How to Cancel a Pending Transaction: Checking Account, Credit Card, & Debit Card

Written by Bradon MatthewsReviewed by Nathan Brown, CFP®Updated: 11th Apr 2022
Share this article

Disclaimer: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation (at no cost to you) when you click on links to those products. Read our Disclaimer Policy for more information.

If you’re one of the many people frequently using a debit or credit card, you’ve probably noticed that your transactions show up as pending before being posted.

You’ve also probably noticed that these transactions still impact the funds or balance of your bank account.

Sometimes you know they’re coming, but when you don’t, you may find yourself wondering if there’s an undo button.

We get it. That’s why we’ve gathered all the information you need to know about canceling pending transactions.

So, what are pending transactions? And when can you cancel them? Let’s find out.

What Is a Pending Transaction?

To explain pending transactions, we need to look at how transactions process.

When you make a purchase or a payment, this information must go through several systems before being cleared.

These systems include the payment network (Visa or Mastercard, for instance), your bank, and the seller from whom you made the purchase.

The payment can’t be posted until it is fully validated through these systems. As you can imagine, this process takes a bit.

Pending transactions are those that haven’t entirely cleared all the steps yet. Your bank or credit union knows about the transaction, but it hasn’t been fully validated as legitimate yet. It’s marked “pending” to indicate this.

>> More: How to File a Complaint Against Your Bank

How to Cancel a Pending Transaction

If you want to cancel a pending transaction, the process to do so will depend on what type of payment method the transaction involves.

Cancel Checking Account Transaction

If you notice a pending transaction that seems incorrect or fraudulent on your checking account, it’s understandable that you’d want to act fast.

A big enough transaction might lead to an overdraft fee or leave you without the money you need for important purchases.

Unfortunately, your bank can’t do anything about a pending transaction. If you need the transaction never to post, your best bet is to contact the merchant. They may be able to issue you a refund or cancel the transaction, keeping it from posting to your account.

If this isn’t an option, you should still reach out to your bank. Let them know you would like to dispute the charge and give them your reasoning.

While you may have to wait for the transaction to post, some banks will freeze transactions while investigating them.

Either way, if the bank agrees with you in the dispute, the transaction will be canceled or refunded.

Cancel Credit Card Transaction

If the pending charge you want to cancel is on a credit card, you may have a harder time. Credit card issuers don’t have the authority to cancel or freeze pending transactions.

If you absolutely can’t wait for the transaction to post, you’ll need to reach out to the vendor or whoever it was you made a payment to. If they cancel the transaction on their end, it won’t post to your account.

That being said, this is tough to do. It can be hard to get ahold of vendors and convince them to cancel a transaction.

Don’t worry, though. If it does post, you can reach out to your card issuer. They do have the authority to investigate a disputed charge so long as it has been posted, and they may be able to refund or cancel the transaction.

How Can I Cancel a Pending Transaction on My Debit Card?

Much of the same holds true for debit cards. The payment network has no authority to interfere with a transaction while it’s pending.

Debit cards leave you with a bit more flexibility in how you go about canceling your transaction than credit cards, though.

If the transaction needs to be canceled before it posts, contact your bank. They may be able to freeze it. Either way, they’ll investigate the disputed charge and, if they agree with you in the dispute, they’ll cancel it.

You can and should try to contact the vendor or merchant as well. They can cancel the charge faster than anyone else can, though it may take some persuasion to convince them to do so.

Finally, you can contact the card company themselves. They may be able to help you cancel the transaction. The card company will only be able to do this after the transaction has been posted, though.

How Long Do I Have to Cancel a Pending Transaction?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long you have to cancel a transaction before it posts. It depends on when the merchant processes it.

Usually, transactions will move from ‘pending’ to ‘posted’ in about three days, though sometimes it can take up to a week. Regardless, if you’re trying to stop a transaction from posting, act as quickly as possible.

Can You Cancel A Pending Transaction Online?

In most instances, no. You’ll have to contact someone to explain why the transaction should be canceled, and this typically involves a phone call.

Emails can work, but they can take longer to get to, and time is of the essence with pending transactions.

Bottom Line: How to Cancel a Pending Transaction

Stopping transactions before they post is difficult in most cases.

If you really need to cancel a transaction before it posts, go straight to the merchant. They can cancel it faster than your bank or card issuer.

If that doesn’t work, your bank can freeze transactions as they investigate them. Let them know you’d like to dispute the charge.

If a transaction does post, get in contact with your card issuer or bank. They can often help you refund the fraudulent or incorrect transactions once they’ve been posted to your account.

Keep Reading:

Bradon Matthews
Bradon Matthews

Bradon Mathews is a personal finance writer & product analyst with a breadth of experience. He enjoys analyzing market information and trends to help you make sense of the complex and ever-changing world of finance. His passion is providing practical advice so you can feel more confident managing your money. Bradon attended Colorado State University where he studied Philosophy.