Bisq: Trade Rules and Disputes

This is part of a series of posts on Bisq, the peer-to-peer Bitcoin trading platform. This series will serve as a primer to a Meetup presentation planned for February 2024.

Bisq has very specific rules that help set expectations and ensure a smooth experience for both peers. Sometimes, issues still occur. This can be due to bank, mail, or software issues. This post contains certain points from the Bisq wiki Trading Rules, Dispute Resolution, and Table of Penalties. It's a good idea to take a look at those. You can also see fiat payment method specific rules on their pages, this post will focus on the 5 most popular USD methods (Zelle, Strike, CBM, Amazon, MO). Zelle doesn't currently have its own page but the general trading rules still apply.

Some of these rules are flexible if both peers agree. For example, the trade duration can extend much longer. Recently there have been storms in the midwest that led to slow mail processing. Sellers have been asked to be more patient and wait longer for funds to arrive before opening a dispute.

Selected Trading Rules


  • Record and keep evidence of fiat payments (receipts, tracking info,etc.) until the trade has completed.
  • If there's a dispute, respond to Mediators and Arbitrators within 48 hours and provide requested materials.
  • Do not communicate with peers away from Bisq.
  • Click payment attestations as soon as possible. There is justification for sellers to wait a couple days for Zelle (especially with unsigned accounts) to prevent a chargeback.

Cash by mail and USPO Money Orders

  • Film the opening of the package, capturing address and tracking info. This can be deleted after payment is complete.


  • Be specific and reasonable in your terms of a trade offer. Once it's accepted both peers are held to those terms.


  • Make sure to check the offer maker's terms and conditions before taking a CBM offer.


  • Do not change payment details once trade is in progress. It's the seller's duty to make sure the payment method will work.
  • Do not confirm payments with mismatching details.


  • Make payment reasonably early.
  • Use same payment account in trade contract.
  • Leave the "reason for payment" field empty. If the bank requires something, use your name or a dash. Other text must be approved by your peer in trader chat.
  • Pay any fiat transaction fees. The seller should receive the exact amount of the trade.
  • CBM - Package cash in a tamper-evident bag.
  • CBM and MO - Use a tracking method like Certified Mail.

Dispute Resolution

There are 3 steps to dealing with trade issues 1) directly with peer via trade chat, 2) mediation and 3) arbitration.

Trade Chat
Some rules can be broken if both peers agree. Trade chat is where this conversation happens. It's always optional but can help solve issues. Some basic rules:

  • Be polite
  • Don't send or click links. You can send references (tracking number, trade id, etc).
  • Don't send sensitive or private info.

If trader chat doesn't work, and the duration timer has lapsed (or you have a good reason to do so earlier) you can open a dispute which will go to mediation. The mediator will communicate with both peers and suggest a resolution.

From a Bitcoin perspective, this suggestion builds a transaction with funds being sent to both peers. This could be a payment completion or a cancellation with or without a penalty. Since the funds are still held in the 2-of-2 multisig address this suggestion will not complete unless both peers agree by clicking the Accept button.

If one peer disagrees or is non-responsive, either peer can click Reject and Request Arbitration. From a Bitcoin perspective, this publishes the time-lock transaction that is signed at the beginning of the trade, sending funds to the Bisq DAO.

After the time-lock is published, the process is similar to mediation in that you must communicate and provide evidence as requested. This is a different person than mediation so it has to be repeated. The difference with arbitration is that their decision is final.

Penalty Examples

Malicious peers might be punished by losing some or all of their security deposit. Below are examples of ways this can occur. If two or more occur, only the higher amount will apply.

Offense Possible Penalty (% of security deposit)
Fraud attempt 100%
Putting non-Bisq contact info in the 'additional information' field on a cash by mail or face to face offer. 50%
Not responding to a mediator within 48h 25%
Cancelling a trade 20%
Paying 3 days late 20%
Abusive language 10%

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