Interacting with Ethereum smart contracts in JavaScript

Logan Bonsignore
3 min readJun 18, 2021

This tutorial demonstrates how to get the balance of an ERC20 token using Web3.js. It’s an introduction to the fundamentals of interacting with Ethereum smart contracts in JavaScript.

Connect to Web3

To interact with the Ethereum blockchain we use the Web3 library. Web3 acts as an interpreter and SDK for the Ethereum node we are connecting to. Since we are using pure JavaScript, we will link the CDN in the head of our HTML document.

We also use JavaScript’s D3 library in this tutorial.

Next we need to to connect our code to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This is done by connecting to a node on the Ethereum network. If you are developing locally the Web3 library enables you to connect via localhost.

If you plan to deploy your application you will need to connect via HTTPS or WebSockets. Infura is a fantastic free service you can use to connect to an Ethereum node. From Infura’s homepage create a new project to receive your connection url.

Interacting with smart contracts

In order to find the balance of our token we need to invoke the balanceOf() function in our token’s smart contract. This is done through the Application Binary Interface (ABI). An ABI is necessary so that you can specify which function in the contract to invoke. There could be several functions in a contract. You can hard-code the ABI of the function(s) you wish to invoke or you can call the Etherscan API to receive a complete ABI object for a given smart contract address. We will use the Etherscan API in this tutorial.

Create an account on Etherscan to obtain an API key. The Etherscan ABI endpoint requires you to provide the smart contract address of the token you are interacting with and your Etherscan API key.

Using JavaScript’s D3 library to call the Etherscan API

Now that we have the smart contact’s ABI, we can use it to create a Contract object with Web3. This object allows us to interact with the Ethereum smart contract through our JavaScript code. We pass the ABI in JSON format as our first argument along with the smart contract address of the token we will find the balance of.

To obtain the ERC20 token balance we use the balanceOf() method in our Contract object. This invokes the smart contract’s balanceOf() function and returns the result.

You now have your token balance! But the value returned will not account for the token’s decimal format. For example, the Chainlink token ($LINK) has 18 decimals. For an Ethereum wallet that contains 50 LINK tokens, the above call will return 50000000000000000000.

To transform this balance into a human-friendly format we can use the Contract object to find the number of decimal places used by our token.

Now that we know the wallet’s token balance and the number of decimal places used by our token we can normalize our balance with the slice() method.

In final, our code should look like this.


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