Out of the thousands of cryptocurrencies currently available on the market, Ethereum (ETH) has managed to keep its honourable spot on the top, right after Bitcoin (BTC), the original cryptocurrency. What makes Ethereum stand out is its functionality – it’s a programmable blockchain that supports the use of NFTs and the so-called smart contracts.
The transaction speed of Ethereum is also higher than both Bitcoin and Litecoin (LTC), which is pretty impressive. But just how long does it take to send Ethereum, and which factors can affect the transaction time? How does it all work? We are going to address all these questions in today’s article and more, so let’s begin.
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How Do Ethereum Transactions Work?
Each time you initiate a transaction and send it on the Ethereum blockchain, you’re essentially sending a request for the miners to process and verify. Miners receive thousands of transaction requests every day, which they process by solving complex mathematical puzzles. Once the puzzle is solved, the transaction gets added to the next block on the blockchain, meaning that it has been confirmed.
All Ethereum transactions incur a transaction fee or gas fee, as it is called in the Ethereum realm. Gas refers to the computation power necessary to complete a transaction by a miner, and it’s paid in gwei, which is the smallest base unit of Ether (0.000000001 ETH). In other words, the gas fee is the reward for the miner for processing the transaction.
Gas prices are set by the miners based on the supply and demand of the resources, so the higher the demand, the higher the gas price. The minimum amount of gas required to complete a standard ETH transaction is 20,000 units of gas, but smart contract transactions require much more.
Before you initiate a transaction, you have to select a gas limit and a gas fee. The gas limit is the maximum amount of gas you’re willing to use, while the gas fee includes the base transaction fee you have to pay, plus an optional tip for the miner. Including a tip in your gas fee will shorten the transaction time. Finally, any gas that’s not used in the transaction is refunded to the user.
How Long Does It Take to Send ETH?
How long it takes to send ETH mostly depends on where you’re sending the digital assets – from one wallet to another, to your bank account, or to a cryptocurrency exchange. Let’s review them one by one.
From One Wallet to Another
When you send ETH to another Ethereum address, the transaction time can be impacted by whether you’re using a hot wallet (storing your coins on an online wallet) or a cold wallet (an offline wallet or, in other words, a hardware device).
Naturally, if you store your coins in a hot wallet, the transaction speed will be relatively high as all you need to do is initiate a transaction as you normally would. On the other hand, cold-wallet transfers will take longer because of all the extra security steps you’ll have to complete when you transfer the money online. Cold wallets are considered safer as your funds can’t be accessed through the Internet, but it’s also more complicated to initiate a transaction swiftly.
It’s a little different when you want to send ETH from your wallet to a cryptocurrency exchange. For added security, crypto exchange platforms require a certain number of confirmations before a transaction is considered successful, and each exchange has a separate number of required confirmations for different cryptocurrencies.
For example, Coinbase requires 35 confirmations for Ether, which takes less than 10 minutes; Kraken requires 20 confirmations ready in about 5 minutes, while Binance requires 12 confirmations and completes them in under 10 minutes.
Sadly, we don’t have the option to transfer digital currencies to our bank accounts yet, so until that happens, we have to use a more roundabout way, which starts with selling your ETH on a cryptocurrency exchange for fiat money. You can use any exchange that supports crypto-to-fiat trading, and all you have to do is trade your ETH for the desired fiat currency and then withdraw the money to your bank account. Keep in mind that these types of transfers incur additional fees and the whole process may take several business days to be completed.
Reasons for Pending Transactions
Sometimes, the confirmation time for a certain transaction you make may be extended for various reasons, which will result in a pending transaction. When you’re not in a hurry, you can be patient and wait, as most transactions will be confirmed eventually, but still, it helps to know how the Ethereum blockchain works and what are the most common reasons for pending transactions.
When it comes to the number of transactions that can be successfully processed every day, the Ethereum blockchain has a limited capacity. Therefore, the more transactions are submitted, the higher the traffic and the longer the wait. One block can only store a limited amount of data, and when the influx of transactions outweighs the network’s capacity, your transaction will be pending until the miners pick it up.
Transaction Fee Amount
The Ethereum network is designed to prioritise the transactions with higher gas fees and process them before the ones with lower fees. This solution aims to relieve network congestion and allow fair usage of the network. By processing the transactions with higher fees, more “space” is freed up, so more transactions can be included in the next block.
You can already gather that if the gas fee you paid is too low to get the miners’ attention in the pool of other transactions – especially if there is high network congestion – your transaction will remain pending. Think of it as an auction – those who offer the highest bid purchase the item.
Therefore, to increase your chances of a successful transaction, adjust the gas fee accordingly. It helps to always check the recent gas prices before you initiate a transaction. Etherscan has a gas tracker where you can see your transaction fee in both ETH and USD. It also shows the status of your transaction and the estimated confirmation duration.
Other Pending Transactions From the Same Wallet Address
Another reason why a transaction may be pending is if you have previously submitted other transactions that haven’t been processed yet. This is because the Ethereum transaction sequence is designed in such a way that the transactions from the same Ethereum address are strictly processed in chronological order. So, until your previous transactions are successfully accepted and verified, there’s nothing you can do but wait.
Changes in the Gas Price
If your transaction has been pending for quite a while and you haven’t submitted any other prior transactions, then the most probable explanation would be that the gas prices have suddenly increased around the time of your submission. Hence, the amount of gas fee you paid isn’t high enough to be prioritised by the miners. In this case, you can wait a little longer if you’re not in a rush, as it may take a few hours. If the transaction is still pending after 24 hours, you can either resubmit it (this time adding a higher fee) or cancel it.
You might have heard about Ethereum being speedy in comparison to other cryptocurrencies, but as with any blockchain, there is a lot going on behind the curtains. Miners are the driving force behind the Ethereum network and it’s the gas fees for the computing power that make each transaction possible. Therefore, above all, we would advise you to always adjust the gas fee accordingly and remain patient if your transaction is taking a while.