With cryptocurrency technologies, trends, and values changing daily, it can often be hard to keep track of the latest best practices. One of the most important considerations to make as a Bitcoin (or alt-coin) investor or owner is where to store them. For that, you need to know the best Bitcoin wallets.
Do you use a wallet linked to an exchange? Do you use a software wallet that’s local to your machine? A hardware wallet specifically designed for keeping your coins safe? Or even put it on a piece of paper and lock it in a fire-proof safe? There are various approaches to the cryptocurrency wallet, and all of them have their benefits and drawbacks.
The best option for those just getting started with Bitcoin, online wallets let you store your cryptocurrency in a place that’s easily accessible from anywhere in the world, on any device you choose. Often linked to an exchange, they make trading for fiat currencies (like the U.S. dollar) or other cryptocurrencies quick and easy, and they are straightforward to set up and get started. Many also feature smartphone apps to give you easier access to your Bitcoin.
Most offer decent security in terms of two-factor authentication or better, and some will require forms of photo ID to sign up to confirm your identity. That does mean there’s less anonymity with these wallets than some of the other options on this list.
These wallets do make you more reliant on a third party for support. If the exchange gets hacked and it loses all its funds, that money is likely gone. If the exchange encounters heavy traffic or a DDOS attack, you may not be able to access your currencies. Since your Bitcoin is stored remotely, hackers and social engineers may be able to steal your identity from you, access your account, and make off with your coin collection.
For those reasons, these wallets are recommended for those just starting with Bitcoin trading, for those only trading small amounts, or for those only holding on to their coins for a short period.
Blockchain.info’s wallet system features an easy to understand interface, two-factor authentication, and various other security options. It comes with built-in ShapeShift trading for easy conversion of Bitcoin, Ether, and Bitcoin Cash. Unlike some of the alternatives, it doesn’t require identification, though it’s encouraged to ease account recovery if necessary.
Users get quick and easy access to Coinbase’s various markets, including its GDAX trading platform where you can buy, sell, and trade Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ether. It was embroiled in a bit of a scandal involving Bitcoin Cash in 2017, temporarily harming its reputation, but it bounced back well enough and is now of the most popular and respected exchange platforms. While high costs and currency conversion fees can stack up, users also can get free cryptocurrency by filling in surveys and watching videos via Coinbase Earn.
Offline software wallets
Offline software wallets, sometimes called desktop wallets, still retain some of the ease of use and access. Some are specifically for use on desktop and laptop PCs, while others have a more mobile focus and are app-exclusive.
The significant advantage of this approach is independence. Every exchange in the world can go down, yet you’d still have technical ownership and access to your cryptocurrencies. It also means that you would have to be specifically hacked or attacked to lose access to them. Your identity is protected, with no need to sign up anywhere or provide some form of identification to set up or access your wallet.
If it has a companion mobile application, you can transfer Bitcoins quickly between you and other owners, and even use them to pay for certain items in real stores.
That’s not to say these types of wallets are perfect, though. They are still software-based, so they are susceptible to hackers and malware attacks. Those with an online component for ease of trading are also more public than the truly offline hardware (cold storage) alternatives. If you’re storing a lot of Bitcoin in one, that can draw unwanted attention.
An all-in-one application that combines support for a variety of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and more) with robust privacy and security features. Exodus is entirely free to use and features built-in ShapeShift functionality for easy inter-trading of various cryptocurrencies, live charts, and trackers, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It also supports the Trezor hardware wallet for additional security.
A fast and private offline software wallet, Electrum has been one of the most popular choices among cryptocurrency owners for years for a good reason. It’s private and secure, with a fast interface and full ability to export your private key to use with another Bitcoin client. It’s also compatible with hardware wallets through the use of third-party plugins.
A mobile-exclusive software wallet, Mycelium is an open-source wallet platform with full support for Bitcoin. While it cannot be used with other cryptocurrencies at this time, it’s continually developed and expanded. It’s fast, easily accessible, and, though a little complicated for new users, it offers a wealth of advanced options for the more confident Bitcoin owners.
One of the most popular Bitcoin wallet solutions on iOS, this wallet is now supported on Android devices, too. With a straightforward interface and a setup process that takes seconds, this is one of the most straightforward mobile wallets to get up and going quickly and without hassle. Paper key support means you can recover your wallet even if you lose your phone.
With over 900,000 users, SoFi has developed a reputation for being an excellent wallet for newbies by letting you manage cryptocurrency and traditional investments with useful features and financial tools included. Users only have to deposit $1 to open an account, and SoFi charges just 1.25% of the transaction as a fee. While the ability to transfer cryptocurrency from one wallet to another is lacking, beginners could do much worse than SoFi for their first wallet.
For those who do everything via mobile devices, including crypto-trading, Edge is the ideal Bitcoin wallet solution offered through Google Play and the App Store. While there is no ability to access Edge from the internet or through a PC, users get the benefit of two-factor authentication and blockchain services to purchase Bitcoin using other cryptocurrencies or fiat currency as needed. All you need to get started is a username and password to get access to over 30 popular coins and get buying.
For those who want to have the utmost security for their Bitcoin investment or plan to deal with a lot of high-value cryptocurrency in general, a hardware wallet is a must. By storing the private keys for your Bitcoin wallet on a specific piece of hardware that is “cold,” i.e., not connected to the internet, you can be sure that no one will be able to steal your cryptocurrency. Hackers and malware will find it very difficult to infiltrate your wallet — barring someone taking the device from you, it’s almost impossible to lose access to it.
A hardware wallet can be as simple as an external hard drive with one of the above software wallets installed or an individually-crafted device used only for storing your cryptocurrency. In either case, you do need it to be secure in its physical location — some suggest putting them in a safe to be doubly sure — and understand that although safe from digital threats, your wallet is not as protected from the elements as some of the other solutions on this list.
These cold wallets can connect to any computer in the world, so you can quickly transfer funds from it to a “hot” wallet to make trades or transactions before unplugging it. Although not expensive, some hardware wallets can cost upwards of $100, so shopping around is a must if specific features are essential.
With support for Bitcoin, Litecoin Ethereum, and Ethereum-based alt-coins, the Ledger Nano is a small USB device with an OLED display to double-check transactions. It has a pin code unlock system, support for two-factor authentication through FIDO UTF, and tamper-proof internal hardware. It’s as secure and private a Bitcoin wallet as you can get. You can get one now for around $80.
The oldest hardware wallet on the market, Trezor might lack some of the most modern features of the Ledger Nano, but it’s still much more secure than almost any other wallet out there. With a simple input interface and several prominent security features like multi-factor authentication, it’s certainly a viable choice for a hardware wallet. Price ranges from $55 to $500, and features vary by model, but each wallet can support over 1,000 types of cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin.
External hard drive
This option is a more secure version of some of the offline software wallets. Although not as protected against tampering as some of the other hardware wallet solutions, this option gives you the ability to use a wider variety of software platforms, which may be preferable. You can reuse the drive if you ever decide you’re done with cryptocurrencies, too. These are our favorites.
Although less secure than hardware wallets in terms of physical durability, a paper wallet is a very inconspicuous way to store your Bitcoin. They do allow you to send Bitcoin using neat homemade gift cards and store your Bitcoin in an entirely non-electronic medium. Still, if you decide to utilize this option, we would seriously recommend a waterproof, airtight bag and a fire-proof safe as a secondary measure. You might not be able to hack a piece of paper, but it is far too fragile a thing to store lots of money without additional safeguards.
Paper wallets are also definitely an advanced system, as they can be complicated to set up. There isn’t much recourse if you get it wrong and certainly none if you lose the paper, so take this final step in securing your cryptocurrency with care.
Free to use or with an optional charge if you want to incorporate holograms and tamper checks, BitcoinPaperWallet.com will get you set up with a paper wallet in no time. It even has a built-in support service with the site’s founder, who can help you through any problems you encounter.
Consider this the do-it-yourself option. There’s not much hand-holding with this one at all, so make sure you do some more reading before diving in headfirst. Blockgeek’s wallet guide discusses creating paper wallets to walk you through the process.
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