What is MetaMask?
One of the best web-based wallets for the Ethereum blockchain is without a doubt the MetaMask wallet, it lets you send and receive ETH and ERC-20 tokens with ease. On top of that it also allows you to interact with smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps).
A MetaMask wallet operates as an extension on Brave, Chrome and Firefox browsers. In this guide I will use the Firefox extension, but the flow is the same for all named browsers. You should always install the extension using the link from the official MetaMask website for your own safety.
Installing and Setting Up MetaMask
After you have installed the extension you will notice a little fox head at the top right corner of your browser tool bar, click it to access MetaMask and get started.
After you click the “GET STARTED” button, you will have the option to create a new wallet or import a wallet using your seed phrase, this will import an already existing wallet. For now, you select “CREATE WALLET”. Next you will then be asked if you’d like to help improving MetaMask by allowing to gather user data, pick the option you feel safest with.
Now it’s time to pick a password for the MetaMask extension, you will need to type this whenever a login to the extension is required. The password must be a minimum of 8 chars and there is no strength check, keep that in mind when making it.
After you have picked your perfect password, you will be given a secret backup phrase. This step is perhaps the most important step and you need to keep this safe. The secret backup phrase is your seed phrase as mentioned earlier, which will allow you to gain access to your MetaMask wallet in case you are so unlucky to have severe issues with your computer. Or maybe you are tired of your current browser and want to change, then you can import your MetaMask wallet using the secret backup phrase.
The next step is to confirm the secret backup phrase and you can’t continue until you pick the right order of the words. If you make an error, just click the back button to give it another try. Once completed your MetaMask wallet is ready for use. The MetaMask extension is always be available in your browser’s toolbar. Click the icon and you will see your wallet, in the image below I’ve added red letters to each section of the MetaMask wallet followed up with brief descriptions.
- Networks: Choose between the main Ethereum network and other test networks.
- My Accounts: The circle is your account in use. If you click it, you will have the option to make or import other accounts. You also have the option to connect your Ledger or Trezor hardware wallet. This is also where you find the settings. The settings have a security and privacy tab, where you can get your seed phrase if you should lose it. You will need your MetaMask password to get it though.
- Menu: This is where you can add ERC-20 tokens to your wallet and see the balance of each added token.
- Copy your account wallet address to clipboard.
- Account options: Expand view to browser. Account details lets you rename the account and link to account on etherscan.
- Your wallet balance in ETH.
- Deposit ETH.
- Send ETH.
- Your wallet history.
Using your MetaMask wallet
With MetaMask installed and setup you are ready to get some ETH into the wallet. Click the “DEPOSIT” button and you will get several options to load ETH into your wallet.
The first option is if you already have ETH stored in another wallet or an exchange, then you can simply make a transfer by copying the account wallet address and send right to it.
The remaining options are links to other sites, where you can buy ETH with your credit card or convert other cryptocurrencies to ETH and have it sent straight to your wallet.
With some fresh ETH in your wallet you now have the option to send it to another wallet. Click the “SEND” button and you will have to fill in the following:
From which address should the ETH be sent from; this field is preselected with the account you are viewing. If you have several accounts, then be sure you have selected the right one.
The recipient address is the account you wish to transfer ETH to. Be sure to double check this address because it’s not possible to get your ETH back if you get this wrong. I always check a few of the first and last digits in the address. If you have more than one account, you can click the dropdown option to select another or pick an address you’ve sent to previously.
Next up is the amount you wish to transfer. Type in your desired amount, but keep in mind some of the ETH will be spend on a transaction fee.
The transaction fee determines how fast the ETH will arrive to the recipient address. The default is “Average” and it’s always worked out well for me.
If you wish to send all your ETH, then pick the desired transaction fee first and click the “MAX”. I don’t have any ETH in this wallet since it’s only made for this guide. But the “Insufficient funds” will be replaced by the “MAX”.
In the “Advanced Options” you can set your own price for the fee.
With all that done you are ready to click “NEXT” and confirm what you have selected is correct. The transaction will be sent to the Ethereum blockchain and will show in your history. From the history you can follow the transaction on etherscan.
Adding ERC-20 tokens to MetaMask
With a freshly installed MetaMask wallet you will only see ETH displayed. To display an ERC-20 token in your MetaMask wallet, you will have to add them yourselves. There is a ton of ERC-20 tokens and it make sense not to show them all.
To add a token, you need to click the “Menu” button and near the bottom you will see “ADD TOKEN”, click the link and you’ll have the option to use “SEARCH” or “CUSTOM TOKEN”. I haven’t had much luck with the search function, so I always add tokens by using the custom token function.
The only information you need to make this work is the “Token Contract Address”. In picture A below, I wanted to add FunFair to my wallet. If you don’t know the contract address then go to etherscan and make your search for the desired token, be sure to pick the right one, since you often will get more options to choose from.
In the profile summary on etherscan you should copy the contract and paste it into you MetaMask, the rest will be filled automatically. Click “NEXT” and the token will be added. As seen in image B, I now have access to both FunFair and ETH. To switch between the two, you click “Menu” and you select the one you want.
When you select to use an ERC-20 token you only have the option to “SEND”, the “DEPOSIT” option is not available. This is because you can receive any ERC-20 token with just the wallet address, it’s the same for any token on the Ethereum blockchain. You gain access to the tokens by adding them manually. You don’t need to have the token added to your MetaMask to receive ERC-20 tokens, only when you want to send them away.
One thing to keep in mind when using ERC-20 tokens, is that the transaction fee is paid in ETH, not the token you are sending. For this reason, I suggest you never drain you ETH account if you have ERC-20 tokens in the wallet. If you do, then you will have to move ETH back into the wallet to send the tokens.
Using MetaMask with Ethereum DApps
MetaMask is in my opinion a must have wallet for interacting with DApps because it’s so simple. When viewing a website with a DApp, your MetaMask wallet can be used to login and connect with the DApp. In other words, your MetaMask wallet will serve as your account. On top of that, each account you have in your MetaMask wallet will serve as a different account on the DApp, so be sure to use the right one if you have multiple accounts setup in your MetaMask.
Logging in is very simple, MetaMask will pop up with a notification for a “Connect Request” with your active account. This is followed up by a “Signature Request” which you must sign to get access. Be sure to read the details of the request, in case there is any and only sign if you agree.
How secure is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a hot wallet, which is considered the most insecure cryptocurrency wallet. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, only that you need to be careful when doing so. The main risk with a hot wallet is phishing attacks, meaning hackers are trying to steal your user info such as passwords and usernames.
To stay clear of these phishing attacks it’s recommended that you don’t interact with suspicious pop-ups or emails. This is common practice for internet security and you should keep that in mind when you are using a web-wallet. Always download from the official website and always login to your MetaMask by using your tool bar. Also remind yourself to use the latest updates for your computer, browser, and MetaMask to stay secure.
The pop up from MetaMask when interacting with a DApp is safe and works a secure interface for handling transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.
Because of the reduced security of a hot wallet, you should never use it as a main storage place for your cryptocurrency holdings. The intended use case for a web-wallet like MetaMask is to interact with DApps, active trading or purchasing. It’s recommended to only store small amounts of cryptocurrencies here. Your main wallet should always be a cold wallet.