USDC is one of the most popular stablecoin when it comes to trading, holding value against the volatility of cryptocurrency markets, or even earning yield through lending platforms. Its popularity and compatibility with multiple blockchains mean that both traders and investors can sometimes be left wondering how long it takes to transfer USDC from one wallet to another.
Unlike other cryptocurrency tokens, USDC is not limited to one blockchain, which means that there are several factors that can influence transaction times. In this guide, we will determine how USDC transactions work, establish which blockchains USDC is compatible with, and evaluate how long it actually takes to send USDC from one wallet to another.
USD Coin, better known as USDC, is a type of cryptocurrency that maintains a peg to the US dollar that is known as a stablecoin. Managed by the Centre consortium, which is composed of companies including Circle, Coinbase, and Bitmain, every USDC token is backed by physical US dollars. USDC is not native to one blockchain in particular and instead was developed for use on multiple networks.
Some of the quickest blockchain networks can process USDC transfers near-instantly, however, no USDC transfers are instantaneous. Even the fastest cryptocurrencies to send such as Solana, Polygon, and Hedera, will require a little processing time. Congestion on the blockchain and the destination wallet address will also impact results.
The time required to send USDC depends on the blockchain chosen to complete the transaction, congestion of the network and the number of confirmations. Ethereum-based USDC transactions can take between 5-20 minutes. In comparison, Proof-of-Stake (PoS) networks like Avalanche, Algorand, Tron, Flow, and Stella networks can all process USDC transactions within tens of seconds to 1 minute.
Faster blockchains such as Solana, Polygon, and Hedera-based transactions can often send USDC within 5 to 20 seconds. With its innovative Hashgraph technology, Hedera claims that the network can process over 100,000 TPS and claims a confirmation time of 3 to 5 seconds. Even at times of high congestion, USDC transaction times for Polygon, Solana, and Hedera are only likely to extend up to a maximum of 1 minute.
However, in addition to the unique internal architectures of different blockchains, there are also external factors that can influence how long it takes to complete USDC transactions.
Regardless of whether USDC is sent using the Ethereum or Solana blockchain, transaction speeds can be affected by both network congestion and the destination address.
- Network congestion. High congestion on a blockchain network can severely impact transaction times. As more people send transactions across the network, more transactions need to be validated and processed by either validators or miners, which slows down transfer speeds. However, the impact of congestion is also blockchain-dependent. Some blockchains, such as Solana, are able to scale much more rapidly than others. At times of high congestion, Ethereum transfers might increase by several minutes, whereas Solana transaction times may only increase by tens of seconds.
- Wallet address. The destination wallet address is the final external factor that can greatly impact the speed of USDC transfers. Cryptocurrencies are typically transferred into personal wallets or exchange-based wallets. However, transfers to personal wallets and exchange-based wallets can sometimes be treated differently. For increased security and accuracy, wallet providers can require a set number of confirmations to be completed before a USDC transfer is received.
Yes, sometimes the speed of a USDC transaction can be improved by either increasing the gas fee associated with the transaction or adding a tip. All blockchain transactions require a gas fee that is paid in the native cryptocurrency coin of the blockchain. For example, Ethereum users must pay a small amount of ETH each time a transaction is completed. However, some blockchains allow traders to increase the gas fee so that either validators or miners in the network process that transaction quicker.
Likewise, other blockchains allow traders to add a tip to the transaction which is then passed on to miners or validators. Adding a tip can help to get a transaction added to an earlier block in the blockchain. While a gas fee increase or tip can increase the likelihood that a transaction will be processed sooner, there is still no way to determine how long a USDC transaction might actually take.
The number of confirmations required for USDC transactions varies between wallet providers and also between different blockchains. Typically exchange-based wallets require the highest number of confirmations, whereas personal cryptocurrency wallets require far less.
The number of confirmations will then depend on the blockchain chosen to complete the transaction. Some wallet providers may only support one blockchain for USDC transfers, whereas others may support several. For example, Coinbase supports USDC running on 3 blockchain networks: Ethereum, Solana, and Polygon. Meanwhile, Binance supports USDC running on 8 different blockchain networks. The number of confirmations is often different for each supported network.
Here are the number of confirmations required to complete a USDC transfer on some of the most popular crypto exchanges:
- Crypto.com: Ethereum (ERC-20): 12 confirmations
- Kraken: Ethereum (ERC-20): 20 confirmations
- Coinbase: Ethereum (ERC-20): 14 confirmations, Solana: 14 confirmations, Polygon: 14 confirmations
As the majority of stablecoins work on a range of different blockchains, there is not one stablecoin within the cryptocurrency industry that is quicker than the others. It is the blockchain network that dictates the speed at which USDC is transferred.
For example, a USDC transaction completed on Polygon will likely arrive far quicker than a transaction completed on Ethereum. The same transaction speed would also be true for other stablecoins such as transferring USDT tokens. Even algorithmic stablecoins, such as DAI, are limited to the transaction speeds offered by the associated blockchain.
Like Ethereum (ETH), USDC is a digital asset stored on a blockchain. However, where ETH is a cryptocurrency coin, required for the operation and security of the Ethereum blockchain, USDC is a cryptocurrency token that has been developed on top of other blockchains.
This means that USDC is not native to one blockchain in particular. Although initially developed on Ethereum, the token can now be transferred using a wide variety of other blockchain networks. For example, the USDC ERC-20 token is associated with the Ethereum blockchain. This type of USDC token can only be sent to and from Ethereum wallet addresses. In comparison, a USDC ARC-20 token is associated with the Avalanche blockchain. This type of USDC token can only be sent to and from Avalanche wallet addresses.
With the ongoing expansion of layer-1 networks, USDC is now compatible with 9 different blockchains. These blockchains include:
A trader or investor can hold and transfer USDC on any of the 9 compatible blockchains. Once a blockchain has been selected, USDC can then be transferred to any wallet address that is applicable to that blockchain.
How a USDC transaction works depends on the blockchain being used to complete the transaction. While the majority of USDC compatible blockchains rely on a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, there are also compatible blockchains that rely on Proof-of-Work (PoW) and Hashgraph consensus.
Starting with PoS blockchains, these networks rely on a network of validators that lock away native cryptocurrency coins. For example, Tron validators need to lock away TRN coins. Once a USDC transaction has been executed, a validator in the network is selected at random to validate and process the transaction. The frequency of validator selection usually depends on how many native cryptocurrencies a validator has staked.
While PoS consensus covers the majority of USDC compatible blockchains, Ethereum and Hedera implement a slightly different form of consensus. Although upgrading to PoS in the future, for now, Ethereum still relies on PoW which requires miners to commit computing power. By committing computing power and solving a complex algorithm, a miner is selected to validate and process transactions.
Meanwhile, Hedera implements a Hashgraph consensus. Like a blockchain, each node within the network stores a copy of all transactions distributed across the network. However, rather than a chain, it stores these transactions in what is known as a Hashgraph. Transactions are then validated through a process known as Virtual Voting, which confirms the authenticity of transactions. Like PoS networks, the weight of virtual votes is dependent on the number of native HBAR tokens locked away.
Regardless of the consensus mechanism, once a USDC transaction has been validated through either PoS, PoW, or Hashgraph consensus, USDC tokens will be transferred from the sender to the recipient.
The steps for transferring USDC can be broken down into 3 steps:
- USDC tokens must be first deposited into a wallet that is applicable to your chosen blockchain. For example, to send USDC with Tron, the user would need to make sure that USDC tokens are within a TRC-20 wallet address.
- Once USDC is sitting within the correct wallet, enter the number of USDC tokens to transfer.
- Finally, enter the recipient wallet address that USDC will be sent to. Just as before, the recipient wallet address needs to be associated with the blockchain being used to transfer. If using the Tron blockchain, the recipient would need to be using a TRC-20 wallet address.
USDC transfers sent across the Ethereum blockchain can take slightly longer than competing layer 1 networks. This is partly due to the PoW consensus mechanism and partly due to the popularity of the Ethereum blockchain. At times of high usage, the blockchain struggles to handle the capacity of transactions executed.
In the not too distant future, Ethereum is transitioning to a PoS consensus mechanism which will be the first step in improving the scalability of the blockchain. However, increases in transaction times will likely not be witnessed until the blockchain implements ‘sharding’, which is scheduled to take place in 2023.
The price of a USDC transaction depends on the blockchain being used and where the USDC is being transferred from and too. Ethereum is by far the most expensive option for USDC holders due to its lack of scalability and network congestion. Transaction costs can fluctuate between a couple of dollars up to tens of US dollars. At the other end of the spectrum, transactions completed on blockchains such as Solana and Polygon can cost as little as a few cents.
In addition to blockchain gas fees, exchanges and crypto service providers may charge a deposit or withdrawal fee for USDC transfers. When using a third-party crypto service, remember to check the fees involved before transferring funds into the platform.
USDC maintains its peg with USD by holding physical US dollars in reserve. For every USDC token created, 1 USD is added to physical reserves. Likewise, as USDC tokens are burned, the equivalent amount of USD is removed from physical reserves. All reserves are regularly audited by independent auditors.
USDC’s peg to the US dollar means that it is commonly used within trading and provides a strong option for those looking to hold funds within a more stable digital asset. Due to the growing USDC ecosystem, which now includes 9 different blockchain networks, the transaction times required to send USDC can vary extensively.
Importantly, when transferring USDC, remember to ensure that the sender and recipient’s wallet addresses are compatible with the blockchain chosen to complete the transaction. To quicken the USDC transaction speed, increasing the gas fee or adding a tip may help get the transaction to the front of the queue.