How to Cancel a Pending Transaction

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Is there a pending charge on your account that you want to cancel ASAP? You may be able to cancel a pending credit or debit card transaction by contacting the merchant and asking them to cancel the sale. But the timing is important.

Reaching the seller in the day or two before a pending charge posts to your account balance or before the item ships can help smooth the path. But once the charge has been posted to your account, you may need to take other steps, including filing a dispute or starting the refund process to recover funds.

What Is a Pending Transaction?

A pending transaction is an approved purchase noted on your credit or debit account while the payment processes. While the transaction is pending, it can affect your available balance (how much you can spend), but it won't be part of your outstanding balance or accrue interest. Once the purchase is finalized and posted to your account, the transaction amount will become part of your current balance or removed from your bank account.

Pending transactions typically post to your account within a couple of days but can linger for several days in some cases. They may take longer to post if the merchant is waiting to ship the item or if a hold has been put on the card for services that are not yet complete, such as a hotel stay.

If you want to cancel a pending charge while the transaction is processing, what recourse do you have?

Can You Cancel a Pending Credit Card Transaction?

Generally, it's not possible to dispute pending credit card or debit card charges with your card issuer. Credit card companies and banks typically only assist with issues related to posted charges because there's a chance that a pending amount will change once it posts (for example, when a tip is added to a restaurant transaction).

Instead, it's best to contact the merchant directly and ask them to help resolve any issues with a pending credit or debit charge. A merchant might be able to remove a pending transaction before it posts to your balance.

When to Contact the Merchant

There are several scenarios in which getting in touch with the merchant may help get a pending charge canceled. These include:

  • You realize immediately that you don't want the purchase.
  • The purchase hasn't shipped yet.
  • The merchant accidentally charged you twice.
  • You return a shipped order (and possibly pay restocking or shipping fees).

When you contact the merchant, have related details ready such as an order number, the total bill amount and the transaction date. Print or screenshot the charge information to show the history of the pending charge. And document your conversations with the merchant in case further resolution is needed.

Note that the billing processes for merchants such as internet companies may cause a pending transaction to appear twice, first when you place the order and second when the bill is due. This is a normal practice and should only result in one charge, but if both charges remain on your account, you can dispute one.

If the merchant is unresponsive to your disputed claims or cancellation requests, the transaction may be posted to your account before it can be removed. At that point you can return the purchase to have it removed from your account or, if you suspect fraudulent activity, contact your credit card company or bank.

When to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer or Bank

If you are unable to work with a merchant to cancel a pending charge, you may be able to contact your credit card issuer or bank once the amount posts and dispute the charge. Situations where it's best to contact your credit card or bank include:

  • There's a transaction you don't recognize.
  • There's suspicious information surrounding a purchase, such as a different amount not due to a tip or preauthorization adjustment.
  • You have a membership or recurring charge that you have been unable to cancel with the company.

If you simply decide you no longer want the item purchased, you'll need to return it to the merchant and wait for the amount to be removed from your credit card balance or deposited back into your bank account. But if you see a pending credit or debit card transaction that you suspect is fraudulent, contact your credit card issuer or bank so that they can secure your card even while the charge is pending.

The bank's process for handling such issues may require several steps. Start by finding out if you can file a report with the customer service, claims or fraud department. Submit any receipts or documentation you have related to the charge.

If your credit card company or bank finds the transaction is fraudulent, let the three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) know your credit card has been used fraudulently and consider requesting a fraud alert so you'll be notified if someone tries to open an account in your name. If you request a fraud alert on one of your three credit reports, the other two bureaus will be notified and an alert will be added to those reports as well. Free credit monitoring from Experian can also help you keep a close eye on your credit report.

Pending Transactions Can Hamper Spending

Pending charges reduce your available credit or bank account balance, which could hamper your spending. However, this safeguard helps prevent you from going over your credit limit or overdrawing your bank account.

Problems can arise if a company preauthorizes an amount that may be more than your final charge, such as when you rent a car. If you use a debit card, that amount in your bank account may be inaccessible until the final charge posts.

If you're concerned about your account ever getting hampered with a pending transaction or preauthorization amount, one solution may be to keep a separate credit card specifically for this purpose. See what cards might be right for you by checking out Experian CreditMatch™.