One of the most common enquiries we get from customers looks this:
"I purchased bitcoins a few hours ago, sent them to my wallet but don’t see them yet. How much time does a Bitcoin transaction take? How long does it take to transfer bitcoins from one wallet to another? Is there anything on my end I need to do? When can I expect to receive the coins?”
First, you want to make sure that the transaction happened, it is sent out to the network, it is the right amount of coins and the destination address is correct. All Bitcoin transactions are public, therefore you can use blockchain.info to verify without having to wait more than a few seconds.
When you make the withdrawal, a “TXID” (transaction identifier) is given to you. Go to blockchain.info and copy/paste this TXID in the search box.
Don’t worry if you didn’t take note: you can simply click on the [ TRX ] link next to the transaction in your wallet’s history. It will take you to the same blockchain.info page as if you had searched for your transaction.
When you arrive on the blockchain.info page, make sure that you see your address somewhere. There will be other addresses and information possibly. If you see your address there, it means that the bitcoins have been really sent. That’s good!
If you have verified that the transaction took place, you can sit back and relax, the coins will arrive to you soon.
But why do I not see the funds in my wallet instantly?
There could be many possible reasons. The most common one is that the wallet doesn’t show any bitcoins with less than a number of confirmations (typical values are ‘3’ and ‘6’). Check the Confirmations for your transaction on the blockchain.info page. What does it say?
If Confirmations shows 0-3, the Bitcoin network is just slow, and you need to wait a bit more.
If Confirmations shows a higher number, then the bitcoins can be considered completely irreversible, in other words the transaction is done.
Every new confirmation needs 10 minutes on average. So depending on what type of wallet you use and many factors, it could take between 10 minutes and 1 hour before you get to spend the bitcoins that you have bought. This will be on average 20-30 minutes.
"I see 76 confirmations but my balance is the same!"
To find out why, you need to know what kind of wallet you sent it to.
- Online wallet: sites like Blockchain.info or Instawallet.org run their own Bitcoin software and allow you to control your own funds through a web interface.
- Your computer: you can run the Bitcoin software on your computer, so your funds and the blockchain (a database of all Bitcoin transactions ever) are stored on your hard drive.
If you are running the Bitcoin software on your computer, the most common reason why your coins wouldn’t show up quick enough is because it hasn’t synced up yet. The program downloads the whole blockchain to your computer and verifies it cryptographically. How long this takes depends a lot on how fast your computer and internet connection is. If you just installed the Bitcoin client, you will have to run it for at least a few hours (on a slower computer, possibly even days) before it syncs up.
If you are using the client Multibit, the most probable solution is to use the “reset blockchain” feature.
If you are using an online wallet and don’t see the coins, then you have a different problem. Web wallets should be accessible 24/7, and their Bitcoin software should be running all day as well. If your transaction is confirmed but the site still doesn’t show the bitcoins in your balance, you need to contact the site’s operators. It is possible that they are having a temporary technical issue. While this rarely happens, most web wallets (Blockchain, Instawallet, BTCfaucet, etc) have experienced such problems in the past, so there is no need to panic right away. When you contact an online wallet’s operator, be sure to mention:
- How much BTC you sent
- What BTC address you sent it to
- What the identifier or username is (if any) on the website that this BTC address is paired with
- What the TXID is
- When you sent the coins (along with time zone)
- How long you have waited for the coins to show up before contacting the site
With the above information, any legit online Bitcoin wallet operator will be able to find out what the problem is. Remember: it is best to be cautious. Before you send bitcoins to any address that isn’t completely under your control (like in a web wallet) make sure that you are not sending it to scammers. Remember, Bitcoin transactions are irreversible. That’s why they’re great!