Like normal wallets, crypto wallets are meant to keep your money or assets safe, in this case, your digital currency.
Crypto wallets keep your private keys (the passwords that give you access to your cryptocurrencies) safe and accessible, allowing you to send and receive cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
These wallets come in different forms, from hardware wallets (sometimes called cold wallets) like Ledger to online wallets like MetaMask.
One difference between a normal wallet that holds cash and a digital wallet is that, unlike your physical money, your cryptocurrency is not held in your digital wallet, but in the blockchain. Your digital wallet’s private keys are essentially a password to let you access your cryptocurrency.
While all wallets have their pros and cons, online wallets are considered the best way for beginners to start their journey in storing digital assets. That is because they are intuitive and can be accessed through a phone.
Identified by its fox logo that follows your cursor across the screen, MetaMask is a household name in the crypto community. Many crypto and NFT fans have been using MetaMask since its inception in 2017.
MetaMask was created by ConsenSys, a New York-based software blockchain company founded by Joseph Lubin in 2015. Known for its fox logo and colorful interface, MetaMask is a free online wallet that allows users to store and manage account keys, broadcast transactions, send and receive Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies and tokens, and securely connect to decentralized applications through a compatible web browser or the mobile app’s built-in browser.
Think of MetaMask as your portal to enter Web3. The wallet has over 21 million monthly users as of 2022, making it one of the most popular wallets in the world. MetaMask connects you to over 3700 dapps, all of which enable you to do different things.
By connecting MetaMask to Ethereum-based dapps, users can spend their coins in games, stake tokens in gambling applications, and trade them on decentralized exchanges.
It also enables users to utilize decentralized finance, known as DeFi, which can be used for things such as staking, letting you earn money by staking your cryptocurrency. Most of the company’s revenue comes from peer-to-peer token swapping, having generated $10 billion in fees so far.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to using MetaMask.
- Popularity, and compatibility with most dapps and websites you will need to use in Web3.
- It uses open-source technology that is updated by the community, meaning the company doesn’t own your data.
- Intuitive User Interface and User Experience.
- Lots of reviews and how-tos online.
- Being an online wallet, it is more vulnerable to hacks. In case your device gets breached, there is a chance hackers may be able to steal your cryptocurrency. This differs from cold wallets such as Ledger, which are limited in their options, but are very difficult to hack since they are offline.
- Even though MetaMask doesn’t track your data, the browser companies in which the wallet is used can see how often a user has accessed their wallet, something that certain users don’t like.
- Metamask only supports Ethereum and Erc-20-based tokens.
Now that you are caught up with the basic information on MetaMask, let’s continue your Web3 journey with a step-by-step guide on how to download it. Below are the steps you can use to set up your own MetaMask wallet.
In order to create a wallet, you need to first install the extension. Most browsers support MetaMask (MM), including Chrome, Brave and Firefox.
I will be demonstrating how to set up your wallet via Chrome. These steps should be replicable across all other browsers.
Unfortunately in this industry, scammy apps will pretend to be legitimate. I recommend going straight to the MetaMask website to avoid any potential fake versions.
Once here, you can continue through to the Chrome webstore. The MetaMask website will redirect you to where you need to go. Once you’ve arrived at the webstore, click the blue “Add to Chrome” button.
Then you’ll click “add extension”.
Now that you’ve got the extension added to your browser, it’s time to head to MetaMask and create an account.
Click on the extension icon in your Chrome browser; the extension icon is located in the top right hand corner on Chrome and should be in a similar location on other browsers.
Once MetaMask is open, you may be prompted to either “Create a Wallet” or “Import wallet.” If you are first setting up your MetaMask account, select the former. If you have a wallet already, you can select “Import wallet” and then you will be asked to input your 12 word seed phrase to link your account; we’ll tackle the seed phrase below.
When MetaMask reveals your secret words, DO NOT FORGET to write them down.
This section is bolded so that you don’t accidentally skim and lose access to your wallet forever.
Click the “Reveal Secret Words” button.
You will see a 12 words seed phrase.
DO NOT store these online, as that can always be a potential security risk. Instead, write these down in a notebook or something you will not misplace. Store it somewhere safe.
Now you’ll need to verify your secret phrase. Again, if you lose it, no one can help you recover the secret phrase, so it’s very important that you have it well-documented. Verify the phrase by selecting the previously generated phrase in order.
The process of setting up your wallet on mobile is almost entirely the same as the desktop method. Instead of needing to download an extension for your browser, you simply need to go to either the App Store or the Google Play store and download MetaMask.
Again, the most important part of the process is documenting your seed phrase so that you can get into your account from other devices.
Now your MetaMask wallet is set up. What’s next?
You can use your wallet to house your NFTs and other tokens, but the unique (and public) wallet address associated with your account also allows other users to send you different kinds of tokens directly to your wallet.
Your address is easy to identify; both the mobile and desktop version have a button right next to the code that you can use to copy it to your clipboard.
If you have ETH on another platform like Coinbase (click here for more info on crypto wallets), you can also use your address to send your tokens to your MetaMask wallet. To do so, simply go to your Coinbase app, select the Portfolio section, find Ethereum and select “ETH Wallet” and then use the send icon in the top right to input your MetaMask address.
Congratulations! Your MetaMask wallet is set up and you’re ready to get in the game.
Make sure your seed phrase is written on a piece of paper and that you have more than one copy. (If you ever lose one, you’ll have another). For additional security, you can split your seed phrase in half and store it in two separate locations. That way, if one place ever becomes compromised, no one will be able to access your wallet.
Never store your seed phrase on a computer where hackers can access it, and never screenshot or take a photo of your seed phrase.
Make sure to never click on links without making sure they are legitimate. Whenever you are communicating with people on different servers and forums, be aware of the fact that there are many scammers. MetaMask and other wallets will NOT ask you for your private keys, so never give them to anyone.
For a full guide on the best security practices for your wallet, read our guide on everything you need to know about NFT and wallet security.
While MetaMask is a good choice, we also want to inform you of some other wallet options. As we said earlier, wallets are separated into hot wallets, which are online, and cold wallets, which are physical. Cold wallets are good because they provide more security, but are very limited in their options. Hot wallets are great for beginners because they resemble normal apps, and are easily accessible.
Some of the best examples for both kinds include:
- Coinbase Wallet: Created by the popular exchange app Coinbase, with this wallet, your private keys are held on your mobile device rather than on a centralized crypto exchange. A unique thing about Coinbase Wallet is that it serves as an independent entity and doesn’t require you to sign up for an account on the Coinbase crypto exchange.
- Robinhood: Robinhood began as a free stock trading website, but it has now grown to incorporate Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Everything is in one place with Robinhood, which offers both a wallet-type service (so users can store cash) and exchange, like Coinbase (to buy/sell currency). Robinhood does not charge fees for the trades that happen within its app.
- Exodus: Exodus offers a free crypto wallet, with an additional cold storage option. The wallet is easy to use and offers many options in terms of swapping tokens. A fact that has raised debate among the crypto community is that Exodus uses a closed-source system.
- Ledger Nano S: Ledger is a cold wallet, meaning that it can be only accessed by having a physical object, which resembles a USB. This wallet connects to your device via USB or Bluetooth. This means that you can connect the wallet to your iOS or Android device without needing a computer. It supports over 1,800 cryptocurrencies and costs $59, making it a favorite for beginners.
- Trezor: Trezor, like Ledger, is a name synonymous with crypto-cold wallet storage. The Trezor Model T is similar to the Ledger, but it gives the user the ability to access third-party exchanges directly in its website interface. This model costs $195.