How to Safely Claim Any Cryptocurrency Fork

A Summary of Best Practices for Cryptocurrency Forks and Airdrops

Here is a simple version of how to ensure you qualify for every cryptocurrency fork and airdrop and claim every fork and airdrop safely. For more details, see our page on how to get coins from cryptocurrency forks.

Summary: To qualify for a fork or airdrop, have your coins in a wallet where you control your private keys before the snapshot block. Then for an airdrop you may have to configure your wallet for the new token, and for a fork you have to move your funds to a new address and then export your private key from the old address into the forked coin’s wallet (please download wallets endorsed by the coin developers only). Keep scrolling for more details and best practices for claiming forks, airdrops, and other giveaways. Or, learn about forks and learn about airdrops.

Best Practices for Qualifying For and Claiming a Fork

Super simple version of “best practices” for claiming forked coins from a cryptocurrency fork:

  1. Be in a wallet where you control your private keys before the snapshot block.
  2. Move your funds to a new address after the snapshot, but retain your private key for the old address.
  3. Download the new wallet once it is live.
  4. Import your private key from the address you had crypto on before the fork to the new forked coin’s wallet.

Being in a third party wallet or exchange: Sometimes third party wallets and exchanges will support forks, sometimes they won’t. If you are on an exchange or third party wallet that supports the fork, make sure to follow their directions and not the above steps! That said, if you want to ensure you get each fork, you must be in control of your private keys.

Not every fork produces new coins: Some hard forks, like Ethereum’s Constantinople, just update a network. Users don’t have to do anything more than update their software if they run a node with non-contentious forks like Constantinople. Only forks that are supposed to result in a new tradable asset like Bitcoin Cash need to be claimed. Thus, only forks like Bitcoin Cash require the best practices noted above to be followed.

Download the blockchain: You’ll need to let the blockchain download before you can see your balances.

Move every token: Move all your funds after a fork, and never move them back. The private key associated with your old wallet now only has one use, claiming the new forked coin. If you are dealing with a wallet like an Ethereum wallet, don’t forget to move ALL your tokens! You need to move ALL your funds… not just your ETH.

Malware: Some forks are scams, and almost every major fork will have malware wallets launched along side of it by malicious developers preying on confused users.

Replay protection: To ensure the safety of your forked coins, don’t move your funds after the fork until it is confirmed that the developers of the forked coin have implemented “replay protection.” In short, without replay protection, coins moved on one chain can end up being moved on the other. With that said, there are ways to protect yourself even if the developer hasn’t implemented replay protection, but they are technical, and in cases risky, to try to implement. If you are unsure how to protect yourself from replay attacks, you may simply want to avoid sending your coins between wallets until the dust settles and replay protection has been confirmed. Learn more about replay protection.

If you are unsure, do nothing: If you are unsure about anything, it is probably best to do nothing. There is no rush to claim a forked coin, if you are in for the snapshot, you own the coin on the new blockchain forever.

Best Practices for Qualifying For and Claiming an Airdrop

Super simple version of claiming coins from an airdrop (or other type of giveaway) from any coin on a network like Ethereum, EOS, or Tron where a single wallet address can hold many different tokens (this works regardless of why an airdrop/giveaway is happening):

  1. Be in a wallet where you control your private keys before the snapshot block of an event (to send out an airdrop, a snapshot of the ledger must be taken).
  2. Configure wallet to show the new token.

That is all there is to it, but to really follow best practices and know every detail, you should at read the rest of the information below.

Not Every Wallet Honors Airdrops: Not every wallet honors airdrops. If you don’t control your own keys, in most cases you won’t get airdropped coins. It is just like forks in this case, some airdrops will be honored by third party exchanges and wallets, but as a rule of thumb most won’t be. Always follow the exchange or wallet’s directions if you are going to keep your coins on their platforms.

Detailed Information on Forks and Airdrops

Airdrops at most require you to configure a wallet for a new token, there isn’t much risk in that.

The only note I would make on airdrops is that in general you should never need to download a new wallet for airdrops, so if you are being asked to, make sure to research and understand what exactly is going on and if it is actually an airdrop.

Thus there isn’t much in the way of best practices for claiming an airdrop.See our airdrops page for more information.

Below is some more detailed information on best practices for claiming forks.

A fork when you control your private keys:

  1. Have crypto in a wallet address where you are in control of your private keys before the fork.
  2. Wait for the snapshot to occur (check the official site, Twitter, and GitHub for updates on the snapshot block height; if no block height is given, be in by the time given). You can move your crypto at any time after the snapshot block has been added to the chain.
  3. Wait for the main network to go live and the new coin’s wallet to go live (check the official site, Twitter, and GitHub for updates).
  4. Download the latest version of the official wallet, generally from the official GitHub (TIP: grab the exe. for PC and the .dmg for mac). IMPORTANT: You should always use the official GitHub to find the official wallet of a coin to be safe, and you should never use a website you don’t know (especially one you found on social media or an internet forum; there is a very high chance a wallet you find on social media or some internet forum will be malware).
  5. Open the wallet and wait for the new wallet to sync to the blockchain.
  6. Move your funds out of your old wallet addresses if you haven’t already. So, for example with BTC, you would create a new BTC address and send your BTC  to that address. The goal here is to have a zero (or near zero) balance on the address you had coins on before the snapshot so you can safely claim your forked coin with the corresponding private key. As, if something goes wrong, you only lose your forked coin and not your existing coins if your wallet is empty.
  7. Import your private key from your old (and now empty) wallet to the new forked coin’s wallet. That generally means copying your private key in your old wallet and then importing your private key to your new wallet.

Doing that should result in you having balances of the new coin in proportion to the old coin in a address for the new coin, where you now own the private keys of the new coin. From here you can do anything you want with the new coin.

TIP: You should no longer use your original wallet address after this, do keep your keys, but never put funds in it again. Likewise, you can move your coins to a new address in the forked coin’s wallet by creating a new address in the wallet and sending your forked coins to that address. This results in the private keys used to claim for the fork now being associated with no funds, this means if somehow your private key got compromised in the process of claiming the fork, there is nothing anyone can do with it.

TIP: You can wait to claim a coin. I almost always wait because new software tends to be wonky. However, sometimes selling a forked asset on the initial pump is a good move. If you are going to sell, you’ll have to brave the 1.0 versions of the wallet software. If you are going to HODL, consider waiting until everything is stable.

A fork when you don’t control your private keys:

  1. Check the official site, Twitter, and/or GitHub for information on which if any exchanges/platforms will honor the fork.
  2. Check the official site and/or Twitter of the exchange/platform honoring the fork to understand your requirements.
  3. Keep the correct crypto on the exchange/platform at the correct time (it may be well before the snapshot or well after).
  4. Wait for the exchange platform to credit you for the forked coin.

As you can see, it is much simpler to have an exchange or platform do the heavy lifting for you. However, exchanges and platforms can be fickle. If you want access to your forked asset right away, and if you want to ensure you get it no matter what, it is almost always best be in control of your private keys.

Token swaps: There are also token swaps when coins migrate to a new chain. See KIN token swap as an example. This is a completely different style of creating a new coin, here you are swapping an old token for a new one, not getting additional tokens. With that said, in some cases a token swap may be handled with an airdrop or fork (and then the old chain might be discontinued).

Author: Thomas DeMichele

Thomas DeMichele has been working in the cryptocurrency information space since 2015 when was created. He has contributed to MakerDAO, Alpha Bot (the number one crypto bot on Discord),...