Every few years, cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based technologies seem to find themselves at the center of a cultural moment, and 2021 is no exception. Thanks to the rise of NFTs such as NBA Top Shot and digital creations from net artists such as Beeple, the crypto sector is as hot as ever and if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’ve already started buying cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. And as you get deeper into the world of blockchain, you’re going to need one of the best Bitcoin wallets to keep your crypto secure.
What Is a Bitcoin Wallet?
To put it simply, a Bitcoin wallet is a place where you can store the private keys needed to access and manage your Bitcoin on the public ledger. Whether you’re verifying the amount of Bitcoin you own or performing transactions/transfers, a Bitcoin wallet is the most convenient way to do that.
Furthermore, most Bitcoin wallets are compatible with a wide range of cryptocurrencies, NFTs and blockchain platforms, such as Ethereum. This means that if you have more than just Bitcoin (or no Bitcoin at all) you should still get the same functionality out of these wallets.
But more than just allowing you to manage your cryptocurrency, the best Bitcoin wallets also protect it. Because Bitcoin was fundamentally designed around anonymity, privacy and security, there’s no way to reverse a transaction once it’s completed. This means that if your private keys are compromised as a result of hacking or theft, it will be near-impossible to figure out who took control of your Bitcoin, let alone recover it.
The best Bitcoin wallets will provide end-to-end encryption to minimize the likelihood of someone gaining control of your private keys. Furthermore, Bitcoin wallets allow you to set up a recovery phrase, which is typically a string of 24 words in a unique order. In the event that you accidentally lose or destroy your bitcoin wallet, the recovery phrase can help rebuild your wallet.
But when we’re talking about Bitcoin wallets and the most secure options, we’re really talking about hardware-based Bitcoin wallets and not smartphone apps.
Why Isn’t a Software Wallet or Exchange Good Enough for My Bitcoin?
While it would seem convenient enough to use a public exchange or a software-based Bitcoin wallet, the truth is that neither solution is ideal.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain exchanges are not only hosted on servers, which are always susceptible to hacks, but you also cede control of your private keys to the exchange. This means that it’s the exchange that’s really in control of your Bitcoin. In a worst-case scenario, you could lose your cryptocurrency if they’re hacked, go bankrupt or simply decide to disappear.
Software Bitcoin wallets are a better Bitcoin solution insofar as they give you full control over your private keys. But these are typically installed on devices with multiple security vulnerabilities and holes that can be exploited in a random or targeted hack. And while this may be an improbable outcome for the average person, it’s far from impossible, especially if you’re not careful with the networks you connect to and internet links you click.
What Features Should I Look For in a Hardware Crypto Wallet?
Now that we’ve settled the score on why you want a hardware Bitcoin wallet, it’s time to talk features. And when it comes to the best Bitcoin wallets, the majority of these devices have a few main features in common:
- Cold Storage: Cold Storage is just a fancy way of saying that these Bitcoin wallets do not connect directly to the internet and lack wireless protocols of any kind. Aside from the encryption itself, this is the most crucial feature when it comes to making a cryptocurrency wallet resistant to hacking.
- Integrated Display: While having a screen on your Bitcoin wallet may seem redundant if you have to use it with a phone or computer anyways, it’s actually because private keys never leave your hardware Bitcoin wallet, and all the transaction processing is carried out on the hardware wallet itself. The Bitcoin wallet display is the most accurate way to verify and confirm the transaction. It ensures that a hacker can’t spoof any information as it makes its way from the wallet to your phone or computer.
- Tamperproof Casing: The extent to which cryptocurrency wallets will vary a bit, but it can range from everything to making it noticeable or difficult to open the external housing to deleting your data if tampering is detected.
- Recovery Protocols: The best Bitcoin wallets will have a way for you to recover your private keys if your Bitcoin Wallet is lost or damaged. Most wallets use a protocol called BIP39 that gives you a unique 24-word phrase that you can use to recover your keys on a new wallet. While this won’t allow you to recover your Bitcoin if you’re hacked, it at least guarantees that you won’t be wrecked by your absent-mindedness.
Now that you’re up to speed on what cryptocurrency wallets are and how they work, it’s time to take a look at our recommendations for the best Bitcoin wallets.
1. Ledger Nano S
BEST BITCOIN WALLET OVERALL
Whether you’re just dabbling or are well-versed in the world of blockchain, the Ledger Nano S is not only the best Bitcoin wallet but the best hardware cryptocurrency wallet around. Thanks to its air-gapped design, it has a high level of security and the easy-to-understand interface links up seamlessly with the Ledger Live service. Compatible with nearly 1,200 different blockchain coins and tokens, the Nano S can simultaneously store 18 different wallets. But even with all of these features, the Nano S Bitcoin wallet is still one of the most affordable options on this list, making it an easy choice for our top pick.
2. Trezor One
Along with Ledger, Trezor is one of the companies that has been making hardware Bitcoin wallets the longest, and the Trezor One is proof of Trezor’s experience and expertise. Compact, secure and versatile, the Trezor One supports more than 1,000 different coins and uses a PIN unlock system that prevents keyloggers from stealing your authentication info. Like the Ledger Nano S, this device only connects to your smartphone or computer via USB which means this device is about as secure as a Bitcoin wallet can get. But ultimately, it gets edged out as the best hardware wallet because it doesn’t support quite as many coins and tokens as the Nano S.
BEST BUDGET OPTION
The KeepKey may be the most affordable Bitcoin wallet on this list, but it is every bit as secure as the top options for hardware cryptocurrency wallets. The big concession with the KeepKey is that it is noticeably larger than other hardware wallets (which can be a good or bad thing depending on when and where you want to use it), and it supports fewer than 100 coins and blockchains natively. But given the price and the Shapeshift ledger software that it is bundled with, the KeepKey is still a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to pay extra for a bunch of features they won’t use.
4. Trezor Model T
The Trezor Model T is fundamentally the same as the Trezor One, but it comes with a few upgrades that make it more suitable for frequent use. Namely, the touchscreen makes it easier to unlock your hardware wallet and confirm transactions compared to the two-button interface of the Trezor One. The Model T also has a more powerful CPU than the Trezor One (making it a bit more futureproof) and supports a few extra coins and tokens (although both devices support more than 1,000 crypto variants).
5. Ledger Nano X
If you take everything great about the Ledger Nano S, add the ability to simultaneously store more cryptocurrency wallets and the ability to send and receive transactions via Bluetooth, you end up with the Ledger Nano X. But as with most things, more features means it costs more money. Whether or not you think these features are worth the premium will boil down to how active you are with multiple types of cryptocurrency and also how much of a vulnerability you consider the inclusion of Bluetooth to be.
6. Ellipal Titan
If you want the ultimate in security when it comes to the best Bitcoin wallets, then you want the Ellipal Titan. This hardware cryptocurrency wallet is not only air-gapped from wireless connections, but from any external connection at all, including USB. But how do you manage your Bitcoin, NFTs and other cryptocurrencies? The Titan has a camera that can scan QR codes so that it can receive the info necessary to prepare a transaction and a LCD display so that it can send it back to the ledger.
Additionally, the Ellipal Titan can support 40 different blockchains and more than 7,000 tokens, making this an incredibly versatile hardware wallet for your cryptocurrency.
7. SecuX Stone
MOST UNIQUE DESIGN
Of all the Bitcoin wallets on this list, the SecuX Stone definitely has the most unique design with a rounded-yet-angular form factor. Like other Bitcoin wallets, the SecuX Stone features a secure hardware element, support for more than 1,000 coins and tokens and a tamper-proof design. However, like the Ledger Nano X, this wallet does feature Bluetooth connectivity which will be a convenient perk for some and a security concern for others.
8. BitBox02 Bitcoin-Only Edition
FOR BITCOIN USERS ONLY
While most hardware wallets on this list support various types of cryptocurrency, the BitBox02 Bitcoin-Only Edition only works with Bitcoin. The advantage of this single-coin approach is that there’s less code that could potentially become vulnerable since the BitBox02 doesn’t have to support thousands of other coins, tokens and blockchains, there’s less code that could potentially become vulnerable down the line.
That said, the limited approach of this wallet is not ideal for anyone who uses, or plans to use, other cryptocurrencies down the line. There is, however, a version of the BitBox02 that does support more than 1,500 cryptocurrencies.