Ever since their introduction to the world in 2009 with Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies have been getting increasingly more popular. What was once a novel new technology to play around with is now cementing itself as a key part of the global finance sector.
Crypto is also getting progressively closer to achieving its initial goal; a decentralized digital currency that you can use for day-to-day transactions. However, fast transfer speeds are one of the most crucial features crypto needs to achieve mass adoption.
So, how do the cryptocurrencies available on the market perform in that department? Let’s find out.
Factors Affecting Crypto Transfer Time
Before we evaluate the transfer speeds of individual crypto assets, let’s get a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that affect crypto transfer times as a whole.
From our experience, these are the key factors that have the most influence on the final crypto transaction times:
A crypto transfer is considered complete when it is added to the underlying blockchain. But, before that, a crypto transaction needs confirmations from nodes or miners around the world to solidify its legitimacy.
How these confirmations work is a topic for another day, the important point to remember is that the speed of confirmations depends on network conditions. So, when there are more transfer requests than a network can handle, that network is considered congested.
During network congestion, each confirmation takes more time than usual, which in turn slows down crypto transfers.
As we just mentioned, each crypto transfer needs confirmations from miners and nodes to complete. In most cases, you have to pay a transaction fee in exchange for these confirmations which is also called a gas fee.
Now, some crypto assets like EOS have fixed fees so all transactions are treated equally by miners. On the contrary, many cryptocurrencies — like BTC and ETC — allow you to set custom gas fees for each transaction.
If you set high fees, miners and nodes will prefer your transfer request over the others and the transaction will be completed much more quickly. On the other hand, setting lower-than-average fees will usually increase transaction time.
We often use the term “Blockchain” to describe the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies as a whole. However, there is no singular “Blockchain,” but rather a number of different blockchains that support a variety of crypto assets. Due to the inherent differences between the underlying technology and goals of these blockchains, their transfer speeds vary as well.
The Bitcoin blockchain, for example, has an average speed of about 5-7 transfers per second (TPS). This is extremely slow, especially when compared to blockchains like Cosmos which can handle up to 10,000 TPS.
So, the time it takes to complete a crypto transaction is directly dependent on the blockchain technology you're using.
Transaction size and complexity
The correlation between transaction size and speed is easy to understand. Larger transactions usually take longer because miners have to do more work to verify and record them on the blockchain.
Complexity, on the other hand, refers to factors like the number of inputs/outputs and additional features like smart contracts. For example, some wallets allow you to send Bitcoin to multiple addresses with one transaction. A feature like this increases verification complexity for each transaction, which — in turn — increases transfer times.
Average Transfer Times for Popular Cryptocurrencies
Now that we know about the major underlying factors that determine crypto transaction speeds, it’s time to look at some examples.
Here we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular crypto assets on the planet and how long it takes to transfer them between addresses.
Bitcoin is the oldest and the largest cryptocurrency in the world with a market cap of $545 billion at the time of writing. However, a major drawback of Bitcoin is its slow transaction speed.
As we mentioned earlier, the Bitcoin network can process only 5-7 transactions per second. Due to this low TPS and high trading volume, an average Bitcoin transaction can take anywhere between 10 and 60 minutes to complete. This time can also get even longer during high network congestion and can go up to several hours on occasion.
That said, there are some solutions — like the Lightning Network and Segregated Witness (SegWit) — that aim to improve BTC transaction times.
Ethereum (ETH) is the second largest crypto asset in terms of market capitalization. It has also become very popular due to its features like smart contracts.
At the time of writing, the ETH network can process up to 29 transactions per second. In our experience, the average ETH transfer takes 15 seconds to 5 minutes, which is significantly faster than Bitcoin.
The reason behind Ethereum’s faster transfer rate is its different architecture. Ethereum network uses a Proof of Stake (PoS) method for transaction confirmations. This requires significantly less computational power and resources than the Proof of Work (PoW) method used by Bitcoin.
Ripple (XRP) is a unique inclusion on this list as it is designed mainly for financial institutions like banks. It is meant for quick and easy cross-border transfers so it needs to be fast, and the XRP network does not disappoint.
On average Ripple network can handle up to 1,500 transactions per second. From our use, this TPS translates to about 4 seconds of real-world transfer time which is exceptionally fast.
The primary reason behind this blazing transfer speed is XRP's unique transaction algorithm called Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA). This algorithm ensures that all nodes on the network are applying deterministic rules to speed up the confirmation process.
USDT & USDC
USDT and USDC are both stablecoins that are pegged to the value of a dollar to maintain a stable price. Both of them also operate on multiple blockchain technologies which directly affects their transfer times.
For USDT, transactions on the primary ERC-20 network can take up to 10 minutes to complete. On the other hand, we’ve sent USDT on the TRC-20 Tron network many times in less than two minutes.
Similarly, USDC on the ERC-20 blockchain can take up to 3 minutes for each transfer. But, if you switch to the Flow network, transaction time goes down to just 2.5 seconds on average.
Examples of Real-World Transfer Times
From our time in the crypto market, here are some of the fastest and slowest crypto assets:
How to Check the Status of a Cryptocurrency Transfer
Most of the transfer times mentioned so far are either averages or deduced from personal experience. If you want more accurate time measurements, you’d have to check the status of your crypto transfer yourself.
Fortunately, this process is extremely straightforward and easier than you might think. The only thing you need for this is your transaction ID (TxID).
If you’re transferring, you can enter your TxID on the Blockchain.info website and it’ll display all the information you need like the number of confirmations.
Tips for Minimizing Transfer Time
Here are a few tips and tricks we use regularly to cut down on transaction times and transfer crypto as fast as possible:
Choosing the right asset
As we’ve discussed so far, different crypto assets have different transfer speeds based on factors like their blockchain type and network TPS. So, if you want the fastest transfers, consider using coins that are built for reliable speed — such as Ripple, Stellar Lumens, and Cosmos.
Choosing the right blockchain
Some cryptocurrencies — like USDT and USDC — are available on multiple blockchain networks. Choosing the right one can cut your average transfer time from minutes down to a few seconds.
Paying higher transfer fees
Paying higher fees will increase your transfer speeds by a noticeable amount. However, we don’t recommend this strategy for regular use as it can quickly cut into your profits and savings. So, only offer higher-than-average fees if you’re in a hurry.
Alternatively, you can save crypto by choosing low fees with slow transactions.
Using a reputable service provide
Whether you want to transfer crypto from an exchange or a private wallet, make sure to choose well-known, reputable service providers. This will ensure that there is a minimal delay on top of the network TPS and that your transactions are completed as quickly as possible. Some notable names in the industry include Binance, Coinbase, Ledger, and Trust Wallet.
So, how long does it take to transfer crypto? Well, it depends on the coin, blockchain, and service provider of your choice. Plus, factors like network congestion, transaction fees, and transaction size affect the final transfer time as well.
So, make sure to do your research and keep all of these factors in mind when trading crypto. This way you’ll have a better time with crypto as you’ll be able to make your transactions as efficient as possible.