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

58

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.

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.

Find the best exchange to buy Bitcoins


Ofir Beigel

Owner at 99 Coins ltd.
Blogger and owner of 99Bitcoins. I've been dealing with Bitcoin since the beginning of 2013 and it taught me a lesson in finance that I couldn't get anywhere else on the planet. I'm not a techie, I don't understand "Hashes" and "Protocols", I designed this website with people like myself in mind. My expertise is online marketing and I've dedicated a large portion of 99Bitcoins to Bitcoin marketing.

58 Comments

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      I see this transaction already have some confirmations. Sometimes you just have to wait couple of days until it goes through the blockchain if your fee is too low.

  1. Someone should please check this harsh Id and tell me what it means. Transaction was made close to 24hrs ago 90b39fdf7ecc46df2f6165aebc1b9bc70375ea362114a53133c4e8afd811684d

    Thanks in anticipation.

  2. Great work ure doing here sir, I have a challenge. $50 Bitcoins with a transaction fee of $1 was transferred to my Luno account close to 24 hours now. It shows pending on luno while the transaction harsh 90b39fdf7ecc46df2f6165aebc1b9bc70375ea362114a53133c4e8afd811684d says the transaction has been pruned. I’m very confused, I want to believe the money is not lost.

    • What is Luno? Is it a business? If so, sounds like you should contact them and tell them that your transaction is approve on the blockchain but still shows as pending on their site.

      • Luno is also a bit coin wallet like coinbase and others. The transaction just got confirmed. While others blockchain to blockchain wallet still pend.
        Thank you very much.

  3. AKINRINADE AFEEZ on

    Someone send me BITCOIN since 21st of Feb but still telling me Pending, plshelp me out bcoz I need to make another payment. This is my Transaction ID.
    1f6f173cbf46bbd601cfe857051cfa4cb9e93ef8739b55dc1f7f93a148260d54
    Thanks

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      The transaction is pending because of the low fees. Please go through the article to determine the right amount of fee. Eventually if it is not confrimed, it will be cancelled within couple of days.

  4. So I sent a payment from Blockchain.info and even raised the fees on Feb 14th the transaction is confirmed the fees are still not. What can I do to get this back in my wallet ?

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      These transactions already have many confirmation on the blockchain, so probably have gone through by now.

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      The transactions are pending probably because of the low fees. Please read through the article to determine the proper fee. Otherwise the transactions are cancelled within 2-3 days if they don’t get any confirmation and dropped from the blockchain.

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      Hey Sunil, if your transaction is not confirmed on the blockchain due to the low fees, please wait until it is cancelled before sending it again.

      • if it is cancelled, how would i know and would it default to the sender’s account. i just fell into this ditch.

        i need help to retrieve my funds.

  5. Sent money from bitWallet to coinbase, the transaction remained “pending” at coinbase and was shown as unconfirmed in my bitWallet (the resulting money was shown as deducted from my acct, but I realize that nothing leaves until it is confirmed). After 48 hours, this transaction then disappeared from my coinbase recent transactions and the transaction disappeared from my bitWallet transactions and the resulting money was shown back in my bitWallet acct (however, it was not able to be transferred). Then I’m assuming bitWallet must have rebroadcast the transaction because the transaction reappeared and the resulting money was shown as gone, but this time coinbase does not show the transaction as pending.

    Problem is bitWallet only allows you send a default fee of .0001BTC and I’m afraid that it will simply automatically keep rebroadcasting this transaction which will never go through.

    Here is the transaction in question:
    https://blockchain.info/tx/9c8eebc16fd1cd02a9c81c4a73995bbc2f73613176b378a03aabb215550b911b

    I guess my question is, will this transaction ever go through?

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      Hey Scott, it possible that you didn’t pay enough fees to get the transaction confirmed quickly. Please go over the article and try to see how big your transaction is in relation to the fee you need to pay.

      • Scott Handler on

        Hello ZSOFIA, thank you for getting back to me. A strange thing happened. It looks like the transaction was somehow reversed because I saw my bit wallet (Coinbase) had the money credited back to it last night. So I then resent the amount with a higher fee (25 blocks) to my wallet at Coinbase. But Coinbase still says the old transaction is pending with zero confirmations. In other words, Coinbase is not recognizing that I resent the amount from my wallet. I am very confused here. Can you advise? Thank you.

  6. hi, my transaction has been pending for about 24 hours now. What can I do? Please help me. see the transaction Id: 6e99bd44cb143f88a203283b932473cdde1a10805b40c5100d8e96a78938478f

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      I see this transaction ID has already have many confirmation on the blockchain, so it has probably gone through by now.

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      Hey Reggie, I see these transactions have already many confirmations by now. Sometimes you just need to wait for while so the traffic on the blockchain lets your transaction in.

    • Hi, I assume you probably didn’t pay enough fees to get the tx confirmed quickly. Please go over the article and try to see how big your transaction is in relation to the fee you need to pay

  7. I sent payment since Feb 2 2017, it was cancelled, and the transaction automatically resent again today. Please help recover this payment, I’m thinking it’s because of low miner fees.
    Hash ID 89fad9bc9e03c36cb732d5f1998c96ffa04682d67b0c9a8b01445fdb2458a717
    Thanks for your time.

    • Zsofia - 99Bitcoins support on

      Hey Damon, this transaction already have many confirmations on the blockchain. Try to check with the receiver’s wallet provider.

  8. lately confirmations are taking so long :-( like forever almost like 30min to 50min waiting for just one confirmation

  9. Hello may I ask if how took it more long to recieved our bitcoins it was more than 5 days already what shall we do for it.

    • That seems very strange. Either the transaction was deleted because it didn’t have any fees or it’s still awaiting confirmation. I’m guessing it has been deleted. Do you have a link for the transaction?

  10. Hi Ofir – I had a similar issue when I used my first bitcoin ATM -> What had happened was that I only had internet access to my wallet and not an app that could capture the quick code – so that left me manually processing the transaction – well – I only included the quantity the display showed me and in fact the blockchain didn’t even address it for 2000 hours when it finally did get picked up – this was very sad as the ATM was very far away and I had to contact support to resolve the issue. In the end, all worked out well, and my encounters with BTC ATM’s has been delay-free.

Leave A Reply