If you’re just getting started with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in general, you’re probably also aware of digital wallets — computerized services or software that allow you to make electronic transactions using your preferred cryptocurrency. However, given that the technology is still in its growing phase, there are still many areas of uncertainty that can deter new users. For example, is there a limit to how much bitcoin a wallet can keep?
Bitcoin wallets don’t have any limits, so you can store any amount you want in yours. However, this isn’t advisable for safety reasons. If you own substantial amounts of a cryptocurrency, it’s better to keep it in separate wallets to ensure you won’t lose all your digital assets in case of theft.
In the following sections, I’ll explain why and how bitcoin wallets have no limits. I will also answer any related questions that you might have regarding the topic, like how these wallets work and what are the types you can choose from.
Why Bitcoin Wallets Have No Limits
In general, you should have no problems storing as many Bitcoins as you want in your digital wallet. There’s actually a lower limit to the amount that can be stored, which is 0.00000001 Bitcoins, but when it comes to an upper limit, there simply isn’t one.
The reason why there’s no limit to Bitcoin wallets is that a digital wallet is technically a place where you store your private key, not your Bitcoins. It contains a decimal value that shows your balance, but it doesn’t hold actual currency. Therefore, the amount that you’re able to store in a wallet is indefinite.
In short, your Bitcoin wallet is merely a key that you use to sign your transactions. It should be unlimited unless there’s a specific code that puts certain restrictions. This happens when your wallet is custodial, and the company holding the wallet decides on a particular ceiling to the number of Bitcoins you can store. I’ll explain more on custodial wallets below.
The 21 Million Limit
There’s a technical limit to the number of Bitcoins that can be “stored” in your digital wallet, which is 21 million Bitcoins. I will explain why this specific number exists and why. Nevertheless, it means that there’s no actual limit to your Bitcoin wallet.
The inventor of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, decided that the total amount of Bitcoin mined will be 21 million. This was to control inflation. So in total, this is the number of bitcoins that can exist in the world at any given time. This would mean that technically, the maximum amount of Bitcoin you can keep in your wallet would be 21 million (provided you owned every Bitcoin circulating in the world).
However, when calculating this technical limit, it’s important to keep in mind the way Bitcoins are issued. The number of Bitcoins issued decreases by half every four years, give or take. There are more than 18 million Bitcoins mined as of February 2022, but the remaining Bitcoins won’t be mined until 2140.
Additionally, it’s nearly impossible that all 21 million Bitcoins will ever be mined. This is thanks to the bit-shift operators that the cryptocurrency’s network uses. They basically round down on Bitcoin block rewards, which means that the maximum number might never reach 21 million.
Finally, even if all 21 million Bitcoins were mined by 2140, you can imagine that a single investor owning all of them would be near-impossible. In short, even though there is a theoretical limit to Bitcoin wallets, it’s impossible to ever reach it in practice.
How Bitcoin Wallets Work
Digital wallets, unlike physical wallets, aren’t used to store actual currency. It would be more accurate to compare them to a bank card; you use them for transactions. You say you “have money in your card,” but the actual money isn’t stored there.
Still, no comparison does this technology justice, as the nature of cryptocurrency is very different compared to its traditional counterpart. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are digital, which means they don’t have a physical form and can’t be stored anywhere, like a safe or a vault inside a bank.
Their existence is only recorded in transactions registered on the blockchain. Technically, you don’t own the actual Bitcoins. Rather, you own keys to access and use them for transactions.
So what do you need a Bitcoin wallet for?
Bitcoin wallets keep track of all the Bitcoins you own and contain the keys and digital signature that enable you to access and use them. You need a digital wallet if you want to “own” and use Bitcoin for transactions.
Every wallet has its own unique digital ID or public key, which is basically an address to your wallet. This individual ID is visible to the general public, as it’s a piece of information required for the completion of any Bitcoin transfer either from or to you. Likewise, if you want to spend your Bitcoin, you’ll need to know the address of the receiver in order to make the transfer.
Although the address is public, it doesn’t require any personal data, meaning you can remain anonymous. However, in today’s market, there are some forms of technology available that can be able to trace your IP through your public key.
Apart from the public key, you also need to have a private key to make transactions. The private key is a long sequence of numbers that’s combined with its public counterpart to provide a digital signature that’ll enable Bitcoin transactions. Both keys are necessary for you to freely use your Bitcoin.
As you might have guessed, the private key is supposed to be kept private. In fact, the element of secrecy is highly essential as it ensures the safety of your wallet. If you lose it, you’ll lose all the Bitcoins in your wallet, and there’s no practical way of getting them back.
Types of Bitcoin Wallets
When choosing a digital wallet, there are several options, all with varying degrees of security. It’s crucial to learn about all your possible alternatives in order to make an informed choice. Your options are:
- Custodial wallets: A third party holds the Bitcoins for you in their wallet. It’s the default option for storage. It’s one of the most popular alternatives as it doesn’t require much effort on your part, and you don’t have to worry about losing it. However, you depend on the security of another company.
- Cold wallets: Offline hardware devices that you connect to your computer. They only connect to the internet when you need to use your Bitcoins for transactions. This is the safest option and an excellent choice, especially for larger amounts of cryptocurrency. However, they aren’t as convenient for transactions because they take time to connect.
- Hot wallets: Apps on your mobile device or your desktop. They can also be web-based, which means you access them through a browser. They’re another excellent choice because they give you full control of your cryptocurrency, are easy to use, and usually free. A major disadvantage is that by being online, they can be prone to hacking.
- Physical wallets: String your keys in a printout. This means that you store the keys (a string of characters and QR codes) on a piece of paper. They’re very secure and free, but on the other hand, much more inconvenient.
Your Bitcoin wallet is what stores the keys to accessing and using your Bitcoins for transactions. There’s no actual limit to it because it’s simply a value that shows the amount of Bitcoin you hold and doesn’t actually store any currency.
There are different types of wallets available for use, all varying in levels of security and convenience.
- BitFlyer: Satoshi
- BuiltIn: What Is Blockchain Technology? How Does It Work?
- Coinbase: Where is my crypto wallet address?
- Coinbase: Coinbase Sign In
- The Wall Street Journal: Who Is Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto? What We Know And Don’t Know.
- Investopedia: What Happens To Bitcoin After All 21 Million Are Mined?
- Stack Overflow: Language Agnostic: What are bitwise shift (bit-shift) operators and how do they work?
- Investopedia: Block Reward Definition
- The Motley Fool: How To Safely Store Cryptocurrency