Estimate Time5 min

How to send and receive bitcoin and other crypto

Key takeaways

  • One of crypto's value-adds is the ability to send money without a third-party intermediary.
  • However, this also means that there is no customer service team to help if you make a mistake.
  • Make certain you've entered the right amount to the right address using the right network before you click Send.

Whether it's a 7-figure purchase or simply buying a slice of pizza, crypto lets users make transactions of all sizes without a third-party intermediary. Using blockchain technology, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies make it possible to send money directly to anyone with an internet connection—no credit card company or bank needed.

How to send and receive bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Image reminds readers to make sure they've entered the correct recipient address, network, and amount before they send crypto. Failing to do so could result in losing access to their crypto forever.

The most common ways to send crypto are through a crypto exchange, traditional investment platform, or third-party wallet. Note that you can only send crypto if you own the actual cryptocurrency, meaning the content in this article does not apply to spot bitcoin ETPs or crypto ETFs.

In all cases, the process is relatively similar and is done through the Send function (in some crypto exchanges, it may be labeled Withdraw).

However, be sure to double- and even triple-check each step before proceeding, as making a mistake could mean losing access to your assets forever. Specifically, pay close attention to the following:

  • Recipient address: You'll need to enter the wallet address you're sending crypto to. Wallet addresses are typically strings of letters and numbers that can be over 40 characters long. If the address is off by even one character, your assets may be sent to the wrong location, and there's a good chance you won't be able to recover them. Check that the recipient address is correct before clicking Send. Note: Some exchanges allow you to scan a QR code, which helps simplify the process of entering an address.
  • Network: If you're using a crypto exchange, you may be prompted to choose a network. Make sure to select the same network as your recipient's wallet. Failure to do so will likely result in losing access to your assets forever. Many exchanges allow you to generate new wallet addresses based on the network, so when in doubt, consider asking your recipient to create a new wallet.
  • Amount: Be certain you've entered the right amount to send. Unlike credit card payments, there is no central authority that can refund faulty transactions. If you're on the receiving end of the transaction, your primary task is to make sure the wallet address you've provided to the sender is accurate.

Do I need to pay a transaction fee when sending crypto?

The receiver does not incur any transaction fees, but the sender typically does. Transaction fees are built into the transfer process for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to pay miners and stakers for updating the blockchain.

Transaction fees are usually displayed by the platform you're using before you confirm and hit Send. They can vary based on factors including how congested the blockchain network is (i.e., how many people are also trying to make a transaction at the same time) and which cryptocurrency network you're using.

How do bitcoin and other crypto transactions technically work?

First, recall that the amount of crypto each person owns is recorded and updated on the cryptocurrency's blockchain, which is like a giant, public spreadsheet that keeps track of everyone's accounts.

Now let's look at a hypothetical transaction. Suppose Jane wants to send 1 bitcoin to John. When Jane clicks Send, her digital wallet notifies the Bitcoin network she has sent John 1 bitcoin.

This information isn't immediately updated on the blockchain. Instead, it gets held in a waiting room until it's picked up by a bitcoin miner,* who shares it with other bitcoin miners to verify accuracy before adding it to the blockchain. Transactions on the Bitcoin network are typically processed in around 10 minutes. Other cryptocurrencies run on networks that can be much faster, with some averaging near-instant processing times.

One analogy for this process is sending physical mail. When you send someone a letter, it gets pooled along with other letters in a post office, where it then gets picked up and sent to its final destination. The blockchain process follows a similar flow.

Subscribe to Decode Crypto

Boost your crypto knowledge. Sign up for monthly insights from crypto thought leaders.

How long does it take to send and receive bitcoin and other crypto?

This varies depending on the cryptocurrency. Each cryptocurrency runs on its own network, and transaction speeds vary depending on how the network operates. As mentioned earlier, bitcoin transactions currently average roughly 10 minutes. Ethereum transactions average roughly 12 seconds as of early 2023, while other cryptocurrencies are often processed in speeds ranging from near-instantaneously to hours.

There are also innovations that can help speed up transaction times for slower cryptocurrencies. For example, the Lightning Network enables bitcoin transactions to be processed in under a minute, if not milliseconds. It does this by collecting transaction data on a separate database that periodically ports the data over to the Bitcoin network.

Note that it's possible for certain transactions to take as long as days to process if the network is particularly congested (i.e., too many people are trying to send coins at once).

What to consider when sending and receiving bitcoin and other crypto

Remember that crypto has no customer service team. If you send coins to the wrong address, or enter the wrong amount, there is no way to reverse your transaction. This is true even if you're sending payments through a centralized exchange or platform.

In light of this, senders should make certain they've entered a) the correct wallet address, b) the correct amount, and c) the correct network before confirming the transaction. Receivers should make certain that they've provided the sender with the correct wallet address.

Keeping these factors in mind before sending or accepting crypto may help reduce the chance of losing access to your coins forever.

In general, remember that crypto is highly volatile, and may be more susceptible to market manipulation than securities. Crypto holders don't benefit from the same regulatory protections applicable to registered securities, and the future regulatory environment for crypto is currently uncertain. 

Crypto is also not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, meaning you should only buy or send crypto with an amount you're willing to lose.

Fidelity Crypto®

New to crypto? Not for long. Ease in with as little as $1.

More to explore

*While proof of work networks like Bitcoin are run through miners, transactions on proof of stake networks like Ethereum are added to the blockchain by stakers.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.

Crypto is highly volatile, can become illiquid at any time, and is for investors with a high-risk tolerance. Investors in crypto could lose the entire value of their investment. The information herein is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute a recommendation, investment advice of any kind, or an offer or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell cryptocurrency or other digital assets. Please perform your own research and consult a qualified advisor to see if digital assets are an appropriate investment option.

As with all your investments through Fidelity, you must make your own determination whether an investment in any particular security or securities is consistent with your investment objectives, risk tolerance, financial situation, and evaluation of the security. Fidelity is not recommending or endorsing this investment by making it available to its customers.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917