HIP-367: Unlimited Token Associations Per Account Source

AuthorAnirudh Ghanta
Working GroupRichard Bair , Jasper Potts , Michael Tinker , Anirudh Ghanta
Needs Council ApprovalYes
Review period endsMon, 11 Apr 2022 07:00:00 +0000
TypeStandards Track
Updated2022-03-31, 2022-04-19, 2022-04-28, 2022-05-25


Permits every account to hold an unlimited number of token associations. Retains the current pricing for each token association. Deprecates the return of token associations from the getAccountInfo and getAccountBalance queries and modifies the specification of the returned results during the deprecation period. Changes the criteria for the cryptoDelete transaction to require all token balances to be zero before successfully marking the account as deleted.


The current Services API permits the user to have at most 1,000 token associations per account. This limitation was imposed because the current implementation becomes prohibitively expensive with large numbers of associations. In addition, processing and returning the getAccountBalance query becomes more expensive linearly as the number of associations increases. A user can work around this limitation by creating multiple accounts, each of which is also limited to 1,000 token associations, but several use cases become difficult or awkward to support in this way.

User stories

1. A User can associate with 1,001 tokens

I have an account with 1,000 tokens already associated with it. After the update to the release with the limit removed, I can add another token association, putting my account at 1,001 associations.

2. A User can configure auto association to more than 1,000

I am a user who loves receiving airdrops. I configure my account to have 10,000 “slots” for auto associated tokens. I pay for all these up front. I can then actually receive up to 10,000 auto associated tokens. An attempt to send me a 10,001st auto associated token would fail, but if I manually associated a 10,001st token, it would succeed.

I can only auto-associate a maximum of 2^(32-1) tokens (a little more than 2.15 billion).

3. An NFT Creator can mint thousands of NFTs in a single collection

I love creating NFTs. As a primary creator of an NFT collection, I am able to mint thousands of NFT serials in a single collection.

4. A secondary NFT Marketplace dApp can have thousands of collections

As a secondary NFT marketplace dApp, I should be able to create thousands of collections (created by multiple primary creators of the collections), such that each collection can hold thousands of NFTs.

5. A User can get the full set of tokens and balances from the mirror node

I have a large collection of thousands of tokens. I can query a mirror node to get the full set of tokens and their current balances.

6. A User can delete an account with associated tokens if there are no balances

I have thousands of token associations. Several thousand of these were manually associated and several thousand were auto-associated. But none of them have any balance. I can delete my account.

7. A User’s account has expired while they have associated tokens with balances

I have an account with tens of thousands of associated tokens and some of those tokens have balances. But I no longer want this account, and it has no HBAR in it, and I let it expire. The system will clean this up for me.


Current Implementation

The current implementation of token associations involves several data structures stored in the merkle tree. There is a MerkleAccount node in the tree for each account. It has three leaf nodes hanging off it, two of which are MerkleAccountState and MerkleAccountTokens. The MerkleAccountState contains information like the key, hbarBalance, and other information about the account. The MerkleAccountTokens is an array of token IDs, one for each token that is associated with the account. The more tokens associated with the account, the larger the array.

Every time a new token association is made, it is added to the array, the array is sorted, and the entire array is hashed. Every time a token association is removed, we walk the array to find the token ID and remove it from the array, and the array is hashed. When we query for the account balance, then for each token ID in the array we make a separate map lookup in tokenAssociations to get the balance.

Separate from accounts is the tokenAssociations map in the merkle tree. This maps from EntityNumPair (the pair of account ID and token ID) to MerkleTokenRelStatus. It is this MerkleTokenRelStatus that contains information for the association, such as the balance or whether it was an automaticAssociation.

An unbounded array of associations per account is undesirable with this design because the amount of time it takes to hash the MerkleAccountTokens leaf becomes excessive as the number of associations grows, and any state proof involving that leaf requires passing the entire array along, making the state proof very large. It also means the getAccountBalance query becomes arbitrarily expensive since it requires reading a MerkleTokenRelStatus from tokenAssociations for each token ID in the account’s MerkleAccountTokens array!

Thus, we set the boostrap property tokens.maxPerAccount to 1000 in testnet and mainnet to limit the maximum number of associations per account.

Enforcing the limit

HederaTokenStore.associate is called when auto-associating an account with a token during a token transfer. In this method we verify that the new auto association will not increase the number of tokens for this account past the limit defined by tokens.maxPerAccount.

Account.associateWith is called when manually associating with a TokenAssociate transaction. In this method we also verify that the account does not get associated with more tokens than specified by tokens.maxPerAccount.

We also verify that the value for maxAutomaticAssociations on the account (as described by HIP-23) does not exceed tokens.maxPerAccount.

New Implementation

The weakness in the current design is in the MerkleAccountTokens. Rather than having an array of token IDs in the account state and a map of token associations, we will modify the tokenAssociations map to be combination map and linked list. Each MerkleTokenRelStatus will have a prev and next containing the token ID of the previous association and the next association. The previous association must be 0 if the MerkleTokenRelStatus represents the first in the list for the account, and the next association must be 0 if the MerkleTokenRelStatus is the last in the list for the account.

Thus, to follow the chain, you start at the first MerkleTokenRelStatus for the account, and follow the next links one after another. For each, you create a temporary EntityNumPair with the account ID and the token ID contained in next to look up the next entry in the list. The prev link exists to allow us to efficiently delete an item from the list, as with any standard doubly-linked-list implementation.

The MerkleAccountState will receive a new fields, integer numPositiveBalances, another integer numAssociations, and one long, headTokenId. The linked list always pushes the most recent addition to the head of the list, referred to by headTokenId. Walking the list from first to last would list the tokens in order from most recently added to the least recently added to the list (however, due to migration, the position in the list may not be ordered by when the token was associated).

img.png TODO Image needs to be updated to include new / proper names

The headTokenId is updated whenever a new token associates with the account (either explicitly or through auto associations), or when the first association is removed, or during migration.

The numPositiveBalances field is updated whenever one of the balances of the token list for the account is changed from being a zero balance to a non-zero balance or vice-versa. This can happen:

  1. tokenWipe operation is performed with the account’s token balance becoming zero
  2. tokenBurn operation is performed with treasury’s balance becoming zero
  3. tokenMint operation is performed with treasury balance becoming non-zero
  4. cryptoTransfer where either sender or receiver balances toggle between zero and non-zero

When a user tries to delete an account, if numPositiveBalances is greater than 0, then we will not allow the account to be deleted. The user must first transfer balances out for all tokens.

The numAssociations field is needed so we can efficiently compute a renewal price.


During migration, nodes will load an older state containing MerkleAccountTokens. We will continue to host this leaf until migration completes, after which we will remove it. During migration, we will iterate over all accounts. For each account, we will iterate over each token ID in MerkleAccountTokens. For each token ID, we will construct an EntityNumPair from the account ID and token ID and look up the associated MerkleTokenRelStatus. The first token ID we handle will become the end of the list. So for each subsequent token ID we handle, it will become the prev of the previous MerkleTokenRelStatus. The very last token ID will be the headTokenId for the account.

  1. For each account in the accounts map fetch the list of token IDs from MerkleAccountTokens
  2. For each token on this list, use the account id and token id to build EntityNumPair and fetch the MerkleTokenRelStatus from the tokenAssociations map.
  3. Update the next and prev for each of these associations and persist the changes
  4. If the balance on the association is non-zero, then increment the numPositiveBalances on the account by 1.
  5. Set the account’s headTokenId to the last token ID from the above loop
  6. Finally, remove the MerkleAccountTokens from the account

Token Association

Token association can occur either explicitly or automatically. In either case, the same algorithm is used, except that in the case of automatic association we validate that maxAutomaticAssociations will not be exceeded by this association. Management of alreadyUsedAutomaticAssociations remains as it does today and is not altered by this HIP.

  1. For each token that is to be associated to the Account, build an EntityNumPair from the token ID and account ID
  2. Create a new MerkleTokenRelStatus object and set the next as the current headTokenId
  3. Update the account’s headTokenId to the new token ID
  4. Persist all created or modified MerkleTokenRelStatus objects and the account.

Token Dissociation

Token disassociation requires maintenance of the linked list. Management of alreadyUsedAutomaticAssociations remains as it does today and is not altered by this HIP.

  1. Look up the MerkleTokenRelStatus for the token ID we are removing. We will call it the removedEntry
  2. If the balance on the token association is not 0, then fail
  3. Remove removedEntry from tokenAssocations
  4. If removedEntry.tokenId is headTokenId then:
    1. If numAssociations is 1 then this was the last association. Set headTokenId to 0.
    2. Else look up the MerkleTokenRelStatus for removedEntry.next and call it nextEntry. Set nextEntry.prev to 0 and set headTokenId to nextEntry.tokenId
  5. Else get the MerkleTokenRelStatus for removedEntry.next called nextEntry and the MerkleTokenRelStatus for removedEntry.prev called prevEntry. Set prevEntry.next to nextEntry.tokenId and nextEntry.prev to prevEntry.tokenId
  6. Decrement numAssociations by 1.
  7. Persist all updated MerkleTokenRelStatus objects and the account.

GetAccountInfo and GetAccountBalance queries

Two free queries, getAccountInfo and getAccountBalance, return token association data.

This HIP formally deprecates the token information returned by getAccountInfo and getAccountBalance. Within 6 months this information will no longer be retrieved from consensus nodes. Instead, clients must query mirror nodes for this information.

The challenge with these queries is that they require numerous uncharged map look-ups to find and retrieve the token information, and when token limits are removed, these queries may take an arbitrary amount of time to complete. For this reason, and to maintain compatibility during the deprecation period, we will continue to return at most 1000 (tokens.maxRelsPerInfoQuery) results. The order of these results is explicitly not specified. Thus, if you have 1001 token associations, we will only return 1,000 of them, and are free to return any 1,000. Instead, clients are strongly encouraged to query this information from mirror nodes.

  1. Get the latest token association from the account’s headTokenId
  2. Fetch the MerkleTokenRelStatus using the combination of the account ID and token ID from tokenAssociations
  3. Add the token information to the list of information to return from the query
  4. Get the next token ID from this MerkleTokenRelStatus object and repeat step 2 and 3 until the next equals 0 which means we reached the end of the linked list, or until we reach the limit specified by tokens.maxRelsPerInfoQuery.


When transferring any token units (Fungible or Non-Fungible) we have to update the numPositiveBalances on each of those accounts respectively.

On every tryAdjustment and updateLedgers calls when adjusting token units:

  1. If the sender is left with no more token units, then decrement the numPositiveBalances by 1
  2. If the receiver’s initial balance for this token type is 0, then increment the numPositiveBalances by 1.


When a TokenWipe operation is performed on an account, we have to update the numPositiveBalances accordingly. When wiping either Fungible token units or NFT units on an account:

  1. If the remaining units on that token for that account is 0, then decrement the numPositiveBalances by 1.


When a TokenBurn operation is performed, we burn the asked amount off the treasury account and update the total supply. Update the numPositiveBalances of the treasury if the burn left the treasury with zero balance on that token. When burning either Fungible token units or NFT units of a token:

  1. If the treasury has no more units left, then decrement the numPositiveBalances by 1.


When a TokenMint operation is performed, we mint the asked amount of token units, by adding to the treasury account’s token balance, and we update the total supply of that token. We increment the numPositiveBalances of the treasury if the original balance for treasury on that token is 0. When minting either Fungible token units or NFT units of a token:

  1. If the treasury has 0 units of that token before minting, then increment the numPositiveBalances by 1.

Crypto Account Deletion

Currently, we return TRANSACTION_REQUIRES_ZERO_TOKEN_BALANCES when a cryptoDelete transaction is submitted on an account with non-zero balances on the tokens [ not deleted] that it is associated with.

Checking if the associated token is not deleted and then validating the balance on that association gets very costly when the association limit is removed as we would have to traverse the whole list of associations. Instead, we will include the deleted tokens as well when checking if the account has any non-zero token balances and use the field numPositiveBalances to match if all the associations have zero balances so that we can avoid traversing the list of unlimited token associations.

An account must dissociate from deleted tokens if it has any token balances left pertaining to that token to be eligible for deletion

Balance exporter

Balance exporter would need all the token associations without the limitation enforced by tokens.maxPerAccount.


AutoRenew fee calculations require the numAssociations on the renewing account.

Backwards Compatibility

When the Account has more than 1000 tokens associated to it, the getAccountInfo and getAccountBalance query will not support fetching all of those associations. Rather the number of token associations that will be fetched from the queries will be dictated by the dynamic property tokens.maxRelsPerInfoQuery. The token associations returned by these queries will have at most 1000 associations. They may come in any particular order.

This HIP deprecates token association data in getAccountInfo and getAccountBalance. Clients must query the mirror nodes for this information. Within 6 months of this HIP being approved, these queries will no longer return association data.

Accounts can longer be marked as deleted with persisting token units of a deleted token.

Security Implications

With the removal of the limit on number of token associations on an account, an account can potentially have millions of token associations. We must be sure that all code paths are ready to deal with millions of associations in the list and do not expose us to a DOS attack.

How to Teach This


Reference Implementation

Rejected Ideas

  1. Users can create multiple accounts and hold 1000 tokens in each
  2. Users can create a smart contract and manage around the current 1000 token limit by creating multiple accounts each with 1000 tokens and use smart contract logic to manage the mapping
  3. Users can opt to create tokens on the EVM layer, which is not subjected to the 1000 token limit but this doesn’t use Hedera’s native tokenization
  4. Create an exchange-account type of account where we charge more to create, but they have a higher association limit

Open Issues

MapValueLinkedList Increase token association limit HIP - 367 : Remove limit on the number of tokens that can be associated to an account Services-PR




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