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What is a pending credit card transaction?

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Have you ever checked your credit card statement and found that your available funds were much lower than your statement showed? It’s most likely you have pending credit card transactions. 

You may see pending transactions from any kind of merchant. For example, if you go online shopping at your favourite clothing store on the weekend, those purchases won’t process until at least the next business day. And many credit card issuers take several days to post any kind of payment to your balance.

You’ll also sometimes find a pending transaction that is more than what you actually spent. That’s because certain merchants — hotels and gas stations for example — will hold a certain amount of money as security until the payment is posted to your account.

In any case, pending transactions are very common. But it’s worth understanding what they mean and when they are likely to appear on your statement so that you aren’t caught off guard and can budget your credit card spending appropriately.

What is a pending transaction?

A pending transaction is one that has been authorized by a merchant. Once something is pending, it means that money is no longer available to borrow on your credit card.

However, when you buy something on your credit card, your balance doesn’t automatically update. A pending transaction means it’s in the process of being added to your statement.

It typically takes a few days for a pending charge to be fully processed and appear on your statement. Once that happens, it means it has been posted.

Does a pending transaction mean it's gone through?

No. Pending credit card transactions occur when a transaction is being processed by your credit card provider.

Even though it has been authorized, it has not yet been posted as part of your balance.

How long does it take for a pending transaction to fall off?

The amount of time it takes for a pending transaction to clear from your statement depends on your credit card company.

CIBC says most pending transactions take five days to clear. TD Canada says three to five days for posted transactions. And Scotiabank says it could take up to seven days for pending transactions to be posted.

Before signing up for a credit card, it’s a good idea to see how long it takes for pending transactions to be added to the balance.

How do pending transactions impact my available credit?

It’s really important to keep in mind that while pending transactions may not appear in your balance yet, that money is not available to you. That’s why you might be declined for a purchase, even if your balance is low. If you’ve been racking up purchases and they’re still pending, those are limiting your available balance and you may not have sufficient funds.

Luckily, if you use an online banking app connected to your credit card(s), it will often show you how much credit you have available to spend, including pending transactions.

Why does a transaction show as pending and posted?

It’s possible for a transaction to simultaneously show as pending and posted. But this doesn’t mean you’ll be charged twice. A pending transaction is the authorization, and a posted transaction is when the amount is added to your balance. The pending charges will be reversed by the merchant directly once the actual amount is paid.

In some cases, the pending transaction amount will actually be higher or lower than what you spend. For example, if you are staying at a hotel, their staff may pre-authorize a certain amount on your card to hold your room, or as a security deposit. But if your actual stay is less than that amount, when the transaction finalizes, the pending transactions will disappear, and the posted amount will be whatever you actually paid for the hotel.

What do duplicate pending transactions mean?

Occasionally, you might see a pending charge from a merchant appear twice on your card when you shop online or sometimes even at the gas station when you tap to pay. However, this doesn’t mean you have been or will be charged twice. What the merchant has done in this case is authorized the charge when you ordered it, but will actually bill you when the merchant ships your purchase. That means you will only pay once.

American Express says duplicate pending transactions can also happen if you tip at a restaurant. Your card will be authorized twice, but the actual amount you will be charged is the total for the bill and the tip.

How to cancel pending credit card transactions

If you decide you regret buying something and want to back out, suspect fraudulent activity, or believe a pending transaction was made in error, it’s possible to cancel the pending charges.

To do this, you should contact the merchant directly. Your card issuer can’t do much while the transaction is pending; you’ll have to wait until the payment is posted. But the merchant can cancel the pending payment on their end. If they can’t, you may have to wait until the pending transactions are posted and get a refund. If the merchant will not help you, you can contact your card issuer at that point.

If you were billed in error, that’s also a case where you would contact the merchant to resolve the issue. But if you don’t recognize recent pending transactions, that could be evidence that fraudulent activity is happening on your account, in which case you may want to contact your card issuer.

Frequently asked questions

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