How Long Do Pending Transactions Take?

Written by Banks Editorial Team
3 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
3 min. read

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You may notice a pending transaction if you look at your credit card balance immediately after making a purchase. This transaction does not immediately impact your credit balance, but you will soon have to pay off the debt. Understanding pending transactions can help you manage your finances more effectively and stay on top of obligations.

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What Are Pending Transactions?

Pending transactions are credit card purchases, money transfers, and other transactions when money swaps hands. Transactions remain pending for a few days for several reasons. Banks will check your balance to ensure you can conduct the money transfer or that your card is valid. Pending transactions reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. While waiting for the transaction to process can be inconvenient, it adds an extra layer of protection to your finances.

What Are Pending Transactions Caused By?

When you send or receive money, it may turn into a pending transaction. In addition, your transaction can become pending if any of these parameters apply.

Merchant Holds

Merchant holds protect consumers from scams or companies who cannot provide the goods or services. These holds give the merchant enough time to provide the goods or services. Credit card companies may also implement merchant holds if the business has conducted suspicious behavior. Most merchant holds resolve within a few days after the customer receives the good or service.

Bank Holds

Banks monitor your financial transactions and can place holds to protect you and other consumers. Bank holds may occur if the financial institution detects unusual activity in your account. Banks may also place holds on your account to protect merchants. For example, your account may receive a hold if a merchant files a payment dispute.

Falling behind on payments can also trigger a bank hold. Late credit card payments and insufficient balances can also result in holds. These holds can protect you from overdraft fees and get borrowers back to making on-time credit card payments.

Debit Cards

You can’t always provide your PIN for debit card transactions. During these occurrences, your debit card issuer will mark the transaction as pending for 2-4 business days. You can still see the transaction in your dashboard, but you won’t lose funds immediately.

Debit card holders should closely monitor their pending transactions. Since these transactions do not pull funds from your account right away, they can create a false sense of security and lead to an overdraw. So make sure you check your available funds and pending transactions before using your debit card to avoid overspending. 

Credit Cards

Credit card transactions clear sooner than debit card transactions. You can expect clearance within 48 hours in most cases. The credit card company verifies that your credit line exists and then approves the transaction.

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How Long Can Transactions Be Pending?

Transaction lengths vary, but most transactions are no longer pending within seven business days. Your transaction may get approved quicker if you use a credit card (approval within 48 hours in most cases) or a debit card (approval within 2-4 business days in most cases). Holidays and weekend shopping can slow down transaction approvals since they only take place on business days. More detailed transactions, such as hotel rooms and other traveling expenses, can take more time to clear your account.

Do Pending Transactions Expire and What Happens Next?

Some pending transactions expire, but almost never because of a glitch. If you receive what you paid for, that transaction will rarely get canceled or expire. A transaction may expire or get canceled because of fraud or insufficient funds. Some online merchants will let you cancel your monthly subscription even after a pending transaction appears in your statement. If you cancel on time and the company accepts your request, this transaction will get canceled.

Can You Cancel Pending Transactions?

Financial transactions can get canceled, but you can’t cancel a transaction alone. Canceling your credit card will not protect you from pending transactions. Credit card issuers require that you settle all pending items before canceling your card. Therefore, canceling your card is not the best approach since that action can hurt your credit score.

The merchant is the best place to start. Consumers can contact the merchant and ask them to cancel the transaction. This quick request is enough to cancel some transactions. Some merchants will work with you and cancel the transaction. These merchants will provide a refund if money has already swapped hands. However, not every merchant will readily work with you to cancel a transaction. 

If the merchant does not cooperate with your request, you can file a dispute with your financial institution. Your bank wants you to remain a customer for your entire life. Supporting you during a dispute can help them build goodwill. Not all disputes result in canceled or reversed transactions, but getting your bank involved gives you leverage. Banks can only respond to disputes after they get posted on your account. You should anticipate not having access to the funds in question until the dispute gets resolved, assuming it works in your favor.

Why Some Pending Transactions Take Time to Clear

Every transaction gets reviewed by three entities to protect both parties from fraud and facilitate smooth transfers. Each party’s bank will monitor the transaction. Your bank and the merchant’s bank must provide stamps of approval. The Automated Clearing House (ACH) will also take a look at your transaction before it gets approved. These entities extend the amount of time it takes for transactions to get finalized. 

A transaction can remain pending longer if the merchant may charge extra expenses. Hotels charge extra fees depending on how guests use the unit and what services they request during their stay. Keeping the transaction pending allows hotels to add the extra expenses to a guest’s final bill instead of asking the consumer to provide their credit card again. 

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