When you buy anything using your bank debit card, the store (whether it is retail, restaurant or online), gets an ‘authorization number’ from your bank for the amount that your purchase totals. These are the debit purchases that show up as ‘Pending’ transactions. It may be days before they actually process.
In some cases, the authorization (or ‘hold’) will ‘fall off’ before the transaction posts – leaving you to see a larger ‘available balance’ than you really have. After all, the charge will go through eventually! Hopefully by then you haven’t ‘double spent’ the same money!
However, there ARE exceptions…the most notorious being gas stations. They may only authorize $1, or they may authorize $50…regardless of the actual amount that your gas costs that day. Consequently, these purchases are a very easy way to overdraft your account!
If you only have $1 authorized (it may not even show up on your online banking)…and you forget that you had $75 worth of gas…in a few days you may be in for a nasty shock! The charge will still go through in nightly processing, but you might not ever see it online as a pending charge…and because there wasn’t a ‘hold’ on that money, you may think there is more money in your account than there really is!