Can you cancel a pending credit card transaction?

Some businesses place temporary holds on your card that appear as pending transactions and tie up your available credit


If you want to cancel a pending card transaction, your best bet is to work out the issue with the merchant.

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You could see a pending charge on your account if, as is all too common in these days of COVID-19, you engage in online shopping from the comfort of your home.

A pending transaction is one that has not yet posted to your account. Online transactions tend to appear as pending until the merchant actually ships your purchase and bills your card.

If you stayed at a hotel, rented a car or paid for gas using your best credit card, these merchants could also place a hold on your card that appears as a pending charge.

After a transaction posts to your account, you can dispute the charge if you have any issue with the purchase, thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act. What if you have an issue before the transaction posts and want to cancel a pending card transaction? That is a trickier situation.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

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Pending charges could tie up your funds

In the hotel industry, when you check-in for your stay, it is a common practice to place a hold for the amount you will owe for the room, plus an additional fee to cover any potential damage or other incidental expenses.

For instance, the hotel would like to be covered in case you dip into snacks and drinks that are not complimentary or damage your hotel room. When you check out and pay your bill, based on the actual tab for your stay, the hold will be removed.

If you pay the bill with the same card that has the hold on it, the card issuer will know that the hold is no longer necessary and will remove it soon. However, if you pay your bill with a different card, or other means of payment, it might take a while for the issuer to know that you have paid your bill and remove the hold.

When you eat out at a restaurant, a pending charge could appear on your card before the final charge replaces it, which will include any tip you add to the bill. And when you pay at a gas station, the business could put a small hold on your card to ensure that you have adequate funds, and this hold will be removed after your transaction is processed.

The monies that are tied up in such pending charges are actually deductions from your available credit limit, and you have to be careful and take them into account to ensure you have adequate funds for other transactions.

That’s why at least one state, Maine, saw fit to pass legislation protecting consumers in such situations. The state requires that businesses that place a hold on your card that exceeds the actual amount of the transaction clear up such holds to the actual transaction amount within an hour after the transaction is done. This law has teeth, and Maine will fine merchants that run afoul of it.   

See related: What to do if your online order never arrives

How to cancel a pending charge

When you see a pending charge that you have an issue with, your inclination might be to want to cancel the charge. Unfortunately, card issuers typically don’t allow you to dispute a pending charge.

For instance, American Express explains that because a pending charge is temporary and the final amount of the charge could change, it only allows disputes on actual posted transactions.

However, you could talk to the merchant and see if you can sort out the issue. If you would like to cancel the pending transaction, ask the merchant to contact the issuer and cancel it. The funds will then be available to you.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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