Wallets give access to your funds and applications. Only you should have access to your wallet. Wallets are applications that let you interact with your (i.e. Ethereum) account. Think of it like an internet banking app – without the bank. Your wallet lets you read your balance, send transactions and connect to applications.
Your wallet is only a tool for managing your account. That means you can swap wallet providers at any time. Many wallets also let you manage several accounts from one application. That's because wallets don't have custody of your funds, you do. They're just a tool for managing what's really yours.
It's worth understanding the differences between some key terms.
- An account is an entity that can send transactions and has a balance.
- An account has an (i.e. Ethereum) address, like an inbox has an email address. You can use this to send funds to an account.
- A wallet is a product that lets you manage your account. It allows you to view your account balance, send transactions, and more.
Most wallet products will let you generate an Ethereum account. So you don't need one before you download a wallet.
Physical hardware wallets that let you keep your crypto offline – very secure
Mobile applications that make your funds accessible from anywhere
Web wallets that let you interact with your account via a web browser
Desktop applications if you prefer to manage your funds via macOS, Windows or Linux
Wallets require a bit of a different mindset when it comes to safety. Financial freedom and the ability to access and use funds anywhere comes with a bit of responsibility – there’s no customer support in crypto.
- Take responsibility for your own funds
Centralized exchanges will link your wallet to a username and password that you can recover in a traditional way. Just remember you’re trusting that exchange with custody over your funds. If that company is attacked or folds, your funds are at risk.
- Write down your seed phrase
Wallets will often give you a seed phrase that you must write down somewhere safe. This is the only way you’ll be able to recover your wallet.
Don’t store it on a computer. Write it down and keep it safe.
Bookmark your wallet
If you use a web wallet, bookmark the site to protect yourself against phishing scams.
Triple check everything
Remember transactions can’t be reversed and wallets can’t be easily recovered so take precautions and always be careful.