Before buying and selling cryptocurrency, you need to set up a bitcoin wallet, also called a cryptocurrency wallet. Your wallet securely stores private digital keys necessary to access your bitcoin and other digital assets.
This guide uses terms you can understand to explain how bitcoin wallets work and the different types of wallets. We also share our favorite bitcoin wallets to help you narrow down your choices.
We evaluated 82 cryptocurrency wallet providers to compile our list of the seven best bitcoin wallets. We considered their features, security, ease of use and more to make our selections. Our picks for the best bitcoin wallets are Coinbase Wallet, Ledger Wallet, Electrum Bitcoin Wallet, Mycelium Wallet, Exodus Crypto Wallet, Guarda Wallet and Trust Wallet.
- Hot wallets are connected to the internet for fast transactions but aren’t the most secure.
- Cold wallets (hardware wallets) are the most secure because they hold digital assets offline where they can’t be hacked.
- Always store cryptocurrency you don’t need immediately for trading in a cold wallet.
- Download bitcoin wallet software and apps from the developer’s site to avoid scams and hackers.
- Look for insured accounts and offline (cold) wallets if you’ll be holding a substantial amount in your account.
- Cryptocurrency transactions can’t be reversed, so always review your order details before finalizing a trade.
Cryptocurrencies carry unique risks due to volatility, lack of regulation and other variables. Consumers should be alert to exaggerated claims for growth and income with little risk in any investment, including digital assets. As with any investment, you can lose money, and past performance does not guarantee future results. Obtain a clear understanding of cryptocurrency exchange fees before opening an account.
Tips for Choosing a Bitcoin Wallet
Before choosing a bitcoin wallet, you need to understand what they do. We’ve explained what bitcoin wallets are and how they work below. Use this information, the reviews that follow and these three considerations to find the best crypto wallet options:
- What digital assets do you want to trade? Only bitcoin or a variety of tokens and other digital assets?
- Whether you plan to invest a small amount or store a high-value holding long term.
- The computing platforms you have access to, like a desktop or laptop computer, smartphone, or your favorite web browser.
What is a Bitcoin Wallet?
A bitcoin wallet sounds like a digital wallet that stores cryptocurrency. However, your digital assets are actually locked into a blockchain address. Your wallet holds the private and public keys required to access the address so you can buy, sell and manage your cryptocurrency. Bitcoin wallets also provide the digital signatures necessary to authorize transactions.
Bitcoin wallets are required for accessing your
cryptocurrency but don’t physically hold cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin wallets are available as small hardware devices, software or apps that hold the private keys required to work with the blockchain. The keys give you control over the address on the blockchain where your crypto is located. Keeping the keys secret is essential to avoid having digital assets stolen.
Custodial vs. Noncustodial Wallets
Browse our top cryptocurrency exchanges, and you’ll see some provide a wallet. These bitcoin wallets are custodial because the exchange or brokerage partner has ultimate control of your digital assets. This isn’t necessarily negative since custodial wallets held with reputable exchanges are very secure. However, if you value the control or anonymity crypto trading offers, you won’t get it with a custodial wallet.
If you decide to use a custodial wallet, be sure you have access to a cold wallet for offline storage. You should buy your own hardware wallet and learn how to move funds to and from the custodial wallet. Another option is to pay the crypto exchange or brokerage a cold storage fee.
Many exchanges provide insurance for digital assets held in a custodial wallet and may also offer cash accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to fund trades. These are conveniences you do not get with a noncustodial wallet.
All the wallets reviewed in this guide are noncustodial. The software wallets are free, and the hardware wallets are affordable. The only fees you’ll typically pay are mining (network) fees. You maintain complete control of your assets, and you don’t have to register to download the wallet software or use the browser or mobile app.
A custodial bitcoin wallet offers convenience but not the level of privacy
or control of cryptocurrency funds you get with a noncustodial wallet.
With noncustodial wallets, you are responsible for keeping your crypto investment secure by using a cold storage wallet, having antivirus software and safely storing account recovery information. Skip any of these steps, and you could lose your cryptocurrency or open an empty wallet that was hacked.
Types of Bitcoin Wallets and Costs
The various types of bitcoin wallets are hardware, desktop, mobile, web and paper wallets. Hardware wallets provide cold storage necessary to protect cryptocurrency held while not buying, selling or swapping tokens.
Costs: Software wallets for computers, smartphones or browsers are free. Hardware wallets provide the best security and can cost up to $500, but it’s easy to find models for under $200.
- Hardware wallets are small devices, often similar to a USB drive. These cold storage wallets handle public addresses and keys securely. When connected, the computer usually powers the hardware wallet, but some have a rechargeable battery. You access these wallets to manage your cryptocurrency using a desktop app.
- Paper wallets are nearly obsolete but worth mentioning. You print the keys and scannable QR codes necessary to make bitcoin transactions. Paper wallets are considered cold storage but have been largely abandoned in favor of hardware wallets.
Software wallets are categorized by the platform they are used on:
- Mobile wallets are apps installed on your smartphone. Using a mobile wallet is very convenient, but be sure to use one that is encrypted to keep your funds secure. Never use a mobile wallet on a phone that’s not running antivirus software and malware protection.
- Web wallets are accessed via an internet browser, like Firefox or Chrome. While web wallets allow for quick transactions and are as convenient as email, they are the least secure of all bitcoin wallet types. If you use a web wallet, check to ensure it’s nonhosted to maintain ultimate control of your funds, then only use it for small trades.
- Desktop wallets are software installed on a computer or laptop. Desktop crypto wallets are very secure if installed on a clean system running antivirus software. Be sure to regularly back up your computer if you use a desktop wallet. You may also consider using one computer exclusively for crypto trading to ensure no malware gets installed on the machine through internet use.
|Pros and Cons of Different Bitcoin Wallet Types|
|Type of Wallet||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Paper||Inexpensive cold storage.||Loss or damage means you lose your cryptocurrency.|
|Hardware||Extremely secure cold storage.||Has a price tag. Regular backups are a must.|
|Mobile||The most convenient access to your cryptocurrency at all times.||Not a good solution for storing large amounts of cryptocurrency.|
|Web||Fast trades across multiple currencies. Convenient.||Keys may be stored on a remote service, removing some control. Easier to hack than other types of wallets.|
|Desktop||Keys stored on your personal hard drive. No access to your wallet when powered off.||Uses considerable resources if the wallet downloads the whole blockchain and updates to your computer.|
Bitcoin Wallet Security
Using a strong password to encrypt your bitcoin wallet is essential, but what if you lose the password? What if your hardware wallet is damaged or your hard drive fails? Most wallets give you 12 to 24 words that serve as your seed or recovery phrase. With the seed phrase, you’ll never lose access to your funds.
Seed phrases are generated when you create a new bitcoin wallet. You’ll need to write down the words, which seems “old school,” but it’s necessary. Store your seed or recovery phrase carefully. You may want to split up the phrase to hide it in two or three places. Consider storing a copy digitally or in a fireproof location.
Be prepared to take bitcoin wallet security very seriously.
Use the seed phrase in the recovery option in your wallet software to reestablish your wallet and reconnect with your digital assets.
Our Search for the Best Bitcoin Wallets
Our best bitcoin wallet reviews explain the features you’ll find with each option. We included wallets that require technical skills and wallets developed to be very user-friendly to appeal to all of our readers. Security took the highest priority in our selections.
We evaluated the 82 most trusted bitcoin wallets using these steps:
- We analyzed security features.
We chose wallets with features like two-factor authorization, recovery phrases, encryption and device-level controls. Follow the recommended security procedure for your wallet at all times. Always use antivirus software on mobile, desktop and laptop devices, and never share keys, passwords or seed phrases.
- We considered development.
We gave priority to “tried-and-true” bitcoin wallets that have been available for at least a few years. The wallets had to receive regular development updates for increased security and ease of use.
- We looked for bitcoin wallets that were easy to set up.
While ease of use doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, we chose technology that is easy to install for the type of crypto trader the wallet was designed for.
- We ensured each bitcoin wallet made reasonable claims.
Today’s crypto wallets are very secure, but we disqualified any bitcoin wallet that claimed to be a completely safe solution.
Best Bitcoin Wallet Reviews
After our evaluation, we chose the seven best bitcoin wallets: Coinbase Wallet, Ledger Wallet, Electrum Bitcoin Wallet, Mycelium Wallet, Exodus Crypto Wallet, Guarda Wallet and Trust Wallet.
Coinbase Wallet Review
Great Backup Solution |
Unlike the wallet provided with the Coinbase exchange, Coinbase Wallet is a noncustodial app used to control private keys and store crypto assets directly on your device. Coinbase Wallet securely stores, sends and receives over 500 tokens like bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), ethereum classic (ETC), litecoin (LTC) and ERC-20 tokens.
Use the app to buy, sell, and store NFTs and access Web3 decentralized applications (dapps). You can participate in airdrops and initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Coinbase Wallet security includes Secure Enclave for key protection and biometric authentication. Optional cloud backups with AES-256-GCM encryption put you back in control of your crypto if you lose your device or misplace your seed phrase.
Ledger Wallet Review
Great Hardware Security |
Ledger was founded in 2014 by eight experts with backgrounds in embedded security, cryptocurrencies and business. Only Ledger runs on the Blockchain Open Ledger Operating System (BOLOS), which is integrated on a secure chip. BOLOS allows for installing multiple crypto apps that remain isolated from one another for security. Your 24-word recovery phrase is also isolated. BOLOS makes Ledger devices very difficult to hack.
The two cold wallet models are the affordable Ledger Nano S and more robust Ledger Nano X. Each supports over 5,500 coins and tokens via the Ledger Live app.
The Nano S retails for around $60 and is ideal for those who are new to using a bitcoin wallet. After installing Ledger Live, the small micro-USB device can hold up to three other crypto wallet apps (depending on their size). Your transactions are confirmed on the Nano S hardware wallet, keeping your crypto secure.
Ledger Nano X retails for $149 and supports up to 100 apps. This hardware wallet uses a USB-C connector and a battery that lasts up to eight hours in standby mode. The Nano X is a little bigger than the Nano S and twice as heavy at 34 grams, but it offers a better display and Bluetooth to work with the Ledger Live Mobile app.
Electrum Bitcoin Wallet Review
Fast Bitcoin Trading |
Consider Electrum for speedy transactions if you are only interested in trading bitcoin and have a technical background. Electrum operates in conjunction with high-performance servers handling the most complicated parts of the bitcoin system but should be reserved for those with the skills to use it. The wallet has several solid security features protecting transactions.
You pay nothing for Electrum but pay per-transaction network fees to the miners. The speed of your transaction depends on the fee attached. A low fee can cause a transaction to remain unconfirmed for days. Electrum has its “dynamic fees” feature enabled by default to ensure you pay an adequate fee to speed up transactions.
Electrum is a desktop wallet for Windows, Linux and Mac (macOS 10.13 and higher) operating systems that also has an Android mobile version. You’ll also need to install Python, provided on Electrum’s download page.
Electrum lets you customize your bitcoin transactions. You can set custom fees, use Replace-by-Fee (RBF) if your original fee isn’t accepted, apply reference labels to know where payments are coming from and export your wallet’s history. You can also use Electrum Wallet to send one transaction to multiple recipients. Cold storage requires signing the transaction with an offline Electrum wallet at the command line.
Great Mobile Wallet |
Mycelium is a mobile bitcoin wallet for iPhone and Android mobile devices that works with bitcoin, ethereum and ERC-20 tokens. Like Electrum, Mycelium is not the best choice for those who are new to cryptocurrency. However, it doesn’t require a great deal of technical skill.
Mycelium offers multiple account types like hierarchical deterministic (HD), single address, watch-only and BitID. Mycelium is also compatible with Trezo, Ledger and KeepKey hardware wallets for cold storage. Getting around in the app takes some getting used to but isn’t difficult. However, Mycelium has no documentation to refer to, and you’ll have to learn its features by tapping around the app.
Mycelium is reproducible, which means it will likely be developed in the future (Mycelium has been around since 2008). Third-party services can be turned off, and there are several layers of pin protection, Tor network support to mask your IP address and location, and other security features. Mycelium also offers a paper wallet, although it makes more sense to use one of the supported hardware wallets.
Exodus Crypto Wallet Review
Easy to Use |
Most bitcoin wallets require some research and technical understanding to use. Exodus Crypto Wallet removes the “geek requirement” with an app that’s easy to learn and fun to use. Exodus offers a desktop wallet for Windows, Mac and Linux and mobile wallets for Android and iOS. You can also use Exodus crypto wallet with Trezor hardware wallets to simplify advanced security.
All Exodus Crypto Wallets have support for bitcoin and 160 other cryptocurrencies. A notable feature in all Exodus wallet versions is easily swapping one digital currency for another. Exodus hides all that goes on when exchanging one asset for another to remove confusion.
Exodus Crypto Apps extend wallet features to include managing over 100 cryptocurrencies with real-time charts and staking coins with rewards of up to 8.36%. You can also earn nearly 7% interest on Dai, a decentralized stablecoin running on ethereum that attempts to match the U.S. dollar in value.
Exodus Crypto Wallet provides an online knowledge base and customer service agents for support.
Guarda Wallet Review
Great Multiplatform Design |
Trade over 400 crypto assets on 50 major blockchains with Guarda Wallet, including DeFi tokens and stablecoins. Support for NFTs is coming soon. Guarda offers a web wallet for any browser, iOS and Android mobile wallets, a Chrome extension, and Windows, Mac and Linux desktop wallets. You can import other wallets to your Guarda Wallet.
Guarda Wallet makes exchanging one cryptocurrency for another easy without registration requirements. There’s no limit on the number of exchanges you can make. Guarda offers a staking program, interest-bearing crypto savings accounts in partnership with CoinRabbit and the ability to borrow stablecoins.
Guarda stores none of your private keys, backup files or private data on its servers, so you have complete control of your assets. You will generate a backup file when you create a wallet. Guarda recommends storing private keys and backups on several devices because you will lose access to your wallet without them. You’ll find plenty of information for using Guarda Wallet in the support section on its website, and you can submit a support ticket for personalized help.
Trust Wallet Review
Great Flexibility |
Trust Wallet is easy to use, with support for 53 blockchains and over a million crypto assets. The app for iOS and Android provides secure multicoin support for buying, selling and swapping thousands of coins. Trust Wallet allows you to buy cryptocurrency with your credit card.
Trust Wallet’s security includes military-grade encryption, bank-level security for private keys, and Face ID, Touch ID or conventional passwords. Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, acquired Trust Wallet in 2018, so there’s native support for Binance DEX and Binance Chain.
Uniswap and PancakeSwap are integrated with Trust Wallet to make swapping one cryptocurrency for another quick and easy. The app also provides access to dapps and DeFi lending and borrowing programs. You can also earn up to 11% interest by staking your choice of 12 coins, including terra (LUNA), kava (KAVA) and algorand (ALGO).
You can use Trust Wallet as a cryptocurrency cash app via e-money integration. E-money is a blockchain-based instant payment platform based on currency-backed tokens that continually shift in line with interest accrued on reserve assets. The reserve assets are audited by Ernst & Young every quarter.
Additional Bitcoin Wallet Resources
We evaluated 22 of the most popular Bitcoin IRA companies to find our tip picks.
We evaluated 45 top cryptocurrency exchanges to find those available to traders in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bitcoin Wallets
How do I back up a bitcoin wallet?
Regardless of the type of wallet you use, regularly back up your crypto wallet. Refer to the software used with your wallet to learn how to create backups. Write down the seed phrase you receive when installing the wallet, and never share passwords. In addition to backing up your wallet, always run reliable antivirus software alongside any desktop, mobile or web wallet.
Do desktop and mobile bitcoin wallets work on all computers and phones?
Not all bitcoin wallets will work on all operating systems. Desktop wallets involve a software installation that rules out using a Chromebook. Some wallets only work on Windows or Linux computers with no Mac version or on Android phones but not iPhones. Bitcoin wallets from more prominent companies often have versions across all popular platforms.
Why would I want to use a third-party wallet app with my bitcoin wallet hardware device?
You may already have started using a software wallet but should use a hardware wallet for a higher level of security. Not all hardware wallets support all types of cryptocurrency. Having the ability to install wallet apps expands your options.
What can you tell me about airdrops and bitcoin wallets?
An airdrop is free tokens sent to hundreds or thousands of bitcoin wallet addresses. Developers use airdrops to promote new blockchain projects or services and to ensure a fair distribution of tokens when the project starts.
Crypto airdrops are usually safe, although there have been some pump and dump schemes and more severe scams. An airdrop does not compromise your wallet, and legitimate airdrops never request an investment or personal information. You have to pay income tax on airdrops because the IRS considers them to be income.
How do free software bitcoin wallets make money?
Software wallet developers may make money through network fees, new customer bounties from exchanges, affiliate commissions and other arrangements. You do not pay a per-transaction fee to support the wallet.
An exchange like Coinbase offers a free wallet, hoping you’ll decide to link it to their exchange, but this is not a requirement.
Balance security with convenience when choosing a bitcoin wallet.
Your bitcoin wallet holds secret keys required to access your cryptocurrency on the blockchain. Choosing a secure wallet and following the directions carefully are essential for protecting your investment. Noncustodial wallets give you control over your assets while maintaining anonymity, which follows the blockchain philosophy.
The Best Bitcoin Wallets
|1||Coinbase Wallet||Great Backup Solution|
|2||Ledger Wallet||Great Hardware Security|
|3||Electrum Bitcoin Wallet||Fast Bitcoin Trading|
|4||Mycelium||Great Mobile App|
|5||Exodus Crypto Wallet||Easy to Use|
|6||Guarda Wallet||Great Multiplatform design|
|7||Trust Wallet||Great Flexibility|