Playing the Merge: How to Get Free Money From Ethereum’s PoS Upgrade
- A coalition of developers and miners plan to fork the Ethereum blockchain after the Merge.
- Doing so will create a new Proof-of-Work chain that will match users ETH balances with an equal amount of a new coin called ETHW.
- ETHW will likely hold some value and can be sold on centralized exchanges that support its trading.
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After Ethereum is forked, addresses holding ETH will receive an equal amount of ETHW on the forked blockchain.
Preparing for the Merge
Ethereum is switching to Proof-of-Stake, but miners are planning a Proof-of-Work fork.
A group of anonymous developers supported by many large Ethereum miners is expected to hard fork the Ethereum blockchain after next week’s Merge, keeping a version of the network running on the current Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism while the main blockchain transitions to Proof-of-Stake (PoS).
The fork, commonly referred to as ETHPoW, will share the same transaction history as the main Ethereum network but start creating its own blocks after the Merge update goes live. Because the PoW fork starts from the Ethereum network’s pre-Merge state, all token balances and smart contracts will also be carried over. This means that everyone holding ETH on-chain will end up having an equal balance of ETHW on the forked ETHPoW chain. ETHW will be native only to the PoW fork and represent an entirely different asset than the original ETH on Ethereum.
For many Ethereum believers, the planned PoW fork is of little interest as an investment. Virtually all DeFi, NFT, and network infrastructure protocols have publicly announced that they will support the PoS chain, leaving the PoW fork in a tough spot. Upon its launch, decentralized exchanges on the fork will likely cease to function, and centralized stablecoins like USDC and USDT will be worthless, potentially causing mass liquidations and breaking many DeFi protocols.
Despite the PoW fork having to start from square one, there is one token that will likely hold some value—ETHW. Like the 2016 DAO hack fork that created Ethereum Classic, the PoW fork could also have some loyal supporters who continue to develop it, creating demand for its token. Conversely, those who don’t believe the fork will go anywhere may want to sell their ETHW tokens after the Merge to pocket some extra gains. But what’s the best way to ensure you receive your ETHW? Which exchanges plan to support the Ethereum PoW fork? Read on to make sure you make the most of the Merge and PoW fork.
The simplest way to play the Merge is by depositing ETH onto a centralized exchange that has announced it will support the PoW fork. The list below is not exhaustive but covers the main exchanges that have put out statements:
- Poloniex has already listed an ETHW placeholder token and will list and support trading for the ETHW fork when it launches, including crediting users’ accounts with ETHW at a 1:1 ratio with the amount of ETH they hold.
- Binance, MEXC Global, and Gate.io will all support an ETH PoW fork and also plan to credit users’ accounts with ETHW at a 1:1 ratio with ETH.
- OKX will list and support trading for an ETHW fork.
- BitMEX has launched ETHPOWZ22—a USDT-margined ETHPoW Linear Futures Contract.
- Coinbase, FTX, and Kraken have said they will review an ETH PoW fork like any other asset and list it for trading if appropriate.
Currently, it appears that Poloniex, Binance, MEXC Global, and Gate.io are the most certain to give users their equivalent ETHW after the Merge. Out of these, Binance will likely have the largest market as it is currently the top centralized exchange by trading volume.
However, those unable or unwilling to deposit their ETH onto one of these exchanges ahead of the Merge have another option. Holding ETH in a non-custodial Ethereum wallet guarantees that your address will receive ETHW on the new PoW fork.
A non-custodial wallet should be the quickest way to access your ETHW after the Merge. While users on centralized exchanges may need to wait hours or even days for their ETHW to hit their accounts, taking control of your ETH funds is the surest way to guarantee you will have access to your PoW fork coins.
However, the trade-off is that accessing the new PoW chain requires some technical knowledge and could expose users to risk. Those taking this approach will need to add the PoW network to their EVM wallet once it launches. In MetaMask, you can do this by clicking on the network at the top of the browser extension and selecting “Add Network.” You will then need to input the ETH PoW chain’s name, RPC URL, and Chain ID (these details will be announced after the PoW chain launches). The process is relatively simple, similar to adding RPCs for other Ethereum-compatible chains like Polygon or Avalanche.
Another consideration for those planning to self-custody their ETH ahead of the Merge is consolidation. If your ETH is locked in a smart contract, sitting on a Layer 2 chain, or staked through a protocol like Lido, it won’t be matched with ETHW on the PoW chain. To maximize the amount of ETHW you receive, it’s a good idea to convert your assets into normal ETH and hold it in your wallet in the leadup to the Merge.
Although using a non-custodial wallet makes certain you will receive PoW fork coins, the limiting factor will be finding a marketplace to sell them on after the Merge. Since all tokens on the forked chain except ETHW will almost certainly be worthless, using decentralized exchanges is out of the question. Those wanting to cash out will still need to wait for a centralized exchange to open ETHW deposits.
To ensure you’re prepared, consider setting up accounts on the various exchanges that will support ETHW in advance. That way, those who want to can transfer over their ETHW at the earliest opportunity, potentially selling it for a higher price.
Finally, it’s essential to understand the risks associated with the Merge and any new PoW forks. One frequently mentioned danger is that if an Ethereum fork launches with the same Chain ID as the main PoS chain, transactions could get “relayed.” This is where transactions signed on a forked chain could be validated on the main Ethereum PoS chain, allowing for new scams that potentially drain users’ wallets.
While such scams are possible, it is doubtful that the PoW fork will launch with the same Chain ID. However, unscrupulous individuals may try to launch other forks designed to steal users’ PoS ETH. Be very careful before signing transactions on any ETH fork; if in doubt, don’t do anything. It’s better to miss out on a few hundred dollars than to lose your entire stack of ETH.
The latest estimates project that the Merge will occur between September 13th and 14th. If you’re planning to send ETH to a centralized exchange or your own wallet, make sure to do so well ahead of time. Most exchanges plan to halt ETH transactions a few hours before the Merge to ensure no user funds are lost, so don’t leave things to the last minute.
Whether you’re sticking to exchanges or planning to self-custody your ETH, double-check everything before sending transactions and stay safe.
Disclosure: At the time of writing this piece, the author owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.