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What Is a Bitcoin Paper Wallet and How Do I Use One?

Bitcoin is a digital currency, meaning that it only exists in the digital world. Every token is stored in a Bitcoin wallet, which might be easier to think of as a bank account than a wallet. Most people keep their crypto in software wallets, often in the form of a wallet app on a mobile device. However, paper Bitcoin wallets are another option, acting as a physical representation of your coins.

How to Use a Bitcoin Paper Wallet

Bitcoin Wallet Basics

Every Bitcoin wallet has a Public Key and a Private Key. This holds true for software/digital wallets like the app on your phone, paper wallets, and any other kind of crypto wallet.

The Public Key can and should be shared because it’s essentially just your address. If someone wants to send you a bitcoin, they need to know your Bitcoin address.

The Private Key, on the other hand, should never be shared with anyone because it provides full access to the coins in the wallet. Think of Private Keys as the PIN to your bank account. But rather than just being a few numbers, Private Keys can take a variety of forms. They can be QR codes, “seed phrases” (strings of 12-24 random words), or strings of binary/hexadecimal code.

If you don’t have access to your Private Key, someone else probably does. When someone has access to your private key, they can empty your wallet at any time. This is why it’s never a good idea to store your crypto on an exchange: most exchanges keep your private keys to themselves. And as the saying goes, not your keys, not your coins.

Bitcoin Paper Wallets

Paper wallets are a way of “storing” Bitcoin without an app. But remember, Bitcoin is entirely digital, so a paper “wallet” isn’t actually storing your coins. Instead, a paper wallet is just a piece of paper with both your public and private keys printed on it. Thus, paper wallets allow you to access your bitcoins, which are stored digitally on the Bitcoin blockchain like all bitcoins are.

This is how every Bitcoin wallet works. Even if you “store” your bitcoins in a digital wallet on your phone, the coins aren’t on your phone. The app simply knows your Private Key, allowing you to access your bitcoins, which can never exist anywhere but the Bitcoin blockchain.

Because paper Bitcoin wallets are nothing more than a slip of paper, they typically aren’t used for long-term storage. If you lose a paper wallet or it gets destroyed, any coins “stored” in the wallet are gone forever. Similarly, if someone finds your paper wallet, they can take all of your coins.

That said, one advantage of using paper wallets is that they can’t be hacked. Because paper wallets can’t connect to the internet, they act as a form of “cold storage.” This is the term for any offline wallet, those which can’t connect to the internet. But there are other, safer options for long-term cold storage, such as a hardware wallet or a digital wallet on an air-gapped device.

Paper Bitcoin wallets are mostly a relic from a time when cryptocurrency was a new technology, when safe and user-friendly storage options were less plentiful. Although they are every bit as safe and functional as they have always been, these days paper wallets are typically used to store coins temporarily until they can be moved to a less fragile wallet.

How to Use a Bitcoin Paper Wallet – 5 Easy Steps

If you already have a paper Bitcoin wallet, you can use it to send or receive bitcoins. But you’ll need an app or computer to do so. This guide will show you how to import your paper wallet with the RockItCoin mobile app. If you don’t already have the app, download it from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store now.

Alternatively, this guide will show you how to make a bitcoin paper wallet [unfinished content in a Google doc]

Importing a paper wallet into the app will give you full access to the coins in the paper wallet. However, the paper wallet still has a private key that can be used to import the wallet into another device.

Thus, it’s in your best interest to move the coins from the paper wallet into a more secure wallet and/or destroy the slip of paper. But if you plan on destroying a paper wallet, triple-check that you’ve imported it successfully or sent the coins to another wallet first. Otherwise, if you don’t have a backup, those coins will be lost forever.

 

Step 1:

Tap on the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner of the RockItCoin App

Screenshot of RockItCoin mobile app

 

Step 2:

Select “Sweep Private Key” from the pop-out menu.

Select “Sweep Private Key”

Step 3:

Select the proper wallet.

You can only import a paper Bitcoin wallet into another Bitcoin wallet. So if you want to import a paper Bitcoin wallet, be sure to select a Bitcoin wallet in the app.

BTC = Bitcoin BCH = Bitcoin Cash ETH = Ethereum LTC = Litecoin

 

Step 4: Position your paper Bitcoin wallet’s Private Key in front of your device’s camera.

Paper Bitcoin wallet Private Key being scanned

The camera on your device will automatically read the QR code as soon as it’s in view. Because of this, we recommend folding your paper wallet or covering all but the Private Key so that the camera doesn’t scan the wrong code.

If you do accidentally scan the wrong code, don’t worry, your coins won’t disappear. Instead, the app will open a new window giving you the option to SEND coins to that address. If you see this, simply hit the back button and try again.

Display after scanning a paper Bitcoin wallet’s Public Key
Crumpled paper Bitcoin wallet.

NOTICE: If your phone does not automatically scan the code, touch “Enter Key” at the bottom of the page and enter the Private Key manually. And remember, the key is case-sensitive.

 

Step 5: Select Import
Import

After touching “Import,” the app will take a moment to complete your request. While it does so, it will display “Importing Private Key” as a pop-up. Soon after, it will display “Private Key Successfully Swept.”

Congratulations! You have just imported your paper Bitcoin wallet. You’ll now be able to access the coins from your paper wallet using the RockItCoin app! Once the balance of your paper wallet appears within the app, feel free to destroy the paper wallet. Or, at the very least, store the paper wallet somewhere that no one else will find it to keep your coins safe.

Now you should be confident enough to use paper Bitcoin wallets the next time you come across one. If you want more practice, consider taking your coins as a paper wallet the next time your visit one of our Bitcoin ATM locations.

 

 


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