Conducting transactions on the immutable blockchain can be a great way to secure the trade of digital assets. However, sending a crypto transaction on the blockchain doesn’t happen in a blink of an eye. The distributed ledger is prone to latency and finality issues that can cause low scalability. And the most stressful part? Your transaction can get delayed, for a long time! Transaction delays happen for many reasons, and we’re here to help you navigate this problem.
The Transaction’s Journey
When you send crypto to another wallet address, the transaction is first broadcasted to the peer-to-peer network that is operating the blockchain. Each node receives a version of the transaction so it can verify it. The network would then apply a certain consensus mechanism and only one node can add the block containing the transaction to the blockchain.
However, when nodes receive transactions, they don’t go into the consensus application immediately, the transactions are stored in something called the mempool. The mempool, short for “memory pool”, stores transactions before they get verified by miners. Each node has its own version of a mempool.
When the demand is high, too many transactions can get stuck in the mempool, which can create network congestion.
Top Reasons For Delayed Transactions
Okay, so network congestion leads to my transaction being delayed, right? Not always. Some delays happen when there are no piles of transactions waiting around in the mempool. Here are the top reasons why transaction delay happens.
During a high volume of traffic, a huge number of transactions get piled up in nodes’ mempools in a pending state. Blockchains experience network congestion too often due to their scalability problems. Scalability is a network’s ability to handle an increasing load of work. When the network cannot handle overloads, transaction confirmation time gets delayed, and thus it affects the transaction speed accordingly.
Each blockchain has a specific transaction per second (TPS) rate that dictates how fast it can process transactions. Blockchains with a low TPS are more prone to get clogged, and thus, your transaction might be delayed in the process.
Low Transaction Fees
Another reason a transaction might be delayed is low transaction fees. Miners are incentivized by fees and rewards, so, they will always prioritize transactions with higher fees. This happens especially when the network is congested. If you’ve paid the minimum transaction fees, you may wait a long time before a miner picks your transaction.
This reason is usually seen in smaller blockchains that do not have enough network nodes to run the blockchains. Big blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum don’t encounter this issue because they have thousands of nodes operating their networks. Some smaller blockchains however might encounter problems where miners or validators don’t see verifying transactions as profitable as they used to.
Some network attacks can be the cause of transaction delays. For example, spam attacks can cause the network to slow down. Malicious entities conduct spam attacks by sending themselves many transactions with low fees, which can clog up the network.
Dusting attacks can also result in transaction delays. In a dusting attack, the bad actor would send themselves fractions of crypto to hundreds of addresses.
Sometimes, the network is not the one responsible for the transaction delay. Wallet or exchange issues can contribute to delays based on different factors such as technical malfunctions, maintenance and upgrades, liquidity issues, compliance and security checks, overwhelming demand, and much more.
Technical issues are the most common reason for transaction delays by an exchange platform. These platforms always face software bugs, server downtime, or other infrastructure problem. If you face this issue, you can simply contact the service providers to resolve your issue.
The network constantly updates the blockchain. This can impact the transaction process and ultimately cause transaction delays. Some upgrades introduce temporary disruptions or delays as nodes adapt to the changes and update their software accordingly.
What Can You Do if Your Transaction Took Too Long?
There are a few things to do when facing transaction delay instead of waiting forever. Here’s how you can approach this issue:
- Do Nothing: Yes you read it right. Sometimes it’s best to just wait a little longer before you take another action. Sometimes, some transactions take a little bit longer than other transactions. However, this solution only works if you haven’t set low fees.
- Replace-by-Fee Protocol: If you don’t want to wait, or if you did indeed set low fees, you can simply replace your transaction with one with a higher fee. The RBF protocol can cancel your transaction and allows you to resend it with a higher transaction fee.
- Double-Spend: Double-spending is a form of attack that targets the blockchain when a bad actor wants to spend the same coins twice. However, in this case, it’s totally valid. If you send the same transaction with a higher fee, ultimately, nodes will select the higher fee one. However, not all softwares allow you to do that, so choose a compatible wallet.
Transaction Delay: The Bottom Line
Transaction delays will happen in a technology that just emerged to the surface. The blockchain is rather new, and its scalability issues hinder it from being efficient. Grasping how this distributed ledger works can give you a better understanding of why your transaction delay happens, and ultimately will give you the options to choose how to deal with it.
You can simply just wait it out, or cancel your transaction with one with a higher fee. There are other factors to consider when dealing with blockchain technology, such as finality and latency. Make sure to check them out!