Benefits of Crypto Flash Loans
Traders use flash loans to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities and collateral swaps as they arise. Find out how.
Flash loans are among the most popular crypto loans that a borrower can access on a crypto lending platform. These flash loans are available from lending platforms to help traders on these platforms exploit opportunities as they arise. As unsecured loans, they don't require collateral to take out from a lending platform, and so anyone who wants a flash loan can get one, regardless of whether they have the collateral to cover them. Decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms offer flash loans to their clients as the only unsecured loans they process. But isn't this a risky business? How do flash loans work, and are they different from other lenders' loans? Flash loans can have both positives and negatives, depending on your perspective.
What Is a Flash Loan?
As mentioned before, a flash loan is an unsecured loan that a user can get from a lending platform. These flash loans can be beneficial in the world of finance, allowing users to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities and collateral swaps as they arise. These trading possibilities can earn traders quite a bit of profit.
In traditional loans, borrowers go through a loaning mechanism that requires them to prove that they can repay a loan. After they successfully do this, a bank will then disburse the funds to them once they submit some collateral for the bank to hold if they can't pay back the loaned capital.
DeFi platforms typically offer collateralized loans. In these loans, a client takes out the loan in fiat currency, with some collateral deposited in crypto to liquidate if they are unable to repay the loan amount. On liquidation, the platform recoups the losses it would have incurred, and disburses the recouped funds to the lenders' accounts. In a flash loan, there is no collateral. So how does a lending platform deal with uncollateralized loans? To understand this, we need to look at how flash loans operate.
How Do Flash Loans Work?
Flash loans demonstrate three properties that set them apart from other types of lending:
Smart Contracts: Flash loans use smart contracts to manage lending and payback. These mechanisms are immutable agreements that ensure certain conditions are met before funds change hands.
No Security Required: Unlike every other loan type, flash loans don't require the borrower to submit any kind of collateral, as mentioned before.
Instantaneous Transactions: Flash loans happen instantly, and the borrower must repay the loan as soon as they take it. Ideally, smart contracts negotiate the loan details so that the borrower pays back the loan immediately after borrowing funds.
A flash loan uses a smart contract to ensure that the borrower has the money to pay back the loan immediately. In this way, the lending platform ensures that it can cover uncollateralized lending, so they don't have to worry about if the borrower defaults on the loan.
That's not to say that flash loans are foolproof. A flash loan attack is how malicious users can manipulate the system to their advantage. Flash loan attacks take advantage of these loans and smart contract bugs to borrow a lot of funds quickly, then take advantage of price discrepancies to resell the assets on another exchange. Flash loan exploits are rapid, and the borrower can repeat the attack multiple times and then leave without a trace. Despite this, flash loans remain a popular method of taking advantage of collateral swaps and arbitrage opportunities across exchanges. So, why are flash loans such a popular topic? There are a lot of benefits to flash loans for a trader or investor.
The Benefits of Flash Loans
A lending platform offers flash loans to its clients to take advantage of trading opportunities in the markets. But why are flash loans so attractive to users?
1. No Collateral Required
Typically, lenders require borrowers to put up some form of collateral to repay the loans in case they fail to meet their obligation for repayment. These secured loans make up the most common types of loans offered by both DeFi platforms and traditional financial institutions. But what happens when the borrower doesn't have any collateral to put up for a loan? This is where flash loans come in, as they don’t require any collateral.
Flash loans are ideal for taking advantage of discrepancies in the prices of assets. Borrowers can perform instant trades using the funds from such loans to fund their trading. Because the loans are paid back immediately, there's no outstanding balance. The borrowed funds are returned to the platform and whatever interest it generates before a new block is added to the chain.
2. No Limitations on Loan Amount
Theoretically, a borrower could take out loans worth millions of dollars and repay them before the block ends. Alternatively, the borrower could take out multiple flash loans to perform trades. The only issue that the borrower would run into would be transaction fees for each loan. One of the largest AAVE flash loans processed to date was around $200 million.
The fact that there is no limit on how much you can borrow makes it perfect for trades on the market that will net the borrower far more than the borrowed capital. Additionally, traders can leverage the loan for trading without having to risk their own money.
3. Instant Transaction
Flash loans happen instantaneously. This rapid "solution" for the transaction means that there's no waiting period that typical loans have to go through. Instead, the loan is disbursed and paid back immediately—this rapid execution allows for more confidence from both the borrower and the lender. The flash loan lender can be confident that the unsecured loan is covered.
4. Innovation Through the Smart Contract
In a traditional loan, a lending institution would find out information about a borrower to ensure that they could repay any loan the institution gave them. Background checks and financial history would be a major part of whether the borrower gets the loan or not. The smart contract makes many of these checks obsolete.
A flash loan uses smart contracts to finalize the loan and repayment. Decentralized finance uses smart contracts as an automated way to manage borrowing and lending. Instant transaction time follows from this automation. With fewer human inputs, the system is supposed to operate independently. Unfortunately, a smart contract can be both a positive and a negative. Smart contract exploits can be used by malicious users to institute flash loan attacks.
5. Ease of Use
When AAVE and other decentralized finance platforms started offering their clients a flash loan, they would have had to code the smart contract themselves. As a result, less tech-savvy users were locked out of using this innovative DeFi option. Luckily, that's no longer the case. With competitors aiming to dethrone established platforms, there has been a push to make these lending protocols more accessible.
New lending platforms have made it more accessible. Both borrowers with technical coding skills and the average non-specialist can take advantage of this innovation in lending. Thanks to advances in the "composability" of smart contracts, almost anyone can set up their own flash loan.
6. Lower Fees
A flash loan is typically a single transaction. It combines several transactions into a single one to lower the number of fees you have to pay. Additionally, the transaction cost is charged alongside the loan value. This combination means that the borrower doesn't have to pay as much in transaction fees. These fees come bundled when the borrower takes out the flash loan since everything is done in the same transaction. As a result, the borrower pays far less in fees, meaning that they get more out of the loan than if they had borrowed it from a financial institution.
Are Flash Loans A Good Option For Regular Users?
Taking out a flash loan isn't something the average user would do. More often than not, a flash loan is a way for a trader to leverage their crypto assets and spread out their risk. Should you consider taking a flash loan? That all depends on whether you'll be trading or simply buying and holding crypto. If you need the leverage to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities or collateral swaps, then it's a great way to do so. However, aside from these applications, most consumers probably won't use flash loans.