What Does Pending on a Bank Account Mean?

If you see the word "pending" on your online banking site or app, it generally refers to a deposit or payment that the bank is aware of but is still processing. If it's a deposit, remember that it won't be reflected immediately in your bank balance, so you may be at risk of overdrawing your account if you spend as if it has been fully processed.

What Does Pending on a Bank Account Mean
Image Credit: Yozayo/iStock/GettyImages

Pending Deposits and Charges

If you access your bank account online or over the phone, you might encounter some deposits and charges listed as pending.

Those could include check deposits, automatic payments such as payroll deposits or charges you've made with your debit card. Those are all transactions that the bank is aware you have made but aren't yet reflected in your total balance. If they're deposits to your account, the money generally won't be available to spend or withdraw until the bank finalizes the transaction. Sometimes, some, but not all, of a large deposit will be available immediately, and the remainder will be listed as pending.

If you have questions about why a transaction is taking a long time to finish processing, contact your bank.

Overdraft Risk

If you have pending deposits listed on your account, you should take care not to spend as if the money already is in your account. If you do, you run the risk of an overdraft if your balance drops below zero.

On the other hand, if you have pending charges to your account, those funds ultimately will be deducted from your balance. Make sure you don't end up spending more than you actually have.

Also, it's important to remember that pending transactions aren't processed in any particular order. Just because one transaction was started first doesn't mean it will be finished first, so you shouldn't assume that a deposit will finish processing before a later charge or withdrawal when figuring out how much money you have to spend.

Unlisted Pending Transactions

It's also possible to have transactions to your bank account that aren't listed on your online account portal at all. For instance, you might have written someone a check, and that person hasn't taken it to the bank yet, or you could have made a purchase with your debit card that isn't yet reflected on your account. You also could have an automatic debit set up for a recurring expense, such as your car payment, that hasn't yet posted. On the other hand, you might have dropped cash or checks in a deposit box or an ATM after hours, where they won't be processed until the next day.

When you're deciding how much money is available to spend in your account, you need to consider your actual current balance as well as incomplete transactions such as outstanding checks, debit card purchases and deposits.