Discover what NFT gas fees are and learn how to avoid paying them when trading NFTs.
NFT gas fees are just another word for transaction fees that users have to pay when using the Ethereum network to send tokens and trade NFTs. Unfortunately, as the popularity of NFTs has skyrocketed, so have gas fees which can often be off-putting to someone looking to get involved in trading NFTs.
But don’t despair; you can save money on gas fees even if you’re an NFT and crypto novice.
In this article, you’ll learn precisely what NFT gas fees are, when you pay them, how to reduce them, and how to track them.
NFT Gas Fees Explained
If you’ve spent some time in the crypto space, you’ve almost certainly heard of Ethereum. The Ethereum project is the second biggest by market cap after Bitcoin, and it’s the go-to blockchain when it comes to minting and trading Non-fungible-tokens (NFTs).
Gas Fees are not as complicated as you might imagine. Every time someone interacts with the Ethereum network, a new transaction has to be added to the blockchain using what is known as the Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanism.
PoW requires users known as ‘miners’ to use lots of computer power to solve complex mathematical equations to complete transactions. The transaction is added to the blockchain when a miner successfully solves the equation.
PoW sounds like a great system, but there’s a catch. Mining is very energy-intensive, and miners don’t like working for free, so they need to make enough money from a transaction to cover their electricity bills and profit. Gas fees pay the miners to keep the blockchain running.
Gas fees are often called gwei; this is a smaller denomination of gas fees representing a one-billionth fraction of one whole ETH coin.
The price of gas fees fluctuate based on demand and supply; the more people use the network, the more a miner’s time is worth, and as a result, gas fees will rise. But when should you expect to pay gas fees?
You should expect to pay gas fees when you:
- Trading ETH: If you buy or sell ETH, you should expect to pay a gas fee as the transaction will be carried out on the Ethereum blockchain.
- Minting NFTs: If you decide to create your own NFT on a marketplace like OpenSea and Rarible, expect to pay gas fees.
- Trading NFTs: Buying and selling an NFT on the Ethereum network will incur gas fees.
- Interacting with Your NFT: If you decide to stake your NFT or combine it with another NFT, as part of the project’s roadmap, expert to pay Gwei.
There are three types of Ethereum transactions:
- Slow: The cheapest type of transaction but also the slowest.
- Standard: The mid-range transaction option.
- Fast: The quickest transaction option but also the most expensive.
Although it might be tempting to save money by choosing ‘Slow’ transactions, major NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea recommend you use either Normal or Fast to reduce the possibility of the trade failing.
In summary, any interaction with the Ethereum network will result in you paying gas fees. Luckily, you can use a few tricks to reduce gas fees.
Tracking NFT Gas Fees
An excellent way to pay lower gas fees is to monitor transaction costs using a tracking tool and wait for a dip in prices. Let’s take a look at the top gas tracking sites.
The graph below from BitInfoCharts is constantly updated using live data to track the average Ethereum transaction fee. As you can see, gas prices are incredibly volatile, so timing when you carry out a transaction can be a real money saver.
For example, suppose you traded an NFT on the Ethereum network on January 14th. In that case, you’d have paid an estimated $50 in gas, while as of writing (February 12th), the average fee is just under $7.
While BitInfoCharts will give you an estimated gas fee average if you’re looking to trade NFTs, using a gas fee calculator is the best bet. Calculator tools can help you pinpoint how much your specific transaction will cost.
The Top 3 NFT Gas Calculators
Thanks to their easy-to-use interfaces and clear descriptions, these calculators are great for newcomers to the Ethereum network.
- GWEI Gas Calculator: Personally, this is my go-to gas calculator when I’m trading NFTs. The site calculates all three types of gas fees and shows how much gas fees are on the top three NFT marketplaces for minting, selling, and buying.
- ETH Gas Station: This site provides live updates on Slow, Standard, and Fast transaction costs.
- BlockNative: This site is slightly different from the others; it doesn’t provide an estimate for the three transaction speeds; instead, it takes averages from recently added blocks to estimate how much future gas fees will be.
You can also track gas fees using Etherscan.io, Coinmarketcap or by using NFT tools. Predicting gas fees precisely is difficult, if not impossible; however, using the resources above will help you get a pretty accurate estimate. Unfortunately, high gas fees also correspond to popular mints so factor that into your next purchase. Usually, it’s best to only transfer or interact with NFTs when gas is low (less than 100).
Another way you can reduce and even eliminate gas fees is to avoid the Ethereum network altogether. Even though Ethereum is currently by far the most popular network for trading NFTs, competition is heating up from other projects. So let’s take a look at the top Ethereum contenders.
Polygon is a layer 2 scaling solution built on the Ethereum network. Layer 2 means that Polygon’s blockchain is run parallel to Ethereum. However, Polygon processes transactions outside the Ethereum network, making it cheaper and faster. In addition, it acts as a bridge that can send information between separate blockchains.
The advantages of using Polygon to trade NFTs:
- Cost: Buying, selling, and minting NFTs on the Polygon network is much cheaper than using Ethereum, and on some platforms such as OpenSea, it’s gas-free.
- Speed: Executing transactions on Polygon is generally considerably faster than using ETH.
- Access: Because Polygon acts as an Ethereum bridge, it can be used on a wider variety of marketplaces than other ETH alternatives.
You can use Polygon to trade NFTs on dozens of top marketplaces, including:
Polygon is a strong Ethereum alternative; it’s fast and cheap and compatible with most of the biggest NFT marketplaces.
Solana is a programmable decentralized blockchain that prides itself on high-speed transactions and low transaction costs. It’s often referred to as a potential “Ethereum killer” due to its impressive capabilities.
Solana has started to move into the NFT sphere, and using its network has these advantages:
- Speed: Solana is a notoriously fast network, and this is reflected in its high-speed NFT transactions
- Cost: Using Solana to trade NFTs is cheaper than Ethereum
- Growth: It’s early days for Solana and NFTs, and its share of the market is expected to grow quickly in the future.
Solana is a newcomer to the NFT game, and as a result, the number of marketplaces compatible with the network is currently limited. These are the top Solana marketplaces:
Solana has got off to a good start in the NFT space; it’s fast and cheap with several dedicated marketplaces. However, as you can see, big names such as OpenSea and Rarible are not compatible with Solana.
There are other lesser-known alternatives to Ethereum that could grow into successful NFT trading networks in the future, such as:
Limitations Of Ethereum Alternatives
Ethereum is slow and expensive, but it remains the king of the NFT market despite this. The Ethereum network is far more secure than its alternatives, and the top NFT marketplaces favor Ethereum over its competitors.
For now, Ethereum is the safest way to trade NFTs, and most NFTs are traded on this blockchain. However, Polygon, Solana, and other alternatives have made significant progress in the past year and could eclipse Ethereum as the dominant NFT blockchain one day.
To learn more, read our guide to layer one versus layer two for NFTs.
Final Thoughts On NFT Gas Fees
Gas fees are the Ethereum network’s Achilles’ heel. While you can reduce or even eliminate using them by trading NFTs on alternative networks, this will reduce the security of your transactions. However, if you’re patient and willing to learn how to track and calculate gas fees, then you can enjoy the security and market reach of the Ethereum network without paying sky-high fees.
If you like this article, check out our companion piece on blockchain fees.