What is a Self-Custody Bitcoin Wallet?

General Wallet Use

15 min

One of the first things Bitcoin holders learn is that they need a wallet to store their BTC. And often, deciphering the different crypto wallet options can be confusing. But it's crucial to understand the best ways to safeguard your digital assets.

There are custodial, non-custodial, and self-custodial wallets. Each type of crypto wallet has its use, but they also have different vulnerabilities. Let’s talk about self-custody and why it’s important for the ecosystem.

Custodial vs. Non-custodial Bitcoin Wallets

Custodial and non-custodial wallets are very different when it comes to security, privacy, and usability.

Custodial wallets rely on a third party like a crypto exchange to manage your private keys. This makes them very user-friendly, but highly vulnerable to security breaches, data collection, and even confiscation. Crypto exchanges like Coinbase and Binance are examples of custodial wallets.

Non-custodial wallets give your full control over your private keys. This increases security and privacy. The drawback is that non-custodial wallets often require more effort or technical knowledge. MetaMask and Trust Wallet are examples of non-custodial wallets.

One of the most well-known phrases in crypto is “not your keys, not your crypto.” This refers to the security dangers of storing BTC and other blockchain assets in a custodial wallet. But each type of crypto wallet has its uses and benefits.

Benefits of Custodial Wallets

  • Ease of Use — Custodial wallets are designed with simplicity in mind, making them user-friendly for beginners.

  • Convenience — Setting up and using custodial wallets is often straightforward and users don’t need to secure their private keys.

  • Account Recovery — Many custodial wallet providers have wallet support and account recovery options, allowing users to regain access to their wallets if it’s lost.

Benefits of Non-Custodial Wallets:

  • Full Control — Non-custodial wallets provide users with complete control over their private keys, emphasizing ownership and autonomy.

  • Enhanced Security — With non-custodial wallets, blockchain assets are stored on the user's device, reducing the risk of external breaches.

  • Privacy — Non-custodial wallets offer more privacy because they do not collect data on users' financial transactions and holdings.

  • Decentralization — Non-custodial wallets align with the core principles of decentralization in the cryptocurrency world.

While each type of wallet has benefits, they have trade-offs as well. Custodial wallets post higher security risks. And while there’s a lower risk of a user losing their private keys, assets are at the mercy of the custodian.

Likewise, non-custodial wallets have complications. They are often more difficult to understand and set up. Users also have no way to recover their assets if they lose their private keys or get hacked.

Setting up a Custodial Wallet vs. a Non-Custodial Wallet

Custodial wallets usually have a straightforward setup process. It’s simple to create an account on your chosen platform — although you’ll need to provide some personal information. From there, it can be as easy as depositing funds into your wallet with a credit card or ACH transfer.

Non-custodial wallets require different setup steps. Instead of creating an account with a third party, you can simply download the wallet of your choice. During setup, the wallet generates private keys, which you are solely responsible for protecting and remembering. Adding funds to a non-custodial wallet usually requires transferring cryptocurrency from an external source like a custodial wallet.

Many crypto and BTC holders use a custodial wallet to buy cryptocurrencies on an exchange and then immediately transfer the assets to a non-custodial wallet.

What Does Self-Custody Mean?

"Self-custody" refers to the concept of users holding their own assets. Instead of letting a third party manage security and storage for digital assets, users maintain self-custody. Think of it like cash versus the bank. In the case of cash, you possess your own dollars. When you deposit money in the bank, the bank has custody of your money.

The principle of self-custody has also been important in new ecosystems like DeFi and Web3. Decentralized finance cannot be truly decentralized with third-parties having custody of user assets, and Web3 emerged as a movement to give users custody and control over all their digital information, not just crypto.

Is There a Difference Between Non-Custodial and Self-Custody?

Non-custodial and self-custody are very similar. In fact, they’re often used interchangeably. However, non-custodial wallets, or "self-hosted" wallets, give users control over their private keys, but the keys may still be generated and stored by a third-party wallet provider during the setup process. While users maintain control, they may not have the same level of absolute independence that self-custody provides.

Self-custody takes the concept of control a step further. Self-custodial wallets allow users to generate and manage private keys entirely on their own, without reliance on any third party. This approach epitomizes the spirit of decentralization and security. Self-custody is often considered the gold standard for those who value complete autonomy and security managing their cryptocurrencies.

Why are Self-Custody Bitcoin Wallets Like Leather Important?

Self-custodial wallets are critical if the crypto community wants to avoid fiascos like the hack of Mt. Gox back in the early days of Bitcoin. In addition, data privacy and security are becoming more important by the day. Soon, ownership and self-custody will be critical for all digital information, not just cryptocurrencies.

When people own their own information, NFTs, and crypto tokens, they are truly free. This was one of the key, founding concepts of crypto. Bitcoin was created to empower individuals, create financial inclusion, and provide unprecedented banking access to the world.

Bitcoiners believe everyone should have the freedom to decide how they want to use and manage their own money. Everyone should be able to hold, send and receive their money however they want. This allows self-reliance, decentralization, and ensures users can always transact and store Bitcoin without the need for intermediaries.


Leather is a Bitcoin wallet that embodies the principles of self-custody and decentralization. This is critical at a time when custody concerns have not died down. The crypto community learned a valuable lesson from early crypto exchange hacks, but more recent events have driven the lesson home again.

All Bitcoin and crypto holders that value security and autonomy should have a self-custody wallet like Leather.

Connect to web3 applications built on Bitcoin with the Leather browser extension. Install Leather – the only wallet you need to tap into the multilayered Bitcoin economy – today.