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Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been around for more than a decade, but in the past few years they've moved beyond a niche investment to the mainstream. Companies including Microsoft, AT&T, and Paypal now accept Bitcoin and other virtual assets as forms of payment, and Bitcoin prices have surged to more than $55,000 as of April 2021.
If you're looking to invest in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency like Ethereum or Litecoin, you'll need to pick an investment app that lets you buy crytpo (Coinbase, SoFi, Webull, Kraken, and Robinhood all let you trade cryptocurrencies) as well as a "wallet" to store and secure your private key code for accessing your assets.
Cryptocurrency wallets offer online or offline storage for your personal crypto key, and are usually available in the form of "hot" wallets or "cold" wallets. (Hot wallets are used for online storage, while cold wallets provide offline storage through hardware and external devices).
We've compiled some of the best Bitcoin wallets for storing your private key code below. Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, but note that many of these Bitcoin wallet picks also support Ethereum, Litecoin, and multiple other cryptocurrencies.
Why it stands out: Exodus offers cryptocurrency exchange services for desktop, mobile, and hardware crypto wallets. Exodus' account features also include live charts and portfolio data, 24/7 customer support, a built-in exchange, and more than 100 cryptocurrency assets.
If you want, you can also manage your assets using both Exodus and Trezor, another popular Bitcoin wallet. You don't need to use multiple wallets, but some users might prefer having multiple wallets as an additional security measure for their assets.
Exodus and Trezor's partnership caters to those who prefer hardware security since you'd be able to securely manage your assets offline while simultaneously using the Exodus platform. Exodus typically receives 2-5% on each asset exchange, but the firm generally doesn't charge you any fees to use its software.
What to look out for: Exodus mainly caters to hot wallet (software) users. It may not be suitable for the hardware-minded traders, unless you plan to use a Trezor device with the app.
Why it stands out: Launched just two years after Bitcoin was created, Electrum specializes in private key encryption and two-factor authentication. Like Exodus, Electrum is a hot wallet that gives you online encryption for your crypto information.
Electrum verifies that all of your Bitcoin transactions are in the Bitcoin blockchain, and its Multisig feature allows you to spend Bitcoin between multiple wallets. Electrum also supports other wallets, including Ledger, Trezor, and Keepkey.
In addition, Electrum says it offers several interfaces that you can use on mobile, desktop, or with its command line interface. However, with its cold storage offering, you can sign transactions from an offline computer, according to its website.
What to look out for: Electrum doesn't offer traditional phone customer support. However, the company provides helpful information in its documentation and FAQ sections, it offers a Reddit support page, and it allows you to ask questions on bitcointalk.org. Another thing to note is that, while Electrum supports other wallets, it only allows for Bitcoin transactions. This may be a downside for those interested in exploring other cryptocurrencies.
Why it stands out: Based in Luxembourg, OPOLO provides its own free and encrypted hardware wallets that utilize EAL 6+ rated secure chips (EAL certifications are security certifications used for hardware wallets). This means you'll be able to store any crypto assets offline. OPOLO also says it offers genuine device check, USB encryption, anti-theft protection, PCB encapsulation, randomized keyboard access, and virus-free usage.
You can set up Bitcoin wallets, Ethereum wallets, or take advantage of 124 other crypto wallets. As for tokens (these are also virtual assets, but unlike coins, they're formed through blockchains that have already been created), OPOLO currently offers more than 280,200. Thanks to the company's security measures, its Bitcoin hardware wallet allows you to backup and recover any assets.
OPOLO's mobile app is only available on Android devices, but the wallet is also available on Mac, Windows, and Linux for users with desktops or laptops.
What to look out for: Keep in mind that the OPOLO mobile app is best for Android users. If you don't have an Android phone, you can still download the OPOLO hardwallet on your desktop or laptop. With Android app, however, you'll be able to exchange cryptocurrencies from your phone.
Why it stands out: Formed in 2008, Mycelium is another popular Bitcoin wallet that offers a wide range of storage services. Among these are advanced cold storage, spending and savings accounts for Bitcoin investors, and inter-wallet operability. (The Foundation for Interwallet Operability (FIO) created inter-wallet operability to make it easier for crypto holders to send or receive coins across different blockchains or wallets). You can download Mycelium for free.
The company says its wallets are 100% secure and allow for open-source, incognito use. Mycelium's wallets are also reproducible, and the platform is compatible with Trezor, Ledger, and KeepKey hardware wallets.
Though Mycelium is mainly a Bitcoin-focused wallet, it also supports Ethereum and other ERC-20 tokens. Additional features include in-app exchange, trading, and educational resources.
What to look out for: Mycelium's customer support is primarily available through email.
Why it stands out: Cobo Vault is another hardware wallet that offers cold storage for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies. The wallet has an EAL 5+ Secure Element, and it says it utilizes QR code transmissions to prevent
In addition to its Bitcoin-only firmware version, Cobo Vault mainly offers three cold storage options: Cobo Vault Essential, Cobo Vault Pro, and Cobo Vault Ultimate. All three plans give you access to air-gapped QR code communication, Secure Element, finger print authentication, battery support, a 4-inch touchscreen, and unlimited crypto storage and staking support (staking is a process whereby traders earn monetary rewards for locking away a set amount of their crypto coins for a set period of time).
But the Pro and Ultimate plans offer an extremely unique feature: The self-destruct mechanism. Cobo Vault realizes that even external storage devices aren't immune to security attacks. Its self-destruct mechanism self-erases all sensitive information if it detects unusual tampering with the Cobo Vault screen and circuit board.
And if you're curious about compatibility, the Pro and Ultimate plans also support the following wallets: Specter, BlueWallet, Electrum, Wasabi Wallet, Sparrow, and PSBT Multisignature wallet.
Cobo Vault supports more than 30 coins and 700 tokens.
What to look out for: Keep in mind that you'll only have access to the self-destruct mechanism if you've purchased the Pro or Ultimate plans. In addition, the storage device fees might be high for some.
Why it stands out: Available on Mac, Windows, and Linux desktop devices, Wasbi is a free hot wallet that offers open-source, non-custodial storage for Bitcoin investors. Wasabi also offers trustless CoinJoin transactions that allow you to merge your coins with other users in one transaction to prevent third-parties or hackers from tracing where each coin came from, according to its wesbite.
This feature doesn't compromise you coins' security, though. Neither you nor the other users will be able to trace where each coin came from. Wasabi says this eliminates the risk of stolen funds because — unlike regular transactions where there's one sender and one receiver — it's more difficult for outside parties to trace.
What to look out for: Wasabi is available on multiple desktop devices, but you won't be able to access it on iOS or Android mobile phones.
Why it stands out: With Shift Crypto's BitBox02 hardware wallet, you can store your crypto private key and manage any assets offline through an external chip. The first version of the BitBox02 wallet supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and more than 1,500 other cryptocurrencies.
But Shift Crypto also provides a Bitcoin-only edition. This version could be a great fit for you if you're only looking to store Bitcoin. It relies on Bitcoin-only firmware and offers compatibility with the BitBoxApp, Electrum, Specter, and Sparrow.
The BitBoxApp gives you desktop access. Shift Crypto stopped selling its other product — BitBox01 — in 2019.
What to look out for: If you're a fan of mobile access, you'll only be able to use Shift Crypto on Android devices.
Why it stands out: Coinkite makes several crypto hardware wallets that offer external security for crypto investors, but its coldcard wallet could be particularly suitable for Bitcoin-focused traders. Its Bitcoin-only coldcard wallet signs your crypto transactions to keep your private key offline.
The wallet — which is available as a specialized chip and numeric keypad — is also compatible with the following crypto wallets: Bitcoin Core, Electrum, BTCPay, Specter-Desktop, Wasabi, Fully Noded, Unchained Capital, Casa, BlueWallet, and Coldcore.
Coinkite's other offerings include Opendime, BlockClock Mini, Seedplate, Coldpower, Coinkite terminal, and Bitcoin server.
What to look out for: Keep in mind that the coldcard wallet is an external, offline crypto storage device. If you're looking for online storage, you'll need to consider other options.
Our mission at Personal Finance Insider is to help smart people make the wisest decisions with their money. Since the word "best" can be subjective, we highlight both the benefits and the limitations of crypto wallets.
We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and offerings of various Bitcoin and crypto wallets so you don't have to.
We reviewed several crypto wallets to find the best options for low fees, safe (and secure) storage, cryptocurrency asset choices, and user interfaces.
We also considered a number of other factors, including customer support access, wallet custody, educational resources, and wallet compatibility. Some crypto wallets are compatible with other storage platforms. For instance, Mycelium currently supports Trezor, Ledger, and KeepKey hardware wallets.
Bitcoin and crypto wallets are essentially online — and sometimes offline — storage platforms that provide encryption for your private key and give you custody over your cryptocurrency assets. When you first purchase crypto, you receive both a public key and a private key.
Typically available as a set of numbers, you can think of public keys as publicly available email addresses that are used to verify your identity when you exchange crypto assets. However, private keys are secret codes that give you access to your cryptocurrencies. These codes hold the key to your money, which is why traders turn to wallets for safe storage.
But remember the difference between cold wallets and hot wallets. Cold wallets are crypto platforms that offer offline storage, and hot wallets are platforms that provide online storage.
This depends on how much security you're looking for. Crypto wallets were created to protect your private key and crypto assets against security breaches. While most wallets give you complete custody over your coins, not all cryptocurrency exchange platforms do (and custody doesn't always guarantee complete security).
If you're looking for external storage for your assets, cold wallets (offline storage chips) are probably the best option for you. Hot wallets could be a better fit if you prefer online software storage.
How do I use a Bitcoin wallet?
If you're interested in securing your cryptocurrencies with a Bitcoin wallet, you'll first need to create an account with your desired platform. Most non-custodial wallets (wallets that you hold complete custody over) offer downloadable software that you can use to secure your private key and crypto assets.
However, if you're using a hardware wallet, you'll likely need a USB cable to connect to your platform's external storage chip. Once you've created your account, connected the necessary devices or downloaded any required software, you'll be able to transfer over any existing crypto assets.
Do I need a crypto wallet to buy Bitcoin?
You don't necessarily have to set up your own Bitcoin wallet to store your assets. Some crypto exchanges — like Kraken, Coinbase, and CEX.IO — offer their own wallets to users. The difference between these platforms, though, and the Bitcoin wallets mentioned above is mainly one of security and custody.
If you'd prefer to have complete custody or control over your money, you'll probably need a non-custodial Bitcoin wallet. Unlike most crypto exchanges, these stand-alone wallets give you absolute control and security over your crypto assets. With the crypto exchange wallet, the exchange itself would still have some level of control over your assets.
Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter at Personal Finance Insider who covers investing, brokerage, and wealth-building products.