Hot and cold wallets are the primary means for storing and exchanging cryptocurrencies and tokens. It’s necessary to distinguish between a hot wallet and a cold wallet to identify which works best for you.
A hot crypto wallet is connected to the internet, while a cold wallet is entirely offline, usually linked and accessible through hardware devices. The disparities between both wallet types can allow you to discover your ideal one. Finding the best wallet is subjective and should be based on what fits your needs and gives you the most flexibility.
- Hot and cold wallets are the primary means of storing and exchanging cryptocurrencies and tokens.
- Hot wallets are internet-enabled and online, while cold wallets are offline and come in the form of a physical device, such as a USB stick.
- The primary benefit of using a hot wallet is its level of convenience: It can provide ease of use and a well-designed interface.
- A cold wallet offers more security benefits because it’s less possible to hack and is therefore less vulnerable to loss of digital assets.
Hot Wallets Explained
Hot crypto wallets are connected to the internet. They offer a series of features, from storing, sending, and receiving tokens to managing and viewing all available tokens in one place. Hot wallets are accessible from internet-enabled devices such as cellular phones, tablets, and laptops. Hot wallets have been widely adopted because of the ease of transferring and receiving funds on demand.
The way a crypto wallet works is straightforward: It stores the private keys to your cryptocurrencies after purchasing or mining them. When a cryptocurrency transaction needs to be completed, private keys are required.
A hot wallet acts as the interface for completing crypto transactions and is responsible for recording these transactions on the decentralized public blockchain ledger.
In a cryptocurrency wallet, two key components keep your digital assets safe: the private and public keys, made of a cryptographic string of letters and numbers responsible for successful crypto transfers into your wallet.
Private keys are designed to verify the ownership of a token. Without them, you can’t exchange your cryptocurrency. Think of them as the passwords you need to complete a crypto transaction.
Public keys, on the other hand, are cryptographic letters and numbers that allow you to send crypto to others. They are similar to an account username.
Types of Hot Wallets
Hot wallets come in different types and have various purposes. Some are used as mobile applications, web-only wallets, or even ecosystem-specific wallets. The list is extensive, and wallet usage depends on a user’s needs.
Some of the most common examples of hot wallets include Coinbase Wallet, MetaMask, Trust Wallet, Exodus Wallet, Robinhood, Edge, and more.
For example, MetaMask is an ecosystem-specific wallet that supports Ethereum-based tokens. Trust Wallet is noncustodial and more inclusive, supporting up to 65 cryptocurrencies and tokens. It is available for web and mobile software. Exodus Wallet is a software wallet with many functions that supports more than 260 cryptocurrencies.
Other reasons why you might choose a specific hot-wallet type include design, fees, and even integration with certain crypto exchanges. It is important to conduct research to find the best wallet for an activity.
Hot Wallet Pros and Cons
Internet-based so they allow easy access and perform several activities efficiently and from a range of devices
Primarily free to use; some also require paying interest on the stored crypto
Unencrypted hot wallets are vulnerable to hacks because they are internet-enabled. Unauthorized parties target these because they contain both public and private keys.
Some are accepted and accessible only in specified locations due to legal restrictions
Cold Wallets Explained
Cold wallets differ from hot wallets in that they’re not internet-enabled. Hence, they’re less susceptible to hacking. This fact is why cold wallets have gained rapid adoption and more popularity after the implosion of FTX, which was a large centralized crypto exchange that collapsed in November 2022, went bankrupt, and reported an alleged hack that left many users’ digital assets frozen or gone.
These wallets come as hardware devices—usually like a USB stick—costing $50 to $200. Hardware wallets and paper wallets are examples of cold-storage wallets.
An added security layer stems from the fact that the private keys of cold wallets are entirely offline—compared with those of hot wallets—and are required to complete a crypto exchange from the wallet.
Exchanging crypto from a cold wallet starts online, but one must sign off digitally offline to complete the transaction.
Types of Cold Wallets
Cold wallets are also available in different types; some of the most common examples include:
- Paper wallet: This is a document that has public and private keys printed on it. There’s also a quick response (QR) code embedded in the paper to facilitate crypto transactions. The downside is that it’s rendered useless once the document is damaged.
- Hardware wallet: This is a ubiquitous cold-wallet type. They are offline devices used to store private and public keys. They come in the form of USBs or smart cards, without which you would have no access to your crypto. Commonly available hardware wallets are Trezor, Ledger, and KeepKey.
- Deep cold storage: This type of wallet takes extra steps to make access to your wallet very difficult. An analogy would be keeping your cold wallet in a physical vault or safe deposit box at a bank. These wallets are designed for those requiring minimal access to their wallet.
Other types of cold wallets available are sound wallets and offline software wallets.
Cold Wallet Pros and Cons
Enhanced security benefits mean there is no way to get hacked
Full possession of your tokens because the private and public keys are in your control
Expensive, with the typical price range from $50 to $200
Complex to use
Are hot wallets better than cold wallets?
There’s no right answer to this question. Your needs and preferences determine which wallet is better for you. The hot wallet is suitable for someone who makes crypto transactions regularly. A cold wallet is more ideal when a crypto holder makes few transactions.
Which is safer, a hot wallet or a cold wallet?
Hot wallets are less secure than cold wallets because your private and public keys are connected to the internet and therefore more vulnerable. In contrast, you have total control over your private and public keys with a cold wallet.
Can I use both a hot and a cold wallet?
Yes, you can use both. Ideally, that approach is the best way to go. To do this, keep a fraction of the tokens you rarely use in a cold wallet while putting the rest in a hot wallet. This way, you safeguard your digital assets more and can enjoy the flexibility that comes with maintaining both types of crypto wallets.
Why are hot wallets free and cold wallets aren’t?
Not all crypto hot wallets are free; some charge interest on every transaction made. Cold wallets are paid in the price of the physical or hardware devices used.
The Bottom Line
Hot and cold crypto wallets each come with specific advantages. If you’re searching for convenience, choose a hot wallet; if you’re looking for greater security, then a cold wallet will be the right choice. However, it’s a good practice to use both types of wallets, to recognize and take preventive measures to counteract the flaws in both.
It’s best to do some research before deciding on a crypto wallet type. That way, you’ll be set up for an optimum experience when storing and trading your digital assets.