The minimum amount required to become an active nominator and earn rewards may change from era to era. It is currently . If you have less KSM than the minimum active nomination and still want to participate in staking, you can join the nomination pools. You can now stake on Kusama natively with just in the nomination pools and earn staking rewards. For additional information, see this blog post. Check the wiki doc on nomination pools for more information.
If you landed on this page, you decided to understand how you can be a good nominator. Note, this page is not for nomination pool members, although pool members might gain essential knowledge about how to choose nomination pools.
- You become part of the Kusama movement, a group of diverse professionals and enthusiasts around the world aspiring to build and foster the next-gen Internet, Web3: a decentralized, privacy-focused, and trustless internet.
- You are an essential piece of the puzzle, keeping Kusama secure. The bonded balance can be used to vote in Polkadot OpenGov and shape the future direction of Kusama.
- You will start to understand how Kusama works at a technical-level. When you feel comfortable with your nomination skills and knowledge, you can open your nomination pool, help others secure the network and earn rewards, and build your reputation as a trusted nomination pool operator. If you like to be more involved, the next step is to become a validator.
- By getting staking rewards you keep up with or (likely) stay ahead of Kusama inflation.
Nominators secure the Relay Chain by staking KSM and nominating validators. You may have an account with KSM and want to earn fresh KSM. You could do so as a validator, which requires experience setting up a node and running and maintaining it 24/7.
On Kusama you can also earn KSM by nominating one or more validators. Doing so makes you a nominator for the validator(s) you chose. Pick your validators carefully - if they do not behave properly, they will get slashed, and you will lose KSM. However, if they follow the network rules, you can share the staking rewards they generate.
While your KSM are staked for nominations, they are 'locked' (bonded). You can stop nominating at any time, but remember that the action is effective in the next era and does not automatically unbond your funds. Unbonding is a separate action, and it takes effect after the unbonding period, which is 7-day long on Kusama. This is calculated by taking the bonding duration (in eras), multiplying it by the length of a single era (in hours), and dividing by the hours in a day (24). Example: (28 × 6 ÷ 24 = 7 days). A staking lock will be visible on the Polkadot-JS UI during the unbonding period, and after it, the staking lock can be unlocked, and the bonded funds become free balance you can transfer.
If you accidentally bonded your KSM or your bonded KSM never backed any active validator, you can now unbond them immediately.
If your bonded balance did not back any validators in the last 7 days on Kusama, you are eligible to perform fast unstaking. The staking dashboard will automatically check if you qualify. For more information, visit the "Fast Unstake" section in this support article.
Stash & Staking Proxy
The first thing you need to do before becoming a nominator is to make sure you have a stash account where you can transfer funds you want to use for staking. For these accounts, it is recommended to use a "cold wallet" solution such as Ledger or Polkadot Vault.
After setting up the stash account, it is recommended to have a staking proxy. Although you can be a nominator with just a stash account, having a staking proxy is good practice for security reasons.
A staking proxy of the stash will be able to sign for all staking-related transactions as well. The stash will be fully isolated (except if the user decides to change the staking proxy of the stash or to attach different proxies to the stash).
Rewards Payout Account
As a nominator, you will be asked to choose an account where rewards will be paid. You can select one of the following options:
- back to staking: rewards are compounded to the bonded amount.
- to stash: rewards are sent to the stash account as a free balance.
- to another account: rewards are sent to a user-defined account (not stash).
Being a nominator is made simpler by using the Staking Dashboard that will guide you step by step through specifying rewards destination and bonded amount, and nominating validators (more on this below). Note that staking proxies are not currently supported on the dashboard.
Nominating with the Polkadot-JS UI
There are many factors to consider when deciding which of your nominations. One helpful tool to choose validators is the Staking Targets table in the Polkadot-JS UI. This allows sorting validators using various metrics. Below are the relevant metrics shown as an example, followed by a brief description of each.
|validator||payout||nominators||comm.||total stake||own stake||return|
|A||recently||1 (||3%||1.6 MDOT||8500 DOT||17.8%|
payout: How recently the validator made its last reward payout to nominators.
nominators: This column consists of two number values. The active count (left number) is the number of nominators whose stake is baking the validator in the current era. In this case Validator A has one active nominator. The total or all count (right number) is the number of all nominators who nominated Validator A. This includes the active count and all the other nominators whose stake in the current era is baking other validators.
Be cautious of validators with a high number of subscribers. A validator is considered oversubscribed when more than active nominators are assigned to the validator. In this scenario, only the top nominators (sorted by stake) will receive rewards. The remaining nominators will not be rewarded. However, they can be slashed if the validator commits a slashable offense.
Every nominator can select up to a maximum of validators, which contributes towards maximizing the probability of having the nominator’s stake applied to the validators active set. Nominating too few validators could result in the nominators not receiving their rewards when none of them make it to the active set or when those validators stop validating. The election algorithm attempts to maximize the overall network stake while minimizing the variance of the active stake across the validators. For additional information on the election process, check out the research behind nominated proof-of-stake.
comm.: Total commission kept by the validator (100% means the validator will keep all rewards , and thus nominators will not receive them). A validator's commission is the percentage of the validator reward taken by the validator before the rewards are split among the nominators. As a nominator, you may think that choosing validators with the lowest commission is best. However, validators must be able to run at break-even to continue operations sustainably. Independent validators that rely on the commission to cover their server costs help to keep the network decentralized. Some validators, operated by central exchanges, etc., keep 100% of the commission to payout their staking service clients and therefore do not provide any rewards to external nominators. The commission is just one piece of the puzzle you should consider when picking nominating validators.
total stake: The total amount of KSM tokens staked by nominators and the validator (i.e. own stake, see below).
own stake: The amount of KSM tokens the validator has put up as a stake. A higher own stake can be considered as having more "skin in the game". This can imply increased trustworthiness. However, a validator not having a large amount of "own stake" is not automatically untrustworthy, as the validator could nominate from a different address.
return: Average annual yield paid out to nominators (i.e. number of rewards divided by the number of bonded tokens). Note that nominating those with a higher yield may not guarantee similar future performance.
On the Targets page, you can use different filters to select validators with specific traits (where a trait is a combination of the metrics above). Available filters are:
- one validator per operator: Do not show groups of validators run by a single operator. It shows small operators only who will likely have a higher commission and higher self-stake. Nominating only small operators might not always guarantee staking rewards, but it helps to keep the network more resilient to attacks.
A validator is the node, the physical equipment with installed software that allows to produce new
blocks and earn rewards. An operator is the entity responsible for setting up, running an
maintaining the node. An operator can have multiple validators under different sub-identities. For
ZUG CAPITAL/07 is one of the numerous validators belonging to the operator Zug Capital.
- comm. < 20%: Do not show any validators with a commission of 20% or higher.
- with capacity: Do not show any validators who are currently operating at capacity (i.e., could potentially be oversubscribed).
- recent payouts: Only show validators that have recently caused a payout to be issued. Note that anyone can cause a payout to occur; it does not have to be the operator of a validator.
- currently elected: Only show validators in the active set (i.e., they have been elected to produce blocks in the current era).
- with an identity: Only show validators that have set an identity. Note that this identity does not have to be verified by a registrar for the validator to appear in the list.
Recall that slashing is an additive function; the more validators offline or equivocating in a given session, the harsher the penalties. Since validators that are controlled by a single operator are more at risk of a "synchronized" failure, nominating them implies a greater risk of having a large slash of your nominated funds. Generally, it is safer to nominate validators whose behavior is independent of others in many ways (different hardware, geographic location, owner, etc.).
On Polkadot and Kusama, the instance of the pallet
Bags-List is named as
Nominating accounts are placed in a semi-sorted list called bags-list. This sorting functionality is extremely important for the long-term improvements of the staking/election system. Bags-list allows up to nominators to set their intention to nominate, of which the stake of the top nominators is considered for electing set that eventually determines the active validators.
The nominator accounts in a bag are sorted based on their insertion order, not by their nomination
voterList.putInFrontOf extrinsic can be issued to move up in the bag, which might be
very useful for the accounts in the last bag eligible for receiving staking rewards. Balance changes
due to staking rewards or slashing do not automatically rebag the account. Whenever applicable,
Polkadot JS Apps UI prompts the nominator account to rebag or move up by calling the
For guidelines about how to rebag or move your account within a bag, see the followings:
- The "Bags List" Section on this Support Page.
- The Bags List Section in Advanced Staking Concepts.
- The dedicated technical explainer video.
Nominators can query validator histories to see statistics such as era points, elected stake, rewards and slashes, and commission. It is good practice to do comprehensive research on validator candidates. This could include (but should not be limited to) checking the validators' identity (if they have set one) and going over the validators' websites to see who they are, what kind of infrastructure setup they are using, reputation, the vision behind the validator, and more.
Any problematic behavior must be taken seriously. An example of problematic behavior will be if a validator is regularly offline. In this case, nominators most likely would get fewer rewards. If many validators are unreachable, such validators and corresponding nominators will be slashed.
Nominating with the Staking Dashboard
The Staking Dashboard allows to choose pre-selected lists of validators based on user preference, or to manually select validators similarly as in the Polkadot-JS UI.
Pre-selected choices are:
- Optimal Selection: Selects a mix of majority active and inactive validators.
- Active Low Commission: Gets a set of active validators with low commission.
- From Favorites: Gets a set of your favorite validators.
Staking Election Stages
The staking election system has three stages for both validators and nominators, namely "intention", "electable/electing", and "active".
- intention to nominate: an account that has stated the intention to nominate; also called simply a "nominator".
- electing nominator: a nominator who is selected to be a part of the input to the NPoS election algorithm. This selection is based on stake and is made using the bags-list.
- active nominator: a nominator who came out of the NPoS election algorithm backing an active validator. Staking rewards are received by the top nominators ranked by stake. When slashing occurs, all the active nominators backing the validator get slashed (also those who do not receive rewards due to oversubscription issues).
The Election Solution Set
Determining which validators are in the active set and which nominators are nominating them creates a very large graph mapping nominators to their respective validators. This "solution set" is computed off-chain and submitted to the chain, which means it must fit in a single block. If there are a large number of nominators, this means that some nominators must be eliminated. Currently, nominators are sorted by the amount of DOT staked, and those with more DOT are prioritized. This means that you may not receive rewards if you are staking with a small amount of DOT. This minimal amount is dynamic based on the number of validators, nominators, amount nominated, and other factors.
As long as you have nominated more than one validator candidate, at least one of them got elected, and you are nominating with enough stake to get into the solution set, your bonded stake will be fully distributed to one or more validators. That being said, you may not receive rewards if you nominated very few validator candidates and no one got elected, or your stake is small, and you only selected oversubscribed validators, or the validator you are nominating has 100% commission. It is generally wise to choose as many trustworthy validators as you can (up to ) to reduce the risk of none of your nominated validators being elected.
Rewards are lazy - somebody must trigger a payout for a validator for rewards to go to all of the validator's nominators. Any account can do this, although validator operators often do this as a service to their nominators. See the page on Simple Payouts for more information and instructions for claiming rewards.
These concepts have been further explained in the following videos:
Good Nominator Practices
Required Minimum Stake
Due to the way the Phragmen algorithm generates the solution set and due to the fact that the solution set must fit in a single block, a minimum number of DOT will be required to nominate with to receive staking rewards can change between the eras.
min-intention-threshold: minimum stake to declare the intention to nominate. This parameter can be updated via on-chain governance, and the most recent and up-to-date version can be found on chain state (select state query > staking > minimumNominatorBond)
min-electing: minimum stake among the electing nominators. Since this is almost always the same as “min-active”, it might not be reported.
min-active: minimum stake among the active nominators. If your stake falls below this dynamic threshold in a given era, you will not receive staking rewards for that era.
Thus, for nominator counters, we have:
- count of nominator intentions and max possible nominator intentions ()
- count of electing nominators, and maximum possible electing nominators ()
- count of active nominators and maximum possible active nominators ()
Avoiding Oversubscribed Validators
Validators can only pay out to a certain number of nominators per era. This is currently set to but can be modified via governance. If more than nominators nominate the same validator, it is "oversubscribed", and only the top staked nominators (ranked by the amount of stake) are paid rewards. Other nominators will receive no rewards for that era, although their stake will still be used to calculate entry into the active validator set.
Although it is difficult to determine how many nominators will nominate a given validator in the next era, one can estimate based on the current number of nominators. A validator with only 5 nominators in this era, for instance, is unlikely to have more than in the next era. However, an already-oversubscribed validator with 1000 nominators this era is very likely to be oversubscribed in the next era as well.
If you are not nominating with a large number of DOTs, you should try to avoid oversubscribed validators. It is not always easy to calculate if the validator selected will be oversubscribed in the next session; one way to avoid choosing potentially oversubscribed validators is to filter out any that are at capacity on the Targets page.
Finally, if you have a minimal amount of DOTs close to the value of
minActiveNomination, you may
need to stake more DOT to get into the election set. The nominator-to-validator mapping solution
needs to be evaluated within a single block duration, and if there are too many nominators, the
lowest-staked nominations will be dropped from even being considered to be part of the electing set.
minActiveNomination value is dynamic and will vary over time. You can read the blog post
"Polkadot Staking: An Update" for more
Active vs. Inactive Nomination
When you go to the Account actions under staking page, you should see your bonded accounts and nomination status. If not, you can follow this guide to configure it first. Your nominations will be effective in the next era; eras are roughly 6 hours on Kusama.
Suppose you have nominated five validator candidates, and three out of five were elected to the active validator set; then you should see two of your nominations as "waiting", and most likely one as "active" and the rest as "inactive". Active or inactive nomination means your nominated validators have been elected to be in the validator set, whereas waiting means they did not get elected. Generally, you will only have a single validator have an active nomination, which means that you are directly supporting it with your stake this era and thus potentially receiving staking rewards. Inactive nominators were validators elected for this era but which you are not actively supporting. Every era, a new election will take place, and you may be assigned a different active nomination from the validators you selected.
If you are committing a very large stake, you may have more than one active nomination. However, the election algorithm attempts to minimize this situation, and it should not occur often, so you should almost always see only a single active nomination per era. See the section on Phragmén optimization for more details.
Minimum Active Nomination to Receive Staking Rewards
The minimum DOT required to submit intent to nominate is , but the minimum active nomination required to earn staking rewards is dynamic and may be much higher, which can be viewed on Polkadot JS Apps > Network > Staking > Targets page.