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As I understand, with the network congestion it's sometimes advisable to set a higher fee to process a transaction within a block or two. Is there some way to estimate the optimal fee through calls to bitcoind? I know there are some online services that do those estimations, but I'd rather not rely on such external factors.

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The other answer is outdated. estimatefee is deprecated. You should use estimatesmartfee

Please use estimatesmartfee for more intelligent estimates. Estimates the approximate fee per kilobyte needed for a transaction to begin confirmation within nblocks blocks. Uses virtual transaction size of transaction as defined in BIP 141 (witness data is discounted).

Arguments: 1. nblocks (numeric, required)

Example:

bitcoin-cli estimatesmartfee 6
8

Have you tried using the estimatefee RPC call? This will calculate the amount needed per kilobyte.

For example calling bitcoin-cli estimatefee 2 would provide a fee per kb to try to get confirmed within 2 blocks.

https://bitcoin.org/en/developer-reference#estimatefee

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    In fact, if you use any of the automatic send RPCs (sendtoaddress etc), and don't configure a manual feerate (the -paytxfee option), fee estimation will be used automatically. – Pieter Wuille Dec 27 '16 at 10:59
1

I am using https://bitcoinfees.net . They hare using Bitcoin Core's "estimatesmartfee" method. You can easily pick a transaction fee based on confirmation time.

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