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Here’s What Happens When You Have a Fraudulent Pending Credit Card Charge

Someone frowns at their smartphone while holding up their credit card.

Image source: Getty Images

It’s an unfortunate thing that year after year, many consumers fall victim to credit card fraud. In 2021 alone, there were almost 390,000 reported cases of credit card fraud, according to research from The Ascent.

When you see a pending charge on your credit card account that’s fraudulent, your first inclination may be to contact your credit card company and dispute it. The annoying thing, though, is that you actually can’t dispute a charge until it officially posts to your account. So while that charge is in pending status, there’s not much your credit card company can do about it.

But there is something you can do. And it might save you a world of hassle.

When you’re able to take action

Sometimes, bogus charges might wind up on your credit card not due to intentional fraud, but simple mistakes. Let’s say you canceled your gym membership last month, but there was a glitch in their system, and so you’re now seeing a pending charge for your monthly gym fee that shouldn’t be there.

In that case, a simple call to your gym might nip the problem in the bud, so it’s worth reaching out and asking to have that charge canceled. If you go this route, that charge might never even officially get posted to your credit card account at all.

In other situations, it may be that somebody got a hold of your credit card and used it to charge an expense that’s not authorized. In that case, it still pays to reach out to the merchant behind that charge, explain the situation, and ask for the charge to be removed from your account.

Dealing with fraud isn’t fun for merchants, just as it isn’t fun for individual consumers. So often, they’ll try to be accommodating to avoid a hassle themselves. And that, in turn, can help you avoid a problem.

In a worst-case scenario, you’ll have to wait to dispute the charge

Ideally, you’ll be able to nip a pending fraudulent credit card charge in the bud before it posts to your account. But if you’re unable to do that, once the charge moves from pending to posted, you’ll have the option to dispute it.

From there, your credit card company is required to investigate the matter. And what will most likely happen is that the charge will be removed from your credit card account while that investigation is underway.

All told, it’s possible for fraudulent charges to hit your credit card account for a number of reasons, from innocent mistakes to criminal activity. That’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about logging into your credit card account and reviewing your spending activity on a regular basis, rather than just waiting to get your statement once a month.

If you go this route, you’ll be more likely to catch a fraudulent charge while it’s still in the pending stage. And from there, you’ll have more options for making it go away without having to deal with the process of officially disputing a charge on your account.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 comment
  1. I have an issue like this that has gone completely off the rails. We stayed in a “boutique hotel” and after we left, they printed off a bill/ statement and charged our credit card again for the entire stay that was already paid for before we left. The hotel was /is on the take. They would not offer an explanation. So I contacted the credit card. They went to mediation WITHOUT asking me for receipts where we had paid the bill. The credit card company ( Discover) actually told me once I give a vendor access to my credit card information, they can charge me for anything they want, without approval or a signature. Needless to say the discover card got cut up. So do not , for one minute, believe the credit card issuer is in your side ESPECIALLY DISCOVER CARD.

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