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Guide to Pending Credit Card Charges

By Dan Miller · October 24, 2022 · 5 minute read

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Guide to Pending Credit Card Charges

When you make a transaction with a credit card, it’s common for a temporary hold to be issued to your account. These pending credit card charges are often used by merchants to verify your account details. While pending credit card charges may affect your total available credit, they don’t have any impact on the amount you owe.

There are several different reasons why you might see a pending charge on your credit card account. If you check into a hotel, the hotel company may put a pending charge on your account to cover any damage or incidental expenses you charge to your room. Similarly, a sit-down restaurant may place a hold or pending charge or hold on your credit card for the amount of the bill, only finalizing the charge once you’ve elected how much to tip.

What Are Pending Transactions on a Credit Card?

Pending transactions on a credit card are temporary holds on your credit card account, often representing transactions that have not been finalized. These transactions usually show up on your online account, but often in a different color or font, differentiating them from posted transactions.

Pending transactions may affect how much credit you have available. However, you won’t have to actually pay them until and unless they actually post to your account.

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What Causes Pending Credit Card Charges?

There are a number of things that can cause pending credit card charges. Here are some of the most common.

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Credit Card Holds

One of the most common causes of pending credit card charges are credit card holds. Credit card holds happen when the merchant places an initial hold when you start a transaction.

One common scenario for a credit card hold is when you check into a hotel. The hotel company will put an initial hold on your card when you check in. This initial hold may be for more than your actual hotel bill, so as to cover any potential damages or expenses you charge to your room. Then, when you check out, the hold is removed and a final charge is posted to your credit card account.

Billing Errors

Another potential cause of pending credit card charges are billing errors. If there is a mistake on a billed transaction, it may show up as pending until the merchant corrects the error. This can happen during credit card processing, and it may take several days to resolve.

Fraud

It’s also possible that a pending charge can be the result of fraud. Most credit card issuers regularly and proactively monitor accounts for potential fraudulent transactions. If your issuer spots a transaction that might be fraudulent, they may deny the transaction or keep it in a pending status until they can verify its authenticity.

Anti-Fraud Preauthorizations

Because credit card issuers are actively monitoring accounts for fraud, they may also place a pending charge that serves as an anti-fraud measure. Most credit cards have a $0 fraud liability policy, meaning that you are not liable for any unauthorized transactions. As part of this, you may see pending charges or refunds from your card issuer as an anti-fraud measure.

Changing Your Mind About a Purchase

If you’ve changed your mind about a purchase and the transaction is still showing up as pending, you may be able to more easily cancel it with the merchant. Contact the merchant as soon as possible to see if you can get a credit card refund before the transaction officially posts to your account.

How Long Do Pending Credit Card Transactions Take?

Most pending credit card transactions will stay in a pending state for a few days. After the initial pending period, they will either post to your account, getting added to your total credit card balance, or fall off, in the case of a temporary hold.

In certain rare cases, some pending transactions may stay on your account for a longer time. If that has happened to you, reach out to your credit card issuer to see what options you have.

How Does a Pending Charge Affect My Balance?

Any pending charges do not count toward or affect your statement balance. This means that they won’t be included in your required payment or the amount of credit card purchase interest that you’re potentially charged.

However, pending charges do typically count against your total available credit (here’s more on the difference between credit card available and current balance). This could mean you have less available to spend than you might otherwise think.

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Tips for Canceling a Pending Credit Card Charge

Because pending credit card charges have not officially been posted to your account, you generally can’t cancel them by doing a credit card chargeback with your issuer. Instead, if you want to dispute credit card charges that are still pending, you’ll need to contact the merchant directly.

If the merchant is not willing to cancel the charge, you can follow up with the credit card company once the charge is posted to your account.

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The Takeaway

It is common for new charges to show up as pending when they’re first created. This may be because the merchant is still processing the transaction or due to the placement of temporary hold until the transaction is completed (like with a hotel or rental car). Pending charges do not count toward your statement balance, but they usually do reduce your total available credit. Most pending transactions either post to or fall off of your account within a few days.

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FAQ

Are pending credit card charges included in the current balance?

Pending credit card charges are not usually included in your current credit card balance. They should not be part of the calculation of your minimum payment due or interest charges. However, pending charges may affect the total amount of credit that you have available to you.

Do pending transactions show on credit card statements?

Pending transactions do not typically appear on your credit card statement as charges that are included in your statement balance. That means that any pending transactions that you have will not be subject to credit card purchase interest charges or credit card fees. You will not be charged fees or interest until the charge actually posts to your account.

Can you pay off pending transactions on a credit card?

Because pending transactions are not officially posted to your account, you won’t be able to make payments against them. One reason for this is that pending charges are by their nature temporary — so it’s possible they may end up posting for a different amount or being removed completely before they hit your account. You’ll want to keep an eye on your account to see what happens when a pending transaction actually posts.


Photo credit: iStock/damircudic

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