Self-custody made simple: how to store your crypto yourself

Cryptocurrencies empower us to take charge of our assets, yet this power requires responsible choices. You have many options for managing your digital assets: trusting an exchange, opting for custodial services, or embracing self-custody. In this article, we navigate the landscape of self-custody, providing insights into practical methods for securing and managing your crypto assets independently.

What is self-custody?

You may have heard the terms self-custody or self-custodian wallets. Self-custody means managing your crypto or other digital assets without relying on a third-party custodian or intermediary. You act a bit like your own bank, because it becomes your responsibility to secure your assets. That also gives you greater control and autonomy over your digital wealth.

Self-custody differs from a custodial wallet or a traditional financial institution, where you have little control over how the entity protects your assets. What makes self-custody attractive is that you don't have to worry about the security of a third-party custodian. That makes you solely responsible for keeping your assets safe, and gives you complete visibility and control over your holdings.

Some people may also lean towards self-custody because they value their privacy and don't want their personal information or financial data exposed to third-party custodians.

If you're interested in exploring more about a self-custody wallet, we've written a guide on how to set up a non-custodial wallet.

What are the benefits of self-custody?

Now you've got a grasp on what self-custody means, let's explore some of the advantages of using self-custody:

  • Reduced fees: Third-party custodians often impose fees for the safekeeping of your crypto assets. In contrast, self-custody offers a cost-effective alternative, enabling you to potentially reduce or eliminate fees. This financial flexibility helps you maximize the value of your holdings.

  • Enhanced security: Self-custody provides robust security by granting you full control over your private keys. Safeguarding these keys is paramount, and employing hardware wallets is a recommended method to fortify your defenses. This proactive approach significantly reduces the risks associated with potential hacks, phishing attacks, and other security breaches.

  • Heightened privacy: Opting for self-custody liberates you from the need to entrust personal details to third-party custodians. Your financial privacy is preserved, offering a shield against unauthorized access and potential data breaches. This increased privacy helps create a more secure environment for your assets.

  • Reduced third-party risks: Self-custody minimizes exposure to risks associated with third-party custodians, such as the potential for fraud or questionable business decisions. By taking control of your assets, you reduce your reliance on external entities and enjoy more secure and trustworthy management of your crypto holdings.

  • Total control: Self-custody grants you ultimate control over your assets, free from the limitations often imposed by third-party custodians. You dictate the rules and have the final say in how your crypto assets are managed, accessed, and transferred. This autonomy empowers you to tailor your strategies and optimize the utility of your holdings according to your unique preferences and objectives.

What are the trade-offs of self-custody?

It's important for every crypto user to make their own decisions and do their own research to figure out what solution best fits their circumstances. While self-custody offers a lot of advantages, it also comes with trade-offs.

  • Technical difficulty: It's essential to have a basic understanding of how crypto wallets work and how to manage your private keys. For beginners, the technical aspect of self-custody may be hard to understand. This could lead to mistakes or errors, and potentially the loss of assets.

  • Full responsibility: While having complete control of your digital assets sounds attractive, it also comes with increased responsibilities and risks. For example, if you lose your private keys or make a mistake when managing your digital assets, you could permanently lose access to your funds.

  • Lack of insurance: Unlike traditional financial services, there aren't many insurance options to protect your digital assets. If your digital assets are lost or stolen while in self-custody, you may be unable to recover them.

  • Limited support: Being solely responsible for managing your digital assets can be challenging when technical issues arise. Although you can fix an issue by researching or connecting with different crypto communities, there may be limited support to resolve problems quickly and efficiently.

How to keep your private keys safe and secure

Picture your private keys like a secret password to your wallet or a combination to your safe. You'd never broadcast these across on social media. It's imperative to keep your private keys safe and secure. Here are some examples to help.

  • Hardware wallets: A hardware wallet is a physical device allowing you to store your private keys offline. It's considered one of the most secure ways to keep your private keys safe because it doesn't require an internet connection.

  • Paper wallets: You're creating a paper wallet when you write down your private keys on a piece of paper and store it in a couple of places, like a safety deposit box, a personal vault, or somewhere you consider to be secure.

  • Pager code: Before cell phones and texting, in the 90s, people would communicate using pager code to send messages on pagers. The numbers would be transcribed as letters, and you'd have to decipher the numbers into letters. Here are a few examples: 12 = R, 17 = N, and 8 = B. Some people write the letters of their private keys in pager code to add an extra layer of security.

  • Encrypted flash drives: If you're not in the market to purchase a hardware wallet, another alternative is an encrypted flash drive to keep your private keys safe.

The final word

Self-custody is preferred by many crypto traders for the freedom, control, and flexibility it provides them. As you venture into self-custody, recognize it as a strategic move towards financial autonomy in the dynamic landscape of cryptocurrency.

Remember, the decision to take control of your assets comes with responsibilities. Stay informed, stay secure, and you'll be well-placed to navigate the evolving crypto space with confidence.


What factors should I consider when selecting the ideal self-custody wallet?

When choosing a self-custody wallet, thorough research is crucial. Prioritize factors such as security features, user-friendly interfaces, and compatibility with the specific assets you intend to store. This helps to make sure your chosen wallet meets your crypto needs, providing a secure and tailored solution for managing your digital assets.

What measures can I take to enhance the security of my self-custody wallet?

Boost the security of your self-custody wallet by choosing a hardware wallet to safeguard your private keys. When setting a password, create a robust combination of letters, numbers, and symbols for added complexity. You can also add further protection by backing up your wallet in multiple secure locations. Implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) is another step in fortifying your wallet, as it introduces an additional layer of protection against unauthorized access.

Is self-custody a suitable option for long-term storage of my digital assets?

Yes, self-custody is well-suited for long-term holders. However, it's important to adopt strict security measures to safeguard your self-custody wallet and maintain uninterrupted access to your digital assets. While self-custody grants you complete control, the responsibility lies with you to protect private keys and diligently back up your wallet for ongoing security.

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