Why is My Bitcoin Transaction Pending for So Long? – Bitcoin Fees for Dummies

Last updated on February 22nd, 2018 at 11:33 am

If you’re reading this post I assume that like many others, you sent a bitcoin transaction and was kind of confused as to why it’s still listed as “unconfirmed” or “pending” after a few hours or so.

I mean Bitcoin transactions are supposed to be instant right?

In this post I want to try and explain in a very basic way how a Bitcoin transaction works and why the fee that you attach to each transaction has a crucial role in how long it will take the transaction to go through the network.

Here’s what happens when you send Bitcoins to someone

Whenever you send someone Bitcoins, the transaction goes through different computers running the Bitcoin protocol around the world that make sure the transaction is valid. Once the transaction is verified it then “waits” inside the Mempool (i.e. in some sort of a “limbo” state).

It’s basically waiting to be picked up by a Bitcoin miner and entered into a block of transaction on the Blockchain. Until it is picked up it’s considered an “unconfirmed transaction” or a “pending transaction”. A new block of transactions in added to the Blockchain every 10 minutes on average.

However since there are so many transactions lately due to the price increase, and a block can only hold a finite amount of transactions, not all transactions are picked instantly. So you need to wait for a certain amount of time until a miner decided to pick your transaction out of all of those sitting around in the mempool.

Once your transaction is included in the block it receives its first confirmation and it’s no longer pending. After another block of transactions is added it will get another confirmation and so on….here’s a short video explaining this:

How can you make sure your transaction will get included in the next block?

Simple. By adding a big enough mining fee to it. You see one of the ways miners get paid for their work is by collecting the fees on the different transactions. So naturally they would prefer to include the transactions with the highest fees first. If your fee is high enough – your transaction will go through faster.

How can you tell how much is the right fee?

Fees are calculated by the size of the transaction. Every transaction has a size, just like a file size. The size depends on many factors that I won’t go in to at the moment. The fastest and cheapest transaction fee is currently 60 satoshis/byte. So if, for example, your transaction is 257 bytes, you will need to pay 257*60 = 15,420 Satoshis as a transaction fee in order to be included in the next block.

So now you’re probably asking “How can I calculate my transaction size?”

You can’t, at least not without extensive knowledge of how Bitcoin works. Your wallet is supposed to do this for you. Most wallets today will either automatically add the required fee to get the transaction confirmed as soon as possible or will let you choose from a variety of fees according to the requested confirmation time (e.g. fast, medium, slow).

However, since I wouldn’t want to leave you hanging I decided to give you an overview of how the most popular wallets around handle their fees:

Coinbase – Coinbase pays the miner fees (typically 0.0003 BTC) on external transactions in order to ensure these transactions propagate throughout the bitcoin network quickly. For very small transaction amounts you may be prompted to pay the transaction / miner fee. (source)

Blockchain.info – The wallet implemented a dynamic fee structure.Dynamic fees work to detect changes in network volume and will raise or lower transaction fees accordingly. This means that the same transaction may require a higher fee during a period of network congestion, or a lower fee if sent during a period of decreased activity. If you set a custom fee a warning will display if a custom fee is thought to be unnecessarily high or dangerously low. (source)

Electrum – Has the option to set dynamic fees (similar to Blockchain.info) or set your own fee through the tools -> preference tab. (source)

electrum preferences

Greenaddress – GreenAddress is the first Bitcoin wallet to include a replace-by-fee option. With it, users can increase fees on their transactions and increase the likelihood a miner will include a transaction in a block.

Clicking on the “bump fee” tab opens a mini-menu. On top of the menu, text displays how fast the transaction is expected to confirm. The menu allowed me to bump the fee: times 1.5, times 2 or times 3.

Greenaddress bump fee

if a transaction is not expected to be mined in the first available block because the fee is too low, the mini-menu offers users the option to include a fee big enough to have the transaction included in the next two, three or six blocks. (source)

greenaddress include in block

MyCelium – Mycelium does give you some control over the fee. In Settings/Miner Fee, you can select Standard, Economic, or Priority for (I think) 0.1mBTC, 0.01mBTC, or 0.5mBTC, respectively, per mB. (source)

Bitcoin QT -Bitcoin Core will use floating fees. Based on past transaction data, floating fees approximate the fees required to get into the `m`th block from now. Bitcoin Core will cap fees. Bitcoin Core will never create transactions smaller than the current minimum relay fee. Finally, a user can set the minimum fee rate for all transactions. (source)

TREZOR – Fees will be automatically calculated for you by the myTREZOR wallet. (source)

There’s a very helpful resource created by 21.co that shows how many Satoshis/byte you’ll need to pay in order to get included in the upcoming blocks. Here’s an example of the current situation inside the Bitcoin network:

bitcoin fees

For each Satoshi/byte category you can see the number of unconfirmed transactions as opposed to the transactions that went through. For example, 15405 transactions with a fee of 11-20 Satoshis/byte went through the system in the last 3 hours as opposed to 1533 that are waiting for confirmation.

On the right hand side you can see the estimated number of block confirmation / minutes you’ll have to wait until your transaction gets included.

What happens to transaction that don’t get confirmed ever?

Basically transactions stay in “limbo” (i.e. the mempool) until they are included in a block. However, if a transaction stays inside the mempool for too long the different computers holding it (Bitcoin nodes) may just drop it from their system. In this case the transaction will be canceled.

Some wallets may try to rebroadcast an expired transaction and therefor it will stay inside the mempool for a long time until some miner decides to have pity on your soul and include it :)

VIA BTC offers a transaction accelerator service

Just recently VIABTC (one of the largest Bitcoin mining pools) started offering a new transaction accelerator service. With the Transaction Accelerator for delayed transactions, users can submit any TXID (Transaction ID) that includes a minimum 0.0001BTC/KB fee to ViaBTC. The pool will then prioritize to include the TX in the next block when possible at no extra charge. A maximum of 100 TXs submitted can be accelerated every hour.

Important: Transactions are received on a first come first served basis so try to submit yours at the beginning of every hour to get into the queue before it fills up.

So I hope this clears things up a bit. Next time before sending a Bitcoin transaction make sure to add the appropriate fee in accordance to the wallet you are using.

If you have any more questions or insights about Bitcoin fees feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

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746 Comments on "Why is My Bitcoin Transaction Pending for So Long? – Bitcoin Fees for Dummies"

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Domenique
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Member
Domenique

I don’t understand how payouts work. Or wallets or how to get either.

Steven Hay
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Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hi Domenique,

Well… It takes time to understand all this stuff. I highly recommend that you start with the basics through our free video course. Once you sign up, each day we’ll email you a different video which will guide you through the basics of Bitcoin. From there, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to get started. Here is the link to it:

Subscribe to 99Bitcoins’ Newsletter

Bolaji
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Bolaji

@steven Hay,

i did a transaction to wallet address with transaction ID-
7b024f81b362a637fa54b60eddb61210cefe4b98212cd734bfa75aca081cc720 but where i transfer did not get it…

what can i do.. pls help

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hey Bolaji,

OK, so this looks like a withdrawal from an exchange? Or did you intentionally send BTC from your wallet to 10 other addresses?

I see this transaction was made on the 5th of this month. Are you sure it’s the right TXID?

If one of your addresses is not one of the 10 listed in the right column, then you clearly didn’t receive anything…

Which address were you expecting to receive coins at?

I don’t have enough info yet to piece together what has happened, please provide more detail.

Bolaji
Guest
Bolaji

Thanks Steven,
below is the details;
The bitcoin was send from my exchange to: 1DTQ2AZ8vTg5mFm7spbgDSVApML9HThJxZ
with txid : 7b024f81b362a637fa54b60eddb61210cefe4b98212cd734bfa75aca081cc720

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay
Hey Bolaji, OK, now we’re getting somewhere. I see that the exchange did indeed pay out 0.00338… BTC to your 1DTQ… address. About half an hour after the funds were received by your wallet, they were sent out to a new address: 1LWG2LjhofZnnvm7mn7VZq7hsMjHM5uVNi You can see this happened by checking the address history here: https://blockchain.info/address/1DTQ2AZ8vTg5mFm7spbgDSVApML9HThJxZ Any idea who owns that address? If you didn’t pay someone around that time or move your coins to some other wallet, then the only possible answer is that your wallet has been compromised. In this event, you should not use the wallet for receiving… Read more »
Steven Hay
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Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Just to clarify, this “Steven” is not me, as you can see he’s using a guest account. I can’t vouch for the website linked here – be careful with random website links, guys!

Nancy
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Nancy

There’s an incoming transaction in my Coinbase that has been pending for more than 24 hours. It says I will recieve my bitcoins by end of day on January 22. So far, nothing. It has 250+ confirmations and it’s still pending. This is getting frustrating. I don’t know my transaction ID but this is the address that the bitcoins was sent to.

1D2qnEF7M2p1skKAXHvvugjGyNJR32qMuC

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hey Nancy,

Well, if you put that address into a block explorer, you see two related transactions:

https://blockchain.info/address/1D2qnEF7M2p1skKAXHvvugjGyNJR32qMuC

It looks like money went to the address and then went right out… If you didn’t spend the coin, that sounds like something you want to query Coinbase about before sending any more coins to your Coinbase account.

Nancy
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Nancy

All i got back from Coinbase is an email saying my case is escalated to a specialist n they’ll contact me once they’re done reviewing it which might takes a few days.

Max
Guest
Max

Hey, my Wallet ID is 1MMpFAdUfSBFYUQXErh9q32HasGaLFvbJW and my last transaction was on 2018-01-23 16:30:45 but its still not confirmed yet.
Does anyone know how to speed this up or how i get my BTC back?
Thanks :)

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay
Hi Max, OK, so that code you pasted is one of your wallet’s addresses – every wallet can have a virtually unlimited number of addresses. It seems you’re talking about this txid: https://blockchain.info/tx/c3d27bc6fe2311d62d329da74702076887534739e1254914131934806650d01d The good news is that it has confirmed! I see it’s an old address too. To lower you future fees (by as much as half!) and also reduce congestion in the blockchain – which will further reduce fees and waiting times for everone – might I suggest that you use wallets, exchanges and services which have enabled SegWit? For a list of SegWit wallets and exchanges, plus… Read more »
Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Hello:

I sent a transaction on January 3rd, and it is still unconfirmed. I tried 3 of the transaction accelerators and it says invalid transaction and the other says transaction is not available for accelerating/ try again later. Is this unusual? When I had an unconfirmed before it at least said “in the mempool” and I eventually accelerated and received it. It was from an old bitcoin wallet, but It was synced. Any info or advice would be appreciated

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hey Kevin,

It sounds to me very much like the transaction has faded from the mempool. This can happen after such a long time. Check your wallet and see if the fees have returned. In this case, you should send a new transaction which uses those returned coins (inputs), via the Coin Control feature (if present in your wallet). This will prevent the transaction being rebroadcast and potentially paying the same address twice.

Sergey
Guest
Sergey

Hello Steven, can you help me pls?

my transaction ID
f18f926ed02f0de8ed44a11e53784009af9c72dfc08285243d215a557bd48d6f

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hey Sergey,

Congrats, it confirmed. In future, you can lower your fees and help out the network by using a SegWit enabled wallet. My article will explain how to set the right fee and use SegWit:

Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transaction? Here’s how to Shorten Bitcoin’s Transaction Time

Zuka
Guest
Zuka

Hello Steven
I am waiting from 6th of January.
Please check and advise me what to do.

My transaction ID: bed165ea993ff56e2292e184de300c71712b003f2297ab05a3a29f0d2ce0ce21

Thank you

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hey Zuka,

Congrats, it’s confirmed. The mempool has been emptying out lately so your low-fee tx went through.

To ensure your future fees are low and your txs go through, check out my guide:

Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transaction? Here’s how to Shorten Bitcoin’s Transaction Time

Robert L
Guest
Robert L

Hey Steven, my transaction has been unconfirmed for about a day and a half now. Was wondering if you could give me some advice.

Transaction ID: b5f2126dc38f27ca99539cd6d94731ca1e026f1cb5ad1ca39586efba4df1d427

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay

Hi Robert,

Congrats, it confirmed. However, I see the fee you paid was EXTREMELY high at 800 sat/b. To reduce your future fee cost, I suggest you use a SegWit-enabled wallet and learn to manually set your tx fee.

My recent guide will help you: https://99bitcoins.com/unconfirmed-bitcoin-transaction-shorten-time/

Carlos M
Guest
Carlos M

Please help. Trezor to Coinbase transfer still shows pending for 2 days, with over 200 confirmations!

Transaction ID: 09d9bafa7241d31a4876b59c80a418a080a73a816403e44b5efe236e09c4d7e7

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay
Hey Carlos, OK, so I see this tx has over 200 confirmations. Over 1 BTC was definitely was sent to this address: 1J2rFActocUWCH3HQz3piLgKMGEJdedkyZ – and it appeared on the on the 17th of January. You say the amount hasn’t been credited to your Coinbase wallet? Have you checked that the above 1J2… address is your valid Coinbase deposit address? I do notice that about 30 minutes after this deposit was made, all the BTC was withdraw from the 1J2 address. It went to these two addresses: 1ah6Hof2Yc8uoReCM1yMyoBQXKeqURiER – 0.06062345 BTC 35N1HZ9GQc4dSZ3DbR9HKtX7c6GfaLh1Zs – 1.05 BTC That occured in this txid: https://blockchain.info/tx/b2409e28f20de1d129d7d86ee69a87c232890afec3f8233e0c8c960db7a20ffa… Read more »
redha
Guest
redha

for more 3 days is pending some one can help me ? thanks :-)

https://blockchain.info/fr/tx/0314baa0f121baa039f3268614963c289809031b613f09be5b0c986c6b0ebf92

0314baa0f121baa039f3268614963c289809031b613f09be5b0c986c6b0ebf92

Steven Hay
Guest
Trusted Member
Steven Hay
Hey Redha, Congrats, it’s been confirmed! To lower you future fees (by as much as half!) and also reduce congestion in the blockchain – which will further reduce fees and waiting times for everone – might I suggest that you use wallets, exchanges and services which have enabled SegWit? For a list of SegWit wallets and exchanges, plus some further explanation, please see here: Day 9: I will post this guide regularly until available solutions like SegWit & order batching are mass adopted, the mempool is empty once again, and TX fees are low. Do you want low TX fees?… Read more »