A transaction on the Ethereum blockchain is technically initiated by an external account owner (not a contract). For example, if User A sends 1 Ether (ETH) to User B, the action of debiting from one account and crediting to another changes the blockchain’s state.
The change specifically takes place on the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Ethereum transactions need to be broadcast to the entire network, and any node can broadcast a request for the execution of a transaction on the EVM.
After broadcasting the request, a validator can then execute the transaction and propagate the state change to the whole network. Transaction fees are incurred during the process of validation, and each transaction must be included in a validated block. There are different types of transactions on the Ethereum network:
- Regular transactions: transactions occurring from one account to another.
- Contract-execution transactions: transactions interacting with deployed smart contracts (the “to” address is a smart contract address).
- Contract-deployment transactions: transactions with no “to” address (the data field is simply used to deploy the smart contract’s code).
How to check the status of an Ethereum transaction
Here’s a brief step-by-step guide on how to track Ethereum transactions:
Step 1: Select an Ethereum blockchain explorer
Some blockchain explorers are specific to Ethereum, such as Etherscan, Ethplorer and EthVM. Others support multiple chains, such as Blockchain.com and Tokenview, among others.
Step 2: Enter the transaction hash into the blockchain explorer’s search field
On Etherscan, for example, the search field is on the top, left-hand corner of the screen next to a dropdown that says “All Filters.” Depending on the tool, a user can search for information based on a wallet address, transaction hash (txid), block, token or domain name.
The txid is a unique identifier attached to a specific transaction. All transactions carried out on-chain, or those to and from external addresses, carry a unique txid found in the transaction details.
Depending on the platform, it can also be called a “hash” or “txn hash.” It usually looks like a string of random letters and numbers. On MetaMask, for example, a user can instantly see the txid upon clicking the “Activity” tab and selecting the transaction.
Other than the txid, traders can also use their public address (a string of 42 characters corresponding to their public account). In this case, they will be taken to an overview of their wallet activities, allowing them to navigate to the specific transaction independently.
Related: Ethereum wallets: A beginner’s guide to storing ETH
Step 3: Click the icon for “search” or “enter” on the blockchain explorer
Step 4: Check if the transaction was successful or not
How to know if an ETH transaction was successful: Details indicating the state of the transaction will appear on the blockchain explorer. If the transaction was successfully validated and is now on the blockchain, it will say “success” or “successful.”
If there are no errors displayed, it means that the transaction was completed successfully. The ETH should be credited to the destination wallet or exchange account within 24 hours of sending.
In the event of an Ether transaction failure, on the other hand, several error messages can appear:
- Error message or symbol: A red exclamation point or an error message saying “bad instruction” or “out of gas” means that the transaction was unsuccessful and the funds did not reach their intended destination. In the case of an “out of gas” error, users can double the gas limit they initially specified and try again.
- Reverted: This pertains to a smart contract user error. It means that the user should double-check the details of the transaction.
- Transaction not found: Either the transaction did not go through or it isn’t appearing on the blockchain explorer yet. Try using another explorer. If it still doesn’t appear on multiple ones, there’s a good chance it did not go through.
- Pending: The transaction is still waiting to be validated or processed, but it was located in the explorer’s transaction pool. Sometimes pending transactions can still be canceled or replaced by a user.
Related: How to sell Ethereum: A beginner’s guide to selling ETH
How long does an Ethereum transaction take to process?
An average transaction on the Ethereum blockchain will typically take between 15 seconds and five minutes to process, depending on several factors. These include the amount paid to process it (transaction fee) and how busy the network is at the time of processing.
Ethereum transitioned from a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake blockchain after the Merge. However, transaction speeds remain roughly the same. According to the Ethereum Foundation, it’s a common misconception that the Merge drastically sped up transactions.
However, there’s a slight difference, with slots occurring precisely every 12 seconds post-Merge compared with every 13.3 seconds pre-Merge. In any case, the change is barely noticeable by most users, as processing still usually depends on network congestion and transaction fees.
When a transaction is initiated, it is logged into Ethereum’s memory pool (mempool) and waits for validators to pick it up. The mempool functions much like a waiting room where pending transactions are held.
Once a validator enters transaction data into a block and adds the block to the blockchain, the transaction is considered complete. It is said to be finalized and irreversible after six additional blocks have been mined and added on top of it.
By checking a transaction’s status, traders can confirm whether their transaction has succeeded or failed and how many blocks have been created since their transaction was added to the chain.
Why should traders check a transaction’s status?
Ethereum participants must pay gas fees to use the network to transfer funds or deploy smart contracts. The fees largely depend on the number of participants waiting to execute transactions at a given time.
Network congestion and demand are thus directly proportional to transaction costs. When demand is high, costs rise — the opposite is true when demand is low. In any case, checking a transaction’s status helps a trader monitor the cost of using the network.
It can also help users determine if the gas fee they paid is sufficient to have their transaction confirmed. Low gas fees can usually truncate or delay transactions, leaving them to remain pending for long periods of time, especially during high network congestion.
Such transactions will remain pending until the gas fees reach the required minimum fees on the network. If this happens, a user can resend the transaction by resubmitting it and increasing the gas fee while ensuring it carries the same nonce.
In addition to transaction status, Ethereum blockchain explorers can also reveal the following helpful information:
- Timestamp: the date and time the transaction was added to the blockchain.
- Block confirmations: the number of blocks mined since the transaction was confirmed.
- Transaction fee: the fee paid to the miner or validator.
- ETH price: the price of ETH at the time of processing.
- Base fee: the lowest fee required to transact on Ethereum.
- Gas limit: the maximum amount of gas the sender is allocating to process the transaction.
- Nonce: a unique number marking each transaction executed on a user’s wallet; it increases by one each time a new transaction is sent.
By being aware of the above, traders can stay on top of their ETH transactions and make sure transactions are processed correctly and quickly. This helps to ensure smooth Ethereum transactions when sending and receiving funds or deploying smart contracts. Understanding a transaction’s status can also help users adjust their spending habits and optimize network usage.