You bought your Bitcoin, and now you're waiting for it to show up in your wallet. As you wait, you ask yourself, how long does a BTC transfer take? Well, the answer is, it varies.
When it comes to BTC transaction time, in most cases, funds arrive within an hour. Many platforms require six confirmations, which take about ten minutes each, thus an hour for the transaction to complete. Of course, there are some that only require a few confirmations, so you’re looking at shorter transaction times.
So, how long does a BTC transfer take? Well, Bitcoin transactions are verified through the use of network computers (aka nodes). These nodes use cryptography to solve complex algorithms, validate transactions, and keep the Bitcoin network secure.
While all that sounds simple enough, there are a few steps that must take place before the transaction is valid. These steps are as follows:
Multiple transactions reside together in blocks, and when a block completes, it joins the Bitcoin network, adding another piece to the blockchain.
Several factors can impact the transaction speed on the Bitcoin network. Let’s take a look at a few.
Because Bitcoin is the most well-known crypto on the planet, it has to process hundreds of thousands of transactions on a daily basis. This adds up to over ten million transactions each year. When transaction volume gets too high, miners start having a difficult time verifying them. So when you're wondering how long does a BTC transfer take, this is what you need to remember leads to slow confirmation times.
Not only do users get frustrated with slow transaction times, but they also become annoyed at being charged higher transaction fees if they want their BTC transfer completed quicker. However, Bitcoin began using its layer-2 Lightning Network, which aims to drastically cut down on fees and transaction times.
Bitcoin holders who choose to use the Lightning Network can avoid paying high fees by performing their transactions off-chain. These are done through direct digital payment vendors, which not only helps users avoid hefty fees but also reduces the load on the Bitcoin network.
Unfortunately, the Lightning Network isn’t a long-term solution to reducing the long transaction times and network congestion that often plagues the Bitcoin network. For starters, users must pay to open and close vendor channels. Plus, Lighting is more likely to suffer cyberattacks than the Bitcoin blockchain since it's an off-chain payment channel.
Another critical item to consider when thinking about how long BTC transfers take is scalability. Unfortunately, Bitcoin is well-known for its limitations in being able to scale up and support more users or handle a larger network load.
In theory, one block in the Bitcoin blockchain has a capacity of roughly 4MB. Of course, we all know that theory and reality are two different animals. The reality is that the majority of Bitcoin blocks are capable of handling a little less than half of that, which, unfortunately, doesn’t stack up well when compared with other well-known digital currencies.
The average block on the Bitcoin network can support 1,500-2,500 BTC transfers. Since Bitcoin is the world’s most popular crypto, that’s nowhere near enough to handle the demand put on its blockchain. By comparison, some blockchains have block sizes 8x larger than Bitcoin’s, which means they can handle more transactions. As a result, the amount of time a transaction takes to complete is significantly lower, as are the fees for each transaction.
Because of its lack of scalability, huge numbers of BTC transactions get stuck in the Bitcoin mempool. Think of the mempool as the little room you’re taken to when you visit the doctor. First, you visit the waiting room, which is where you learn your “transaction” is valid. Then, you head to the little room to wait for the transaction to go through confirmation and finalization.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of transactions in front of you, so you’ll sit in your little room waiting until they clear. Who knows how long the delay will be?
In addition to scalability problems and network congestion, BTC transfers also have the challenge of fees. Miners are responsible for verifying and confirming blocks on the blockchain. When they do so, they earn rewards in the form of transaction fees. As many of us would, miners focus on the transactions that pay the most, which means low-paying choices have to wait until much further down the line.
That means if you want your transaction confirmed quickly, you’ll have to pay more in fees. If you’re in a hurry for your transaction, you’re going to pay a premium, so a miner will snatch it up and verify it as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you might wind up waiting an hour or more.
Many within the Bitcoin world don’t think it’s fair to pay more in transaction fees. However, others are quick to point out that miners need a significant amount of electricity to power the computers that verify transactions. Doing so keeps the Bitcoin network decentralized and safe.
The thing to remember when you buy Bitcoin is that it takes time to confirm transactions on the blockchain. How long does a BTC transfer take? Whether you’re using a Bitcoin Depot ATM or going through the Bitcoin Depot mobile app, it might take a few minutes for your BTC to show up in your wallet. Be patient and remember that some things are worth waiting for.