What Is a Crypto Airdrop?
What Is a Crypto Airdrop?

What Is a Crypto Airdrop?

Published Feb 11, 2022Updated Sep 1, 2022


Crypto airdrop is a marketing strategy adopted by crypto startups to promote the project and their new token. It involves distributing their native cryptocurrency to current or potential users' for free. Sometimes, users have to complete simple promotional activities before they can claim, such as following the project's social media account and sharing their posts.

There are different types of airdrops, and each crypto project has its own requirements. But most airdrops share the same goal: increase awareness and overall interest in the project. Some are done directly into users' wallets, while others require a manual claim.

Anyone with a cryptocurrency wallet can receive or claim an airdrop, but you should always be careful with scammers. There are many fraudulent airdrops that can steal your wallet funds when you claim or transfer the free tokens. Make sure to confirm the legitimacy of the project before claiming an airdrop. You should be particularly careful when it requires you to connect your wallet to an airdrop website.


With the ever-growing number of new coins, it's difficult for crypto investors and traders to keep track of all the new projects. As such, some crypto projects offer airdrops as a way to stand out and increase awareness. While everyone loves free crypto, airdrops are not always legit. Let's see how they work and what you can do to protect yourself against airdrop scams.

What is a crypto airdrop?

A crypto airdrop refers to the transfer of digital assets from a crypto project to multiple wallets. The idea is to distribute coins or tokens to current or potential users to increase awareness of the project. These tokens are given out for free, but some airdrops require users to perform certain tasks before claiming. Crypto airdrops became popular during the initial coin offering (ICO) boom of 2017, but are still used as a marketing strategy by many crypto projects today.

How do crypto airdrops work?

There are different types of crypto airdrops, but they usually consist of a small amount of cryptocurrency being distributed to several wallets (usually on Ethereum or BNB Smart Chain). Although less common, there are also projects that giveaway NFTs instead of regular crypto.

Some projects will do the distribution without asking for anything, while others will ask you to perform certain tasks before claiming. These tasks often include following social media accounts, subscribing to a newsletter, or holding a minimum amount of coins in your wallet. However, you are not always guaranteed to get the airdropped tokens.

In some cases, the airdrops are given only to wallets that interacted with the project's platform before a certain date. 1INCH and Uniswap are popular examples that used this method to support early adopters. But unlike common airdrops, those were worth thousands of dollars.

Why do crypto projects perform airdrops?

As mentioned, blockchain projects give out free tokens in an attempt to gain wider adoption and grow their network. A higher number of holders is often seen as a positive metric, which also makes the project more decentralized in terms of token ownership. Crypto airdrops also motivate recipients to use and promote the project. This can help cultivate an initial user base before the project lists on crypto exchanges.

On the other hand, airdrops might also give a false impression of growth. So, it's important to consider other factors when evaluating adoption. For example, if hundreds of thousands of addresses are holding a certain token, but no one is really using it, then the project is either a scam or simply failed to captivate the community.

Are crypto airdrop and ICO the same thing?

Crypto airdrops and ICOs are different concepts, even though they both involve new cryptocurrency projects. While airdrops don't require any investment from participants, an ICO is a method of crowdfunding.

In an ICO, the project team conducts a token sale to collect funds from investors. ICOs started to become popular in 2014, when Ethereum performed a crowdfunding event to support its development. In 2017, the crypto space had an ICO boom, with hundreds of new projects adopting the method. If you want to learn more about ICOs, check out What Is an ICO (Initial Coin Offering)?

Types of airdrop

As we've seen, there are different ways to conduct a cryptocurrency airdrop. Apart from the standard airdrop that simply transfers crypto to several wallets, we have a few other types. Common examples include bounty, exclusive, and holder airdrops.

Bounty airdrop

A bounty airdrop requires users to complete certain tasks, such as sharing a post about the project on Twitter, joining the project's official Telegram, or creating a post and tagging a few friends on Instagram. To claim a bounty airdrop, you'll likely be asked to fill out a form with your wallet address and provide proof that you completed the tasks.

Exclusive airdrop

An exclusive airdrop only sends crypto to designated wallets. Typically, the recipients have an established history with the project, such as being an active community member or an early supporter of the project.

In September 2020, decentralized exchange (DEX) Uniswap airdropped 400 UNI to every wallet that had interacted with their protocol before a certain date. The governance token gives holders the right to vote on decisions related to the project's development in the future.


Holder airdrop

Holder airdrops distribute free tokens to those that hold a certain amount of digital currencies in their wallet. The project team usually takes a snapshot of users' crypto holdings on a specific date and time. If the wallet balance meets the minimum requirement, recipients can claim free tokens according to their holdings at the time of the snapshot.

Many new projects airdrop tokens to bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), or BSC wallet holders, as they have the largest communities in the space. For example, Stellar Lumens (XLM) airdropped 3 billion XLM to BTC holders in 2016, and the airdrop was exclusive to users in the Bitcoin network.

How to claim an airdrop?

As mentioned, the process will vary from project to project. But the most important thing you need for claiming an airdrop is a cryptocurrency wallet. MetaMask is a popular and easy to use crypto wallet. After that, you can check if your wallet received free tokens. If not, you will likely have to interact with a website to claim the airdrop.

How to avoid airdrop scams?

It can be challenging to tell whether an airdrop is legit or a scam. You should always DYOR before signing up for any airdrop, especially when you need to connect your wallet to a website. Sometimes, scammers will airdrop tokens into several wallets, but when you try to transfer these tokens to a crypto exchange or another wallet, you will have your wallet drained out.

In other cases, scammers will announce a fake airdrop that leads to a phishing website. They will trick you into connecting your wallet into a website that looks very similar to the original one. As soon as you connect your wallet and sign a transaction, you will have other tokens taken out of your wallet. This often happens with fake Twitter and Telegram accounts that look very similar to the official ones.

Some airdrop scams include asking you to send crypto to an unknown wallet address to unlock your free tokens in return. Legitimate airdrops will never ask for your funds or seed phrase. Be careful with airdrop emails or direct messages.

To avoid being scammed, make sure to look into the project's official website and social media channels. Bookmark the official links and double check if they are really doing an airdrop event. If you don't know anything about the project, you should do extra research to find out what the crypto community is saying. If you can't find enough information, it's probably better to just ignore the airdrop. 

For extra protection, you can set up a new wallet and new email address dedicated to receiving airdrops only. This can ensure that the funds in your personal wallet are safe from airdrop-related phishing attempts. And most importantly, never share your private keys with anyone.

Closing thoughts

Crypto airdrops allow crypto projects to stand out and gain traction in the crypto space. It can also be a good way for crypto enthusiasts to grow their portfolio with up-and-coming tokens. However, there are likely more scam airdrops than legitimate ones around, so be careful and make sure to do your own research before participating.