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What takes place when a Bitcoin transaction becomes “stuck”

What takes place when a Bitcoin transaction becomes "stuck"

Have a pending transaction that has little chance of being confirmed soon? Let’s find out why this occurs and how to repair it.

Because the transaction fee you chose was too low, transactions become stalled. When a fee is deemed to be “too low,” miners are merely filling their blocks with additional transactions that pay them larger fees. Your transaction might not be confirmed, and the money won’t go where it’s supposed to unless transaction numbers drop.

It should be remembered, nevertheless, that while your money are pending, there is NEVER a chance of a permanent loss. Either they will finally be confirmed, or they will be “forgotten” by nodes after a set amount of time, at which point you will be able to access them again in your wallet.

Depending on the capabilities supplied by the wallet you used to send the transaction, you might have some options to speed it up in the meantime. In this essay, we’ll go over each of those possibilities.

Mempool Analysis: How to Choose a Fair Transaction Fee

The term “mempool” refers to a group of pending transactions that have been verified by nodes but have not yet been confirmed (i.e. included to a blockchain block) by miners.

The network is designed to reject transactions with too low of a fee right immediately. In other words, the transaction won’t be stored in the nodes’ mempool (also known as the memory pool) and won’t spread to other nodes. The minimum transaction fee needed to join the mempool at the time of writing is around 5 Sat/vBtye (satoshis per vByte of data).

A transaction fee might be compared to paying for the block space that your transaction uses up. In vBytes, block space is expressed. Because of this, Bitcoin transaction fees are determined by the amount of data that needs to be added to the blockchain rather than the amount of money being sent.

How Your Money Will Eventually Come Back to You

As was already indicated, if you choose a fee that is too low, your transaction can eventually be “forgotten.” This is due to the fact that each node’s mempool, in the common node implementation, has a space limit of 300MB rather than being infinite. Nodes often remove the lowest charge transactions to make room for higher fee transactions once the mempool is at capacity. When this happens, you can again retrieve the money from your “forgotten” transaction.

This will be easier for you to understand if you look at the graph below. The mempool is regularly clearing out on the left side of the graph, indicating that even 1-2 Sat/vByte transaction fees were adequate provided you didn’t mind waiting a bit for confirmations. On the other hand, if the charge is less than 5–6 Sat/vByte, your transaction will never even be put into the mempool.

Node restarts and mempool expiry times may cause your transaction to be “forgotten.” It typically takes a few days for this to happen and for you to get access to your money again. However, because it depends on the number of transactions and other factors, it may occasionally take much longer.

We’ll describe alternative techniques you can use to get your transaction confirmed in those circumstances.

Making an effort to “Redo” the Transaction

What if you made a new transaction and sent the same amount of money to the same recipient but charging a greater fee? You just attempted a double-spend, according to the viewpoint of a node viewing the new transaction. Nodes just discard the newer transaction when it is recognized.

The “first-seen” policy adopted by Bitcoin nodes states that any later transactions that seek to spend the same coins will be deemed invalid and will not spread. This policy states that node software only accepts the first transaction it receives as genuine.

What choices do you have, therefore, if a transaction is trapped in the mempool and you don’t want to wait for it to be confirmed or lost? Here are some of the most typical answers.

Services for Transaction Accelerators

Finally, if RBF and CPFP are not possibilities, you can try a more indirect method—a transaction accelerator—to include your transaction in a block.

To include your transaction in one of their blocks, miners will accept an external payment (such as via PayPal, WeChat Pay, or an alternative cryptocurrency). In essence, you give miners a sufficient financial motivation by paying them a supplementary fee. Although Slush Pool does not provide this service, a quick internet search for “BTC transaction acceleration” will turn up some options.

This is contentious since these extra payments for transaction fees, or “out-of-band” payments, can cause miners to earn less money. You can learn more about how Stratum V2 improves out-of-band payments in this Deribit Insights post.

Your options are limited by your budget

Each wallet developer is free to decide which of the aforementioned alternatives they want to offer to its users. Exchange wallets, for instance, often impose a flat cost regardless of the amount being sent. That makes logical because stalled transactions will certainly result in disgruntled users and support issues. Self-custody wallets, in which you have full control over your keys, frequently offer more choices for advancing a frozen transaction.

You have the ability to run your own bank if you utilize Bitcoin. This has a lot of benefits, such as censorship and seizure resistance, but it also means that you could encounter perplexing circumstances like a stalled transaction. We sincerely hope that this post has given you some insight into what to do and how to avoid this from happening in the future.

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