Cryptocurrency works a little bit differently than the money most of us are used to. This is because crypto is a peer-to-peer (P2P) system, which means that you send cryptocurrencies between people directly — instead of going through middlemen as you would using a bank or PayPal, for example.
We know that it might seem complicated and confusing at first, but in reality learning how to send cryptocurrencies safely is pretty easy. In this guide, we’ll show you how to do it and explain what’s going on beneath the surface so that you can be confident to start using your cryptocurrency wallet.
A step-by-step guide to sending cryptocurrency
Assuming you already have a cryptocurrency wallet with some funds inside, here are the general steps you’ll take to send a transaction to another wallet. Notice we didn’t say “another person” — that’s because you can just as well send cryptocurrency to yourself on a different wallet rather than send it to somebody else.
If you don’t have a wallet, we recommend you to create one now: leaving assets in cryptocurrency exchanges is not safe.
Step 1: Open your wallet application and click ‘Send’ for whichever cryptocurrency you plan to use
There are many other crypto wallets with different interfaces, but overall they work the same way as you’ll learn here. MyEtherWallet, for example, is a famous Ethereum wallet, while blockchain.com has a very popular Bitcoin wallet for web.
So step one is to log in to MetaMask, go to our ETH wallet, and click ‘Send’.
Steps 2 & 3: Copy and paste the recipient wallet address. Then, type in the amount you’re sending
Next, copy the recipient’s address and paste it into the ‘To’ / ‘Recipient’ box. Choose the amount you wish to send and the size of your fee. Note: You get to set the transaction fee based on how urgent the transaction is. Paying a higher fee means your transaction will be processed sooner, but it’s not necessary for most transactions.
You’ll often be able to skip Steps 2 & 3 and instead simply scan a QR code with a wallet app on your phone. The QR code automatically sets the correct amount and recipient, so you can move straight to Step 4.
Step 4: Confirm the transaction
Double check that everything is correct: the transaction fee isn’t too high, the amount you’re sending is right, and the address of the recipient is the same as the one you copied. You should also make sure that the wallet you are sending the coins to is meant for the coin you’re sending. If you send Bitcoin to an Ethereum wallet, for example, it will be lost permanently.
Step 5: Check the blockchain (if you want to)
Once you click confirm, the transaction is broadcasted to the blockchain network and processed by validators. This process can take a few seconds, a few minutes, or a few hours depending on which cryptocurrency you’re using and how high you set the transaction fee.
When you use cryptocurrencies for retail transactions — for instance, buying a coffee — the transaction can be accepted within a couple of seconds even though it won’t be on the blockchain yet. This is because transactions cannot be taken back or canceled once they’ve been broadcasted, so there’s practically no risk to a merchant if they accept your transaction as final even while it’s technically still pending.
For larger transactions involving thousands of dollars, it’s more typical for a recipient to wait until the transaction is confirmed on the blockchain before handing over whatever product or service they are exchanging.
Pro tip: use a small amount for your first transaction
Sending cryptocurrency to somebody doesn’t need to be stressful. If you want to get some practice in and see how it works for yourself before transferring a large amount, go ahead and do a test transaction with a few cents. Once you see that it works, you’ll feel confident that you know how to send cryptocurrencies without making any mistakes.