What Is a Pending Transaction?

Quick Answer

Pending transactions are authorized debits or credits to your bank and credit card accounts that haven’t been processed.

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Have you ever deposited a check and discovered the funds aren't available right away, or wondered why a credit card purchase didn't show up on your statement for weeks? Pending transactions affect the amount of money or credit you have available, which can be confusing if you aren't aware of them. A pending transaction is a credit or debit on your credit card or bank account that has been approved but not yet processed.

What Is a Pending Transaction?

A pending transaction is an approved debit or credit to your bank account or credit card that hasn't been processed yet. Essentially, the money is still in transition from one bank to another. Pending transactions may include:

  • Bank account deposits made by check, cash or direct deposit
  • Electronic fund transfers (EFTs) to or from your bank account
  • Credit card purchases or returns
  • Payments made to your credit card account

Pending Charges and Credit Cards

When you pay for something with a credit card, the merchant asks the credit card issuer to authorize the purchase by confirming you have available credit to cover it. Once the card issuer authorizes the purchase, it still takes time to process.

Pending credit card transactions affect the amount of credit available to you. Suppose you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and a pending $400 purchase. If you try to make a $650 purchase, the credit card may be declined because you only have $600 of available credit.

Pending credits (refunds or payments to your credit card account) also impact your credit card charges. Suppose your credit card statement shows a $500 balance due, but you returned an item for $300 credit the day before. It can take several weeks for a pending return to post to your account, so you should pay the full $500 by the due date to avoid accruing interest.

Pending Charges and Bank Accounts

Pending bank account transactions affect your available balance, which is the amount available to spend at any given time. Suppose you have $750 in your checking account and deposit a $1,000 check. Your checking account's current or present balance would show $1,750.

However, checks typically take two business days to clear. While the check is pending, your available balance is $750; spending more than that could lead to overdraft fees. To avoid overdrawing your bank account, check your available balance on your bank's website or app before making purchases or payments.

Pending Transactions vs. Posted Transactions

Once a pending transaction is processed, it posts to your account. Pending bank account transactions show up in your bank account's available balance, but typically won't appear on your monthly bank statement. Posted bank account transactions are reflected in your available balance and on your monthly bank statement.

Depending on the card issuer's policies, pending credit card transactions may or may not appear in your credit card's current balance, which is a running tally of account activity at any given time. Posted credit card transactions appear in the current balance and on your monthly credit card statement, where they are included in your statement balance. To avoid paying interest on these transactions, you must pay the statement balance in full by the due date.

How Long Do Pending Transactions Take to Post?

Although pending transactions typically post within two to three business days, they may post immediately in some cases or take up to 30 days in others. It depends on the type of transaction; when it takes place; and the merchant, bank or credit card issuer's policies. Here are some examples of when pending transactions may post.

  • Cash bank deposits typically post to your account the next business day.
  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) bank transactions may post the same day or take up to three business days.
  • Domestic wire transfers typically post the same day; international transfers can take up to five business days.
  • Check transactions may post the same business day, but can take two to seven business days.
  • Payments to your credit card account may post the same day or take up to seven business days.
  • Credit card purchases typically post in three days, but can take up to 30 days.

Bank hours and cutoff times affect when pending bank account transactions post. Deposits made on weekends or holidays generally take longer to post. A deposit or transfer made after your bank's cutoff time counts as taking place on the next business day. Check with your bank regarding cutoff times for various transactions.

How quickly credit card purchases post depends on the merchant and credit card company. Some online retailers don't process credit card transactions until items ship. Other merchants place credit card holds, which can extend the time transactions remain pending. Credit card holds are used when the merchant runs your card before the final purchase amount is known. For example, gas stations may place a hold of up to $175 on your credit card to account for how much gas you could pump. Restaurants, hotels and car rental companies often use credit card holds to cover tips or incidental expenses, such as room service.

It may take up to 30 days for these transactions to post. In the meantime, the hold may restrict your available credit. To avoid having purchases declined, consider using one credit card for hotels and rental cars and another for other expenses.

Can a Pending Transaction Be Declined?

While it doesn't happen often, there are some situations where a pending transaction might be declined.

  • A pending deposit to a bank account may be declined if the account the deposit comes from lacks sufficient funds.
  • A pending check deposit to a bank account could be declined if the check was filled out incorrectly, is fraudulent, is over six months old or has a stop payment.
  • A pending credit card purchase might be declined if another merchant has placed a hold on your credit card.
  • A pending purchase made with your bank account or credit card could be declined if your account doesn't have enough funds or the merchant won't accept payment from your bank.

Can You Cancel a Pending Transaction?

You may be able to cancel a pending transaction by acting quickly.

Canceling Pending Credit Card Transactions

You may be able to cancel a pending credit card purchase by asking the merchant to cancel the sale. (Banks and credit card issuers typically cannot cancel pending debit or credit card transactions.) You'll have a better chance of getting a pending charge canceled if:

  • You request cancellation right away
  • You were mistakenly billed twice
  • The order hasn't yet shipped
  • You return the shipped purchase

Canceling Pending Bank Account Transactions

You can cancel pending checks or recurring automatic payments from your bank account by requesting a stop payment order from your bank or credit union before the transaction is processed. To cancel a recurring payment, contact the merchant; request a stop payment only if the merchant refuses to cancel the payment.

Depending on your bank's policies, you may be able to request a stop payment online, in your banking app or by phone, or you may need to visit a bank branch. Banks typically charge a stop payment fee of $20 to $30.

Prevent Pending Problems

Confusion over pending transactions can cause bounced checks or bank overdrafts. If a pending transaction reduces your available credit, you could have purchases declined or max out your credit card. Using 30% or more of your available credit can negatively affect your credit score.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by keeping tabs on your account balances using your bank or credit card's website or app. Consider setting alerts on your bank and credit card accounts to get notified when transactions post. While you're at it, sign up for Experian's free credit monitoring service. You'll get alerts to important changes in your credit report that could affect your credit score.