What is MetaMask and how do you use it?
MetaMask is a web extension that you can install on Google Chrome, Brave, or other Chromium-based browsers that supports Chrome extensions that provide you with your own non-custodial Web 3 wallet.
It allows you to interact with DeFi applications by approving transactions, swapping tokens, depositing funds, and much more.
An essential facet to understand here is that Metamask is a non-custodial wallet – this means the responsibility of storing your crypto is 100% on you!
This is similar to the mantra often used in the blockchain industry to “be your own bank.”
Conversely, most of us are used to having things done by a third party, such as using an exchange to purchase cryptocurrency.
This is more appealing to most people as they don’t have to worry about private key security – the only thing to remember here is your username and password, which can even be reset with your email on the account.
However, by trusting a third party with your cryptocurrencies, you are exposed to the risk of losing your cryptocurrencies through mismanagement or hacks.
There have been numerous incidents of exchanges that were exploited, resulting in the loss of users’ funds. The prime example being Mt. Gox, which lost a whopping 850,000 bitcoin worth over $450 million in 2014 – imagine the value of that amount of Bitcoins today!
By using a self-custody wallet, you are not reliant on any external party and only yourself to ensure that your cryptocurrencies are safe.
However, by using a non-custodial wallet, you are fully responsible on security to yourself, and you have practice proper operational security to store your private keys/seed phrase safely.
A great way to exponentially improve security is to use a hardware wallet along with Metamask, check out our guide on the best hardware wallets here.
Visit https://metamask.io/ – make sure this is the correct link, there are a ton of fake Metamask extensions out there!
Click on the ‘Download Now’ button, which will prompt you to select your OS, and then redirect you to the Chrome Extension store.
Install Metamask using the Chrome Web Store and you’ll be prompted to set up Metamask on your browser.
Metamask is also available as an app on both iOS and Android (with similar steps to set up), but we’d recommend using it only on a computer for security reasons.
On the following Menu, select ‘Create a Wallet’.
You’ll then be asked if you want to share data with Metamask or not, which doesn’t really matter. After that, you’ll be asked to create your password.
Note that this password is for you to log in to Metamask on your device only – to import your Metamask across different devices, you’ll have to use your seed phrase, which we’ll cover later.
For now, set a password for your account, and make sure to store this securely – the best way to do this is to write it down on a piece of paper or notebook.
Next, you’ll be asked to write down your Secret Backup Phrase, or formerly known as Seed Phrase.
This is automatically generated by Metamask, and is extremely important!
Please only write this down on a piece of paper, and not store this anywhere on your computer, your phone or any electronic device connected to the Internet for security reasons.
Anyone that has this Secret Phrase and Import it into Metamask and essentially take control of your funds!
Click on the Lock icon to reveal the Secret Words, and write this down on a notebook or piece of paper – and store that securely!
With that, you’re done! You now have your ETH address, and your Metamask is ready to go.
You can copy your address at any time by clicking on the ‘Account’ section. You’ll need to send yourself some ETH from your exchange to start using DeFi applications.
Start using Metamask
Now that you have Metamask installed, it’s time to get your feet wet in the world of DeFi!
One important thing to note here is that Metamask is compatible with multiple EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) blockchains, which means you can not only use it on the main Ethereum Mainnet, you can also use it on other chains such as Binance Smart Chain, Fantom, Matic, Harmony, and much more!
Each chain has its own pros and cons, and some projects might only be exclusive to a certain chain. You can connect with these alternative chains right on your Metamask by setting up a custom RPC.
For example, if you want use DeFi apps on BSC (Binance Smart Chain), simply search for instructions on setting up the BSC custom RPC on your Metamask – this is simple and usually just involves copying some links and entering a Chain ID, which most of the side chains will have easy-to-understand documentation to guide you through.
With that said, no matter which blockchain you choose to use with Metamask, you’ll most likely need to pay gas fees for each transaction you make.
Gas refers to the fee required to facilitate a transaction or execute contracts on the blockchain. Gas is denominated in the native cryptocurrency of the blockchain you’re using.
You pay for gas in ETH on the Ethereum blockchain.
If you’re using BSC, you pay for gas using BNB instead.
The exact price of the gas is determined by the complexity of the transaction you want to execute, as well as the demand for processing power from miners.,
If the network is congested, miners will not process your transaction if the gas price does not meet their threshold.
A good way to think about gas is the cost to cut the queue to get your transactions processed faster. As the network gets congested or busy, such as during a market crash or pump, these fees can get extremely expensive, as many users are simultaneously rushing to transact on the blockchain.
Whenever you perform a transaction, you will be prompted by Metamask to approve the transaction and pay the required fees. Metamask does a pretty good job at estimating the gas fees and gives you the option to pay different prices for gas, depending on how fast you want your transaction to be completed.
Under Advanced Options, you can also manually set the gas prices you’re willing to pay if you want to fine-tune things by yourself.
Do note that gas prices can be extremely volatile, so if you choose the Slow or Average setting, you run the risk of having your transaction taking very long to complete or straight up getting rejected.
So what happens if you have a transaction that’s stuck? This could happen if you’ve set a gas limit or gas price that is too low. Each transaction requires a certain amount of gas to be executed, and if your gas price is too low, then it will not be processed. Complex transactions also require more gas to complete, so there is a chance that the gas you’ve agreed to pay for might not be sufficient to complete it.
In this case, you can try your luck with submitting a transaction with a higher gas fee, using the Speed Up button on Metamask. Conversely, you can also choose to try to cancel transactions if you change your mind. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that speeding up or canceling transactions will work.
The rule of thumb? Whenever you plan to make a transaction, especially on the Ethereum network, take gas costs into account! This makes a lot of low-value transactions entirely worthless, as your gas costs can easily take a huge chunk out of your profitability of a trade or farm you’re entering or whatever you choose to do with DeFi.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Metamask and how to get started.
With Metamask, you can now explore the amazing world of DeFi and experience the future of finance!
Want to learn how you could start using DeFi? Check out our full beginner’s guide to DeFi and our guide on how to yield farm as a beginner!
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.