Why is your Bitcoin transaction taking so long

transaction

Today, we will discuss why your Bitcoin transaction is stuck or taking so long.

I promise to you, that you will understand why your Bitcoin transaction is taking so long after you thoroughly read this post.

There are two common mistakes you could do when you withdraw Bitcoins from your wallet (That’s the reason why your Bitcoin transaction is taking so long).

  • Low or no transaction fees
  • Checking how busy the network is

If you just want to know how to free or unstuck your Bitcoin transactions, jump to How to free your bitcoin transaction.

#1 Low or no transaction fees

This is the most common mistake when you make a transaction. You pay to low transaction fees.

Let’s have a look at what would happen if you pay to low or no transaction fees.

First, your transaction would go to the Mempool. The Mempool is a collection of all unconfirmed transactions in the Bitcoin network. Second, the transaction waits until miners take it and include it in a block.

However, if the network is busy and there are always transactions that pay higher transaction fees, miners will include them first. Afterward, your transaction could be stuck, because miners always choose other transactions that pay higher transaction fees.

Why do miners do that?

Because they want to maximize their profits. They not only get a block reward for finding a new block, but they also get the transaction fees from all transactions they include to a block. Therefore, they will choose transactions that pay the most transaction fees.

#2 Checking how busy the network is (or knowing it)

Knowing how busy the Bitcoin network is, is a crucial part when you want to pay as few fees as possible.

daily average Bitcoin fee

(Source: billfodl.com)

As you can see, the transaction fees in 2018 skyrocketed. But why was that? Because many people used the Bitcoin network at the same time. The network couldn’t handle that many transactions and people paid more and more transaction fees so that they have to wait for less time until their transaction gets confirmed.

At some point, people paid 35 dollars for one transaction. Crazy, right?

Cryptocurrencies are meant to have low processing fees, or? Yes, but people wanted to get their transaction confirmed as fast as possible and therefore, they paid more.

Daily average bitcoin fees for the next blocks

(Source: billfodl.com)

The image above shows how much you should pay to get included in the next one, three, or six blocks. As you can see, the longer you wait, the less you have to pay.

As a conclusion, not only the amount you pay matters, how long you are willing to wait for matters too.

Okay, you are maybe thinking: “I get it, but this doesn’t help me. I already did the transaction and it is stuck now.”

Luckily, there are four solutions to unstuck your Bitcoin transaction.

Solutions – How to free your Bitcoin transaction

#1 Waiting and be patient

People nowadays are not really patient. Everything is near-instant nowadays and people can have nearly everything at the same moment as they pay. However, it needs time to verify a transaction on the blockchain.

The Bitcoin network needs around 10 minutes to mine a new block. Therefore, you have to wait at least 10 minutes until your transaction is confirmed.

However, most of the time, your transaction is not even included in the next block and you have to wait even longer. Don’t worry, if you paid normal transaction fees, you probably have to wait around 30 minutes. If you are lucky, your transaction is confirmed after 20 minutes.

This solution doesn’t cost anything. However, there are methods to speed up the process but cost a few satoshis.

#2 Double spend with higher fees

For this method, the “Replace-by-fee” protocol comes in handy. This protocol is used to unstuck your transaction, but it doesn’t always work. Not all wallets support this feature, but if it does, you can use this protocol to send a replacement transaction with higher fees.

Your transaction would be marked with “RBF allowed”, so the network knows you used this method.

So, why is this feature not supported by all wallets?

The RBF protocol allows unconfirmed transactions to be reverted, so using the RBF protocol when you want somebody to trust you with a zero-confirmation transaction is probably not the best idea.

Why?

Because you could easily revert the zero-confirmation transaction afterward and scam people. The Bitcoin network, however, wants to be trustless and achieves it with its decentralized structure and computers.

Miners usually ignore double-spend transactions, but who knows, maybe you are lucky. There is the possibility that not even all nodes know about your transaction being stuck and you could be lucky and some miners include that transaction in a new block.

It could also work because some miners are unaware that you attempt a double-spend transaction. Some miners even accept double-spend transactions because they want to earn some extra fees.

So, be aware that this method may not work, but maybe with extra software, it could be used to unstuck your transaction with a new transaction.

#3 Children pays for parent transaction

If you make a new transaction with high fees, most miners will include the whole chain of transactions in a new block.

This technique only works if you have some balance left. Furthermore, it is also not 100% fixed that your parent transaction (the stuck one) will be freed.

#4 Ask a mining pool for help

There are mining pools out there that offer transaction accelerators, for example, the transaction accelerator from ViaBTC. There are even services that you could pay to prioritize your transaction.

ViaBTC’s transaction accelerator is free, but you can also use the paid version.

Why does this work?

Because ViaBTC is a big mining pool operator that mines blocks frequently. Miners can freely choose which transactions they want to include in a new block. Therefore, they could tell their miners to prioritize certain transactions.

Comparison of all methods – Which is the best for you?

WaitingDouble-spendChildrenMining pool
CostsHigher feesNew transactionFree or paid
The probability to work9/105/106/109/10

How to check if my Bitcoin transaction is freed?

If you want to check if your Bitcoin transaction is confirmed, go to blockchain.info/explorer. It’s a free tool where you can check out the information about a Bitcoin transaction.

It can be used to monitor your Bitcoin transaction or to lookup which mining pool mined a new block recently.

Recommended confirmations for a Bitcoin transaction

0 confirmationsNever trustworthy
1 confirmation< 1.000 USD
3 confirmations1.000 – 10.000 USD
6 confirmations10.000 – 1.000.000 USD
60 confirmations> 1.000.000 USD

Why is a zero-confirmation not trustworthy?

Because it is not included in a block and therefore, not on the blockchain. Only transactions on the blockchain are immutable and permanent.

Because of that reason, you can use the methods above to “manipulate” or edit zero-confirmation transactions.

Lightning network – How it can be used to speed up the transaction process

(Video: Simple explanation of the Lightning Network)

One of the most recent added technologies to Bitcoin is the Lightning network. The Lightning Network is a second layer on top of the Bitcoin blockchain to make instant transactions with fewer fees than normal transactions.

How is this possible?

Because transactions on the Lightning network are off-chain, meaning there is no record of it on the blockchain, and miners don’t have to verify that transaction. Therefore, transactions can be made instantly with zero or a few satoshis as a fee.

How does the Lightning network work?

On the most basic level, you and a partner open a channel on the lightning network. Both deposit a certain amount of Bitcoins on the channel. Afterward, you have two balances: one on the main Bitcoin network and one on the Lightning network.

At this point, you have a channel with another person and can make an infinite amount of transactions with that person over your channel. The channel has a fixed lifetime and afterward, the money which was on the channel gets automatically transferred to your main Bitcoin network balance.

You can open an unlimited amount of channels on the Lightning network, but you don’t have to do it. You can open one channel with a partner that already has a lot of channels. It is possible to trade through your partner with connected partners.

However, your connected partner could charge fees for performing that service and there are already huge Lightning network nodes that have a lot of channels that charge a few satoshis to make a transaction over their channel.

Conclusion

There are four methods to unstuck your Bitcoin transaction.

  • Waiting and be patient
  • Double-spend with higher fees
  • Child transaction pays for parent transaction
  • Ask a mining pool for help

Every method has its advantages. However, if you are new, I recommend to be patient and wait at least 30 minutes. Don’t panic if your transaction doesn’t get confirmed instantly.

If this post helped you feel free to share it on social media.

Maximilian Groß

I'm a software engineer. I'm the owner of FireStake.com and know the crypto space since 2016. Furthermore, I share everything I learn about crypto on this blog.

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