A guide to Ethereum Wallets—how to store, send, and receive ETH

Ready to explore Ethereum? Get started with an Ethereum wallet—it’s how you’ll store, manage, and transact with ether (ETH) and other Ethereum-based assets. An Ethereum wallet is also your key to exploring the Ethereum blockchain, including its broader ecosystem of apps.

What is Ethereum?

The Ethereum network launched in 2015 as the world’s first “programmable” blockchain—meaning the first to support smart contracts (self-executing bits of code) and a complex programming logic. In practice, this meant that developers could build apps on Ethereum.

At the time, Bitcoin had been established as the world’s first successful cryptocurrency. It enabled peer-to-peer digital transactions, while avoiding the pitfalls that plagued earlier attempts at decentralized digital money. But Bitcoin was mainly designed to do one thing: enable users to exchange value in a trustless, decentralized system. Ethereum was born from a desire to build on this foundation and do much more.

What sets Ethereum apart?

In addition to exchanging digital value, Ethereum’s global network is also designed to host decentralized apps (DApps). Smart contracts—code that carries out a predefined set of instructions, which are then verified on the blockchain—are a core component of this functionality. Smart contracts enable developers to build entire apps (from financial tools, to games, to social media, and more) on a decentralized blockchain instead of on centralized servers—a major difference between Web3 and Web 2.0 systems.

Ethereum quickly attracted many new users as the first home of DApps (and, notably, of decentralized finance, or DeFi). Over time, the growth of the network—and the demand to build on it—would sometimes result in high transaction fees and network congestion. (It would take time for other blockchains to match Ethereum’s functionality, and to relieve some of its overcrowding.) In response to these challenges, Ethereum has undergone several network upgrades (with many more significant upgrades planned), though never at the expense of sacrificing its unparalleled security and decentralization.

What is an Ethereum wallet?

Blockchains are powered by cryptocurrency—you pay fees to cover the computational costs of using the network, and those fees are redistributed to the people who keep the network up and running. So in order to do anything on a blockchain, you’ll first need a crypto wallet to store and manage your cryptocurrency. To use the Ethereum network, you’ll need an Ethereum wallet.

Note: If you’re ready to start using Ethereum, try Brave Wallet—the secure, multi-chain wallet that’s built right into the Brave browser.

An Ethereum wallet enables you to store/trade/use ether (ETH), Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, and other Ethereum-based assets like ERC-20 tokens and NFTs. (Note: uppercase “Ethereum” usually refers to the network, while lowercase “ether” or its abbreviation “ETH” refers to the cryptocurrency.)

Aside from asset storage, your Ethereum wallet is also your key to using Ethereum-based DApps. In Web3, the process of logging into a website or app with a username/password is replaced by connecting your crypto wallet.

Learn more about connecting to Web3 DApps with your crypto wallet.

What are the different types of Ethereum wallets?

Ethereum, like most blockchain networks, supports multiple types of crypto wallets. When it comes to wallet type, the two key differentiators are hardware/software, and custodial/non-custodial.

As the name suggests, software wallets exist digitally. You access them in your Web browser (either by visiting websites like coinbase.com, or as third-party browser extensions that you manually install), or as standalone apps for your desktop/mobile device. Software wallets are more convenient than their hardware counterparts, since they’re installed or readily accessible on Internet-ready devices like your phone or laptop. But this also makes software wallets more susceptible to certain Web3 security risks.

Hardware wallets are physical devices (often designed like a USB drive) that store your private keys offline for added security. So in order to do anything with your assets, you’d sign the transaction (i.e. verify it) with your private keys offline. Once signed, you’d physically connect the hardware wallet to the Internet to broadcast the signed transaction to the network. Hardware wallets often come with their own software, but are also designed to work with other major software wallets as well, like Brave Wallet, MetaMask, and more.

Hardware wallets are always non-custodial (meaning you alone control your wallet’s private keys), whereas software wallets can either be custodial or non-custodial.

Learn more about the differences between self custody and third-party custody, or the differences between software and hardware wallets.

How to use an Ethereum wallet

The steps below will guide you through setting up your Ethereum wallet, and how to start using the Ethereum ecosystem.

Which Ethereum wallet is right for you?

First, you must decide which kind of wallet to use (hardware vs. software, custodial vs. non-custodial). Then you can narrow down to which specific wallet you prefer. The best Ethereum wallet is one that meets your individual needs. Some of the most popular software wallets for Ethereum include Brave Wallet, Coinbase, and MetaMask. To help you decide, here’s a snapshot of how these (plus a few others) compare on security, functionality, and more:

 Brave   Coinbase   Metamask   Opera   Phantom 
Browser native (no extension to download) - - -
NFT support
Available on desktop & mobile
Ledger & Trezor support * -
Buy, store, send, & connect to DApps on Solana -
Buy, store, send, & connect to DApps on Ethereum & EVM chains -
Buy, store, & send FIL on the Filecoin chain * - - - -
Integrated DEX aggregator for token swaps on Solana -
Integrated DEX aggregator for token swaps on Ethereum & EVM chains -
Open source - - - -
Crypto market data - - -

*Desktop only, with mobile support coming soon.

If you’re brand new to crypto and Web3, a Web-based custodial wallet that supports Ethereum, like Coinbase, may feel most comfortable to you. If you want a self-custody software wallet for Ethereum, you may like the browser-based Brave Wallet rather than an extension-based wallet like MetaMask. Seasoned crypto users will most likely use a hardware wallet device for extra security, in conjunction with a software wallet like Brave. Remember, each type of Ethereum wallet comes with its own unique pros and cons.

Learn more about the difference between extension-based wallets and browser-native wallets.

Setting up your Ethereum wallet

Once you’ve made a decision on which Ethereum wallet to use, you can begin setting it up. You may need to visit a website to access your centralized crypto exchange, or download your wallet’s app, or simply open the wallet that comes with your browser (like with Brave Wallet). Whatever the case, follow your chosen Ethereum wallet’s provided documentation/instructions.

For in-depth setup help, you can reference our guide to set up a custodial crypto wallet or to set up a non-custodial crypto wallet.

Using your Ethereum wallet

To use your Ethereum wallet, you first need to have ETH to cover the network’s transaction fees. You can purchase ETH directly (e.g. with USD or your local currency) from a centralized crypto exchange or a self-custody wallet that supports fiat-to-crypto purchases, like Brave Wallet. Otherwise, if your Ethereum wallet doesn’t support purchasing crypto with fiat currency, you’ll need to purchase ETH in another wallet that does, then send it to your new Ethereum wallet.

If that’s the case, follow these general steps to send yourself ETH to the appropriate wallet:

  1. Find the send feature in your wallet and enter the recipient’s wallet address (in this case your own).
  2. Select the type and amount of crypto you want to send (in this case ETH) and confirm the transaction. If you’re new to sending crypto, you might want to try a small test transaction first.

Note: Depending on your chosen Ethereum wallet, the specific instructions for sending crypto will vary slightly. But, in general, all crypto wallets (whether they’re custodial or non-custodial, software or hardware) adhere to a similar process for sending and receiving crypto.

Exploring Ethereum

Once your Ethereum wallet contains ETH, you’ll be able to cover the transaction (aka “gas”) fees incurred while using the network. You’re now ready to connect to Ethereum DApps, trade Ethereum-based assets, and more. Remember to follow the best practices for Web3 security while exploring Ethereum. And if you want Brave-level protections for your Web3 journey, check out Brave Wallet. It’s secure, non-custodial, and multi-chain. And best of all, it’s built directly into the Brave browser. Getting started is as easy as downloading the Brave browser, and clicking Wallet icon.

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