Bitcoin transactions are becoming more and more common each year. Not only more online vendors now accept crypto, but it’s also a quite popular payment method for regular people. But there is a growing number of users that noticed their Bitcoin transaction taking a long time.
To fully understand how long a transaction will take, it’s important to know how it occurs. This is what we’ll cover in this article. We’ll be discussing the following questions:
- How long do Bitcoin transactions take in theory?
- How long does it take for Bitcoin to be transferred in real conditions?
- What affects it?
- How do different types of transactions contrast in terms of speed?
How Does a Bitcoin Transaction Work in Theory?
Let’s start with “how long does it take to transfer Bitcoin on paper, and what does it entail?”.
As you may know, BTC exists as a public record of transactions. To complete a transaction, a user’s input must be added to this distributed ledger.
When transaction info is sent to the network, miners have to verify it. This process is also known as confirmation. It requires resource-intensive computational power. After a certain number of confirmations (usually, six), the transaction finally gets recorded.
The Reality of Bitcoin Transactions
The next question in line is “how long do Bitcoin transactions take when we consider real-life examples?”. Let’s illustrate the process with a step-by-step description:
- Person A wants to send BTC to Person B. Both of them need to have a crypto wallet that supports BTC.
- Person A specifies the exact amount they want to send and Person B’s public wallet address (an equivalent of a bank account number).
- The pending transaction goes through confirmations by miners. This step takes the longest - up to several hours (read on to learn what the speed depends on).
- Every computer on the network receives a copy of the block info. This means that no one can maliciously access the system since it’s impossible to hack all the nodes.
- When everything is complete, there is no way to reverse the process, so no one can double-spend BTC.
Factors That Influence the Speed of a Bitcoin Transaction
Two main things change the speed for better or worse: network load and fees. Additionally, we’ll cover less significant but also important factors down below.
There might be an unusually high number of transactions on a given day or a given hour. Plus, we are seeing increasing demand for transactions per block as BTC becomes more widespread.
Unfortunately, miners have limited resources to confirm all of them, so it may take longer. On the other hand, if you strike it lucky, you can also have a surprisingly quick transaction process.
Transaction Fee Set Too Low
Fees grant you a priority over other users. The higher it’s set, the faster your transaction will be finalized. Fees aren’t obligatory - but they do give miners a bigger incentive to place it in the immediate queue or make it the next block to be mined. This can reduce the waiting process to 10 minutes.
Other Influencing Factors
You can notice Bitcoin transactions taking a long time or, on the contrary, the shorter amount depending on these factors:
- Lack of miners: if the demand suddenly outweighs the availability of miners connected to the network, expect delays. If there is a surplus of miners, you will experience the opposite.
- Network attacks: crypto networks may be subjected to pam and dusting attacks. Even if the system doesn’t crack, it will have a temporary effect.
- Poor Internet connection: both miners and users need to have stable Internet speed for everything to go smoothly.
- Block generation queue: with multiple transactions racing simultaneously, the network will pick the earliest one and reject the slower one even if they’re just a couple of seconds apart.
What to Do When Transaction Is Delayed
Essentially, once you hit ‘Send’ and the request is broadcasted to the network, your involvement with the process stops. Meaning, you can’t control confirmation times or personally speed it up.
That said, these are some things you can do in the meantime:
- Check confirmation status: Track your transaction ID to see how it progresses through the aforementioned six confirmations.
- Contact the exchanger support service: Ask them something along the lines of: “how long do Bitcoin transactions take within your system?” If it’s taking particularly long, they should be able to help or suggest how to speed it up.
- Double-check if you’ve done everything properly: miners aren’t the only ones responsible for the processing. It starts with the sender entering the right info in the beginning.
- Consider a replacement: This process is known as “replace by fee”. As the name suggests, you can request a new transaction instead of the old one.
Differences in Transaction Speed
With the question of “how long does Bitcoin take to send?” answered, it may be useful to compare it to other payment methods. We’ll be using credit card transfers and online payment services (namely, PayPal) as examples.
Here is the short version:
- BTC wallets: in theory, between 1 minute and several hours (from 10 minutes to 1 hour on average).
- Credit cards: anywhere from 24 hours up to three days to process and settle.
- PayPal: between 3 to 5 business days (to transfer funds from your PayPal account to a bank account).
We can compare average transaction speeds, but in reality, everyone has different experiences. What we can safely say is that BTC transfers are more transparent. You can see the stage of your payment process, which can’t be said about banks. There are pros and cons for each method — we recommend considering them in the context of your situation.
Now, you won’t be asking yourself “how long does Bitcoin transfer take?”. You will simply take advantage of this public yet secure and reliant technology. There’s a reason why people are saying that blockchain will become an essential part of the future — even beyond payments. This robust network is a cutting-edge step forward to a fair, decentralized market.
Sure, there are challenges: waiting time, system overloads, and additional charges. But these are “necessary evils” for all the benefits you’re receiving. You can choose zero-confirmation transactions instead, but it’s likely not even worth the risk.