Join the DeFi revolution. Take direct control of your ETH. Access the full universe of altcoins. The power can be in your hands. Ara’s step by step guide.
Coinbase only carries 42 cryptocurrencies? Robinhood can ban things? Should I really feel comfortable giving any of these apps a scan of my passport? I thought crypto was supposed to be decentralized!
It is. Or more correctly, it can be. You can take control of your ETH, access the full universe of Ethereum-based altcoins, and take the power into your own hands. Here’s a step-by-step guide, using our token, ARA, as an example. Follow along to see how to move ETH into decentralized wallet software (using MetaMask and Etherscan), and then turn some of it into ARA (Using Uniswap).
The TL;DR summary
- On a desktop or laptop computer, get the Chrome extension MetaMask.
- Copy your 12-word seed phrase to a sheet of paper, and keep it secret and safe.
- Copy your wallet address from MetaMask, paste it after https://etherscan.io/tokenholdings?a= to see what’s in it, and bookmark that page.
- In MetaMask, click Add Token, and paste in the ARA contract address 0xa92e7c82b11d10716ab534051b271d2f6aef7df5
- Buy ETH in MetaMask, or send some from another app to your MetaMask wallet address.
- At Uniswap’s ARA pool, click Trade, connect MetaMask, click the arrow to swap ETH to ARA, type in either amount, and click Swap. MetaMask will confirm, and show the current gas fee in ETH.
That’s it! Keep reading for details and screenshots of each step along the way.
Step 1: Get MetaMask
You’ll need a desktop or laptop computer, and the web browser Chrome. We’re going to get a Chrome extension called MetaMask, which holds ETH and Ethereum-based tokens in a completely decentralized way, and lets you use them with websites safely. Navigate Chrome to:
Click Download now, choose Chrome, and then click Install MetaMask for Chrome. You’ll end up on this page of the chrome web store, showing the extension offered by https://metamask.io and with 1,000,000+ users. Click Add to Chrome. Chrome will confirm; click Add extension.
With MetaMask installed, Chrome is navigated to a page produced by the extension itself. Click Get Started. Instead of Import wallet, choose the second option Create a Wallet.
Step 2: Secure your wallet
Choose a password, typing it twice, and click Create. (Note: This password will protect your wallet’s private key as it is stored in this copy of MetaMask. The password you choose isn’t related to your wallet as it exists on the blockchain.) The next step is far more important: your seed phrase.
Before you continue, get:
- A single sheet of lined paper
- A pen
- A hard writing surface
- The room to yourself
Seriously. You don’t want someone else looking over your shoulder for this next part.
When you’re ready, CLICK HERE TO REVEAL SECRET WORDS, and copy the twelve words down on your sheet of lined paper.
They may feel like a refrigerator magnet poem, but you should treat them more like nuclear launch codes. Don’t copy or type your seed phrase! Don’t take a screenshot! Don’t use your phone to take a picture of your computer screen! Anyone with your seed phrase can send ETH and tokens from your wallet. It’s pretty hard to figure out how many people that could be for a piece of information that’s stored digitally. Kept in a file on your computer (bad idea), what happens when a year from now, your laptop breaks, and you take it to a repair shop? If you take a picture with your phone (bad idea), what happens when your friend accidentally swipes to it after you’ve handed him your phone to show him some photos? Does your camera roll automatically upload to Dropbox, or sync with iCloud? How many other devices could it end up on? Are you sure employees of those companies can’t read your data? If ever there was a healthy time for a moment of digital paranoia, storing your crypto wallet seed phrase is the correct time.
With your seed phrase safely copied only to a sheet of paper, click Next. MetaMask will have you click the same words in order, which is pretty easy to do glancing between your screen and paper sheet. Then you’ll be able to click All Done.
MetaMask has a popup about token swapping, but you can just click X to close it. We’re going to use Uniswap directly instead.
Step 3: See what’s in your wallet
At the top of the page, click Account 1 to copy your wallet address. You’ll get a long string of letters and numbers that begin 0x.
Open a second tab in Chrome. Paste the address below into the location bar.
Right after the ?a=, paste your wallet address, starting with the 0x, and hit Enter. The Etherscan page will read the contents of the wallet from the blockchain, including both your ETH, and any other Ethereum-based tokens it holds. Right now you’re new wallet is empty, but soon it may look something like this:
Bookmark your page — It’s an easy way to check the contents of your wallet. It’s also useful as a way to get external confirmation of your balances, separate from what MetaMask, Uniswap, and other software shows.
In the example above, that wallet has 0.17 ETH, 503,900 ARA, and 2,509 UNI-V2 tokens. Soon, we’ll use Uniswap to turn ETH into ARA. Once you’ve got ETH and ARA, you can also add both to the Uniswap pool. When you do this, you’ll get UNI-V2 pool tokens, which represent your stake in the pool, and grow in value as future ETH and ARA swaps pay you Uniswap’s 0.3% fee.
Let’s take a closer look at the text in the Token Name column:
Below Ara Token, Etherscan shows ARA’s contract address, which is 0xa92E7c82B11d10716aB534051B271D2f6aEf7Df5. This address uniquely identifies ARA, showing that these tokens are true ARA tokens. It’s pretty easy for anyone to create a new token, and name it whatever they want (including using an existing name intentionally, as a scam). But, it’s not possible to duplicate a contract address. This is why it’s important to always check the contract address when working with altcoins.
Step 4: Tell MetaMask to show a token
Etherscan always shows the complete contents of a wallet, listing the ETH and all the tokens of different types. MetaMask, however, only lists your ETH, even when there are more tokens in the wallet. This can cause an unnecessary moment of panic. To see your tokens in MetaMask, you have to add their type manually, telling MetaMask the contract address, symbol name, and some other details. Let’s do this now so MetaMask will be able to show you your ARA balance.
To get back to MetaMask, open a new tab in Chrome. To the right of the address bar, click the puzzle piece icon. Beside MetaMask, click the push-pin:
This gets the MetaMask icon out of Chrome’s extensions menu, where you can click it to let it communicate with the current page. Then, click the red fox icon to open MetaMask, like this:
Now let’s tell MetaMask about ARA so it will show your balance after you swap. Click Add Token, then the Custom Token tab. In the first box, Token Contract Address, paste the contract address for ARA:
From the contract address, MetaMask should correctly fill out the Token Symbol, ARA, and 18 decimals of precision. Click Next, Add Tokens, and then click back to Account 1 in the upper left. Now MetaMask will show how much ETH you have in your wallet, and also how much ARA, like this:
Step 5: Move ETH to your wallet
There’s no request or pull in crypto wallets — instead, every transfer is a send. If a friend needs to send you some ETH or tokens, give your friend your wallet address.
When you give someone your wallet address, they can see what’s in your wallet and send it more ETH and tokens. That’s all that they can do. They can’t take anything out. (Anyone who has your seed phrase, however, is able to take all your ETH and tokens — so keep your seed phrase safe and secret!)
To use Uniswap and swap some ETH into ARA, you’ll need to get some ETH in your MetaMask wallet. There’s a Buy button right in MetaMask, which links to Wyre which you can use to move funds from a bank payment card to ETH in your wallet. Alternatively, you may have started out in crypto with an app like Coinbase or Robinhood, and have some ETH there.
Following the instructions for that app, there’s a way to send ETH to an Ethereum wallet address. Make sure you paste your MetaMask wallet address correctly! You may want to move a small amount of ETH first as a test, before moving the full amount.
Step 6: Swap ETH for ARA
Now we’re ready to get some ARA. Navigate Chrome to Uniswap’s page for ARA, which includes the ARA contract address:
In the upper right, click Trade. Uniswap will show you the ARA contract address, letting you again confirm it’s correct.
If Chrome isn’t showing the MetaMask button (in the upper right, an orange fox), click the puzzle piece and pin MetaMask so it appears. Then, on the page, click Connect to a wallet and choose MetaMask.
MetaMask will ask you for permission to talk to the Uniswap page. Keep clicking to continue through the prompts.
With MetaMask connected, Uniswap will show your balance. Click the small down arrow between the top and bottom boxes to choose whether to swap ETH for ARA, or ARA for ETH. You can type a number in the upper or lower box, and Uniswap will fill in the other box to show how many tokens are required, or how many you’ll get. When you’re ready, click Swap.
The Uniswap page will ask MetaMask to confirm your transaction. There may be several confirmations as Uniswap and MetaMask work together.
In addition to the ETH that you’ll swap for ARA, some ETH will be used for the gas fee:
Like any blockchain, Ethereum works because a large global network of computers participate in the protocol, keeping records of data in blocks, performing cryptographic functions on that data, and exchanging data with each other. Altogether, this creates a decentralized and indelible record of transactions, and prevents the same token from being spent twice. The people who run these computers aren’t doing this for free — they are rewarded automatically by the software, earning ETH. These people are called miners, and on Ethereum, the transaction cost they earn is nicknamed gas.
As of this writing in February 2021, largely due to Uniswap’s popularity, gas prices on Ethereum have become very expensive. Sending ETH from one wallet to another costs a few dollars worth of ETH, and using a Uniswap pool (a more computationally complex transaction on the blockchain) can cost $50 or more. What used to feel like a postage stamp now feels like sending something overnight air.
Why this is happening, and how prices might return to normal, is beyond the scope of this guide. Future developments in Ethereum aim to solve this problem. Even before those updates, the current situation of very expensive gas should incentivize more miners to join the blockchain, and in turn, reduce prices.
Have fun and stay safe
Moving some ETH from a centralized app to a wallet you control means you can keep it and use it outside the uncertainty of that app’s future. It also means you can access the full menu of crypto tokens, like ARA.
But it has been said, With great power, comes great responsibility. Keep your seed phrase both safe and secret. Practice resetting your wallet software and recovering it, as you would on a new phone or computer. Always check the contract address. Perform small transactions as practice before large ones. And, using this guide as the beginning and not the end, educate yourself about both the finance and technology of cryptocurrency.