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How long does an Ethereum transaction really take?

How long does an Ethereum transaction really take?

Ethereum transaction

The answer is: it depends. The time for an Ethereum transaction to complete depends on how much you pay in gas (i.e., transaction fees) and how congested the Ethereum network is.

As a refresher, every transaction you submit to the Ethereum blockchain must be accompanied by a fee known as gas. You get to decide the amount you’re willing to pay for this gas fee by selecting (1) gas price, i.e., the cost of each unit of gas and (2) gas limit, i.e., the maximum total gas you’re willing to pay for.

When you click submit, your transaction goes into the pool of pending transactions. From there, Ethereum miners pick pending transactions and bundle them into a block of transactions.

Simply speaking, the mining process involves a competition among miners to solve what’s essentially a math puzzle (one that’s hard to solve but easy to verify once it’s been solved). The first miner who solves the problem gets to add a block of transactions to the Ethereum blockchain and collect the reward, which includes all the gas paid by the transactions in the block.

On an average day, it takes anywhere between 15 seconds and 5 minutes to process a transaction if you pay the standard gas price.

What determines the price of gas?

Auctions do. You might think of a block as similar to an airplane where each seat is auctioned off. There’re only so many seats on the plane, so people who are motivated to get to their destination quickly won’t mind paying more to make sure they get a seat. Others don’t fret about fast they get there; they don’t care if they’re bumped to the next flight as long as their airfare stays within budget.

On Ethereum, you’ll experience something similar. Only a certain number of transactions can fit into a block. And miners want to maximize their fees, so they’ll tend to include transactions with the highest gas price in their blocks. So you should decide how important your transaction is to you, and then pay accordingly. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll want to pay more than the average person; otherwise, you might get bumped to a future block. Because if you pay below the average gas price, you can expect to wait longer than average for your Ethereum transaction to complete.

What causes slow transactions?

The simplest answer is: network congestion. If you think about the laws of supply and demand, this makes complete sense. As we discussed, the supply – i.e., space in any one block – is limited. But demand isn’t limited. Thus when the demand for getting a transaction included in a block rises, so will the cost (i.e., gas cost). So generally speaking, the more people competing to get their transactions processed quickly, they higher the gas price.

On the other hand, if you’re not in a hurry for your Ethereum transaction to complete, you can save some ETH by paying less than the standard gas price.

Common causes of high gas prices

One common cause of high gas prices is short-term price volatility. You might’ve noticed that when prices are jumping around a lot, gas prices tend to spike. It makes sense if you think about it: when prices spike or dump, people want to protect their positions or jump on arbitrage opportunities. This usually requires moving funds around and interacting with smart contracts like decentralized exchanges. In these situations, traders often accept higher fees to ensure they don’t miss their targeted profit opportunities.

Another situation that can lead to high gas prices is an airdrop. This is when an application or game seeks to distribute its tokens to a large number of users, often in a relatively short time period. performs what is called an airdrop. An airdrop is the process of distributing tokens to a large number of users. It’s not uncommon for a project to set high gas fees in order to complete its airdrop quickly. If gas prices seem abnormally high, you might want to check our Gas Burners page to find out who the culprit is. Sometimes, your only short-term option is to pay above the standard recommended gas price, but at least you’ll know who to shake your fist at.


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