Bitcoin Transaction Time: How Long Bitcoin Transaction Takes?

It is an open secret that Bitcoin block time is 10 minutes.

But have you wondered why it takes more than 10 minutes to confirm a Bitcoin transaction successfully?

I guess you haven’t !!

I know you are a busy man (or woman), but since many times, receivers of Bitcoin have been fooled due to their lack of knowledge on this simple topic.

That’s why I think it is my responsibility to make you aware and make sure that you don’t fall for such silly mistakes again.

So in this post, we are going to learn what’s the ideal Bitcoin transaction/confirmation time and what to do when the transactions are stuck for long hours?

So let’s dive right into it:

What Is Bitcoin Transaction Confirmation Time?

For those of you who don’t know:

Bitcoin transactions are not instantly confirmed or finalized.

These transactions first go to a pool of unconfirmed transactions called Bitcoin mempool from where miners pick up these transactions. That’s why one needs to wait for atleast 10 minutes to get the first confirmation for a Bitcoin transaction.

In any case, the average time a Bitcoin transaction takes for confirmation is 10 minutes, and that’s because the Bitcoin’s block timing is 10 minutes.

But this isn’t true every time because your Bitcoin transaction confirmation can take up to several hours and sometimes even days after you have made a transaction.

Think I am exaggerating?

Well, I am not !!

This can happen due to many factors and those factors we are going to discuss in the next section.

What Determines Bitcoin Transaction Speed or Bitcoin Transfer Time?

The speed of Bitcoin transactions depends on many factors and out of those, these two factors are very critical to BTC transfer time:

The congestion or load of Bitcoin’s blockchain can be seen in real-time by monitoring the mempool. At the time of writing these many unconfirmed transactions are present on the network.

But needless to say, more the number of unconfirmed transactions the more time blockchain will take to confirm them.

After all, we have limited space and limited throughput on the chain as it can only include 1 MB worth of transactions every 10 minutes.

And due to Bitcoin’s design, only one miner can add a block every 10 minutes, no matter how much mining hash power he/she has. (See our guide on Bitcoin Mining)

Moreover, miners are bound to act in a way that incentivizes them the most and in case of mining these miners prefer to take those transactions first that have more transaction fees attached to it.

If you don’t know:

Miners receive 12.5 BTC plus the ‘X’ amount of Block mining fee for their mining work. And if you see, here that 12.5 BTC reward is fixed for all the miners, but ‘X’ amount of block mining fees varies.

So the higher the ‘X’ amount, the higher the income/reward for miners to mine a successful block.

I know you are thinking, how block mining fee is related to your transaction not getting picked from the mempool?

Well, for that let’s understand, block mining fee first,

Block is merely a collection of transactions, and each transaction has a transaction fee attached to it. And the sum of the transaction fees attached to individual transactions that a miner has taken into his block is called ‘Block mining fee.’

So assume for a moment that you are a Bitcoin miner.

What would you do?

Well, if I am a miner, I would try to maximize the ‘X’ amount by always picking up those transactions from the mempool which has higher transaction fees attached to it so that I can get more block mining fees as a reward.

Hence it makes economic sense for the miners to pick up those transactions first from the mempool which has higher fees attached to it.

And miners are quite proactive in this, as all the miners keep their mempool in descending order of transaction fees (bitcoin mempool fees) attached to it.

That’s one of the main reasons for your Bitcoin confirmations taking hours and being stuck in the mempool as your fee is too little to be noticed by the miners.

How Many Bitcoin Confirmations Are Enough On A Transaction?

Generally speaking, ‘6 confirmations’ are recommended and that many considered enough to make sure a Bitcoin transaction is successful.

This ‘6 confirmation’ limit is even advised by Satoshi Nakamoto- the creator of Bitcoin because after six confirmations the receiver can be sure that the bitcoins he/she has received aren’t double-spent.

But as we know that a Bitcoin confirmation will minimum take 10 minutes and hence for six confirmations one needs to wait atleast 60 minutes (provided the transaction is included in the very next block)

But this is an ideal scenario that is often different from reality because there are enough chances that your transaction will not be included in the very next block.

Here is the median time for a transaction to be accepted into a mined block and added to the public ledger (note: only includes transactions with miner’s fees).

Here is the overall average confirmation time on Bitcoin’s blockchain:

Also, these confirmations are nothing but the number of blocks added after your transaction is included on the chain and first confirmation means your transaction is included in the most recent block mined.

And as the blocks are found after the recently mined block, the confirmation count for your transaction will keep on increasing to ‘6 confirmations’ or more. Check this transaction now and you will able to see more than 6 confirmations on it: 3230b0b9c0bd5cd196cc23b1e5bf4b41604b31e04bc9d9f5071cfa8117ba70a9

Is There Any Bitcoin Transaction/Confirmation Time Calculator/Estimator?

Yes, of course, there are some Bitcoin transaction time estimators that you can use, but they all rely on the Bitcoin transaction fees you have attached to that particular transaction.

So let say you have attached ‘X’ Satoshis/byte of fees for a Bitcoin transaction then you can very well calculate how much time (or how many blocks) you will need to wait before getting the first confirmation.

See this estimator that tells you based on the Satoshi/byte fees, how much time and how many blocks one needs to wait:

So as per this estimator, if you are using 14 Satoshis/byte of fees or more, you will get included in the next immediate block, and in less than 30 minutes you will receive your confirmation.

Whereas if you use 3 Satoshis/byte of fees, then you might get included in the second block and if the fees are lower than that you might need to wait for 3-4 blocks more to get included in a Bitcoin’s block.

So this way you can easily calculate your approximate Bitcoin confirmation time and know exactly how long does Bitcoin takes to transfer?

What To Do When Bitcoin transactions taking a long time?

But, I use this time estimator before I am making my transaction because that way I can determine appropriate transaction fees and hence reduce the expected time of confirmation.

I have explained this method very comprehensively in my article on, ‘A Beginner’s Guide To Bitcoin Transaction Fees For Fast Confirmations.’

I also know that you want to know, what needs to be done when your transaction is stuck for a long time.

Actually, there are a couple of things that you can do when your transaction is stuck, such as:

Of course, these techniques are specific to Bitcoin and are to be used when your transaction is stuck for many hours.

But on the flip side, if you don’t have the technical competency to do these things then you can leave your transaction for 72 hours and the network will automatically drop your transaction and return your coins in your Bitcoin wallet.

Conclusion: How long does bitcoin transfer take?

Now, I know you must be thinking if that’s how long do Bitcoin transactions take, then how could it be used as a currency?

Well, that’s what Bitcoin developers also think, and that’s why they are working on technologies like Segwit, Schnorr Signatures, & Lightning network to make Bitcoin transactions nearly instantaneous.

But there is a long road towards that as Lightning network has recently started getting traction from the community and Segwit’s penetration has also increased.

And I believe that when these technologies are at its full throttle, questions like ‘how long do bitcoin transactions take to confirm?’ or ‘how long does Bitcoin transfer take?’ will become a thing of the past.

But as of now, if you want to transact on Bitcoin’s main chain, you need to wait for atleast 60 minutes before being able to claim that your transaction is 100% successful.

So that’s all from me today in this guide on Bitcoin transaction time, and I shall be back very soon with more such interesting and knowledgeable topics around Bitcoin.

Untill that time keep learning and keep sharing the Bitcoin love with TheMoneyMongers

And do share this article with your friends through your social media !!

Sudhir Khatwani


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