Public and Private Keys

All cryptocurrency wallets have public and private keys. When you generate a wallet through one of a number of merchants you use the public key to send/receive coins and the private key is used to access the wallet/public key.

With a number of wallets, a private key isn’t the only way to access one’s wallet. There are client-side JSON files that are encrypted with a password, or encrypted through a series of random words (generally 12-24). It’s important that you understand the nuances of each wallet.

The word combinations themselves control the private keys. For example, Ledger uses a 24 word key phrase and has dozens of wallets through it with their own keys, so it’s more complicated. In fact, to know how each thing works in the technical sense involves a ton of crypto-coding skills that are out of scope for this site.

One thing that’s admittedly scary about online wallets is that, even though there is the promise of online security and ease of use, the reality is that the online wallets own/store the private keys and in theory can pick up and run the next day. For this reason alone it may be worthwhile to learn your own wallet generation and store the pertinent wallets somewhere very safe.