The two kinds of BAT
Not so many users understand this, but there are two types of BAT running on two different sets of infrastructure.
"Real" BAT is what you think of when you see BAT on an exchange, or in an on-chain crypto wallet of any kind.
It exists on the Ethereum network, and costs gas when you want to transfer it to any other Ethereum address.
Virtual BAT exists completely within Brave's own private blockchain and is the basis for much of Brave's tipping and earning infrastructure. There is no direct gas fees to pay on virtual BAT because Brave run this system themselves, and the costs of running this infrastructure is a part of the 5% fee on all tips.
Every user's pending Rewards balance is made up of virtual BAT. BAT paid out monthly to unverified users (users who haven't connected Brave to a partner exchange) is virtual BAT. All the BAT creators earn from unverified users is also virtual BAT.
When does virtual BAT become real BAT?
Virtual BAT only becomes real BAT under a few conditions.
The first is when an unverified user connects their browser to a partner exchange.
The second is when a creator's monthly payout happens.