Short Answer: Pending transactions are recognized by your bank or credit card company but haven’t been officially processed. They usually clear within one business day, but may take longer to process, depending on the type of transaction. Below, we outline the details of how pending transactions work and how they can affect your account balance.
What Does “Pending” Mean?
Pending items on your bank account, debit card, or credit card indicate transactions or deposits that are recognized by the financial institution but have yet to entirely clear. Your bank or credit card company has acknowledged the addition or subtraction of funds but has not yet formally deposited or withdrawn the funds.
Some transactions don’t have a locked-in final amount when first submitted for approval by a merchant. Things like additional purchases and tips may mean preliminary authorizations by restaurants, salons, gas stations, hotels, cruises, and car rental companies may not equal the final amount you get charged. The transaction will remain pending until the amount is finalized.
We confirmed this information with customer service representatives for USAA, Bank of America, and Chase.
How Long Does It Take for Pending Transactions to Clear?
Most debit and credit transactions will clear your account within a single business day, but processing time can vary from charge to charge. For instance, Chase told us that transactions get processed in batches by various merchants. While banks often process charges at the end of a business day, some may hold them for several days before fully processing them.
Debit card transactions can also be batched differently based on whether or not you provided your PIN. For example, PIN-less purchases through Bank of America may take three to five business days, whereas transactions made with PINs take one to two business days.
Deposit rules are regulated by the U.S. government, which sets fairly specific periods for when banks must credit deposits to your account. Cash, money orders, treasury checks, and checks drawn on an account at the bank where you’re making a deposit must be available the next business day, according to The Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation CC Compliance guide.
Under certain stipulations — such as large check amounts, redeposited checks, repeatedly overdrawn accounts, and new customer accounts — banks can hold deposited checks for seven days or more. (For more details, see our research on how long it takes a check to deposit.)
How Pending Transactions May Affect You
Pending transactions may affect you in several ways. For example, while some banks may subtract or add pending deposits or transactions to your available balance, others may not. If you don’t keep track and continue to debit amounts, you could suddenly find yourself below your minimum balance requirement, and your bank may charge fees.
Similarly, not every credit card will include pending transactions in your current balance, meaning that you may owe more than your statement reflects. For example, Chase does not account for pending credit card transactions when calculating your current balance.
Pay particular attention to pending charges that may vary from the final amount. While companies may authorize small amounts in their initial transaction, they can also authorize much larger ones than the final cost. This may decrease your available balance.
See our related research for more information about pending transactions and what to do if you need to cancel a pending transaction.