Choosing a Staking Provider comes with quite an effort and research. You should consider a few criteria to make sure you make the best choice in accordance with your expectations and objectives. There are many options when it comes to staking providers (SP), so choose wisely before you stake your EGLD
First things first: what is Staking?
In the cryptocurrency world, staking refers to “locking up” a digital asset by “staking” it, agreeing to hold it in a wallet on a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) blockchain network. By agreeing to stake some or all of your holdings, you help ensure that the blockchain on which the assets are staked, operates correctly and securely.
In exchange for helping to secure a PoS blockchain network, participants who stake their coins receive a share in the block reward in the form of newly minted coins. Staking is an integral part of a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism and is designed as an alternative to Proof-of-Work that maintains the long-term security and reliability of a protocol.
Simply put, if you own some cryptocurrencies, you can “lock” them for securing the blockchain and get rewards in return. So, in the long run, you can earn a lot of coins. This is one of the easiest ways to have a passive income from staking crypto.
There are 3 ways of staking
You become a Validator
You create a node with at least 2500 EGLD locked in a system SmartContract (this is the minimum limit for creating a node until phase 4). The nodes are important for the Elrond network because they validate the transactions and they assure the efficiency and security of the network. The nodes are required to run on secure, reliable, and high-performing servers 24/7.
In order to stake a node, you need to have a significant amount of EGLD and you need to assure the nodes have 100% uptime, are installed on very secure servers, and run the latest software version on the mainnet. A freshly stacked node is not producing rewards immediately. It is added to a queue. Note that in staking Phase 3.5 there is a maximum of 3200 nodes in the entire network, so only when a node from these 3200 becomes jailed, or someone unstakes a node, there is the possibility that your node can become eligible.
If a validator has poor performance, the network will jail it, which means that it will no longer be able to participate in consensus, nor will it produce rewards. The node must be unjailed before it can resume its role as a validator.
This way of staking is highly unaffordable for most people due to the pretty high amount of EGLD needed.
You become a Staking-as-a-Service Provider
To become an SP you’ll need 1250 EGLD to start a smart contract and be able to accept staking from anyone. A node will be added to the queue once the staked sum reaches 2500 EGLD (1250 EGLD from initial SC + 1250 from outside staking). Note that the initial 1250 EGLD are locked as a network warranty and can’t be unstaked until all the delegators' funds are withdrawn and the initial SC is closed.
You will also need to run nodes in the same manner as a Validator + you’ll need to manage the Delegation System Smart Contract.
As this way of staking is still unaffordable for most people, and it’s not as easy to maintain the nodes without some technical background experience and constant efforts, you may consider the third way of staking which is the most accessible one.
You can stake your EGLD with a staking provider
This way, you are able to delegate your tokens to existing nodes operators and professional validators (staking providers) who accept delegations. They take care of the technical aspect of the staking process, which is the reason why the platform charges a fee - usually a percentage of the staking rewards.
The minimum amount of eGold that you can stake to any staking provider is 1 EGLD. Thus, it is accessible to everyone.
Now, what you should take into account when choosing a Staking Provider
We know that usually, you may refer to it as “a staking agency” but we choose to call it “Staking Provider”, as this is the correct naming.
There are a few key points:
Other key info you need to know
Staking is non-custodial. No one has access to your funds.
That means that no Staking Provider you choose to stake your digital assets with will have access to your funds or to your private key. Also, the provider has no control or influence over the funds. The staking process will run securely through a smart contract using the Maiar app or Elrond web wallet. The Staking Provider operates the technical part so that you can be stress-free from it. The charge for that is the SP (staking provider) service fee which is already included in the APR displayed in the Maiar app or on the Elrond Web Wallet.
The staking can be done by anyone through the Maiar app or Elrond Web Wallet.
The top-up and the queue list
The system is done in a way that a Staking Provider can start with an initial fund of 1250 EGLD (valid for Phase 3.5) and be open to accepting staking from anyone. When the amount of 2500 EGLD is reached, the first node becomes active and enters the queue list. As more EGLD enters in the contract, this EGLD will become top-up. When the amount of 5000 EGLD is reached, the second node could be activated if the SP wishes to activate more nodes (entering the queue list) or can remain as a top-up if the SP doesn't wish to activate more nodes. And this process can continue in the same way for the following nodes. It is worth mentioning that for every EGLD that is staked on a queue node that stake doesn’t produce reward therefore the SP’s APR is significantly diminished.
Capped vs uncapped Staking Providers
Any Staking Provider should maintain some top-up in order to safely operate their service. The top-up acts as a buffer - in case some users unstake their funds - the Staking Provider should have enough stake not to lose nodes.
The Staking Providers that have capped their staking don’t accept any more staking from other EGLD holders once their cap has been reached. They do this in order to maintain a relatively higher APR for the delegators by keeping a lower top-up per node.
For the Staking Providers that go with an unlimited cap, the APR can go down if more and more users stake their coins, because the Top Up APR comes with a small penalty to incentivize SP to care for more nodes thus contributing to a stronger and more secure network. However, since Phase 3.5 the Top Up APR and Base APR have been adjusted not to make such a big difference, helping the small SPs to catch up with the rest of the top SPs, helping the network decentralization.
The first 2500 staked EGLD to a single node is considered Base Stake, what is extra is considered Top Up stake.
As you can see, there’s a fine equilibrium that any Staking Provider should be able to achieve respecting his own business model by choosing the right amount of top-up per node or going uncapped.
It must be borne in mind that the network APR is a variable thing, depending on the total network stake and on the yearly issuance percentage/transactions volume. So the correlation is as follows:
The Staking Providers APR is tightly correlated with the network APR and also with each provider's interest and strategy.
Helping the decentralization
Thinking long term, any of us should have decentralization as our first goal because this guarantees us a fundamental and essential principle of the blockchain. Without this, the blockchain no longer makes sense. This means we encourage anyone to stake with small and trusted/reliable Staking Providers. DYOR (Do Your Own Research) to find out the SP that meets your needs.
All of these being said, you can be sure that now you know what to check when choosing a staking provider. Also, you found out that staking is non-custodial, even if you stake with a rogue SP, being a non-custodial service no one has access to your funds. All the damage that can be done is just the waiting time for the unstake period (10 days).
If you read so far and you are not a beginner anymore, not new in staking / or when you feel ready and are up for a bigger challenge there is always the next level: Staking-as-a-Service Provider. You can upgrade your IT skills and join the trailblazers: the validators’ team.
Any choice that you make on the staking provider must be documented, first.