17 -0600
Message-ID: <CAJYQYG1r-0r=V1kbz=M3FGBXL0KHvr9sXY8O8jWak7-uFGsdPg@mail.gmail.com>
Subject: HNS Deposit failed
From: James Chambers <05jchambers@gmail.com>
To: support@viabtc.com
Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="000000000000f02ee305c82303a4"

--000000000000f02ee305c82303a4
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"

This is regarding tickets 315125 and 328710.  My second ticket was closed
without any explanation.

HNS hasn't shown up for hours months.  It was sent to
hs1qajm8zpz52rtz575yz2nma54920vwdzsxq8ttql in transaction
df9ba5f47d45b9ad1f7f5016c0ae91a7d55448ef6c2d155d58317f6bb5e71e3e.

The money was swept immediately and was never deposited into the account.

Can someone help with this further please?

Thanks,

James Chambers

Honestly what is the point of having a ticketing system like this? ViaBTC is wasting their money on that ZenDesk ticketing system (if it’s even a legal copy, it appears to have been gutted, user-accessible pages 404 if you try to tweak the URL and get to a frontend or sometimes take you to a broken CoinEx helpdesk link which I assume is what is really powering this not-very-fancy web submit form behind the scenes) and it has literally zero value to end users.

It also doesn’t appear to be valuable to their team either and is not helping get these issues resolved. If anything it’s giving them a false sense of security that things aren’t “slipping through the cracks” when I can personally assure them they very much are in ways that are stunningly incompetent to the point of it being called into question why they have a ticketing system at all. This is nothing more than an “email only” system where they ignore your emails just like any other place with terrible support. Don’t be fooled by them having a “ticketing system”. They essentially don’t, or they may just as well not have one in practice if you want to be charitable because it doesn’t lead to better/acceptable outcomes.

Conclusion

If you are going to use this service it is best to use it as a service you don’t trust. Here’s some safety tips:

  • Never send the service money, only receive from it
  • Immediately convert/withdraw your mining earnings when they hit the automatic amount (using the nightly batch automatic withdrawal to not get killed on fees but minimums are high so depending on your miners you may have to wait weeks to hit the minimums)
  • Use a different service unless you really need the hard-to-find coins on here, and even then probably use a different service

The service seems to work fine unless something goes wrong. The customer service is absolutely embarrassing here. The frontend portal for the ticketing system isn’t user accessible and only takes you to a submit ticket form.

They don’t seem to be scammers, just deeply incompetent. I’m guessing they will return my deposit eventually but after 2 months of a lost deposit the CEO should have personally reimbursed my account to clean this up at this point. That has not happened yet though (I’ll update if/when it does) so maybe I’m still being too charitable here. It is deeply embarrassing that they couldn’t have manually fixed it by hand in all this time. It also appears that it won’t be addressed any time soon (maybe ever) unless this post attracts their attention.

I made my documented best efforts here to contact them to correct this before this went up because you only get about 5% partial credit for fixing it once you get called out and you can’t “fix” the experience at this point no matter what the response is. I also get the sense that only people complaining on social media get help and that is a reprehensible support model. You shouldn’t need a loud voice to get help.

It boils down to this: are you cool with them losing your money for 2+ months? This was a small HNS deposit luckily but I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to send any serious amount of money to this clown show and have this experience.

If any of you have had similar experiences let me know in the comments!

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