I noticed that when I use my credit card it takes up to 3 business days (even 5 days including weekends if I use it on a Thursday, I have to wait until Monday or Tuesday) for the transaction to appear on my online banking account history (after spending some time in the "Pending" list).

Whereas when I use my debit card the transaction is affected instantly (literally seconds after using it, my banking app on my phone will show the new balance).

Why is this?

Also, why does ACH still take 2-3 business days when debit transactions (as described above) only take seconds to process?

  • 2
    ACH is a completely different payment system than credit/debit cards, so that might be better as a separate question.
    – Ben Miller
    Oct 8, 2014 at 13:41
  • Remember don't use Debit cards. You don't have the same protections you get with the credit card. Oct 10, 2014 at 21:17
  • That is not an answer. There should be no difference. I use my debit or credit cards in exactly the same places - bars, restaurants, super markets, hotels, but the debit transactions are instant the credit card transactions take 2-3 days. It makes no sense, I want an explanation. Same as when I make a payment. It is going from my bank account to my credit card payment all owned by the same bank. With our modern technology why is it not instant?
    – user33234
    Sep 19, 2015 at 7:04
  • 2
    @ElDuchy you may want it to be "no different" but that does not change the fact that (in the United States) there are different liability limits established by statute. Consumers face $450 greater risk in the event of fraud if using debit.
    – user662852
    Sep 19, 2015 at 11:39
  • "There should be no difference". Obvious difference between "give me my money (debit), and may I borrow (credit) ......"With our modern technology why is it not instant?" .... Really?
    – michael
    Sep 19, 2015 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


When you swipe your credit card, the terminal at the store makes a request of your bank, and your bank has only a few seconds to accept or reject the transaction. Once the transaction is accepted by your bank, it appears in the Pending transactions.

At the end of the business day, the store submits all of the final transactions for the day to their bank in a batch, and the banks all trade transactions in a batch, and money is sent between banks. This is the process that takes a couple of days, and after this happens, you see the transaction move from your Pending transactions into the regular transactions area.

Most of the time, the pending transaction and the final transaction are the same. However, there are cases where it is different. A couple of examples:

  • Pay-at-the-pump fuel is authorized before it is known how much gas you will be pumping. So the pending transaction is typically for a high amount, and the final transaction contains the actual cost of the fuel pumped.
  • A restaurant authorizes the transaction before you enter a tip amount, changing the total of the final transaction.

With a credit account, the fact that the final amount is not known for a few days is no big deal: after all, you don't have any money in the account, and if you end up spending more than you have, the bank will happily let you take your time coming up with the money (at a steep cost, of course).

With a debit card tied to your checking account, the transaction is handled the same way, as far is the store is concerned. However, your bank is not going to run the risk of you overdrawing your checking account. They also are not going to run the risk of you withdrawing money from your account that is needed to cover pending transactions. So they usually treat these pending transactions as final transactions, deducting the pending transaction from your account balance immediately. When the final transaction comes through, they adjust the transaction, and your balance goes up or down accordingly.

This is one of the big drawbacks to using a debit card, in my opinion. If a bad pending transaction comes through, you are out this money until it gets straightened out.

  • 1
    Nice details. I'd add that hotels have the same issue, reserving far more than the room cost just in case you charge the minibar, room service, or other hotel services. Oct 9, 2014 at 13:49
  • 2
    It seems like it depends on how you run the card. If i run it as credit it goes via the cc networks and work as you describe, even in my check card (i see pending transactions in my checking for a few days). If i run as a debit though (which requires my pin), it goes through the ATM networks and acts as an immediate withdraw. I think that's really the reason they're different.
    – Andy
    Jul 30, 2015 at 21:16
  • I rented a truck and the final charge was slightly higher than the pending. Are there any rules regarding how "off" the pending amount could be compared to the final? Nov 2, 2021 at 9:11

Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payment_gateway

There is essentially a lead time between when the transaction is made and when it is settled, 2-3 business days is the lead time for settlement. The link explains the process step-by-step

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