Balance Types

Polkadot primarily deals with three types of balances: transferable, locked, and reservedThese are detailed below.

For most operations, transferable balance is what you are interested in. When performing actions on the Polkadot network, you must have some DOT in your transferable balance to pay for transaction fees. Balances affect your account differently depending on the type:

Transferable: Transferable tokens are fully available. These tokens are the ones that can be transferred, used to pay transaction fees, and become locked or reserved for other purposes. 

Locked: When tokens are used to serve their utility purpose on the chain, they are locked. The account holder still controls locked tokens. They cannot be transferred, but they can be used for multiple operations at the same time. For example, the same locked tokens can be used to nominate validators and vote in democracy.

Reserved: Certain actions require reserving transferable tokens to use space in the chain state. These tokens act as a deposit that is set aside for an operation and still belongs to the account holder but cannot be used for other operations. The tokens are reserved for as long as the reason exists. Once the reason is removed, the balance becomes transferable once again.

For more information on balances and locks, visit this wiki page.


See this article for steps on how to unlock tokens that were previously locked.

Lock Types

Locks are usually introduced when the tokens are used for their utility purposes. Each purpose introduces a new lock, but these locks usually don't stack, meaning the same locked amount can be used for several purposes. Locked tokens are usually accompanied by an unlocking period, a "cooldown" period before the lock expires after the reason for the lock has ceased to exist. 

These are some of the most common lock types:

1. Staking: This is probably the most common lock and applies when tokens are staked to nominate or validate. They can be bonded or unbonding.

2. Democracy: This lock applies when participating in democracy, usually through voting in referenda, either directly or through a delegation. See this page for more information on democracy locks.

3. Election: This lock applies when voting for Council members.

4. Vesting: This lock can be applied by the sender of tokens through a "vested transfer." These tokens are received locked, and unlock over a period of time, usually in small increments. Vesting tokens unlock based on a vesting schedule and are considered lazy payouts, but they can be used for any other action that introduces a lock.

Example Scenario

Let's say someone decides to stake 200 DOT to become a nominator. These DOT are bonded. Then they decide to vote in a referendum with 100 DOT and 2x conviction

Now, two locks exist on their account: one for staking for 200 DOT and one for democracy for 100 DOT. But the total locked amount is still 200 DOT because locks don't stack, and the same locked amount can be used for several purposes.

The side they voted for wins, and because they voted with 2x conviction, their tokens will be locked for 56 days. On day 10, they decide to unbond their tokens. The unbonding period is 28 days, so on day 38, they withdraw their unbonded tokens. But only 100 DOT become transferable because there is still a democracy lock in place for 100 DOT that can be removed only after 18 more days.

Reserved balance

Tokens can be reserved for various reasons that use space in the chain state. Unlike locks, reserves do stack. So, each new action that requires a deposit reserves the necessary amount added to any previous reserves that might exist. Additionally, reserved tokens can't be used for other purposes. 

Some examples of common reserves are in order to create an on-chain identity or sub-identity, set up a proxy account, or initiate a multisig transaction. In these examples, if the on-chain identity or the proxy is removed, or when the multisig transaction is completed or canceled, the reserve is released and becomes transferable balance again.

Viewing your account balance

On Polkadot-JS UI

On the Polkadot-JS UI, you can view an analysis of your balance on the Accounts page by expanding the drop-down menu:

On Block Explorers

Your account can be viewed on multiple block explorers. One example is Subscan, where the locks appear in the Balance section.


Although Subscan shows all the non-transferable balance on the right, "Reserved" is a type of non-transferable balance different to Locked balance, as explained above.