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What Happens to Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transactions? A Definitive Guide
Updated · Aug 13, 2023
Rajeev Bera is an IT professional with over a decade of experience in the software development indus... | See full bio
An unconfirmed Bitcoin transaction occurs when the miners still need to examine or confirm the transaction. Unconfirmed transactions happen when you give a fee that's too low or the system has too many pending transactions.
Pending or unconfirmed transactions can stop you from selling, buying, or transferring a cryptocurrency to the blockchain.
Fortunately, there are ways to resolve this issue. Find out what happens to unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions and how to address them in this article.
Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transactions: What Happens and What to Do
Confirmations from miners are vital for a transaction. Some transactions require more than one confirmation for security reasons. The fewer confirmations it needs, the more risk of tampering it has.
An unconfirmed transaction means the transfer of Bitcoin from your address has yet to be verified. As a result, the recipient has yet to receive the trade either.
This outcome implies your Bitcoin isn't lost or added to the blockchain. Additionally, this makes Bitcoin unavailable to use or spend. Until a miner confirms the transaction, the system preserves the Bitcoin in the mempool.
|📖 Definition: A mempool (memory pool) is where the transaction stays during a delay. It serves as a virtual waiting room for blockchain nodes with pending transactions.|
Once the transaction gets verified in the mempool, it's added to the blockchain.
Here are the common causes of unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions:
1. Low-Fee Transaction - Your fee must be higher for the miner or validator to pick it up. Miners may prioritize those transactions with higher or more appropriate fees.
✅ Pro Tip: Set appropriate fees when making one to avoid delayed and low-fee transactions.
The fee serves as a tip to the miners or validators.
2. Network Congestion - In cryptocurrency statistics, Bitcoin's market capital is at $1072.21 billion in 2021. There are thousands of daily Bitcoin transactions, and virtual traffic jams can happen.
During network congestion, the system removes transactions with lower fees from the memory pool to prioritize those with higher offers. This congestion often occurs during notable events or substantial price movements.
3. Over the Block Size Limit Transaction - Miners often omit transactions that exceed that block size limit. If the transaction is within the block size limit, it will remain unconfirmed as the network may not process it promptly.
📖 Definition: Block size limit refers to the maximum data amount a block can carry. Blockchains vary in block size limits. Bitcoin's limit is 1MB, which is suitable for 2,000 transactions.
4. Incomplete Transactions - Transactions are unconfirmed because of incomplete details or network issues. To troubleshoot this issue, check out the possible factors below:
- Internet failure
- Rejected transaction
- Incorrect wallet address
- Inactive user
5. Forks or Network Upgrades - Transactions can be slow if there are network (forks) or software updates. As the system changes, there could be temporary delays. It's best to check for any upgrades before making transactions.
6. Dropping of Hash Rate - There are 188,912 Bitcoin transactions daily, and the system caters to more transactions with a higher hash rate.
In contrast, when the hash rate drops due to market changes or network issues, it can cause transaction issues. One of the problems that can arise is an unconfirmed transaction.
You should note that there are no guarantees you can recover the unconfirmed transaction’s Bitcoin amount, yet there are ways to attempt it.
Methods for Resolving Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transactions
A Bitcoin transaction usually takes 48 hours to indicate confirmation status. When it's been unconfirmed for too long, there are methods to reverse the transaction.
Unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions require a resolution cost, and recovery is not guaranteed.
Some methods include:
Method 1: Reversing a Transaction - Higher Fees
These methods involve higher fees, so the miners prioritize the Bitcoin transaction.
Let’s dig deeper into these methods:
1. Use the Replace-By-Fee (RBF) Technique
You can cancel an unconfirmed transaction and replace it with a new one. It will have a higher fee to ensure miners' confirmation and block inclusion.
The system will refund your previous transaction to your wallet.
2. Perform the Double-Spent Method
Let's say you did not cancel the unconfirmed transaction. As the name suggests, you can spend again for a higher fee.
The miners will reach for the transaction because of the higher fee.
When using this method, the system will automatically cancel the first transaction.
3. Apply the Child-Pays-For-Parent (CPFP) Transaction
When doing the CPFP transaction, you'll call the original transaction the parent. It's the transaction stuck in the mempool. The supposed recipient, the child, makes a second transaction with a higher fee.
Applying CPFP makes the parent transaction more appealing to the miners. They must pick up the parent first to get the child's higher fee.
4. Cancel Using Transaction Accelerator
Using a Bitcoin transaction accelerator, you can cancel the transaction. Some mining pools offer accelerators on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Accelerators push your transaction forward in the Bitcoin network for a small fee.
💡 Quick Tip: Ensure an appropriate amount in your wallet for a flawless Bitcoin reversal transaction.
Method 2: Canceling a Transaction - The Cheaper Method
To reduce fees for canceling an unconfirmed Bitcoin transaction, you may follow these tips:
- Utilize a non-custodial wallet to cancel pending or unconfirmed transactions, like BlueWallet.
- Cancel the transaction at an off-peak time for a lower fee.
⚠️Warning: Lower rates for custody wallets can indicate a theft risk. Users rely on a third party to store their private keys, which can be an issue if security isn't strong. For safer transactions, use VPN when trading cryptocurrency.
Not all cryptocurrency wallets allow their users to cancel a pending transaction.
Following the tips above, the system will bump the transaction back to your wallet. The process will prevent the trade from going to the supposed recipient.
If your transaction is pending or unconfirmed, it hasn’t left your wallet or arrived at the recipient. It is in the mempool waiting for its turn for the miners to confirm.
There are ways to handle this issue, like reversing or canceling the transaction. Reversing means you have to spend more. In contrast, you can save by canceling the transaction.
How long can Bitcoin transactions stay unconfirmed?
A Bitcoin transaction can remain unconfirmed for 24 to 48 hours.
- Your transaction is less than 10 minutes old.
- The Bitcoin network is handling a high volume of trades.
- The fee you priced was too low to convince winning miners to prioritize your trade.
Will unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions be refunded?
Yes, two events could cause this. First, you cancel the pending transaction, and the amount returns to your wallet. Second, you wait for days; when Bitcoin frees the nodes, the amount is available for spending.
What happens if a Bitcoin transaction stays pending?
Your Bitcoin transaction is pending when it's in the queue for a miner's confirmation. It will appear pending until a miner includes it in a block.
How do I track an unconfirmed Bitcoin transaction?
Track an unconfirmed Bitcoin transaction by searching the transaction ID, receiving address, or sending address in any blockchain explorer.
What happens if a BTC transaction fails?
The cryptocurrency system considers failed BTC transactions as rejected. The funds will automatically return to the sender's wallet. Ensure you have enough fees when retrying a transaction.
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