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Key takeaways

  • A pending transaction is a charge that has yet to post to your credit card’s account balance.
  • These transactions typically occur when merchants require preauthorization of payments, and they take a few days to clear.
  • To cancel a pending transaction, call the merchant or retailer on your statement. If you suspect fraud, call your issuer or bank immediately.
  • To avoid transaction errors and fraud, regularly review your statement and shop only with secure websites, among taking other precautions.

Pending credit card transactions can be a frustrating aspect of managing your finances. They often appear on your statement suddenly and can temporarily reduce your available credit limit.

But by understanding how pending transactions work, you can minimize the effect they can have on your card balance. We cover what pending credit card transactions are, why they occur and how you can cancel them.

What is a pending credit card transaction?

A pending credit card transaction refers to a preauthorized transaction that has yet to post to your account balance. In simpler terms, it’s a charge that’s approved but not yet included in your credit card balance.

Also called holds, these pending costs can appear when sellers ask for an initial approval of payments to confirm that you have the money to cover the cost, but have yet to verify the total amount. Two common everyday situations where this can occur are a restaurant charge before you’ve added your tip and a gas station hold on your fill-up at the pump. You can also encounter them when you check into a hotel or rent a car. In both cases, the merchant places a hold on your credit card as a kind of damage or security deposit.

While these pending transactions can momentarily reduce your available credit limit, they do not accrue interest and aren’t included in your credit card’s current balance until they are finalized — which can take three days or longer. In cases such as the hotel or rental car deposit hold, the charge should simply disappear once your stay or rental is complete.

How to cancel a pending credit card transaction

To cancel a pending credit card transaction before it’s complete, start by calling the merchant directly. Ask the merchant or retailer to reverse the charge, cancel the sale or release the hold for the confirmed amount.

The sooner you can reach out to the merchant, the more likely the pending transaction can be canceled. If you suspect fraud, skip the merchant and call your bank or card issuer first.

The window for canceling a hold is often just a few days. If the merchant doesn’t respond in time or isn’t able to remove the pending transaction before it posts to your account balance, you still have the option of disputing the charge with your credit card issuer or bank.

Can you cancel a pending transaction online?

While it depends on the bank or credit card issuer, you may be able to cancel a pending transaction online or from the issuer’s app.

That said, if you see a pending transaction you know you didn’t make — whether you suspect it’s fraud or simply can’t connect the merchant to your spending — contact your card issuer immediately. Keep in mind, it’s often easier to dispute a posted transaction than a pending one, and credit card issuers are typically more inclined to help cardholders after the charge is posted to your account.

Credit Card
Good to know
The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your personal liability to $50, no matter how much an unauthorized user charges to your card.

What to do if you see a pending transaction you suspect is fraud

If you see a charge you didn’t make or can’t readily recognize — whether it’s a pending transaction or officially recorded on your statement — contact your credit card company immediately.

Your issuer’s fraud department will likely take the reins from there, holding charges from your statement until a fraud investigation is complete.

If you see evidence of ID theft beyond your credit card statement, you may also want to file a police report. And it doesn’t hurt to alert the three major credit bureaus to prevent confirmed fraud from appearing on your credit report.

How to protect yourself against transaction errors and fraud

Take proactive steps to avoid transaction errors and credit card scams when using your card:

  • Shop with secure websites. A secure URL begins with https, which signals the site uses Secure Sockets Layer — or SSL — encryption to protect the information you submit, including financial information. Ensure you’re only shopping on secure and authentic websites.
  • Protect your card information. Never respond to a call or email asking for your personal or financial information, like your credit card number. Even if the person reaching out says they’re from your bank, hang up and call your bank or issuer directly to avoid handing your info to a stranger.
  • Review your statements. Give your bank and credit card statements a regular review for discrepancies or unknown charges, and call your card issuer immediately if you see anything you don’t recognize.
  • Watch for skimmers. Make sure that any ATM or card machines you use is well lit with security monitoring to avoid fraudsters “skimming” your card information.

The bottom line

You might see a pending credit card transaction on your bill after a night of dining out or shopping online. These charges act as preauthorized “holds” on your card until the transaction is complete.

If a pending credit card transaction that you don’t recognize shows up on your statement, try contacting the merchant who made the charge. If you suspect fraud, reach out to your issuer or bank immediately to start an investigation.

Review your card statements regularly to catch errors or unauthorized charges before they’re complete. Shop only with secure websites and at legitimate retailers to avoid phishing, skimming and other scams that can expose your personal and financial information to fraudsters.