How Long Does It Take to Transfer Bitcoin?
Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency ever launched and has been in circulation for more than a decade.
While this makes it the most stable crypto, it also comes with one major downside; slow transactions and high fees.
Sometimes bitcoin transactions get stuck, and you may even have to wait for hours before you can receive or send bitcoin.
This guide will take you through bitcoin transactions, including how long they take & why and how you can speed them.
A Quick Overview of How Bitcoin Transactions Work…
Bitcoin is a virtual currency, so it doesn’t exist in any physical form. All transactions have to be verified on the bitcoin blockchain, which is a public ledger that contains all BTC transaction records.
These records reduce fraud cases as they eliminate the risk of bitcoin holders selling the same bitcoin twice.
When you authorize a bitcoin transaction, the bitcoin blockchain receives a message with 3 parts;
- Output: this is the address from which the bitcoin address has been authorized or the public key.
- Input: this shows the history of your coins, including the history of the previous owners and transactions.
- Amount: the number of BTC being sent.
Once the miners receive this message, they validate your transaction through a series of complex mathematical equations. They then update the transaction history and create new signatures.
How Long Does a Bitcoin Transaction Take?
Generally, bitcoin transactions take anywhere between 10 minutes to several days. The verification time varies greatly, but on average, transactions take about 30 minutes.
Before miners can fully clear a bitcoin transaction, it has to go through a series of confirmations to reduce the risk of reversals or double-spending of the same cryptocurrency.
For these confirmations to occur, new blocks have to be created, and each block is mined every 10 minutes. This is why large transactions often take hours because some of them require up to 6 confirmations.
Every time you send coins, the bitcoin network receives a message highlighting the sender, the number of bitcoin being transferred, and the fees they’ll earn. When the miners receive this message, they add it to the mempool, which is a list of unconfirmed transactions.
These transactions are then bundled up into blocks where the miners begin verifying them.
Factors That Determine the Speed of Bitcoin Transfers
There are 2 main factors that influence the speed of transactions;
1. Transaction Fees
Bitcoin mining takes a lot of effort, power, and technology, which is why you’re charged transaction fees. Miners use these fees to prioritize transactions, so the more you pay, the faster your transaction is processed.
Those with low fees experience the most transaction lags because their blocks are picked last.
While the fees aren’t necessary, it’s recommended that you pay the miners as this incentivizes them. All transaction fees are measured in Satoshis per byte, which translates to one hundred millionth of a bitcoin.
The decentralized nature of bitcoin also makes it highly volatile, which is why transaction fees vary.
Bitcoin developers, however, acknowledge that very high wait times are inconvenient and are always looking for scaling options, including the Lightning network.
2. Network Activity
The network activity on the bitcoin blockchain is dependent on the number of transactions that are processed in a day.
On days when there are many transactions, the network is very busy, and transactions take longer to be verified since the miners are few.
Bitcoin’s increasing popularity also contributes to the slow confirmations, and sometimes there’s usually a backlog of unconfirmed transactions.
There are also limited blocks on the bitcoin mempool, and their sizes increase and decrease based on fees, wait times, and transaction priority.
For instance, if your transaction requires 6 confirmations on a day when the network is busy, each confirmation may take 10 minutes, which means your bitcoins will be fully transferred in 1 hour.
Transactions for very large transactions may even take days. This is usually very inconvenient for people who use bitcoin in transactions as merchants rarely accept payment as complete before all the confirmations are sent.
How Can I Send My Bitcoin Faster?
There are 2 main ways that you can use to speed up bitcoin transactions;
1. Using the Lightning Network
The lightning network is different from the bitcoin network and allows instant transactions with very low fees. This network is designed for bitcoin transactions but operates by a different set of rules.
2. Paying Higher Fees
This is the most common method as it incentivizes the miners to prioritize your transactions.
If you plan on using this hack, it’s advisable that you choose a platform or bitcoin wallet that allows you to choose the fee you’d like to pay. This will give you the liberty to pay higher fees when you need faster confirmations and lower fees when a transaction is not urgent.
Most wallets, however, pay high fees by default to ensure all transactions are swift.
Will Bitcoin Transactions Ever Be Faster?
The future of bitcoin transactions is uncertain, but developers and users are looking for a sustainable solution. The Lightning Network is helping with slow transactions, but its popularity still hasn’t peaked.
Developers were also worried about the scalability of bitcoin, and as a result, there was a hard fork that resulted in Bitcoin Cash. This is an entirely new cryptocurrency based on the bitcoin blockchain but has cheaper and faster transactions.
Start Trading Bitcoin Today!
Bitcoin trading is on the rise, but slow transaction times and high fees are still a major challenge. The times it takes for a transaction to be verified is dependent on how busy the network is and the fees you pay.
When the miners have a lot of transactions to process, there could be a backlog which translates to very late confirmations. If you also pay low fees, miners will pick your transactions last which will delay confirmations.
The only way you can speed up your bitcoin transactions is through the Lightning Network or paying high fees.
Trading your bitcoin on crypto exchanges also guarantees faster transactions as the platform tends to pay miners higher fees.
If you’re looking for a secure and reliable exchange site to buy, sell and trade bitcoin, we recommend Swyftx.
Other alternatives include; Coinspot, Binance, and Independent Reserve.
Warren is the co-founder of CoinCryption. He has a passion for cryptocurrency and has been involved in this space for more than 7 years. His other love is digital marketing and has over 15 years of experience.