This is an interesting topic, and in fact, it was one of the first topics I started researching when I first discovered cryptocurrency and ultimately inspired me to create this website. As you can see, I have a bias towards cold storage wallets, but what exactly is the difference? I am going to discuss below what the pros and cons of a hot wallets vs cold wallets are and in what scenario you would need to use both. As cryptocurrency payments become ubiquitous, it’s important for your own safety and best security practices in managing your wallets and private keys on an on-going basis. Let’s begin.
What is a hot wallet?
In short, a “hot wallet” is a digital wallet for your cryptocurrency that is connected or is easily connected to the internet. This provides a lot of convenience for making day to day purchases as most active hot wallets are either on your smart phone or also on a desktop wallet on your computer for easy access for making online purchases. I always use the comparison of using your hot wallet like you would for a wallet in your back pocket that holds your credit cards, ID, and fiat. By a general rule of thumb, you should never hold more money on your hot wallet than you would normally keep in your leather physical wallet on a regular basis. Most people never keep any more than a couple hundred dollars in there at any given time, which is smart. The same applies to a hot wallet.
These wallets are designed for your average day to day spending. This could be at your local merchant down the street, or even if you’re browsing online at and trying to purchase gift cards at a site like bitrefill.com. This is done typically by scanning the screen’s QR code with your smartphone via your own wallet to make a quick transaction and simple transaction or even buy something off Amazon (like millions do everyday), but by using Purse.io, which is a platform that is built on top of amazon but accepts multiple cryptocurrencies as payment, and at a steep discount. Click this link to get some free BTC if you want to get started. Most purchase discounts range anywhere from 15-33% off anything at Amazon through this site.
These are just a few examples of how/when you would use your hot wallet for a simple transaction. You can also pre-load Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) on Bitpay’s visa debit card. I will link my video review of this from Youtube HERE.
What is a cold wallet?
A “cold wallet” is also a digital (or sometimes physical, in the form of a hardware wallet) wallet that is kept completely offline. Why? Because any funds that are kept offline cannot be hacked or tampered with. You can think of this as virtual bank vault, that is very secure, hard to access, and is designed to store your larger amounts of crypto and primarily your longer term holdings. There are many advantages to having these wallets, and even safer to implement Multi-Sig wallets. It is also recommended to diversify your holdings between multiple hardware wallets when you start to accumulate a vast sum of crypto.
I have a soft spot specifically for hardware wallets as I’ve actually designed and built one for a prominent cryptocurrency company (although due to an NDA, I cannot discuss it yet). But the reason I think it’s important is because using and owning this kind of device is like putting up a nice big middle finger to the big banks and over-reaching governments that tend to control our money supply and bank accounts whenever they see fit. No “authority” should have that kind of power. Hardware wallets are symbolic of sovereignty and self-reliance. That is why literally “becoming your own bank” is so important. One of my favorite quotes in this space is “Whoever controls the people’s means of exchange, controls the people”. This is scary, but very true. When you use cryptocurrency, you are taking personal control and responsibility of your finances, and that is SO empowering. Just writing about it send chills down my spine, but I digress.
If you are new to hardware wallets, I recommend getting a Keepkey device for beginners. Why? I have been testing their closed beta of their new platform and it is by far the easiest and most user friendly hardware wallet platform I have used (and I’ve used almost every one of them). I think I could teach my grandma how to use it, and that’s saying something. The current platform works fine, but the future platform is very exciting and if you are brand new, you will be pleasantly surprised. I will be writing a review on this platform shortly and I will update this post with a link as soon as I do, so stay tuned.
Why would I need either one?
As you can see from the examples of use cases listed above, it is important to protect your cryptocurrency and make it useful and convenient when you need it. But it’s even more important to protect it and secure it when it’s required. As the user adoption begins to snow ball, it’s crucial for everyone to understand that they will need both a hot and cold wallet for their various uses. You can even make transactions online with your hardware wallet connected via USB for even more protection. Most hardware wallets never expose their private keys to the internet when making the transactions by design. This is super helpful because you want to ensure that from every point in a given transaction, you do not want your private keys to be exposed in transit and potentially have your keys copied by a 3rd party before it reaches the intended destination.
Having said that, most digital wallets on your smart phone are typically secure enough for day to day spending and you shouldn’t be too concerned, so long as you have a trusted wallet for your phone. The top 3 I use on a regular basis is Bitpay, Jaxx, and Blockchain. These are all non-custodial wallets and have security features built in and can have 2FA or (two-factor authentication) enabled to confirm each transaction and will include Touch ID and Face ID, if you enable it.
I already recommended my top hardware wallet for beginners in the previous section, but any of the wallets that I offer through this website, are all trusted and good to use, it just depends on your needs and wants out of a secure air-gapped device.
Please sound off below! What hot and cold wallets do you like? Do you have any other wallets you can recommend not listed above? Let me know in the comments!
The Crypto Renegade
NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links. This adds no cost to you but it helps me focus on giving as much value as possible in every single post by being compensated for recommending products that help people succeed.