I don't understand the point of a Watch Only Wallet. I've seen posts that state these wallets don’t contain any private keys, which means they can’t be used to spend coins they receive. In which case how do you use the coins in the wallet.

In other posts however I see references to using a private key to send coins. In which case how are these then different from a standard wallet and private key?

4 Answers 4


A "watch-only" wallet is used in the context of "cold storage". Cold storage means that the private key for spending is not online, but offline somewhere (a USB key, a printed QR code etc) which is obviously much safer from online attacks (although not without their own risks). A watch-only wallet allows you to watch what happens to those cold storage bitcoins without exposing the private keys to the online world.

The references you mention are very likely describing how the offline private key can never the less be used to sign an online transaction.


A Watch Only cryptocurrency wallet is a wallet that does not have a private key – you will not be able to send any cryptocurrency from it, cause it is designed specifically for monitoring purposes. The wallets of this type allow viewing the balance and monitoring transactional activity. I believe that watch only addresses are a handy addition to the cryptocurrency management ecosystem. It is easy to create such a wallet and it can save you some time monitoring the assets. Personally, I use Guarda Wallet (Guarda.co) for Watch Only functionality, but there may be some other wallets that support it.


One of the reasons that watch-only addresses were added is when you want to check a balance of a certain address with only the help of you local full node. You would think that the node can provide this instantly (getbalance command) but it cannot. Getting the balance of a specific address (not belonging to your wallet) out of a node requires external programming and some serious time. So as a solution they added watch only so you could monitor you balance. Do not forget that when adding those addresses, the node needs to rescan (which will take some time)


Actually, a lot of exchanges and wallets are using Cold Storage. At first, it is easier to have control over large amounts of users and transactions. That's why there is a Memo for Steem and Destination Tag for XRP. That makes a differentiation between the users easier.

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