Credit card holds can be confusing, but understanding them can improve your credit score management. One type of hold, an authorization hold, reduces the amount of available credit on a card.
It’s common for merchants to use this technique when the final charge total is unknown. Most authorized holds resolve quickly, and the pending transaction is posted to your account.
Paying Off Pending Transactions
When you make a credit card purchase, the charge shows up immediately as “pending” on your account’s online or mobile app. The merchant checks your card online for validity and sufficient funds to purchase.
If the merchant requests an authorization hold, the card issuer will make that amount of your available credit unavailable until the transaction goes through. This is common for transactions that will only settle for a few days, such as a hotel stay or a car rental.
While pending transactions reduce your available credit, they shouldn’t affect the amount you owe, at least not directly. If the hold lasts more than 48 hours, you should contact your card issuer to find out what’s going on. So, what is a credit card hold and its processes?
A card issuer may also put a late-payment administrative hold on your card when you’re behind on a payment. These temporary delinquencies can be resolved by paying down your debt or making on-time payments to bring your balance below the credit limit. The impact on your available credit of these types of holds is less dramatic than the effect of an authorization hold, but they can be damaging if you let them go too long. The excellent news issues get resolved quickly.
Getting Rid of Pending Transactions
If you use credit cards for everything from filling up your gas tank to paying for room service during a vacation, seeing pending transactions on your running balance can be frustrating. While they don’t appear on your statement and don’t accrue interest, pending transactions still limit your access to actual funds until the transaction disappears. This can make it hard to cover bills or pay other financial obligations due soon.
Pending transactions are temporary amounts that a merchant puts on your card to verify that you have sufficient funds for the purchase you’re about to make. This often happens for high-risk transactions, such as those at a pay-at-the-pump gas station or hotel room. In the case of a debit card, pending transactions may limit access to the real money in your bank account until the merchant clears the charge.
While you can contact your card issuer to dispute a pending charge, it’s usually best to speak with the merchant directly to resolve any issues. That’s because contacting the merchant can help ensure that your concerns are addressed as quickly as possible.
You can also work to prevent pending transactions by being aware of when your card will be used for high-risk purchases and making sure you have enough available credit to cover the cost of the purchase. By taking these measures, you can help keep your credit card in good standing to continue to enjoy its many benefits.
Avoiding Pending Transactions
If you’re careful about how much money you have left in your bank account, you can avoid credit card hold surprises. These temporary charges are like ghostly figures in your running balance, appearing and disappearing within a day or two. But they have real-world effects you should understand and take steps to prevent, if necessary.
While several transactions can be pending on your card, authorization holds are the most common. The merchant then asks the card issuer to withhold some of your available credit until the transaction is complete.
On a credit card, an authorization hold limits your available credit, but on a debit card, it limits your actual funds until the withheld transaction is cleared up. This can be frustrating if you have bills or other urgent financial obligations.
The good news is that most authorization holds are resolved quickly, and once they’re removed from your account, you’ll be charged the actual final transaction amount. In the meantime, it’s a good idea only to use your credit card for large purchases if you have enough cash to cover them in case of a problem.
What to Do When You Have Pending Transactions
If you’ve used your card recently to make online purchases, it may take a few days for those charges to appear on your credit or debit card statement fully. They remain pending because the merchant still needs to ship the purchase, bill your card, and settle any related transactions (such as tipping at a restaurant). Some retailers, such as hotels or car rental companies, also use pre-authorization. These pending charges are cleared much faster than a standard purchase because the merchant is trying to guarantee a certain level of service.
While a pending transaction doesn’t officially go through and becomes a posted charge, you can cancel it by contacting the merchant directly. However, if you’re trying to resolve an issue with a merchant, it may be easier to wait for the pending transaction to post and then file a dispute under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Whether a pending or a posted transaction, you should always keep an eye on your available credit to avoid spending more than you can afford. To help yourself out, many card issuers offer the option of setting up automated alerts that will notify you when your available credit drops below a specific threshold.