The beauty of making transactions with cryptocurrency is that they can be very easily traced. (Unless you’re using a privacy coin!)
This is because cryptocurrencies run on public blockchains — open ledgers that serve as a comprehensive history of all transactions.
The transparency of the blockchain is essential to its functionality because it means there is no need to trust a single authority. Instead, everyone is allowed to verify and track every single transaction to ensure that nobody is taking advantage of the system. But unless you’re a developer who can make sense of strings of code, then these transactions can be difficult to read. This is where Block Explorers come in.
Block Explorers display the inner workings of the blockchain, making it easy to track cryptocurrency transactions. Anyone can find out where funds are moving to and from and how much was paid in network fees, or what the balance is of a particular account. This is especially useful If you’re expecting a transaction and are worried it might have vanished!
In the early days of bitcoin, there were only a few block explorers, but you can now find them for all of the major cryptocurrencies.
How to track Bitcoin transactions
You can trace Bitcoin transactions using Blockchain, the oldest Bitcoin block explorer.
Whenever you send bitcoin, you will be given a transaction ID, which looks something like this:
Simply copy this code into the block explorer to access all the details of that transaction, including the number of confirmations which tells you how close it is to completion.
How many confirmations are needed for bitcoin transactions?
A confirmation occurs when a transaction is included in a block on the blockchain. If a payment has zero confirmations, it can still theoretically be reversed. Most bitcoin exchanges need at least three confirmations when receiving a transaction, and six is the gold standard for a transaction to be considered fully complete. This can take between ten minutes and six hours.
The speed of the confirmations depends on network congestion and miner fees: the higher the miner fee, the more bitcoin you offer to miners, and the more inclined they are to quickly process your transactions.
Most beginner wallets won’t let you specify a miner fee, and will instead deduct a set amount when you send bitcoin. Only more advanced wallets and exchanges allow you to specify a fatter miners fee to help speed up the transaction.
How to track Ethereum transactions
How many confirmations are needed for Ethereum transactions?
For wallet-to-wallet transactions, Ethereum needs six confirmations, but up to 36 confirmations can be needed for sending to exchanges.
Be aware that the speed of the transaction also depends on the fee paid, with Ethereum this is measured in GAS.
Assuming no congestion, Ethereum transactions confirm faster than bitcoin transactions. Anytime between two minutes and two hours could be considered normal.
How to track Litecoin transactions
How many confirmations does a Litecoin transaction need?
Most exchanges require six confirmations for a Litecoin transaction, but wallets will often require less.
How to track Ripple (XRP) transactions
Ripple has an official block explorer for XRP.
How many confirmations does an XRP transaction need?
XRP transactions are usually almost instant and should take no longer than a few minutes to clear.