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How to Cancel Unconfirmed Bitcoin Transaction

Last Updated on February 27, 2024

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Quick Answer:

Bitcoin holds the largest market cap in the crypto world, significantly outpacing Ethereum and other altcoins. Its value soared to over $50,000 in 2021, a tenfold increase from the previous year, with around 300,000 transactions processed daily. These transactions span from minute amounts to multimillion dollar deals, with Bitcoin becoming increasingly integrated into various financial transactions, from personal purchases to large-scale investments.

Transfers on the Bitcoin blockchain are verified by miners who solve complex problems to add new blocks to the blockchain, each block containing up to 1MB of transaction data. Transactions are usually confirmed within 10 minutes, but network congestion or low transaction fees can lead to delays. Transactions with higher fees are prioritized by miners, and incorrect destination addresses can also cause transactions to remain unconfirmed.

If a transaction remains unconfirmed for over 24 hours, it can be cancelled using the Replace-by-Fee (RBF) protocol, which allows you to resend the transaction with a higher fee to ensure miners process it. If RBF isn’t an option, the double-spending method involves sending a new transaction with a higher fee. Unconfirmed transactions can be a common issue for frequent Bitcoin users, especially those transacting smaller amounts, but these methods provide a solution to ensure the transfer is eventually processed.

Bitcoin (BTC) has the biggest market capitalisation of all digital currencies. It’s about five times as much as that of Ethereum (ETH), the second most popular crypto, and much more than altcoins like Bitcoin Cash (BCH) or Litecoin (LTC) could probably ever achieve.

The fiat money value of  BTC has surpassed 50,000 USD in 2021, which is 10 times more compared to its value of 4-5,000 US dollars just a year ago.

When Bitcoin appeared in 2009, no one could predict how much its value would grow thanks to the numerous use cases it now has in the modern financial market. In 2020, there was an average of about 300.000 BTC transactions daily ranging from small pocket money amounts, all the way to multimillion dollar transactions.

Individuals and companies around the world are recognizing BTC as a key digital asset in their financial endeavours, whether it’s buying clothes or tech devices online, paying for travel arrangements, buying a new car, or investing in real estate. Banks are also slowly starting to include crypto transfers in their portfolio of services and companies are offering employees salaries in Bitcoin.

Such a high volume of daily transactions, along with the popularity and value of Bitcoin, means that the network used by the currency, an open-source blockchain, has to run smoothly, with high security of transferred funds and unflinching efficiency.

Still, unexpected issues can occur and your transaction can sometimes take longer than usual to get confirmed. You may even want to cancel an unconfirmed transfer and try another way of moving your funds.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how the BTC transfer process looks and how you can cancel an unconfirmed transaction.

Crypto bitcoin transfer concept

How Do You Transfer Cryptocurrency on the Bitcoin Blockchain?

The Bitcoin blockchain is a decentralized network based on peer-to-peer transfers of funds. In order for a transaction to be successfully processed, network nodes, which are actually Bitcoin miners, must verify the validity of each transaction by solving mathematical problems with their computational power in order to create a new block on the network and process a certain amount of transactions.

Each block of the blockchain can contain 1MB of transaction data, and the number of transactions in a block depends on the complexity of the transaction data.

In order for your transaction to get processed, a certain number of confirmations are required. The confirmation system is based on the proof-of-work rule, which requires independent miners to confirm your transaction in order to prevent the double-spend problem.

Depending on the trading platform, 3 to 5 confirmations are required for a Bitcoin transaction to be confirmed and processed, which usually takes up to 10 minutes.

Reasons Your Transfer Is Unconfirmed

Even though the usual transfer time is up to 10 minutes, sometimes transactions can take longer, depending on the network busyness and other factors. You should wait 24 hours, and if the transaction hasn’t been processed within that time, it’s best to cancel it and try sending a new one.

One possible reason for your transaction not being confirmed is the current network load. If the blockchain is very busy and there are loads of pending transactions, that requires a lot of computational power to process the previous transactions and it may take more than 10 minutes for your transfer to be confirmed.

Also, a frequent reason for unconfirmed BTC transfers is that the transaction fee was either too low or wasn’t entirely included in the transfer. With Bitcoin transfers, if you are sending a smaller amount, it can take longer for the transaction to get approved or it can even become unconfirmed.

Network nodes tend to process larger transfers with higher miner fees first. If you are sending a really low amount, measurable in just a couple of hundred satoshis, miners won’t find your transfer attractive for processing and confirming because of the low fee.

Another common reason for an unconfirmed Bitcoin transaction is entering the wrong destination address when sending funds. Yes, this happens often, since destination addresses are long lines of digits and letters and the sender can easily misspell a part of the address which means that the funds are sent either to an entirely different location or to a nonexistent location, making the BTC stuck in the network without being processed.

Glowing blue bitcoin sign

How to Cancel an Unconfirmed BTC Transfer?

If you have waited for 24 hours and used a block explorer such as Blockchain.com to verify that your transaction still hasn’t been processed on the Bitcoin network using the transaction ID, then you essentially have two options:

  1. Reverse your BTC transaction with the RBF Protocol (Return by Fee)

This is a great option for cancelling an unconfirmed transaction and ensuring your Bitcoin gets processed through the network. The RBF protocol allows users to send their funds once again through the blockchain, using a higher transfer fee in order to make sure that miners will process their transfer.

Keep a look out for the RBF option in your Bitcoin wallet, because many wallets don’t support this option. It’s a good idea to keep your BTC in a wallet that does support RBF so you don’t have to worry in case your transfer remains unconfirmed. This method effectively cancels your original transaction, creating an entirely new one with the same funds.

  1. Double Spending

The second option is the one you use if you don’t have RBF available and it’s called double spending. Basically you just have to create a second transaction and send the BTC again, meaning new funds, with a higher fee in order to be sure the new transaction will get processed through the blockchain. This way you have to spend the desired amount of BTC twice, but it’s the only solution if you don’t have RBF available.

smartphone in hand with bitcoin image

A Few Words Before You Go…

Unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions aren’t uncommon. They are something that will quite possibly happen to you if you transfer BTC often and in lower amounts.

Now you know what factors can influence a transaction, and how to solve any unconfirmed Bitcoin transfer.

About The Author

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Eduardo Prospero, an author, content writer, and professional rapper, infuses his cryptocurrency writings with a blend of philosophy, cultural insights, and a strong focus on Bitcoin.

His unique background and engaging style make his articles a compelling read for those interested in understanding the crypto world through a diverse and artistic lens.

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