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How To Cancel A Pending Transaction On A Debit Card

Last updated 03/19/2024 by

Trevor Dawson
If you want to cancel a pending transaction on a debit card, contact the merchant who placed the charge and ask them to reverse it. In many cases, your card issuer can’t do anything to help you until the charge is processed. However, some banks and credit unions do allow you to cancel certain pending deposits and payments online.
We’ve all been there: you look at your statement and see a pending charge you can’t recognize. Or maybe you made a purchase on your debit or credit card that you have to cancel right away. Perhaps you ordered too many pizzas, or you bought something by mistake. It’s okay; we’re not here to judge—we’re here to help. So let’s walk you through how to cancel a pending transaction on a credit or debit card.

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Step 1: Check the details of the charge

In some cases, you may not recognize a transaction because the merchant uses a different name or processes payment through a third party. Log in to your account (or visit your branch if you don’t have online banking) and check the transaction details.
Look for your transaction on your online statement to see the name, phone number, and past transaction with this merchant. This is an easy way to get the contact details of the company that requested the pending charge. Typically, transactions on your statement will only provide a one-line description of the merchant, the type of transaction (sale, payment, and fee), and the amount. But there is usually an arrow or a “more details” link at the end of the line where you can get additional information.
If, after examining your charge, you still don’t recognize the transaction or you feel it is a mistake, it’s time to call the merchant.

Step 2: Contact the merchant

The simplest way to cancel a pending card payment is to contact the merchant. It’s a good idea to contact them as soon as possible because once a transaction is pending, it will lower the available balance in your checking account. Some merchants wait till the end of the day to process transactions.
If you are the one that made the pending payment, the merchant receiving the payment will have to cancel the transaction. If it’s canceled, your money can be credited immediately, but on many occasions, it takes several days to clear.
When contacting the merchant, provide as much documentation as you can, such as a copy of your debit card or credit card statement and a receipt. The retailer will have to contact your card issuer’s customer service representatives to initiate the cancellation process.
If the merchant can’t (or won’t) help you, you will need to escalate the case to your card issuer.

Step 3: Contact the card issuer

Certain financial institutions, such as PNC, American Express, and Chase, allow cardholders to cancel certain pending transactions online for free. First, sign in to your online account. Then find the payment detail or transaction list. If your pending transaction qualifies for cancellation, you will see a “cancel deposit” option. Select it and follow the card issuer’s instructions.

These steps vary when you are the one receiving a payment. If you want to cancel a deposit, you will need to contact the customer service representative of your financial institution and request a cancelation. You can’t always cancel a pending transaction. In such cases, you may need to wait for the transaction to post before you can refund it.

Step 4: Wait for the transaction to post

If your bank does not support online pending transaction cancelations, you will have to wait for the transaction to process before you can request a refund. However, it is still a good idea to ask them to make a note on your account about the disputed transaction. This may speed things along when the transaction posts and you dispute it.

Step 5: Dispute the posted transaction

Once the pending charge posts as a transaction you can dispute it. This is much easier than canceling a pending transaction. As a part of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), card issuers are required to acknowledge a disputed transaction no more than 30 days after they receive your complaint. They are then required to resolve it within two billing cycles (typically two months). This period cannot exceed 90 days from the day you present the complaint.
Collect all relevant information before contacting the card issuer. You need to provide as much evidence as possible to justify the cancelation of the transaction. For example, it could be a recurring transaction you were not aware of. Or perhaps the services you paid for were never performed.
The good news is that many banks will allow you to dispute a charge online or over the phone, which can be much easier than sending a complaint letter.

FAQ about canceling pending transactions

What are pending transactions?

Pending transactions are transactions that are known to the card issuer but have not yet been fully processed (posted) for payment from your account.
In some cases, the amount of a pending debit card transaction may not be the final amount deducted from your account. To illustrate, if you included a tip on a restaurant bill, it may not be reflected in the pending transaction amount. Another thing to remember is that pending transactions may not post to your account in the order listed.

Will pending transactions lower my account balance?

Yes, banks will typically deduct pending transactions from your balance. Pending transactions can include online transactions, card swipes, ATM withdrawals, checks, and automatic payments received by the card issuer during the day that have not been fully posted.

Can I stop or cancel a transaction while it’s pending?

Yes, you sometimes can cancel a pending debit card transaction. There are two ways to cancel a transaction that’s pending. The easiest is to contact the merchant and request a refund. If the merchant fails to comply, your next step will be to reach out to your card issuer and ask them to cancel the transaction. If you suspect a pending transaction of being fraudulent, contact your card issuer first. Time is important here, as the longer you wait, the more complicated things become.

How long do you have to cancel a pending credit card transaction?

There is no set time frame for this process, but as a general rule, the earlier you get on it, the easier it will be. A pending payment is not technically paid, so the quicker you get ahold of the merchant or your credit card issuer, the easier it will be to cancel the pending transaction. Wait too long, and you’ll likely have to get a refund instead of a cancellation.

How to cancel a pending charge online

Many banks and card issuers—such as American Express, Chase, and PNC Bank—allow you to cancel certain deposits and payments online. To do this, log into your account or use the mobile app to find the details of your pending transactions. As long as the transaction has not been fully processed, you should be allowed to cancel it.

What if I can’t cancel a pending transaction?

If a transaction can’t be canceled for some reason, just wait until it completes and request a refund.

How long does it take for a transaction to be processed?

A good rule of thumb is that transactions typically take 3-4 days to process, but this can vary depending on the transaction, the merchant, or the card issuer. This article provides more information on how long it takes to process a refund.

Can a pending debit card authorization result in overdraft fees?

Yes, it can. Pending transactions lower the available balance in your account. If your balance is not enough to cover other transactions that are posted after, it could result in overdraft fees.

How do pending transactions differ from preauthorized charges?

While pending charges are payments made on products or services already completed, preauthorized transactions are more like temporary deposits. However, both of these transactions will lower the balance available in your account. You’ll most likely see these charges at gas stations and hotels. Your account could see a large withdrawal, as the gas station has to make sure you have enough money to cover however much gas you plan on getting. Don’t worry, though. You’ll only pay the exact amount of money that you owe for the gas.
The same is true of hotel rooms, or really anywhere you pay a security deposit (i.e., rental cars or apartments). If no damage is incurred, the money is given back as a refund.

Can you stop a pending transaction on a prepaid debit card?

The process for canceling pending transactions on a prepaid card is similar to what you need to do when you have a debit or credit card. First deal with the merchant and then call your card issuer if that doesn’t work. As with other card issuers, prepaid card issuers will usually investigate fraudulent transactions and give you some protection. However, credit cards and debit cards (to a lesser degree) provide more protection in these cases, which is why it’s important to be particularly cautious when using prepaid cards.

How do I cancel a PayPal transaction?

PayPal pending transaction process similarly to credit card or debit card transactions. For example, if you sent money to a merchant through PayPal, they should see it as a pending transaction. At this point, you have the option to cancel or change the payment, but only before the merchant approves.
If the transaction is described as pending, that means you likely sent funds to a phone number or email address that isn’t associated with a valid PayPal account. Just go to the “Activity” section of your profile and cancel the transaction.
On the other hand, if you send a payment to a merchant who doesn’t accept PayPal transactions, things can be a little trickier. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to cancel this kind of transaction, and it will be up to the merchant to approve or deny the payment.

Key Takeaways

  • Your card issuer can provide you with the contact details of the merchant. This may also help you recognize the pending charge.
  • Contacting the merchant is the quickest and easiest way to cancel a pending transaction.
  • If a merchant doesn’t cancel a pending card transaction, wait for the transaction to post and request a refund.
  • If you suspect fraud, call your card issuer immediately.
  • Pending transactions can limit your access to your money.
  • Most banks and credit card issuers will allow you to cancel a transaction online.

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