Bitcoin transactions are processed through what are known as confirmations. It’s through this process that transactions can be secure without a centralized authority overseeing everything. You could consider confirmations part of what’s so impressive about Bitcoin, and one doctoral student even sees it as similar to stirring milk into coffee with a spoon from a molecular standpoint.
Fortunately, you don’t need a PHD to understand exactly what’s happening with Bitcoin confirmations.
How it works is that Bitcoin miners create new blocks to add to the blockchain. They do this through their mining work, and there’s a new block created about every 10 minutes or so. Each block serves as a record of new Bitcoin transactions and a verification of old ones.
Once a transaction is verified on a block, it is said to have gone through one confirmation.
If you were to send 1 bitcoin to another party, then the transaction would start unconfirmed. Once it was verified on a block, it would have one confirmation. After it was verified on two blocks, it would have two confirmations and so on.
More confirmations will take longer, as you’re looking at about 10 minutes per confirmation, but they will also be more secure.
1. The Number of Bitcoin Confirmations a Transaction Needs
So, just how many Bitcoin confirmations does your transaction need? That depends. Here’s the standard recommendations, which are used by just about all legitimate Bitcoin exchanges:
- For Bitcoin payments with values under $1,000, one confirmation is sufficient.
- For Bitcoin payments with values between $1,000 and $10,000, three confirmations are used.
- Bitcoin payments with values of $10,000 to $1 million get six confirmations.
- While there is some flexibility for Bitcoin payments with values over $1 million, it’s best to have 60 confirmations to play it safe.
Without at least one confirmation, a payment could get reversed.
2. How You Can Check on a Transaction
When you want to see how many confirmations your Bitcoin transaction has gone through already, you can use a block explorer.
Your Bitcoin wallet may provide a link to view the transaction on a block explorer directly. If not, it will provide a transaction ID, which is a long string of characters.
Enter that transaction ID into a block explorer, such as blockchain.info. The block explorer will provide transaction information, including its current number of confirmations.
3. The Average Timeframe for Bitcoin Confirmations
With a sufficient transaction fee, your Bitcoin transaction has a greater than 60-percent chance of getting its first confirmation within 10 minutes. The odds are over 80 percent that it will happen within 20 minutes.
4. What to Do About Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transactions
Want your Bitcoin transaction to hurry up and confirm? Give it 72 hours, as transactions can take this long to process. If nothing has happened by then, try redoing the transaction.
One Bitcoin wallet that’s good for this is Electrum, because you can pay a higher fee to get your transaction moving.