Understanding On-chain And Off-chain Transactions

This article shall make camp on two quite common phrases within crypto circles, on-chain and off-chain transactions. Questions that will be answered are;

  • What do they mean?
  • How are they similar?
  • How are they different?
  • What are their merits and demerits?

What are On-Chain and Off-Chain Crypto Transactions

Naturally, the kickoff point is their definitions. But before getting into that, it’s worth noting that crypto transactions have seen tremendous growth since their inception. For some countries like Nigeria, an amazing 33% of respondents either hold or use cryptos.

Below are what both on-chain and off-chain transactions imply as used in crypto trading.

On-Chain Transactions

On-chain transactions refer to the crypto transactions that take place within the blockchain, being wholly dependent on it for verification and validity requirements. On-chain transactions will be termed as valid only after mining activities result in their recording on the specific blocks.

The blockchain is then updated and the transactions have to be reflected on the chain’s public ledger. In summary, the entire process takes place within the blockchain, and nothing is moved outside.

Off-Chain Transactions

Off-chain transactions are the crypto transactions whose occurrence results in the moving of currency outside the blockchain. They, therefore, don’t rely entirely on the blockchain for validity.

An off-chain transaction can take place in several ways. First is a transfer agreement between two transacting parties, taking a step as simple as exchanging private keys to signify a new owner. Second, a third party can step in to guarantee the transfer between the transacting parties.

The last path off-chain transactions can follow is using a coupon-based system, where one participant purchases coupons using one’s crypto assets. The participant then transfers ownership to the other transaction party, who can then later redeem the coupons.

Nonetheless, off-chain transactions in crypto will eventually end up recorded on a blockchain like on-chain transactions.

Major Distinctions

On-chain and off-chain transactions have some differences regarding how they occur.

Where they Occur

On-chain transactions occur entirely within the blockchain, being very dependent on the Chain system for verification and validation. Off-chain transactions on the other hand occur outside of the native blockchain, requiring funds transfer to outside parties.

Effects on the Blockchain

For an On-chain transaction to be deemed as valid and complete, key changes must occur in the blockchain. First, miners have to validate the transaction by solving a computational problem, which mints a new coin. Second, once the transaction has been validated, it has to be recorded in its constituent block and updated on the public ledger.

An off-chain transaction has no changing effect whatsoever on the blockchain. The entire process doesn’t need validation from miners or updating blocks, being instead dependent on agreements between the trading parties.

Transacting Costs

Since an on-chain transaction requires the services of the blockchain’s participants to verify it, there are mining costs attached to it. Off-chain transactions may on the other hand be free of charge if the path chosen is a simple exchange of private keys, or they could attract a cost where third parties are concerned.

Costs of transaction for off-chain transactions are therefore not a compulsory constituent of the process as is the case with on-chain transactions. It is dependent on the way the transaction is chosen to occur.


While the two systems follow different paths towards completing transactions, they have some key similarities;

  • Both require at least a crypto wallet to be present before a transaction can go through.
  • Both offer a decentralized way of transferring funds and transactions.

Advantages of off-chain over On-Chain Transactions

Each transaction has its benefits over the other.

Low to No Transaction Costs

Off-chain transactions enjoy the advantage of attracting little to no transaction costs, usually tending towards no transaction costs. The fact that they do not occur on the blockchain greatly aids their position. There is no fee attracted by miners or blockchain participants required to verify transactions, as is the case with on-chain transactions.

Faster Transaction Speeds

Transactions on an off-chain basis enjoy very fast, at times instantaneous speeds. The entire process simply involves buying a coupon, or transferring one’s private keys to the other party, hence no lag.

On-chain transactions in turn suffer from substantial time lag influenced by several factors on the blockchain. They comprise a long queue due to a large number of transactions, or a network loading slowdown.

Better Transaction Privacy Levels

Since off-chain transactions occur outside the blockchain, there is no requirement for the transaction data to be published on a public ledger. The entire transaction process can therefore occur completely.off the radar. The same can’t however be said for on-chain transactions.

Advantages of On-Chain Over Off-Chain Transactions

There are a few strengths of on-chain transactions over off-chain transactions.

Better Transaction Security and Validity

An on-chain transaction is characterized by the details about the trade being recorded on its respective block and being published on the blockchain’s public ledger. Such a step is very crucial as it becomes a reference point for conflict resolution pertaining to the transaction itself. Off-chain transactions have no records, which makes it extremely difficult to resolve where transaction disputes arise.

Record keeping in on-chain transactions also helps address the issue of transaction distortion via cyber-attacks. That is a benefit not enjoyed by off-chain transactions.

Better Openness and Adherence to Regulations

On-chain transaction’s data storage requirement makes them more open. Authorities aiming to crackdown on illicit transfers can have better tracking abilities and therefore the vices reduce incidences. Off-chain transactions’ high anonymity levels make them conducive for illegal activities and transactions, a detriment to law and order.


The two methods of conducting crypto transactions come with their different selling points as well as their own different requirement needs. Someone transacting on-chain aids in kickstarting the crypto-mining process, which adds the supply of the crypto asset in question.

Someone transacting on an off-chain basis in turn could help spearhead crypto adoption rates among those not well versed in blockchain technology. Several outlets that accept cryptos use this method, being onboarded themselves while also advertising it to the world.

No one method is better than the other, it’s all about trade-offs. Validity and security go hand in hand with on-chain transactions while lower costs and faster speeds are the hallmarks of off-chain transactions.

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