A Look at Our XBTUSD Perpetual Contract and Comparison with Other Crypto Trading Products 

To begin, perpetual contracts in crypto are leveraged trading products that allow traders to speculate on the exchange rate between a base and quote currency. 

This article looks at the XBTUSD perpetual contract offered on BitMEX, and goes on to compare it with other crypto trading products – ultimately highlighting the benefits of perpetual swaps, and why they’re a popular choice for traders, particularly professional ones. 

What is the XBTUSD Perpetual Contract? 

XBTUSD is a swap, where buyers and sellers exchange USD and Bitcoin interest payments for price performance. The below diagram illustrates the swap structure. A deeper dive on perpetual swaps can be found here. 

Please note that XBT is what we call Bitcoin at BitMEX, exactly the same as what some other platforms call BTC.

XBTUSD gives traders a chance to speculate on the exchange rate between Bitcoin and USD – the base currency being XBT, and the quote currency being USD. 

On BitMEX, we offer the highest leverage on this contract, with up to 100x leverage offered. Details of the XBTUSD perpetual contract can be found here.

Here is a Comparison Matrix of XBTUSD, Spot, Margin, and Futures Trading




Physical Settlement



Never expires


Spot Trading


Never expires


Margin Trading


Never expires


Futures Trading





The XBTUSD Perpetual Swap vs. Crypto Spot Trading

Trading Bitcoin on a spot basis is the gateway to digital currency trading. If you want to buy Bitcoin, you must pay the full USD value. If you want to sell Bitcoin, you must possess the total amount of Bitcoin you wish to sell.

Because Bitcoin and USD are physically settled by both counterparties, there cannot be any leverage or shorting. XBTUSD is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) product – long vs. short. There is no physical settlement of Bitcoin or USD, therefore leveraged trading and shorting are allowed. This is a massive opportunity for an informed and seasoned trader. 

Imagine you wish to buy 10 Bitcoin at $29,000 USD. If you were trading on a spot basis, you must have $290,000. However, with the XBTUSD perpetual contract, you only need to post one Bitcoin as margin for the long position.

Imagine you wish to sell 10 Bitcoin. If you trade on a spot basis, you must have 10 Bitcoin. With XBTUSD, you only need to post one Bitcoin as margin for the short position.

The XBTUSD Perpetual Swap vs. Crypto Margin Trading

Crypto margin trading or trading spot with leverage is a popular way to trade Bitcoin. You still trade on the spot order book – however to go long or short, you borrow USD or Bitcoin. 

Again, because Bitcoin and USD are still physically settled on the spot order book, the leverage offered cannot be very high. 

In comparison, the XBTUSD perpetual contract is long over short, and requires no USD or Bitcoin to change hands. This means the effective leverage can be much higher – the maximum leverage for XBTUSD on BitMEX is 100x.

The XBTUSD Perpetual Swap  vs. Crypto Futures Trading

Similarities certainly exist between the XBTUSD perpetual contract and crypto futures trading. Both are not physically settled and afford high leverage.

However, in comparison, the main drawback of futures contracts is that they have an expiry date. Many informed and seasoned traders crave the high leverage, but don’t want their position to expire at an arbitrary date. To accommodate those traders with various time preferences, crypto exchanges list futures contracts that offer various maturities. This results in a lesser amount of liquidity.

Due to the structure of perpetual swaps, XBTUSD does not have an expiry date. An XBTUSD position stays open until it is closed or it is liquidated, due to adverse price movements. This makes it attractive to both long and short term traders, trading the same product, thereby increasing liquidity. 

Aside from the creation of XBTUSD, BitMEX is one of the few exchanges that continues to innovate and offers an ever-growing range of crypto derivative products. You can find all of our existing products here.

For more educational resources on trading at BitMEX, we invite you to head here for our growing portal of educational guides that cover trading, and the wider cryptocurrency ecosystem. 

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