What Is Cryptocurrency Airdrop and How Does It Work?

What Is a Cryptocurrency Airdrop?

A cryptocurrency airdrop is a marketing tactic where coins or tokens are distributed to wallet addresses. Typically, small amounts of new virtual currency are sent for free to active blockchain community members or in exchange for a small task, such as retweeting a post from the issuing company. The primary goal of a crypto airdrop is to increase awareness and circulation of a new token or coin.

Understanding Cryptocurrency Airdrops

A crypto airdrop is often used by blockchain startups to kickstart a virtual currency project. Its purpose is to generate interest in the cryptocurrency and encourage trading when it becomes available on an exchange as part of an initial coin offering (ICO).

Airdrops are usually advertised on the company’s website, social media, and cryptocurrency forums. Coins or tokens are sent to specific wallets based on the blockchain network or the coins already held in existing wallets.

Recipients may need to hold a minimum amount of crypto coins in their wallets to qualify for the airdrop. Alternatively, they might need to complete certain tasks, such as posting about the currency on social media, connecting with a project member, or writing a blog post.

Types of Crypto Airdrops

Standard Airdrop

In a standard airdrop, participants show their interest to receive the airdrop by providing a valid wallet address. Some standard airdrops require no additional information.

These airdrops often have a fixed number of tokens to distribute, with limits on how many tokens each person can receive. They are often time-sensitive, and it can be difficult to obtain tokens if users create multiple wallets to drain the airdrop.

Bounty Airdrop

Bounty airdrops involve users completing tasks to promote the project. Tasks may include posting on social media, tagging the company, or retweeting a tweet about the project. Referral bonuses or finder’s fees for recruiting other users, signing up for newsletters, or joining the company’s Discord channel are also common.

Users earn points for tasks, and the amount of the bounty airdrop depends on the points accumulated. A certain number of points might be required to qualify for the airdrop.

Holder Airdrop

Holder airdrops occur automatically based on existing token holdings. Blockchain’s public ledger allows transparency into wallet holdings and token distribution.

These airdrops can disadvantage those who may not want an airdrop or reward only the largest token holders. Some holder airdrops have a minimum token requirement for eligibility or prorate the airdrop amount based on token holdings.

Exclusive Airdrop

Exclusive airdrops are targeted to specific individuals based on criteria other than token holdings, such as project involvement, spending, or forum activity. These airdrops reward those closely associated with the project, regardless of their token holdings.

Raffle Airdrop

Raffle airdrops combine other types of airdrops with a lottery system. Projects may issue raffle tickets based on token holdings, points earned, or expressed interest, and randomly select wallets to receive the airdrop.

Crypto Airdrop Process

The airdrop process starts with the project or company deciding on the airdrop, which may be driven by marketing strategies, network changes, or incentives for investors. The project then selects the method and eligibility criteria for the airdrop.

For broad airdrops, a public campaign is launched to collect information, often limited to wallet addresses but sometimes including email addresses.

Other airdrops rely on snapshots, capturing wallet balances at a specific time. Recipients are then chosen based on these snapshots, and the airdrop is executed using smart contracts. The process is often publicized for transparency.

Recipients usually receive the tokens directly, though they may need to add the token to their wallet to see the balance.

Crypto Airdrop Scams

Legitimate airdrops do not require capital investment; they are purely promotional. Some scams involve sending small amounts of cryptocurrency to unsuspecting recipients, known as dusting scams.

Scammers may direct users to phishing websites to claim airdrops, prompting them to connect their wallets and provide secret phrases or keys. Other scams entice investments in specific securities with the promise of airdrops, ultimately aiming to sell at higher prices.

How to Avoid Airdrop Scams

To avoid scams, be cautious of unsolicited deposits and unfamiliar websites. Ensure external links come directly from the project and consider bookmarking frequently visited sites.

Follow projects on social media, forums, or Discord to stay informed. Create a separate wallet for airdrops to reduce risk and transfer tokens to different wallets if necessary.

Crypto Airdrops and Taxes

Tax treatment of airdrops varies by jurisdiction. In the United States, airdrops are considered income and must be reported on Federal income tax returns.

The fair market value of the airdrop is recognized as income when received. If the tokens are locked or vested, they are not taxable until tradable. Subsequent price changes result in separate capital gains or losses.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cryptocurrency Airdrops


  • Rewards early adopters and project supporters with a stake in the project
  • Raises project awareness through marketing
  • Encourages adoption and use of a new token
  • Distributes tokens widely, which may not happen naturally


  • Security risks if wallets must connect to suspicious sites
  • Potential for pump-and-dump schemes
  • May deter some investors who prefer different distribution methods
  • Tokens may lack liquidity, making them potentially worthless

Crypto Airdrops vs. Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)

Both airdrops and ICOs distribute tokens at the start of a project but differ in requirements. Airdrops are usually free, while ICOs require investments. ICOs target large investors, whereas airdrops aim to raise awareness among smaller users.

Real-World Examples

In late 2021, Gas DAO distributed tokens to individuals who paid a certain threshold of Ethereum gas fees. OpenDao airdropped tokens based on OpenSea NFT trading activity, peaking at a market cap of over $250 million before dropping to less than $11 million by September 2022.


Crypto airdrops are a marketing strategy to increase awareness and liquidity of new tokens. Although they offer potential rewards, users should be cautious of scams and understand the risks involved.

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