Traditional fiat wallets have a simple use case: to carry your personal items such as cash, bank cards, and the Starbucks gift card from your birthday last year. With BTC’s price continuing to surge and even Twitter now building a Bitcoin wallet for the masses, odds are that you either already have a Bitcoin
wallet or you’re thinking about getting one.
Bitcoin wallets are a bit more complicated, especially if you are new to the crypto industry and have no idea what you are doing yet. Features such as security, multi-coin support, and cost play a bigger part in choosing the best wallet to store your cryptocurrency.
Before you get started, make sure you understand the essentials
, such as what a private key
, public key
, and recovery seed
are and how to safely set up your Bitcoin cold wallet
preferably offline, with pen and paper, using strong safekeeping measures afterward.
With less focus on appearance or convenience than the wallet in your pocket or handbag and a core emphasis on functionality, crypto wallets, also known as non-custodial
or private wallets
, act as your personal crypto bank, providing storage and safekeeping for your cryptocurrency portfolio’s private keys and providing unfettered access to your assets when needed. Bitcoin
wallets are the embodiment of a core tenet in crypto ownership: Not your keys, not your crypto.
Thanks to the popularity of Bitcoin, there is a plethora of BTC wallets available, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. An important distinction to make is whether your wallet is a cold wallet (offline) or a hot wallet
(connected to the Internet) and whether it is a physical device (hardware wallet) or one that lives as an application on a desktop or mobile phone.
Crypto wallets come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from hardware wallets
, shaped like USB sticks or smart cards, to mobile apps that can be linked to centralized exchanges
or decentralized exchanges (DEX)
that act as virtual storage units for your non-physical assets.
Personally managed Bitcoin wallets offer additional levels of safety over leaving your currency in a custodial wallet managed by an exchange
. Services like PayPal, Venmo
, and the Coinbase
wallets are examples of custodial wallets, meaning you are trusting the company to secure and hold your Bitcoin, as well as giving the exchange control of your private keys and, therefore, your Bitcoin. While in most cases your crypto is safe, disaster occasionally strikes and Bitcoin’s chequered past is littered with crypto hacks
and scams, like Quadriga, Mt. Gox, Coincheck, Cryptopia, and many others, in recent years that cost exchange users billions of dollars.
Both centralized exchanges (CEX) and decentralized exchanges (DEX) are prone to hacks from malicious actors, who are aware that huge volumes of crypto are swapped
and purchased daily on these trading platforms. Because of these added risks with no benefits besides being easy to use as a beginner, custodial wallets are only recommended if you are making constant trades or using them as a short-term storage option.
Having your Bitcoin in a personal wallet, be it hot or cold, offers additional security that helps prevent theft, while still allowing you to actively purchase, sell, and swap cryptocurrencies.
Just as hardware and software refer to physical and nonphysical computer parts, they refer to in what way you store your cryptocurrencies.
Hardware wallets, or cold wallets, store your seed phrase
and private keys
in a secure physical device and protect you against cyber attacks by air gaping your private key from the internet. While the software counterpart for your cold wallet acts as a safe, still allowing your Bitcoin to exist on the blockchain and be staked
, your physical device acts as a key for this safe. Each transaction requires your key, the physical device, to respond to the transaction, and your device has a pin for an additional layer of safety. Hardware wallets are almost always the safest solution against security threats.
Hot wallets refer to virtual wallets that are online and facilitate the sending of cryptocurrencies to other users or exchanges. Being virtual means that your seed phrases and private keys are stored online and in your wallet’s browser or application, making them more susceptible to cybersecurity threats, where cold wallets use physical hardware like secure elements to protect this information. Hot wallets are “hot” because they are always connected to the internet. This makes them more flexible and convenient to support a wider array of assets since there’s no hardware to deal with for integration purposes.
Confused yet? Don’t be. Now, let’s start the hunt for the coldest and hottest Bitcoin wallets out there!
The following hardware wallets are not listed in order of preference. You should take stock of your own personal needs first in terms of security, support, and platforms. For example, do you want your wallet with you every day, firing it up on the beach or at a restaurant, or do you want to keep it in a vault at home? Do you just want to store some Bitcoin and ETH for the grandkids or do you want to stake Solana
and buy up the hottest new projects on the Fantom ecosystem? Therefore, do your research on all of them and pick what works best for you.
Also, I’d like to clear up a very common misconception about owning a hardware wallet.
As electrical devices, you should ensure your cold wallet is stored safely, securely, and in the right environmental conditions (e.g. not too humid).
However, if your cold wallet gets lost, stolen, or damaged, your funds are OK (unless you have exposed your key or seed). The device only stores your “access codes” (for lack of a better word) and should protect them from unauthorized access with tools like a secure element or encrypted Bluetooth (where the wallet and phone must be within 10m from each other for example). In case your hardware wallet stops working, simply restore access to your funds by using your recovery seed to create a new wallet (either on a new cold wallet or hot wallet). It’s as simple as that.
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1. Ledger Nano X (Flexibility and Coin Support)
The Ledger Nano X
is Ledger’s second-generation model of cold storage and is integrated with the Ledger Live platform to help you safely store and trade Bitcoin, Ethereum
, and over 1800 other coins and tokens. It was market-leading Ledger’s first Bluetooth-powered hardware wallet. A small LED screen and two buttons allow you to navigate the menus and enter words and characters. All transactions initiated through Ledger Live require confirmation from the device.
Unlike most devices, including the affordable and super-popular Ledger Nano S, which require being plugged into your device, the best-selling Ledger Nano X
connects with your IOS or Android device via Bluetooth. Your seed phrase is protected on the device, thanks to a PIN being necessary to use the device as well.
Please note that Ledger (established in 2014) has a bit of a history of being targeted for software-based phishing attacks and data breaches, so be very careful when dealing with correspondence or phone calls claiming to be from them.
Apart from that, there are a few good reasons why France’s Ledger sells the most hardware wallets, such as a well-earned reputation for excellence, an EAL6+ secure element, affordability, and massive coin support.
Price: $119 (Nano S costs $69)
2. Trezor Model T (Coin Support and Open-Source)
The Trezor Model T
is considered the first Bitcoin hardware wallet (2013)
and is the Ledger Nano X’s biggest competitor, with a very loyal following. While many of their features are the same, a big difference is that the Model T is fully open source, meaning all code used in the device is available for users to see, and is open to scrutiny. This unfortunately also results in the second big difference. Trezor doesn’t use a secure element, a necessity for many users due to its anti-tampering and hacking capabilities, as an SE normally comes with closed-source technology.
You can read more about their reasons in this blog post by their CTO Pavol Rusnak
Trezor’s newest model also comes with a new user interface, Trezor Suite
. Unlike the Ledger, which is a pleasant experience on both a mobile device and computer, Trezor Suite is designed to run best on your desktop. With support for more than 1,600 coins or tokens, Trezor Suite allows transactions directly from its software through the company’s integrated exchange.
Price: $189 (discounted at times)
3. Ellipal Titan (Air-Gapped Security)
doesn’t use Bluetooth or USB technology to connect to a mobile app or computer, but rather uses air-gapped
hardware wallet security. Air-gapped security refers to having a device completely separated from other devices or systems. The Ellipal Titan accomplishes this unique security feature by communicating through QR codes to sign transactions.
This safeguards your device from all WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular attacks. If all of these security features fail, the last resort of security to preserve your stored coins and tokens is to activate its anti-tamper self-destruct feature.
This will preserve your Bitcoin
holdings by deleting its stored private key to your account, allowing you to recover your coins later with your written down seed phrase at a later time. If you would like a doomsday-prepping level of security, or simply as much peace of mind that your Bitcoin is safe, then the Ellipal Titan could be your preferred option of cold storage.
4. CoolWallet Pro (Bluetooth and Active Lifestyle)
The original CoolWallet was launched in 2016 as the world’s first Bluetooth-enabled mobile hardware wallet for Bitcoin storage.
Since then two further versions have been released, the CoolWallet S (for basic storage and decentralized trading) and the DeFi staking-focused CoolWallet Pro.
Unlike most cold wallets with cumbersome USB form factors, the CoolWallet looks and feels like a traditional credit card, with an eye-catching e-ink screen, and a lithium-ion battery that holds a charge for months. It’s tamper-proof, thanks to a patented cold compression printing technique and no space on the circuit to install malicious components during supply-chain attacks, and is very durable, waterproof, and bendable to a 15-degree angle.
The CoolWallet caters to Bitcoin investors who are on the go and like to carry their crypto discreetly with them in their actual wallets to retain 24/7 access to their assets in extreme weather conditions.
With an enhanced secure element (EAL 6+) that matches Ledger’s Nano X and several biometric security measures, including a physical button press to confirm a transaction, CoolWallet makes a strong case for some real estate in your actual wallet.
(Disclosure: I have been affiliated with the CoolWallet since 2018. However, I have tried to provide the most objective and unbiased assessment here, and include it on this list with confidence)
Price: $149 (CoolWallet S costs $99)
5. SafePal S1 (Air-Gapped and Affordable)
SafePal S1 is the first hardware wallet backed by the world’s biggest exchange Binance (which is also involved with Trust Wallet). The S1 (which is currently experiencing some pandemic-induced stock shortages) uses a completely air-gapped (offline) signing mechanism and doesn’t use any WiFi, NFC, USB, or Bluetooth technology and safety measures like an EAL5+ secure element, self-destruct mechanism, and true random number generator. It supports a wide array of currencies and offers good value for users who don’t want anything too fancy.
Safepal is similar to Ellipal (both are air-gapped) but supports fewer assets at the time of writing (October 2021).
BitBox is a sleek, contemporary Bitcoin wallet line with a mid-range price tag and some nifty tech under the hood. Manufactured in Zurich, Switzerland, by Shift CyberSecurity, the BitBox wallets are operated via a touchscreen and do not come with any buttons. The BitBox hardware wallet
comes in two models: its original BitBox01 wallet, which only supports Bitcoin, and its second-generation new flagship wallet BitBox02, which offers Bitcoin
as well as Ether
, and ERC-20 tokens.
The device sports a very minimal design, with only a screen, a USB-C/USB-A port, and a card slot to insert a micro SD card. An SD card can be placed inside of the BitBox wallet to create a backup that can restore funds if the device is lost. BitBox even signs the card to prevent it from being tampered with.
Sensors are also built into the edges of the BitBox wallets that help navigate, verify transactions, and avoid accidents when utilizing the device’s UI. Being able to plug the device directly into a computer is also a plus.
BitBox02 can come off as the hybrid lovechild of Trezor
and Ledger and takes inspiration from Ledger’s elegant UI and Trezor’s open-source transparency. True to its Swiss origin, it incorporates some of the best features from both major competitors to create an elegant device that is both functional and attractive to true Bitcoin
enthusiasts. This is also in part thanks to the features of the BitBoxApp, the wallet’s native software.
Besides expected wallet features, the BitBoxApp is laser-focused on Bitcoin services. The app allows users to run a full Bitcoin node as well as use Tor routing, an open-source privacy network that keeps users anonymous when browsing the web.
Although BitBox uses innovative hardware and security features, given the price, there are many other appealing options to choose from that support more coins and provide more features. The lack of an iOS app will also further limit its customer base.
7. Ledger Live
in-house wallet software is the best place to store your cryptocurrency if you own one of its hardware devices. Ledger products can be linked to many popular wallets to reap their cold storage benefits, but Ledger Live is the ideal choice of wallet to maintain optimal security, manage your applications, and stake your crypto.
With an application for over 1,000 coins, Ledger Live is a great choice for storing tokens from multiple chains by reducing the number of hot wallets needed to manage them all. Many popular hot wallets such as MetaMask
, Phantom Wallet, and Novi
are chain-specific. Recording seed phrases for multiple wallets increases the likelihood of misplacing information or theft. Ledger Live allows the management of multiple coins from different chains in one place.
Ledger Live supports other features such as staking and allows for the purchase of cryptocurrency through their partner Coinify
, which creates a universal hub for crypto traders without leaving the secure network of Ledger.
Ledger Live is supported on Apple and Google mobile devices as a browser extension and also has desktop software, allowing trading from home or on the go (if using the Nano X).
Honorable Mention: KeepKey
is a trusted hardware wallet with native ShapeShift support and features. It boasts a premium design, allowing it to store a multitude of premier cryptocurrencies and providing easy access to them. Meanwhile, the price should bring more smiles in both bull and bear markets, as KeepKey is one of the more affordable cold wallets on the market.
Unfortunately for KeepKey, it’s in direct competition with the Ledger Nano S in terms of price. Both devices have a similar issue of coin management being tiresome and not having an independent power source, but the Ledger Nano S comes out ahead in most overall comparisons. KeepKey is bulkier, supports fewer coins, and is less well-known than the Ledger Nano S despite both having been around since 2016.
Still, for the sizable anti-Ledger rebels out there (similar to say Apple and smaller competitors) KeepKey might make for a viable alternative to the market leader’s budget wallet. Certainly, any cold wallet
under the $50 mark offers good value for the peace of mind that it provides customers.
Honorable Mention: Ledger Nano S
The first wallet created by Ledger in 2016, the Nano S wallet is likely the world’s best-selling hardware wallet of all time and the first cold wallet for a whole generation of Bitcoin owners brought in by the 2017 bull run. The Nano S has built a strong reputation for being reliable, secure, and much more affordable than its successor the Nano X, which came out in 2019. However, it lacks many of the hardware upgrades that justified the Nano X as the number one pick, such as no Bluetooth connectivity and a lesser EAL5+ secure element.
The display screen of the Nano S is much smaller than the current model, and the limited storage space will make it much more difficult to manage multiple coins. Only a handful of applications can be kept on the Nano S at one time, so to trade a different cryptocurrency an app will have to be uninstalled to download a new one. Keep in mind removing an existing app does not cause you to lose your cryptocurrency.
The Ledger Nano S does not come equipped with Bluetooth or an internal battery, so the wallet must be tethered to a device in order to operate. As a USB-type cold wallet, it is also susceptible to supply-chain attacks and tampering where the device can be intercepted and maliciously modified, so buyers should ensure that they buy the genuine article out of the box directly from Ledger or a reputable reseller. Always make sure that your packaging is intact and follow these Ledger guidelines to check if your Ledger Nano S is genuine.
While it is beginning to show its age, the Ledger Nano S is a pioneering and battle-tested hardware wallet that has changed the face of retail cold storage forever. With a low price tag, it offers exceptional entry-level value for BTC owners looking to dip their toes into the tricky world of cold storage. A great choice for storing Bitcoin and thousands of other coins and tokens, the Ledger Nano S is an affordable option for price-conscious new investors, if the additional hardware and features of the Nano X are not necessary.
Not yet ready for a cold wallet? On a tight budget or prefer the flexibility and quick access that a wallet app on your phone or computer provides over the extra safety measures of a dedicated Bitcoin storage device? Well then step up as we look at the best Bitcoin hot wallets out there right now. And yes, they’re all free to use!
The following wallets are not listed in order of preference. What’s best for me won’t be the best for you. The right hot wallet for you really depends on your needs in terms of security, support, and platforms. Therefore, do your research on all of them and pick what works best for you.
1. Exodus Wallet
Exodus is an established choice as a hot wallet to keep your Bitcoin safe
, and was also the author’s first Bitcoin wallet he set up way back in 2017 (and to which he subsequently lost access to within a week after not backing up his credentials properly!). The wallet software is designed to work on Mac, Linux, and Windows, and has a companion app for use on IOS and Android devices.
A desktop interface is also available and is very beginner-friendly. The Exodus wallet is in sync with the Exodus exchange, allowing for easy transactions once funds are added to the wallet. While there are some volume limits with the exchange, Exodus supports more than 130 types of cryptocurrency, including well-known favorites such as Ethereum, Tether USD, and of course Bitcoin. If you wish to later transfer your funds to a form of cold storage, you are in luck, as the Exodus wallet is fully compatible with the Trezor Model T and Model One.
is also a strong pick for Bitcoin holders. It is open-source, available on all popular computer software, and highly focused on security and privacy. While most wallets focus on these features, Wasabi is uniquely trustable with Bitcoin, as it offers a feature known as Coinjoin.
Coincoin helps Wasabi make Bitcoin transactions more secure by combining many small coins from multiple users into a single, large transaction. This also obscures personal information, as it is no longer a trade involving an individual wallet, and for even more protection, trades are routed through the Tor network, helping conceal the user’s IP address. Wasabi is a great choice for anonymous, safe transactions involving Bitcoin when a hot wallet is necessary. Please note however that coin mixing applications are in the crosshairs of regulators, for money laundering concerns. You can read Wasabi’s take on this here.
3. Trust Wallet
Binance-backed Trust Wallet
is a great choice for Bitcoin users who want to become more familiar with DeFi protocols and applications, while also safely and conveniently storing Bitcoin and other crypto assets in a hot wallet.
A unique feature of Trust Wallet is its native token, the Trust Wallet Token
(TWT), a BEP-20 utility token with many uses such as discounts on in-app cryptocurrency purchases and participating in the governance of Trust Wallet, allowing you to vote on proposed updates within the app.
Trust Wallet is available on mobile devices and is fully open-source. It allows easy access to all DApps
built on Ethereum and other blockchains conveniently through the Trust Wallet App. If you’re searching for a wallet to store Bitcoin while also becoming familiar with decentralized projects and alt tokens, TrustWallet is a great option to “Trust” with your crypto.
4. MyCelium (Mobile)
is an app-based wallet specifically designed to hold Bitcoin, and because its design is so focused, there are many features unique to this wallet that makes it a great choice for a beginner who wishes to dive headfirst into holding Bitcoin for the long term.
For starters, the marketplace for MyCelium is integrated into the wallet, so there is no need to transfer Bitcoin to or from an exchange, making transactions safer and easier. Secondly, all chat history and transactions are encrypted, with even MyCelium only sees your general information, such as Bitcoin address, nickname, and location, etc. Unlike many hot wallets, MyCelium is also fully integrated with Ledger and Trezor, making it a great choice to buy Bitcoin if you plan to purchase a quality cold wallet later.
5. Atomic Wallet (Desktop and Mobile)
is a great solution to balance every feature expected of a hot wallet, including security, ease-of-use, accessibility to purchasing Bitcoin within the wallet with only your bank card on the built-in Atomic Swap Exchange, and a beginner-friendly interface. Unlike most hot wallets that require you to purchase your Bitcoin on an exchange and then transfer it to your wallet, Atomic wallets allow you to purchase 500 different cryptocurrencies instantly after creating the wallet and writing down your seed phrase. Atomic Swap Exchange is also decentralized, meaning all of your Bitcoin or other crypto exist on the blockchain, and are less likely to be hacked, as DEXs are more secure than centralized exchanges. Along with reliable safety features and a wide arrange of coins easily purchased without using a separate exchange, Atomic Wallet also offers 24/7 live support, available to contact live through the wallet interface. If you want a jack-of-all-trades to begin and learn how to invest in Bitcoin, Atomic Wallet is a reliable choice to begin exploring DeFi and owning digital assets.
Atomic Wallet is supported on iOS/Android as well as Mac/Windows/Ubuntu/Debian/Fedora.
Honorable Mention: Coinbase Wallet
While some people care the most about security, privacy, and integration with other devices, other Bitcoin holders are only focused on convenience and easily being able to initiate transactions. If this sounds like you, perhaps the Coinbase wallet is your best option.
Launched in April of 2021, the Coinbase wallet is a great option for trading all well-known cryptocurrencies. For those that use the Coinbase exchange, the Coinbase wallet allows you to use the exchange easily, while still maintaining the custodial privilege of your Bitcoin. For those who are still not sold on security, Coinbase has a history of zero hacks and has a reputation for following all U.S. regulations regarding holding crypto. The Coinbase wallet is a decent option for those who wish to trade easily and quickly without having to pay as much attention to in-depth features and programs involving your wallet and how it operates with exchanges.
Will Meta’s Novi Wallet Support Bitcoin?
The controversial Novi wallet from Facebook (now Meta) has been in development for what seems like decades, and somehow survived the demise of Facebook’s ill-fated Diem
(previously Libra) currency which caused so much consternation amongst politicians back in 2019. Novi enables users to send money abroad instantly and safely, helping people who don’t want to deal with the fees and wait times of banks.
Currently, Novi is conducting a pilot program in Guatemala and most of the United States. Partnering with Coinbase
to handle their custodial and logistics needs, Novi supports the Pax Dollar (USDP), with plans to incorporate the Diem payment system
in the future. Meta’s Novi Wallet has no plans to support Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies at this time, but this could likely change in the future once the wallet goes mainstream.
It's very likely Meta is more interested in creating a closed system to replace third-party payment providers than providing financial freedom for users unable to access modern banking. This is most evidenced by the inclusion of an “undo button
,” which is unheard of anywhere in decentralized finance (DeFi) or even in the blockchain world generally.
The Novi wallet is available in the Apple and Google Play stores.
In the same way that walking around with thousands of dollars in your pocket isn’t safe, it’s best to keep your assets in a more secure place. While hot wallets are convenient for highly active traders and short-term storage, cold wallets are optimal for security and long-term, high-value storage.
Then again, no wallet is completely foolproof (no pun intended) or secure. Both hot and cold wallets are susceptible to phishing attacks on their software or apps that could send funds to the accounts of hackers when transacting. Cold wallets are also at risk of supply chain attacks (where a device is intercepted, opened, and tampered with before it gets to the end-use) and the infamous “$5 wrench attack”
(where the user gets threatened with physical violence or blackmailed into giving up their passwords). And of course, you could have Fort Knox for a crypto wallet, but if you expose your private key or recovery seed to the wrong person (never keep a digital copy!), then sorry, you’ve just forfeited your seat to the moon
If you’re new to crypto, it would be useful to start playing around with some of the free hot wallets and keep only a tiny amount of crypto on them while you familiarize yourself with wallet functionality and features. As your portfolio grows, so should your dedication to providing the best possible security for your Bitcoin.
With some projections calling for a BTC price of over $1 million
in the future, it’s important to stay smart while you keep stacking up those satoshis
. Good luck on your journey!
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