One day, I woke up to new magical internet monies sitting in my online wallet:
These are coins I’ve never bought. How did this happen?
I soon learned that what I received was an “airdrop” – free cryptocurrency just for having the right crypto wallet open.
At the time of this writing, I’ve received about $100 worth of crypto from passive (didn’t do nothin’) to active (mildly headache-inducing) strategies. If you like free money, I’ll walk you through the easiest ways to earn free cryptocurrency.
These methods, in order of easy to difficult, are:
- Earn free crypto by joining a trusted crypto exchange
- Set up online wallets
- Earn interest on your crypto
When I first wrote this article, I included sections on Earn crypto from airdrops
Explore crypto faucets (no longer recommend)
Or if you’re impatient, jump to the end for the best-bang-for-your-effort options.
Method 1: Earn free crypto by a trusted crypto exchange
After 5 years in crypto, I’ve explored crypto exchanges that range from trusted giants to small, shady operations. After the crypto winter of 2017, only a few legitimate players weathered the storm.
Some crypto exchanges provide a sign up bonus for members who sign up through their friends’ referral links. You can get $10 for signing up with two exchanges I’ve used for the past 5 years with no issues:
Coinbase (referral link)
Coinbase is the trusted giant of crypto trading. Their interface is by far the easiest to use, and makes getting into crypto easy. You can get $10 in Bitcoin for free just by signing up with my referral link.
I also recommend Coinbase as the #1 exchange because they will pay you crypto for learning about crypto. All this entails is watching some easy videos and answering quiz questions to earn upwards of $100 across different cryptocurrencies.
What’s neat about Coinbase is that if you buy USDC, their native stablecoin, you can earn interest (1.25% as of this writing) on your USDC balance.
Gemini (referral link)
Gemini is a close twin (heh) to Coinbase. It has the reputation of being by far the most compliant crypto exchange, going as far as to provide free insurance on crypto storage. I find that I’m able to get deposits & withdrawals in way faster than Coinbase, so I keep both around.
It’s like keeping two bank accounts – Chase and Bank of America – in the crypto world. It’s not bad to have a second option.
You can earn $10 in free crypto through my referral link here.
Method 2: Get free crypto with online wallets
A cryptocurrency airdrop is when a blockchain platform distributes free coins. To receive airdrops, you need a wallet associated with that blockchain.
(Technically, you’d already have a crypto hotwallet using a crypto exchange like Coinbase or Gemini. However, large exchanges tend to be slow to permit airdrops or sometimes don’t have that capability at all.)
New crypto projects can leverage an existing blockchain platform like Ethereum to create tokens. Specifically, these ethereum-based coins are called ERC-20 (“Ethereum Request for Comment”) tokens. When the popular ERC-20 token OMG launched, as part of their promotion they airdropped OMG to anyone with an Ethereum Wallet.
Two caveats with this:
- You’ll have to have some non-zero balance of the main crypto (e.g. Ether) in your wallet to receive airdropped tokens (e.g. OMG token).
- An independent wallet with private keys that you own (e.g. not at an crypto exchange) is necessary for this to work.
In addition to airdrops, having wallets with the major blockchains is handy whenever there’s a software fork – when a clone of the blockchain is created.
When Bitcoin Cash forked from the main Bitcoin blockchain, everyone with a proper wallet received a 1:1 equivalent of Bitcoin Cash according to how much Bitcoin they already owned (e.g. 1 BCH for 1 BTC).
This is why it’s important to move any Bitcoins you have from an exchange to your own web wallet; exchanges like Coinbase are great for buying crypto with dollars, but terrible for holding. It’s up to exchanges if they want to release coins from forks or airdrops to their users.
So what kind of wallet should you open up? Where and how?
Pro tip: go to CoinMarketCap and filter for “Coins,” then set up the official wallet for that coin:
You’ll notice that even when you filter for coins, there are hundreds of independent blockchains, and setting up individual wallets for each one is impractical. You can also explore this shortlist of blockchain platforms.
Here’s the simple option with minimal effort: just open up a MyEtherWallet (“MEW”). The majority of new tokens are built off of Ethereum, and MEW is the most popular and supported Ethereum web wallet which will maximize the chances of getting free crypto airdrops.
Just to summarize, here’s the low hanging fruit option:
- Open a MyEtherWallet account
- Transfer any quantity of Ether, e.g. 0.01 ETH from Coinbase into MEW
- Wait for airdrops!
^ Note that you can repeat similar steps with other blockchain platforms like NEO and Stellar
Method 3: Earn interest on your crypto holdings
Effort level: medium to high
Blockfi (referral link)
The crypto / fintech market has matured enough such that there’s now a variety expanded financial products. One of these new class of products are crypto saving accounts that pay relatively high interest. Blockfi current pays up to 8.6% APY, which is insane compared to the measly 1% or less you’d get at a traditional bank account.
I’ve been using Blockfi for more than a year and it’s one of the strongest players in the game. Because of their relatively high APY, I’ve stuck with them instead of competitors like MyConstant or Celsius Network.
How it works:
- Sign up for Blockfi
- Deposit crypto into Blockfi
- Your crypto earns interest automatically
It’s that easy. Blockfi’s interest rates vary across crypto, e.g. 4.6% for Ether and 6% for BTC. I use it mainly to earn interest on the stablecoin USDC, which also has the lowest withdrawal fee or a flat $0.25.
You can keep tabs on interest rates across different coins & platforms by visiting Coinmarketcap’s interest rate page.
Just for fun: earn free crypto by hunting for airdrops & bonuses
Effort level: medium to high
Note: updated this section to take out Earn.com, which has been acquired by Coinbase!
You might now be wondering why companies even do airdrops in the first place. It’s a promotional strategy to raise awareness for their new project. Many crypto teams have a specific allocation for marketing activities, and airdrops is just one part of them.
Given this context, it makes sense that many new cryptos give away coins & sign up bonuses. Sometimes it’s just a matter of signing up with your email and a wallet address.
Other promotional bonuses can be earned through effort, such as reviewing a crypto project or signing up for their Facebook.
The do-it-yourself way is to scour for upcoming airdrops on sites like AirdropAlert or Airdrops.io. Hunting for crypto bonuses & airdrops takes work, and almost requires you to be an early adopter: exploring ICOs, subscribing to newsletters, following crypto news.
Just for fun: earn free crypto with crypto faucets
Effort level: annoying, often low ROI
Crypto faucets work by distributing tiny amounts of cryptocurrencies for actions taken, usually by looking at ads, completing micro tasks or even playing games. Faucets share their advertising revenue back to the users in the form of crypto.
Big caveat: faucets require a lot of work and the ROI in terms of looking at ads for being paid small amounts of crypto many not be worth it.
With that being said, after scouring the web, these are the three most reputable faucet websites I’ve played with:
Probably the oldest and most reputable Bitcoin faucets. FreeBitcoin has been around since 2013 and has multiple features, from offering its own wallet with interest, casino/dice type games and more ways to earn (or gamble away) BTC.
One of the few reputable faucet sites with tons of options (games, ads) to earn multiple cryptos, from BTC to ETH to Dogecoin. Like many other faucets, you have to turn off your Adblocker which is annoying. A lot of other faucets also require FaucetHub account for payouts, similar to Coinpot.
The “Moon” chain of faucets are really straight forward: ads are displayed, and you can claim Satoshis (fractions of a Bitcoin) every 5 minutes. Easy peasy!
A “microwallet” service required by many faucets like Moon Bitcoin to deposit crypto earnings.
The easy 80/20 solution for most people
If you’re overwhelmed by the # of options, don’t stress. The best bang-for-your-effort option should take a total of no more than 20 minutes of setup time:
- Earn free crypto automatically by joining a trusted exchange like Coinbase or Gemini.
- Create a MyEtherWallet account.
- Wait to get free random airdrops into MEW or hunt for them using sites like Airdrops.io
- Bonus step: transfer a tiny bit of Ether, acquired from an exchange like Coinbase, into your MyEtherWallet. Some airdrops require small amounts of Ether in your wallet to receive free ERC-20 tokens; do this step as insurance to get your free cryptocurrency.
Only if you have time and patience on your hands would I bother with crypto faucets.
Oz is not a financial advisor and none of this information should be misconstrued as financial, legal or medical advice as outlined in his Terms & Conditions page.