Now that you have a wallet set up, what can you do with it?
Once you have an Ethereum address, you can start receiving ETH and tokens. Copy your public address only (it starts with 0x and has 40 more alpha-numeric characters, like this: 0x29cAbc05c5F105ca8d8c9460Dd56bce697Fd826a) and give to people so they can send you crypto.
There is no harm in receiving free token airdrops, although most of them are obscure and will not have any real market value for a long time, if ever. An incoming token can’t give your wallet a ‘virus’, but if someone says ‘send me 2 ETH, and I’ll send you back 20 ETH’ – it’s a scam. No one ever gives away valuable currency.
For anything besides receiving funds, you will need some ETH in your wallet to pay for gas. You don’t need a lot – 0.01 ETH is usually enough to cover at least 2-3 transactions, probably more (check Eth Gas Station for the current rates). One way to get ETH is to buy it with a credit card through an exchange. You can do this with MEW wallet app via Wyre or Simplex, on MEW web via the Simplex exchange, or on other exchanges like Coinbase.
Take note that when you do this, you will have to go through the KYC (Know Your Customer) procedure which will essentially connect your Ethereum wallet to your real identity. That doesn’t mean that your wallet service or anyone on the blockchain will know your name when they see your Ethereum address – they won’t. But it does mean that your government and bank can know your cryptocurrency history, if they choose to take interest and investigate.
There is an alternative way of getting ETH: receiving it from another user (a friend, a client, an employer paying for services, for example)
Believe it or not, there are even ETH ATMs which will take cash and deposit ETH into a provided address. For now, these are not widely available, and their reliability is not well-established. It’s something to consider though, if you don’t want to provide a lot of personal information for the purchase.
Of course, ETH can also be mined, but that requires sophisticated blockchain knowledge and equipment. It is not a very practical way of obtaining the currency for a beginner, but you are more than welcome to do the research and see if it’s something that you are willing to try!
Use blockchain explorers
Regardless of which wallet interface you are using, if you are ever in doubt about your balance or unsure about the status of a transaction, there is one source of blockchain truth you can always turn to – the blockchain explorer. Wallet interfaces may have errors that prevent seeing correct balances, or they may fail to show the most recent transaction details. The block explorer will always have that information up to date.
At the moment, the most popular explorer for Ethereum is Etherscan. Put simply, it’s an application that shows all activity on the blockchain. If you put your public address in the search field, you can view your ETH and token balances, as well as the full transaction history. You can also explore token prices, average gas fees, latest block information, transaction volume, miner rewards, and lots of other data. Learning to use the block explorer is very helpful for navigating the crypto space with confidence.
Buy or swap tokens
Frequently, people come into crypto after being inspired by a particular blockchain project and deciding to invest in it. Good news! Most of the time, the tokens of such projects are in the ERC-20 format, based on Ethereum.
Sometimes projects distribute tokens for free (airdrop them), in which case all you need to do is provide your public address. If the tokens have market value, you can use an exchange to swap ETH for the token of your choice.
If you are using a custodial wallet like Coinbase, your funds are probably already on the exchange, so you just have to check which tokens are supported. MEW is a non-custodial wallet, but it is partnered with the exchanges Simplex, Kyber, Bity, and Changelly, which can be used within the interface. When you use non-custodial wallets that do not integrate any exchanges, or you need to swap a token not supported by any integrated exchanges, you will have to move your funds to a wallet on the exchange first, conduct the swap there, and then move the swapped coins back to your non-custodial wallet.
Swaps are not limited to ETH and tokens. You can even swap ETH for Bitcoin, or vice versa, but keep in mind that Bitcoin can’t be sent to your Ethereum wallet – they are different blockchains, and you’ll have a different wallet for Bitcoin.