Online Platforms and Wallets
Once you’ve bought Bitcoin on a cryptocurrency exchange or other online platform it is advisable to transfer it to your own wallet.
If the currency has low value then you could take a chance and leave it online, but there are three risks to be aware of:
- The exchange could collapse (it has happened before, e.g. Mt Gox).
- You can’t get access to your currency as fast as you need it (e.g. to sell in a falling market). Currently Poloniex can take 24 hours for a withdrawal to go through, Bitfinex 12 hours.
- The exchange gets hacked and a third party withdraws your Bitcoin.
Here we’ll cover the process of moving your Bitcoin from an online platform to your own wallet. It will be similar on most platforms and wallets – here we’ll assume:
Bitcoin has been purchased on Coinbase and is sitting in your Coinbase account as described in How to Buy Your First Bitcoin on Coinbase.
You want to move it to your personal Electrum wallet, created as described in How to Make a Bitcoin Wallet.
Receiving in Electrum
Start Electrum and select File -> Open and choose the wallet you created previously. Enter the password you recorded at the time:
Electrum will open the wallet and the History tab will show all transactions so far – none in this case:
Each wallet owns a series of Bitcoin addresses where coins can be deposited. Select the Receive tab to show the first address available in your wallet, listed as Receiving Address.
[A quick detour into addresses: Note the subject of addresses is quite a complex one that we don’t need to go into here – just be aware that most wallets will manage a series of addresses for you. For example, many wallets will use a different address for every transaction for enhanced security. Also, since a sending address may contain more Bitcoin than is sent from it the ‘change’ may get sent to a third address. You don’t need to worry about this, you just rely on using the addresses the wallet suggests. If you want to see the addresses that are being managed ‘under the bonnet’ have a look at the Addresses tab to see the various Receiving and Change addresses handled by your wallet.]
Copy this address to the clipboard: you can either select it and copy or click on the Copy icon at its right-hand end. Enter a Description, e.g. ‘Initial transfer from Coinbase‘. With that done we are ready to receive Bitcoin to the copied address in this wallet.
Note that the sending platform is in control of the transaction, Coinbase in our example. It doesn’t matter how much Bitcoin you want to receive, you’ll only receive what is sent – so the other items here (e.g. Request amount) are irrelevant for our purpose. By all means click Save to record your description of this transaction, but otherwise it isn’t necessary.
Sending from Coinbase
Go to Coinbase and login to your account. Click on Accounts. This should show the Bitcoin you bought previously.
Click on the Send button under BTC Wallet. to bring up the Send BTC screen. On the day I wrote this it had a message about delays in sending Bitcoin – you may or may not get that.
Paste the address copied from your Electrum wallet into the Recipient box. Check that Withdraw From shows the BTC Wallet. Under Amount click in the BTC box – this will bring up a Send Max button. Click on this to transfer out all your Bitcoin in this account (the fee is shown at the bottom). Add a Note such as ‘Transfer to my Electrum wallet‘. Press Continue.
Next you’ll see a Confirm Send screen. Check that all the fields are correct. You may need to enter an SMS code depending on your account settings.
Press Confirm. You should then get a brief confirmation message saying the transaction is going through. Go back to the Dashboard and you should see the transaction is listed under Recent Activity as Pending.
Now you have to wait. You may get an email confirmation from Coinbase that it is going through.
A transfer can take from minutes to hours depending on how busy the network is and how much Coinbase spent on fees to transfer the money (they probably default to a low fee). A transaction has to be confirmed by a number of different nodes on the blockchain and these transactions will come through one by one. If you click on the transaction in the Coinbase you can see how many Confirmations have gone through.
The first sign that the transfer is definitely happening may be seen in Electrum on the History tab. With luck this will show the transaction as it is confirmed, with the Description that you entered above and saved.
If you double-click on the transaction you can see the confirmations counting up.
As the confirmations come in the ‘Unconfirmed’ message changes to a clock face that fills in segments and goes from red to green.
When the transaction is complete it will show a green tick (you can see the details on the Addresses and Coins tabs and by double-clicking the transaction line):
It will also be shown in Coinbase as no longer pending (and if you double-click it there under Recent Activity it will be marked Completed).
It’s done. Your Bitcoin has been successfully transferred from your Coinbase account to your private Electrum Wallet. There it can only be transferred out using your private seed or password, otherwise there is no way for anyone to access it.