If you've ever paid for something with a credit or debit card, you've probably seen a pending transaction on your account.
And if you've ever tried to cancel a pending transaction, you know it isn't as simple as it might seem.
Keep reading to learn more about pending transactions, how to cancel one, and how to dispute a posted transaction once it's finalized.
What are the basics of a pending transaction?
Pending transactions are purchases, payments, pre-authorizations — also called holds — and other transactions that haven't yet been posted to your account.
How a pending transaction works
When you purchase something with a debit or credit card, the payment goes through several steps.
First, the point-of-sale (POS) system lets the merchant know that your card is valid. Then your bank, credit union, or card issuer authorizes the purchase. But it's only once your financial institution transfers the funds to the merchant on your behalf that the transaction finalizes and posts to your account.
All of these steps take time to process. While your transaction is making its way through the system, it’s “pending.”
In the case of a pre-authorization, the merchant charges more than the actual amount to guarantee they’ll have access to those funds if your purchase exceeds the transaction’s true amount.
For example, you might pre-authorize $50 at the gas station and only fill up for $42. The $50 charge will appear as a pending transaction until the $42 is transferred from your account. The same goes for safety deposits at hotels or car rental agencies to cover incidental charges or damages.
Pending transactions with…
When you pay for something with your credit card, no funds are drawn from your bank or credit union account until you pay your bill at the end of the month. That means that a pending transaction on a credit card simply limits your available credit balance.
Unlike credit cards, transactions with debit cards draw money directly from your account to cover the purchase cost. That means that a pending payment on your debit card limits the available balance in your account for as long as it takes the transaction to process — which isn’t very long.
PayPal has its own payment processing system. That means that if you've sent a payment via PayPal, the transaction may appear as pending in your PayPal account before appearing on your credit card or bank account.
Canceling a pending debit or credit card transaction
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) allows you to dispute any charges posted to your account. Banks are required to acknowledge a disputed transaction no more than 30 days after they receive your complaint, and they must then resolve it within two billing cycles, which can’t exceed 90 days from the date of your complaint.
But what if you have an issue before the transaction posts and want to cancel a pending card transaction?
Disputing a pending transaction
Credit and debit card issuers don't allow you to dispute pending charges because they're temporary and the final amount of the charge could change. The issuer cannot cancel or alter the transaction until it's been finalized.
If you need to cancel the transaction before then, you'll have to contact the merchant who placed the charge. You can ask them to contact your card issuer and reverse the transaction depending on the situation. After they do, the pending transaction should disappear from your account and the funds or credit will return.
If the pending transaction appears to be fraudulent or the merchant is unresponsive to your request, you can contact your bank or credit card issuer to take further steps to resolve the issue.
Consequences of not paying a credit card
If you've tried without success to cancel a transaction from your credit card, you have to pay for it. You might disagree with the charge, but once it's posted to your account, it becomes your responsibility.
It sets off a chain reaction when you fail to pay your credit card bill.
Here are four things that happens if you stop paying your credit card:
- Your balance increases exponentially
As soon as you miss a credit card payment, you incur late charges added to your balance owing.
After 60 days, your interest rate may increase to the “default” rate. This rate is usually between 25% and 30% but can rise to 60% or 70% in some cases. If interest and late charges cause your balance to exceed your credit limit, you could pay over-limit charges.
With all these factors combined, your card balance can quickly double — or even triple — after you've stopped paying your bill.
- Your credit score drops
Once your payment is 30 days overdue, your card issuer reports it to the credit bureaus, who then add it to your credit report.
Your payment history counts for 35% of your credit score, so even one late payment on your credit report can have a significant impact on your score.
- Your debt is charged off
At first, your creditor will send you overdue notices to remind you to pay your bill. But if you continue to leave your account unattended, your credit card issuer will often charge off the debt after 180 days without payment. That usually means the debt is sent to a collections agency that specializes in handling unpaid debts. Throughout this process, the debt grows at a high-interest rate.
- You're sued for the balance
If the collections agency fails to receive a payment from you despite their best efforts, they’ll eventually take you to court to settle the debt. At this point, they’ll be allowed to garnish your income, meaning they can make automatic withdrawals from your wages until the debt is paid off.
They may also file a lien on your assets, like your home or car. When a lien is placed on your property, it means creditors get their money plus interest and expenses when you eventually sell.
FAQs about pending transactions
How long does a pending transaction take to post?
The amount of time it takes for a transaction to post depends on when the merchant processes its account. Transactions usually post within three business days, but can take five days or longer.
Can you cancel a pending transaction online?
No. Unless you've sent a payment via PayPal to an unrecognized email or phone number, you'll need to contact the merchant to have them cancel the pending transaction.
Why can't a pending transaction be canceled?
Because a pending transaction is temporary and can change, you can’t alter it until it is finalized and posted to your account.
How long does a pending transaction take to cancel?
The pending transaction should disappear from your account once the merchant contacts your card issuer to reverse the transaction.
The bottom line
If you want a great alternative to credit and debit cards, try PointCard™.
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