What is a non-custodial wallet?

A non-custodial wallet like MEW gives you full control of your crypto

Katya Michaels avatar
Written by Katya Michaels
Updated over a week ago


We often emphasize that MEW is a non-custodial wallet, but what does this mean for our users and how does it make MEW different from other crypto management options out there?

‘Non-custodial’ means that MEW does not have custody of your crypto assets: we don’t hold them on accounts or servers, we don’t have access to users’ wallets, and we can’t move any of your coins for any reason. In short, we don’t have your crypto – you do, with complete autonomy over how you want to use it. Your coins live on the blockchain. MEW provides you with a secure and convenient way of generating and holding your own wallet keys, which in turn allow you to manage your coins, use DeFi instruments, mint and sell NFTs, and do everything else the Ethereum ecosystem allows.

Many familiar solutions for buying and holding crypto – including Robinhood, Coinbase, Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, and Binance – are ‘custodial’. This means they do all the account management on the back end, and have control over all crypto purchases, deposits, and withdrawals. This is similar to the way traditional banks operate. When you buy crypto, the platform displays your balance in the app, but you don’t receive your wallet keys, so you are at the mercy of the custodial institution when it comes to getting your coins out or selling them. Your displayed balances are an ‘IOU’ from the platform, but how the crypto is actually held is not known to the users. At best, funds are stored in highly secure offline wallets which require signatures from multiple keyholders, but there have been examples in crypto history where an ‘exchange’ was just a couple of guys with a Ledger.

When you use a non-custodial wallet, you are exercising self-custody. This means only you have control over your assets, and you don’t need anyone’s permission or clearance to do what you want with those assets. In the crypto community this is also referred to as ‘being your own bank’ and ‘not your keys, not your crypto’. Crucially, with self-custody, you are also the only one responsible for the safety of your wallet keys, and no one can restore them for you if you lose them (remember that MEW never has access to any of your wallet information).

We encourage you to learn more about the ways non-custodial crypto wallets are different from a bank, some things to keep in mind when choosing a custodial or non-custodial mobile app, and best practices to avoid phishing, scams, and loss of funds.

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