What Is a Wallet Address?
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A crypto wallet address is a sequence of alphanumeric characters that you can use to receive cryptocurrencies. You’ll need separate wallet addresses for every cryptocurrency that you want to use. For example, you cannot use the same wallet address to receive both Bitcoin and Ethereum.
A cryptocurrency wallet address looks like a seemingly random sequence of numbers and letters. The length and case-sensitivity of addresses varies from cryptocurrency to cryptocurrency.
Here is an example of what a Bitcoin address looks like:
How to get a crypto wallet address?
A crypto wallet is a piece of software that manages public and/or private keys and is capable of receiving cryptocurrency and authorizing cryptocurrency transactions.
While many people use the term “wallet address”, it can be a little misleading. In reality, you can use your wallet software to receive cryptocurrency to many different addresses.
When you set up a crypto wallet, you will automatically get one or more addresses that you can use to receive cryptocurrency. If you wish, you can generate additional addresses after the initial setup.
Some cryptocurrency wallets are specifically designed to only function with one type of cryptocurrency. However, there are also “multi-chain” wallets that can be used with many different cryptocurrencies. Examples of multi-chain wallets include Trust Wallet and Coinbase Wallet.
Here are some examples of the best crypto wallets available at the moment, alongside the cryptocurrencies they can be used for:
- Ledger Nano S Plus (hardware wallet, multi-chain)
- Trust Wallet (software wallet, multi-chain)
- MetaMask (software wallet, Ethereum and Ethereum-compatible blockchains)
- Electrum (software wallet, Bitcoin)
- Phantom (software wallet, Solana)
- Xumm (software wallet, XRP)
Keep in mind that all of the software wallets listed above can be used in conjunction with a hardware wallet such as the Ledger Nano S Plus for increased security.
If you are relatively new to cryptocurrency, but want to invest in and use many different cryptocurrencies, a multi-chain wallet will probably suit your needs best. Meanwhile, if you are focused on one particular cryptocurrency and would like to access the advanced features offered by wallets designed for that specific cryptocurrency, a more specialized wallet could be a better choice.
If you have invested a significant amount into cryptocurrency, buying a hardware crypto wallet to manage your private keys can be a very worthwhile investment.
Speaking of private keys, let’s quickly learn about the difference between private keys and public keys, as this is an extremely important topic when it comes to crypto wallets and addresses.
Private keys and public keys
If you want to send cryptocurrency, the transaction needs to be signed with your private key. Your cryptocurrency wallet will take care of the signing, but you must ensure that your private key remains hidden from others.
Each private key is paired to a public key, which is used to generate addresses that you can use to receive cryptocurrency. It is safe to share your public keys and/or addresses publicly.
The concept of a private key and a corresponding private key belongs to the field of public-key cryptography, which is the fundamental technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible.
One of the concepts underpinning public-key cryptography is one-way functions. In cryptocurrencies, one-way functions are used to derive a public key from a private key. A one-way function is also used to derive addresses from a public key. The cryptography involved in this process is complex, and beyond the scope of this article.
What’s important for us here is the end result — even though each public key is mathematically related to a private key, reverse engineering a private key from a public key is extremely difficult. This means that it’s safe to share your public key or cryptocurrency address. Meanwhile, you should keep your private key hidden from others at all times.
Wallets that use private keys stored on a device that’s connected to the internet are called hot wallets. Meanwhile, wallets that use private keys stored on an offline device are called cold wallets. To learn more, check out our article exploring the topic of hot wallets vs. cold wallets.
Address formats used by popular cryptocurrencies
Generally speaking, the addresses used in every cryptocurrency look like a random sequence of letters and numbers and don’t really have much meaning to the human mind.
However, it’s usually possible to quickly identify which cryptocurrency an address belongs to. You can do this by taking a look at the initial character or sequence of characters in the address.
Here are some examples of the address formats used by popular cryptocurrencies:
Bitcoin addresses can start with different sequences of characters. Most Bitcoin addresses in use today start with “bc1q”. However, they can also start with “1”, “3”, “bc1” or “bc1p”.
Ethereum addresses, as well as the addresses of many EVM-compatible cryptocurrencies, start with “0x”.
XRP addresses typically start with an “r”, but they can also start with an “X”.
Cardano addresses usually start with “addr1”, but older Cardano addresses can start with “Ae2”, or “DdzFF”.
Litecoin addresses can start with “ltc1”, “M”, or “L”.
Dogecoin addresses typically start with “D”, but can also start with “A” or “9”.
Please note that the addresses used as examples above were randomly selected from block explorers and are merely meant to illustrate what the address formats used by different cryptocurrencies look like.
The bottom line
As a cryptocurrency investor, you will likely be using a host of different crypto addresses during your crypto journey. In this article, we’ve tried to explain some of the most common questions people have when encountering cryptocurrency addresses for the first time.
If you are just getting started with crypto and would like to learn more, make sure to check out our ultimate guide to investing in cryptocurrency.