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I have the bitcoin-qt client running on Ubuntu 12.10 and I see a transaction fee box in the preferences, but I am unsure of what it actually means - the wiki is overly complex, and I am unable to find another help website about this.

Can anyone give a easy to understand explenation of a minimum transaction fee. Do I have to pay it, or the sender? Etc.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Under Options of the most recent release, v0.7.1, reads:

Optional transaction fee per kB that helps make sure your transactions are processed quickly. Most transactions are 1kB. Fee 0.01 recommended.

Pay transaction fee: 0.00000000 BTC

What that field does is always add at least N BTC fee to every transaction.

When sending a transaction, the Bitcoin.org client will do a computation and insist on a fee to be paid if it determines the transaction will not be processed promptly unless a fee is paid.

Not all transactions require a fee. If the amount of the payment is not small or the coins are not newly received (or both), then you can likely send a transaction using the Bitcoin-Qt client without paying a fee.

But there's always a chance that without paying a fee that your transaction will not be processed in a timely manner, as it is up to the miner or pool operator whether or not to include your transaction when mining.

So some people will use this optional fee field to make it so that every transaction goes out with a fee and thus no transactions sent will be delayed for the reason that no fee had been paid.

So do you have to pay a fee? The Bitcoin.org client will generally tell you when you do need to pay a fee and when it does, then yes -- you must pay it or use some other client that doesn't perform this check. But if it doesn't tell you to pay a fee, then you don't need to pay a fee but your transaction could still end up being delayed as a result.

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Most people leave that value as 0. Most transactions that don't require a fee go through in a timely manner. –  Stephen Gornick Nov 4 '12 at 1:10
    
There are people who need a transaction to be processed right away (e.g., doing a trade, in-person, where one confirmation is required before handing over the cash.) For them, paying a fee regardless is prudent. –  Stephen Gornick Nov 4 '12 at 1:11
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The sender pays the transaction fee.

The miner gets the fees for all the transactions it puts into a block. Adding a fee makes your transaction more attractive to the miner and hence encourages them to add it to the next block.

The complexity in the wiki is due to extra features such as anti-spam measures to prevent someone sending lots of transactions that move very small amounts around (commonly called 'dust').

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