Electrum vs. Coinbase [2021]: Which Crypto Wallet is Right for You?

When you’re ready to store some crypto, here’s how to choose the right fit for you between Electrum vs. Coinbase wallets.
Last updated Sep 22, 2021 | By Miranda Marquit | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Electrum vs. Coinbase

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When you start buying, selling, trading, or investing in cryptocurrencies, you need a place to store your tokens. A good cryptocurrency wallet can help you keep track of your coins and ensure they are relatively safe. But the world of blockchain and open-source technology can be a bit daunting to explore, even if you're just picking a wallet.

Two popular crypto wallets are those offered by Electrum and Coinbase. If you’re trying to decide which to get, here’s what you need to know about Electrum vs. Coinbase.

In this article

Electrum vs. Coinbase

Electrum Bitcoin Wallet Coinbase Wallet
Platforms supported Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and an interactive Python shell iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Chrome extension
Pricing Free Free
Supported cryptocurrencies Bitcoin Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Chainlink, Litecoin, U.S. Dollar Coin, NFTs, and more
Integrations Bitamp and Bitcoin Aave, Coinbase (and Coinbase Custody), Compound, DeFi Saver, Hotswap, and more
Who it’s best for Advanced crypto users focused on Bitcoin Beginners interested in the ability to manage digital assets on different exchanges, including NFTs
Visit Electrum Visit Coinbase

How does Electrum work?

Electrum is a Bitcoin wallet mainly designed to protect those who use it from losing their coins in the event of a computer failure or a mistake. It’s primarily a hardware wallet, accessed via a desktop operating system. Electrum was founded in 2011 by Thomas Voetglin.

One of the things that makes Electrum attractive is that it’s possible to recover your wallet with the help of a secret phrase you can learn by heart or write down on paper. You can recover your wallet later with the phrase rather than losing all your Bitcoin because you forgot something or a mistake was made.

On top of that, Electrum is a Bitcoin client that allows you to split your signatures between various wallets. It can also provide you with a wallet that is considered watching-only, which means you don’t have to worry about keeping your private keys online. Finally, it’s possible to export your private keys for use with other Bitcoin clients.

For users focused mainly on Bitcoin, Electrum can be a good choice because it has a lot of flexibility. It’s important to note, though, that Electrum is a Bitcoin client, and you can only use it with Bitcoin.

How does Coinbase Wallet work?

Coinbase was founded as a cryptocurrency exchange in 2012. Its co-founder, Brian Armstrong, is the company’s CEO. Coinbase is a public-traded company, available on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol COIN. Coinbase offers a mobile wallet, and it can be accessed via desktop as a browser extension.

When investing money in cryptocurrencies, integration with an exchange can be very helpful. Coinbase offers a wallet that supports more than 500 digital assets, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs). With the Coinbase wallet, it’s possible to connect to other cryptocurrency exchanges and trade coins that way — even though not all the coins are available for trade on Coinbase’s main cryptocurrency exchange.

One of the benefits of the Coinbase wallet is that you can easily connect it to your Coinbase account. There’s a Chrome extension you can use to connect on your desktop computer as well. Your Coinbase wallet can also connect to NFT makers, and it supports major cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Tether (USDT), and more.

Coinbase will let you send coins between Coinbase wallets for free, so if you send a coin from one Coinbase wallet to another, you might be able to avoid some fees.

Coinbase Benefits

  • Buy and sell popular digital currencies
  • Invest over time by scheduling buys daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Apps for Android and iOS

What both cryptocurrency wallets excel at

Both of these cryptocurrency wallets offer an easy way to store cryptocurrency tokens and could help you get started learning how to buy cryptocurrency. Both also offer two-factor authentication and follow best practices when it comes to their security features.

Additionally, it’s possible to see their fees before making a transaction within the wallet. Electrum has the edge when it comes to fee control, but both wallets will try to give you an accurate view of fees (including miner’s fees) before you finish a transaction.

4 important differences between Electrum and Coinbase

1. Supported cryptocurrency tokens

First, it’s important to note that Electrum is a Bitcoin client. It’s designed exclusively for Bitcoin. So while it does a great job of helping you transact and store Bitcoin, it won’t support other digital assets.

On the other hand, the Coinbase wallet is designed to help you store and manage more than 500 digital assets, including cryptocurrencies not on the Coinbase exchange. On top of that, you don’t need a Coinbase account to use the Coinbase wallet.

That said, Coinbase can be a good crypto exchange for beginners, and if you’re just starting out, you might want to check out our Coinbase review for more info.

2. Available platforms

When looking at Electrum vs. Coinbase, you have to consider the user interfaces where each wallet is available and how you prefer to operate.

Electrum is focused more on the desktop, allowing you access if you have Windows or Mac, and also allowing you to download the wallet to your Linux device. Electrum also provides an interactive Python console for more advanced users. Electrum is compatible with Android. However, even though you can download Electrum for Mac, it isn’t available for iOS devices like the iPhone or iPad.

The Coinbase wallet, on the other hand, focuses more on mobile devices. You can download the wallet for use on your Android device from the Google Play store or use it on an iOS device after downloading it from the Apple store. The way to access the Coinbase wallet for desktop is to get it as a Chrome extension.

3. Non-fungible tokens

On top of allowing you to trade and store hundreds of cryptocurrency tokens, the Coinbase wallet is set up to allow you to receive, store, and even display NFTs. For example, I connected my Coinbase wallet to OpenSea and can access the NFTs I buy or create using my Coinbase wallet.

This is a functionality that Electrum doesn’t have because it’s solely based on Bitcoin.

4. Integrations

You can only use Electrum with a few other wallets, such as Bitcoin and Bitamp, as well as COLDCARD.

Coinbase’s wallet, on the other hand, has 30 different integrations and is compatible with NFT marketplaces like Rarible and OpenSea, as well as offering decentralized finance (DeFi) integrations with Zerion, DEFIYIELD, and DeFi Saver. You can also use the Coinbase wallet with HotSwap.

Plus, the fact you can access the Coinbase wallet as a Chrome extension and connect it to your Coinbase account makes it easy to use if you’re looking to create a simple situation for the purchase and storage of coins.

Which crypto wallet should you choose?

Picking a crypto wallet can feel challenging. You can pick from a paper wallet, software wallet, or online wallet and from cold storage to a hot wallet depending on the features and level of security you're after.

When deciding between Electrum vs. Coinbase, it’s important to consider what’s likely to work best for you personally when it comes to a crypto wallet. Some of the items to keep in mind as you consider a wallet include:

  • Supported operating systems. Figure out if the crypto wallet is designed to work on the operating systems you have. If you want a mobile wallet, you need to find something that works well on Android or iOS. On the other hand, you might prefer a desktop wallet that works with Windows, Mac, or Linux. In some cases, you might be stuck looking for a wallet with a browser extension if you want access to your wallet via desktop.
  • Supported digital assets. When choosing a wallet, consider which currencies you plan to buy and store. Some wallets support a wide variety of cryptocurrency tokens, while others are more specialized and might only support a few tokens — or even only one.
  • Fee control. Pay attention to how wallets manage their transaction fees. While many software-based wallets are free to download, you might have to pay fees when you send assets from one wallet to another. These might include miner’s fees, as well as gas fees or network usage fees. A good wallet will let you know ahead of time how much you might expect to pay.
  • Recovery process. How easy would it be to get access to this particular wallet if your computer or phone crashed? Consider how a wallet handles the recovery of your digital assets in the event of an unexpected problem.

In the end, both Electrum and Coinbase could be good choices, depending on your goals. For the most part, Electrum is ideal for those who focus on Bitcoin and want to be able to speed up their Bitcoin transactions. It’s also a good choice for those who prefer desktop solutions and like using operating systems, like Linux, that are beyond Windows and Mac.

Coinbase Wallet is more likely to work well for those who want access to a wider variety of digital assets. Not only can you buy and store crypto tokens using the Coinbase wallet, but it’s also possible to easily store NFTs. Coinbase is also focused on mobile apps, although you can use a Chrome browser extension to access your Coinbase wallet via desktop.

You don’t necessarily have to choose between Electrum vs. Coinbase. You can use both. However, you might need to set up a specific system since Electrum isn’t directly integrated with Coinbase. Instead, you might use Electrum for Bitcoin-specific transactions and use Coinbase when you’re storing other tokens.

FAQs

Is Electrum a good wallet?

Electrum is a fine wallet for those interested in storing Bitcoin and using it in transactions. Electrum is very good for fee control, providing you with a way to compare fees for completing transactions now versus later. It also has features that more advanced users, especially Bitcoin users, might like.

Does Electrum work with Coinbase?

Electrum doesn’t directly integrate with Coinbase, but it’s still possible to send and receive Bitcoin, just as you would send the token between other wallets and addresses. Simply open your Coinbase account and use the “Send/Request” button. You will see a place where you can add the Bitcoin wallet address. You just have to enter your Electrum wallet address and then send your tokens. Note, however, that this only works with Bitcoin. You can’t send other tokens or altcoins to your Electrum wallet from Coinbase.

Is Coinbase Wallet expensive?

The Coinbase wallet is free to download. It’s also free to send tokens between Coinbase wallets. However, if you’re completing different transactions, you’ll be charged a fee. You might be charged based on miner’s fees and networking fees, so pay attention. For the most part, you’ll see the expected fee before you complete the transaction.

Can Coinbase Wallet be hacked?

Yes, as with any crypto wallet, it’s possible for a Coinbase Wallet to be hacked if someone knows your private keys. Additionally, if you have a Coinbase account, it could be hacked. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention and secure your account if you know it’s been compromised.


Bottom line

Choosing your first crypto wallet or even just a new wallet can be tough. However, when choosing between Electrum vs. Coinbase, it’s mostly a question of what you plan to use the wallet for.

If you primarily deal in Bitcoin and you want a wallet that makes it relatively easy and cheap to engage in Bitcoin transactions, Electrum could be a good choice. If you want more compatibility and the ability to buy, sell, trade, and store a greater variety of digital assets, the Coinbase wallet could make more sense.

If you're unsure of whether to proceed with Electrum or Coinbase, take a look at our list of best cryptocurrency exchanges to get an idea of what might be more compatible with the wallet you’re considering.

Coinbase Benefits

  • Buy and sell popular digital currencies
  • Invest over time by scheduling buys daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Apps for Android and iOS

Author Details

Miranda Marquit Miranda Marquit has been covering money for more than a decade and is a nationally-recognized financial expert and journalist, appearing on CNBC, NPR, Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, FOX Business, and numerous other outlets.