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September 21, 2023

The Basics of Self-Custody and Non-Custodial Wallets

By: Soul Wallet


The crypto industry offers many options for storing your digital assets, which include easy but insecure hot wallets, secure but clunky hardware wallets, and modern, easy, and secure smart contract wallets like Soul Wallet. In this article, we delve into the fabric of these different wallet options and highlight the importance of self-custody and how it can impact you as a crypto investor.

Defining 'Custody' in Cryptocurrency and the Importance of Self-Custody

In ancient times, individuals held direct control over their wealth. Coins were often held on a person, and often secretly stashed somewhere in their homes, ensuring safe and personal custody. However, with the emergence of banks, this direct control dwindled. Over time, humans have relied on banks and other centralized third parties for storing, controlling, and securing their wealth. In the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, the reins of control and power are handed back to individuals. Here, 'custody' signifies possessing your own wealth, often through a private key—a cryptographic embodiment of self-sovereign control. This idea gave birth to the widely accepted Bitcoin adage, "Not your keys, not your crypto." This is fundamentally different than using custodial exchange platforms like Coinbase, Kraken, and Robinhood. These centralized platforms have complete control of your funds and are in their custody. In essence, self-custody in the crypto sphere is paramount for sovereign asset management and control, but it also has tremendous practical benefits as well.

Types of Non-Custodial and Self-Custody Wallets

  1. EOA Software Wallets: Mainly found as browser extensions, mobile apps, or desktop applications, with Metamask being a notable example. They're celebrated for their convenience, their lack of cost to setup (free) and are the most common. However, they often can have questionable security assurances for your funds and aren't very programmable or customizable.
  2. Smart Contract Wallets: Designed for modern users, these wallets offer features like social recovery, two-factor authentication, transacting limits, and much more. Soul Wallet exemplifies this category, merging ease of use with enhanced security. The downside is that they do require a small gas payment to setup, but that's typically less than $1 in gas fees and users have the potential for free setup thanks to sponsors.
  3. Hardware Wallets: Devices like the Ledger are the most popular hardware wallets. Designed exclusively to store private keys inside of their physical hardware, is one of the more secure options that exist. Their downsides are that they are often clunky to use, have high costs, and are easy for others to see when being used or transported.
  4. Paper Wallets: A tangible representation of digital assets. These are physical copies of both public and private keys. They stand as bulwarks against digital threats, but, ironically, are susceptible to real-world damage like water, fire, or simple misplacement.

Key Features of Non-Custodial Wallets

True Ownership Control: The allure of non-custodial wallets lies in the unadulterated control they offer. Users wield complete authority over their funds, ensuring uninterrupted 24/7 access to the blockchain and their funds at any hour without needing to ask a third-party banker or company.

Simple and Accessible: Additionally, advancements in decentralized finance technology have ushered in user-friendly interfaces that allow you to swap, stake, lend, and much more with just a few clicks.

Optionality and Innovation: Whether it's navigating the vast oceans of DeFi, acquiring unique NFTs, or straightforward peer-to-peer transactions, non-custodial wallets are versatile tools in the crypto toolkit.

Pros and Cons of Choosing Non-Custodial Wallets

The appeal of non-custodial wallets is evident. They offer an unmatched level of control and top-tier security, shielding assets from exchange vulnerabilities. However, this power can be a double-edged sword for some. The requirement of safeguarding assets, avoiding scams, hacks, and ensuring wallet accessibility rests squarely on the user.

Backup, Recovery, and Security Measures in Non-Custodial Wallets

The bedrock of most non-custodial wallet security lies in the private keys and seed phrases. Seed phrases are essential for wallet recovery, ensuring that even if you lose access to your device, your assets remain safe. They're secret key passports to access the digital assets. For the storage of private keys, diversification is key. Consider multiple backup methods, including hardware devices and even potentially geographically separated locations.

Brands like Soul Wallet take security a different approach to security than traditional non-custodial wallets. As a smart contract wallet, Soul Wallet users are empowered with Social Recovery, Two-Factor Authentication, and other security advanced features.

The Soul Wallet Difference

Soul Wallet isn't just another name in the world of crypto wallets; it represents an evolution. Bid farewell to the complexities of private key management with Soul Wallet's social recovery feature which allows trust to be placed in friends, family, or other wallets. There's no dent in your pocket with pricey hardware wallet investments. This is the future thanks to ERC-4337, account abstraction, and smart contract wallet technology. You can learn more in our Beginners Guide.


Embracing non-custodial wallets is akin to reclaiming control over one's digital wealth. They stand as testaments to the philosophy of decentralized control, this virtue is one of the core values of the Ethereum community. Whether you're brand new and taking your first steps into the crypto realm or a seasoned player, your choice of wallet should be rooted in your comfort with responsibility and your security preferences. In the ever-evolving landscape of Ethereum, ensuring that you have the right tools, like Soul Wallet, can make all the difference.