When processing a credit card transaction, a retailer can send a request for payment electronically.

After you swipe the credit card, it almost instantly goes into a "pending" status. If you make a mistake and wish to reverse that charge, you need to know whether you can cancel the pending transaction.

Pending Status

A pending transaction on a credit card is a charge that reduces the balance, but has not yet officially posted to the account.

The credit card company has accepted the new charge pending final authorisation, and the merchant's credit card service provider is in the process of finalising the transaction. If you check your online credit card statement, you may see these transactions listed under "Pending Charges" or similar.

Can You Cancel It?

A merchant can cancel or reverse the transaction to remove it, but it won't drop off immediately. The merchant who processed the charge must submit a request to his merchant services provider to void the transaction. This can take a few days to complete.

The pending charge drops off before posting to the account as long as the merchant receives and processes the refund request before finalising the transaction. The exact process and timeline varies by bank and credit card processor.

Contact the Creditor

In some cases, your own credit card company can remove the transaction while it is still in pending status.

For instance, if the merchant makes the mistake of processing a duplicate charge, a credit card company representative can sometimes remove the duplicate pending transaction immediately. Otherwise, the credit card representative will require that you seek a refund from the merchant and wait until the pending charge drops off.

Credit Card Fraud

In some cases, a pending transaction could drop off automatically due to an error or fraudulent charge. For instance, in cases where the credit card company notices a suspicious string of charges, presumably by an unauthorised party, that could trigger the creditor to reject the charge and send it back to the merchant automatically before it posts to the account.