How To Identify A Bitcoin Address

You are ready to pay using BTC the first time and you get a Bitcoin address, but you are doubting it. How can you make sure that this is indeed a Bitcoin address?

Well, there are obvious tell tales that you should look for. Here are some of the basic characteristics of a Bitcoin address and how to distinguish them from other addresses where possible.

Why do I Need to Distinguish Bitcoin Addresses from Other Cryptocurrency Addresses?

Before we get into how a Bitcoin address looks like and why, it is helpful to understand why it is important to distinguish those from other cryptocurrency addresses. In fact, it is important to distinguish all addresses from one another, not only Bitcoin’s.

The reason why is simple. You can end up sending BTC to an address on a different blockchain. The implication of this mistake is that your funds will be irretrievably lost. That can happen with any cryptocurrency, but we are focusing only on Bitcoin addresses.

Basic Characteristics of a Bitcoin Address

There are several characteristics that will allow you to identify a Bitcoin address and avoid losing funds on a transaction to an incompatible address. The problem is that BTC addresses might not be the only ones that have these characteristics.

Since the “clone wars” there were a number of Bitcoin forks that kept some characteristics of their BTC forebearer addresses.

For example, BCH addresses used to look exactly like “legacy” Bitcoin addresses. Their format has since been changed, but there are enough Bitcoin clones out there to generate confusion.

In any case, knowing the basic characteristics of a Bitcoin Address will allow you to at least avoid sending your BTC to an Ethereum or Litecoin address for example.

Here are the basic characteristics that you should look at to confirm that the address you are transacting with is on the right blockchain:

  • Any Bitcoin address will have between 26 and 35 characters
  • Most BTC addresses have 34 characters
  • These characters are all alpha-numeric
  • They represent a number
  • To avoid confusion, Bitcoin addresses do not use upper case “O” or the letter “i” in any way or form

Other Characteristics of Bitcoin Addresses

Now that you know what the basic characteristics of a Bitcoin address are, you can immediately check and see if the address you are going to transact with meets that basic format.

But before you send the funds, you should keep the following in mind:

  • There are 3 kinds of Bitcoin addresses – P2PKH, P2SH, and Bech32
  • P2PKH addresses start with the number 1
  • P2SH – the “SegWit” / Lightning Network enabled addresses – start with the number 3
  • Bech32 – a kind of address that is less common – start with bc1 and are case insensitive

Just Before you Send Funds to a Bitcoin Address

Once you check the address you are going to send BTC to, to see if it fits the format above, there is one more safety precaution you can take to make sure your funds reach the right destination.

If possible, test the address with a smaller amount of BTC and confirm with your counterpart that they received the funds before you send the rest of it.

There are other recommendations you should consider before you send Bitcoin to an address you were given:

  • Use “copy paste” for your transaction address inputs; avoid typing addresses as much as possible
  • If you decide to type the address character by character, make sure you get every character right and in the right order
  • Make sure to use caps or lower-case letters where necessary when you are typing a P2PKH or P2SH Bitcoin address in
  • P2PKH and P2SH ARE CASE SENSITIVE!

Ready, Steady, Transact!

If you follow the recommendations above your funds are highly likely to reach their intended destination. We are particularly fond of checking the number of characters in an address and testing the address with a small amount of BTC beforehand. So far, we haven’t lost any funds on transactions, which tells us that these recommendations work.