Have you checked the price of bitcoin lately? It's nowhere near what its peak was, but over the past month, it has been climbing. As of this writing, one BTC is worth $8,239.13.
So perhaps you've seen this and are interested in learning how to buy bitcoin. The most important thing you'll need for owning bitcoins is a bitcoin wallet. Because bitcoin is an intangible asset and not a physical form of currency, fittingly, bitcoin wallets are not the usual wallet you keep in your pockets. A bitcoin wallet is a series of keys - one public, one private. These keys verify both buyer and seller for a bitcoin purchase, and the transaction is made entirely through blockchain technology.
Bitcoin has been around longer than you may realize, and bitcoin wallets have progressed and taken on several different forms as a result. What are some of the best wallets for prospective owners to use?
Best Software Bitcoin Wallets
Software wallets are used to store your private key on your desktop. That can make one an inherently risky choice - what if you get a computer virus, or get hacked? Your information is exposed, and that hacker could potentially take your bitcoins from you. As a result, there's work required on your end for keeping your computer as safe as possible, making antivirus and antimalware programs necessary.
It also helps that as opposed to hardware wallets, you generally don't have to purchase a software bitcoin wallet; you just need to download it.
Here are some of the best software bitcoin wallets to look into:
Electrum is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as Android. Originally created in 2011, one of Electrums' biggest benefits over other software wallets is that its servers index the blockchain instead of downloading the entire bitcoin blockchain, making it a much quicker and smaller download. Electrum also offers a number of safeguards for your bitcoins, including a cold storage that lets you keep your bitcoins stored offline and a "seed" that lets you recover your bitcoins should something happen (hacking, computer corruption, etc.)
Copay also sells itself as a particularly secure software wallet, an open source multisig wallet (multisig means it requires multiple signatures for a bitcoin transaction; Electrum also needs multiple signatures). One of Copay's most intriguing selling points is its ability to hold multiple bitcoin wallets. Those with different wallets for separate purposes or who want to hold wallets for family members would be wise to look into Copay to keep them in one place. Copay is available for Windows, Mac and Linux on desktop, as well as iOS and Android for mobile users.
Exodus is available specifically through desktop only, and isn't multisig. What it does offer, though, is a great aesthetic, simple design and the ability to support dozens and dozens of different cryptocurrencies beyond bitcoin, including Ethereum, Litecoin and Zcash. Exodus is also attached to its own exchange that allows for the purchase of all these cryptocurrencies - over 85, according to its website. Its vision is an accessible one-stop shop for crypto for people who may be beginners.
Best Hardware Bitcoin Wallets
Hardware wallets are among the safest types of bitcoin wallets out there. Once you've purchased them and the transfer has gone through, they are now safely stored in the hardware, and as long as it's not connected to a computer, those bitcoins are safely stored offline. You just have to keep the hardware from getting stolen.
That kind of security can give you peace of mind, but it's also going to cost you in a way that the software wallets won't. If you want that safety for your bitcoins, plan on making them a long-term investment, and have the funds for one, a hardware wallet could be perfect for you.
These are the two finest brands for hardware bitcoin wallets: Ledger and Trezor.
Ledger has a couple of options for cryptocurrency enthusiasts. The Ledger Blue is a handheld touch screen hardware wallet with capabilities for apps, as well as a secure PIN code that resets if the user gets it wrong 3 consecutive times. The Ledger Nano S is a smaller wallet that easily connects to the computer and lets you confirm transactions. The Nano S also requires a PIN code, and costs less than the Ledger Blue. Both allow storage of multiple cryptocurrencies.
Trezor claims that its wallets can support over 500 types of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash and Bitcoin Cash. The Trezor One is USB compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux OS. The more expensive Trezor Model T boasts a more impressive CPU, sleeker look and recovery seeds that make it easier for creating a backup in case you need to recover your bitcoins in an emergency.
Best Mobile & Online Bitcoin Wallets
Unless you're mining bitcoins, you're likely purchasing them from a bitcoin exchange. On occasion, some notable bitcoin exchanges will also create a wallet to make themselves an entire bitcoin experience - similar to what the aforementioned Exodus does.
Online wallets, though, bring you all the safety risks of a software wallet. Their strength lies more in their convenience, as most will also have a mobile wallet you can use. A safe, reliable mobile app can make buying bitcoin quick and simple.
Do your full research on bitcoin wallet apps just as you would any cryptocurrency-related app. Bitcoin scams run rampant, taking advantage of those who are curious but unknowledgeable. Google and Apple have done what they can to remove dangerous crypto-mining apps from their app stores, but you'll need to do your part to mitigate the risk.
Here are some of the best mobile and online bitcoin wallets.
Available for Android and iPhone, Mycelium is one of the most widely praised bitcoin wallet apps on the market. Their website claims the wallet offers "bank grade security," but perhaps the most crucial element of their security is its integration with hardware wallet brands like Trezor and Ledger. Mycelium also allows users to sell or trade bitcoins, and its open source code allows for transparency.
GreenAddress comes in different forms. It's available for the major computer operating systems, Android and iOS. On Android, it's known as GreenBits. GreenBits and GreenAddress also support hardware wallets, allow for a backup, and provide two-factor authentication to help for a safe and secure transaction.
Best Paper Bitcoin Wallets
A paper wallet is exactly what it sounds like. It is all the information you need to buy, sell and store bitcoin on a single piece of paper. Scan the QR code on the paper for an online or mobile wallet, and you've made your purchase without needing to store your info on a potentially dangerous server.
Any danger here comes from you; make sure you don't lose it, lest it fall into the wrong hands. Beyond that, however, paper wallets allow for cold (offline) storage in a way that other wallets simply do not. It doesn't require connecting anything to a computer or mobile device. If you're looking for the most security you can find in a bitcoin wallet, it's hard to get safer than this.