Guide to Canceling a Pending Transaction

By Sarah Li Cain · March 31, 2023 · 8 minute read

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Guide to Canceling a Pending Transaction

If you spot a pending credit card transaction that isn’t correct or isn’t even yours, canceling it will likely be your top priority. And for good reason: It’s often wise to act quickly when dealing with this kind of financial situation rather than waiting to see how things work out. You want to take action so that the charge gets canceled before it’s posted to your credit card account.

Otherwise, it may take a few more steps to dispute the transaction or navigate the refund process with the merchant. Which could wind up changing your available credit for a period of time. Also, there could be the shadow of credit card fraud hanging over this kind of situation.

Here, you’ll learn how to spring into action if you’re in this situation, including:

•   What are pending charges on a credit card?

•   How can I cancel a pending transaction?

•   When do I contact my credit card issuer or bank?

•   Are there consequences to canceling a pending transaction?

What Are Pending Charges?

Pending charges or transactions are purchases on your credit (or debit card) that have not yet officially been posted to your account. When you use plastic to pay for something, the retailer will issue a charge which can take time to clear. Or, if there’s a pre-authorized payment (say, you’re paying a deposit at a hotel to cover any incidental charges), it may show up on a credit card as a pending transaction.

These charges may then stay pending until posted, which can take up to several days. It could take longer if the merchant needs to complete tasks such as shipping the item you’ve purchased or adding the tip amount on a meal.

While these charges are pending, they won’t accrue interest if you’re using a credit card, nor will it count as part of the outstanding balance. However, it can affect your overall available balance and how much you can spend.

Not familiar with pending charges? No worries. In many cases you may not see pending transactions since credit and debit card issuers process them fairly quickly.

Can I Cancel Pending Transactions?

In many cases, you may not be able to stop a pending transaction because they haven’t been posted yet. That’s an aspect of how credit cards function; there can be a lag time as the charge works its way through processing.

Credit card issuers tend to help their cardholders dispute a transaction once it’s posted. So if you see a pending charge that looks incorrect, you may have better luck contacting the retailer in question to resolve the matter. This might yield the best results in terms of how to cancel a pending charge on your credit card.

However, there may be some scenarios when it may make better sense to talk to your bank or credit card company instead, such as unfamiliar or unauthorized transactions. In this case, you might be dealing with fraud, and your financial institution or the card issuer should be able to offer guidance.

Recommended: Guide to Canceling a Credit Card Payment

When to Contact the Merchant

You just read that, in general, it’s better to contact the merchant first if you want to cancel a pending transaction. But now, consider some of the reasons why you might want to get those charges struck from your account:

You Were Accidentally Charged Twice

Sometimes mistakes happen, and a merchant can process a purchase twice. It could even be a tech glitch where you pressed the “purchase” button on an online order and wound up with two orders (or more) instead of one.

If you notice two identical transactions on the same day and from the same merchant, you’re most likely double charged. In this case, it’s better to contact the merchant immediately so they can cancel the extra charge and don’t ship you excessive products.

You Changed Your Mind

Whether it’s buyer’s remorse or you suddenly realize you already have the item you just bought, it’s not unusual to change your mind. The sooner you can contact the merchant, the more likely the pending transaction can get canceled. That way, you don’t have to worry about going through extra steps, like receiving the item, then returning it, and waiting for how long a credit card refund takes.

You Haven’t Gotten the Item Yet

Perhaps you purchased an item a while ago, and it still hasn’t arrived. Maybe you no longer want it or aren’t interested in waiting any longer. (Maybe you bought a gift for a friend’s birthday which is coming right up.) If the merchant hasn’t sent it by the time you contact them, you may be able to get the pending change canceled.

How to Contact the Merchant

If you find yourself in any of these situations, here are some suggested next steps:

•   Have all relevant information ready when you contact the merchant, such as the total purchase amount, transaction date, and the order number. If you have a receipt, have that handy as the merchant may request to see it or ask for any information on that receipt. Don’t forget to note down what you said on the phone as a record or in case you need to escalate the situation.

•   Even if the merchant grants your request, hold into any relevant documentation until you don’t see the pending transaction anymore.

•   If your request is denied or ignored, you can wait until the credit card transaction is posted to request a refund or dispute it with your credit card company or bank.

When to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer or Bank

Though you generally won’t be able to dispute a pending transaction, there are several scenarios in which you may be able to do so.

You Don’t Recognize a Transaction

It’s a bad feeling when you see a pending charge that’s for an item or service you know isn’t yours. If you believe the pending transaction is due to fraud, it’s better to contact your credit card company or bank immediately to get it resolved.

The Amount of the Transaction Is Suspicious

What if you do recognize a transaction but there’s something off about the details? For instance, say you went to a flea market and swiped your card to buy yourself a necklace, but the pending charge is $100 higher than what you know the merchant said they were charging you. This might be a time to reach out to your bank or card issuer.

You Weren’t Able to Cancel a Recurring Purchase With The Merchant

If you had a recurring payment (say, a monthly gym membership) and canceled the agreement, the merchant should honor your request if you’ve followed their terms. In the unfortunate situation that you’ve done this but still see a pending transaction and the merchant is nonresponsive, it’s probably better to cancel it through your credit card company or bank. They will likely be able to show you how to stop a pending transaction.

Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card Company

How to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer or Bank

Each company may have its own method for handling requests for pending transactions. Some pointers:

•   To start, you might call your bank or credit card company and let them know your situation. They can then transfer you to the relevant department or customer representative. Email and chat with a customer service representative are often other convenient methods.

•   Jot down a record of whom you speak with and when.

•   As with disputing a pending transaction with the merchant, you will need to provide information such as receipts, interactions you’ve tried to have with the merchant, and the transaction amount you’re disputing.

•   Be prepared to create a paper trail. You may need to file a formal dispute which you will either fill out and send in or a representative can do so for you and then send you a copy. Additional steps may be taken to secure your account or to close it and open a new one if there’s been credit card fraud.

•   If you have had fraudulent activity, you may want to set up fraud alerts with the big credit reporting agencies. That way, you can be on alert if anyone tries to open an account in your name.

Consequences of Canceling a Pending Transaction

Even if you successfully cancel a pending transaction, it could still take several days for it to be removed from your account. In the meantime, it could affect your overall available balance.

Those using a credit card will want to watch what their available balance is when making purchases to ensure they’re not at risk of going over their credit card limit.

If you’re waiting for a pending transaction to be canceled on your debit card, don’t count on that money being available in your bank account just yet. It can be better to err on the side of caution. For instance, should you spend money you think you have and there isn’t enough in your account, you could have your transaction denied. Or you could go into overdraft and face paying a fee.

The Takeaway

When paying with plastic, there may be times that your account shows a pending charge that you want to cancel. In some situations, it’s best to reach out directly to the merchant who charged you; in others, contacting your financial institution or the card issuer will be your best move. It’s wise to stay aware of charges on your account so you can spot anything that’s amiss and deal with it swiftly.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


How do I stop a pending debit transaction?

You can stop a pending debit card transaction by contacting the merchant and canceling the purchase. Or you can try contacting your bank if you don’t recognize the transaction, you suspect fraud is involved, or the merchant is unresponsive.

Can you cancel a payment while it’s pending?

You may be able to cancel a pending payment transaction in some cases. Contacting the merchant directly can be the best route. Many credit card companies may have you wait until the payment is posted before allowing you to dispute it.

Can I tell my bank to stop a pending transaction?

You can tell your bank to stop a pending transaction if you have a legitimate reason to do so, such as if the merchant ignores or denies your request or you suspect fraudulent activity.

Photo credit: iStock/Lemon_tm

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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