What Is A Credit Card Hold And How Does It Work? | Complete Guide

What Is A Credit Card Hold
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A hold on a credit card can be a little too complex for some people and quite annoying for others. All in all, understanding a credit card hold is the first step to not having to deal with one. Or handling the situation better should you fail to avoid it. Here’s an in-depth look into credit card holds.

What Is A Hold?

A hold refers to a temporary delay in making funds on one’s account available for transactions. Here, the financial institution can place a hold on your bank or credit account that prevents you from withdrawing money straightaway.

The existence of funds on your account does not mean that they are available for immediate spending.

There are several reasons for account holds; one of which is when the owner of the account dies and the heir to claim his account has not been named yet, the financial institution would make sure the account is not accessed by putting a hold on that account.

Another instance is when the court or the state orders the financial institution to put a hold on your account in case they want to make investigation of suspicious activity in that account or if you report being a victim of theft, to protect you, the financial institution puts a hold on your account.

Unusual large deposits and large checks in particular could cause a hold on an account because the financial institution becomes suspicious of the origin of such funds.

So, the customer has to wait until these checks are considered legitimate. In cases where you cannot access your funds completely from your accounts, then the accounts have been frozen.

An account can be frozen when illegal activities like money laundering, writing bad checks among others are suspected.

What Is A Credit Card Hold?

A credit card hold can be described using two different meanings. It could be;

  • A verified electronic transaction where an amount is declared unavailable by your bank until the hold is settled. This is also known as the “authorisation hold” and it is essential for merchants to protect against losses.
  • An administrative hold which prevents you from using your credit card because of a late payment or because you have exceeded the credit limit. You can be able to use your credit card after the issue in question is resolved.

Holds can actually be more expensive than the actual total amount due. How is this possible? Well, you may have noticed that the “hold” i.e. ‘pending charges’ is larger than the actual amount spent. Merchants use this deposit as a security deposit.

The most common example is hotels can use the pending charges to cover potential damage or incidental costs such as meals in the hotel, spa services, and room service, mini-bar items etc.

In most cases, more expensive hotels authorise larger hold amounts than the cheaper ones. So, you must be prepared for substantial hold amounts if you want to stay in a luxury hotel.

What Are The Types Of Credit Card Holds?

Credit card holds can be split into two types that is; the administrative hold and the authoritative hold.

Despite the differences in the way they work, they both restrict the customer from accessing funds from their accounts until the hold is either settled or expires.

As a credit card holder, you need to understand them in order to manage them better.

Read: 10 Business Loans That Are Good For BadCredit

1. The Administrative Hold

An administrative hold is another type of a credit card hold and this is issued on your credit card account by the card issuing company.

Technically, the administrative hold is in two forms which are; the over- the- credit hold and the late -payment hold.

For the case of over-the-credit hold, it implies that you have exceeded the credit limit. Therefore, this hold is placed on your credit card and it will last until you have made payment to bring it down below the credit limit.

The late-payment hold. This administrative hold can be placed on your credit account if you have been making late payments regularly. There’s a chance that you could continue using your credit card in case you had a good credit history.

The credit card issuing company may allow you to continue using your credit card if you only made a single late payment. But if you make late payments a regular habit, they can stop you from using your credit card by applying the administrative hold.

You can avoid late payments by using electronic funds transfer where payment is made directly from your checking account.

You can prevent the over-the-credit hold by cooperating with your credit card issuing company so that it can alert you in case of credit limit.

2. Authorisation Hold

The authorisation hold can also be referred to as the “pre-authorisation hold” and it occurs when a merchant verifies existence of sufficient funds in your account for an electronic transaction.

The merchant from whom you purchase the product or service makes a certain amount of money in your account inaccessible until you have settled the transaction by putting a temporary lock on a certain amount of your balance.

As we have seen lately above, the authorisation hold is used by merchants as a security deposit.

Authorisation holds are common with payments for hotels, petrol purchases at gas stations, and car rentals. When the transaction is finalised, the hold is lifted and the customers pay the actual amount charged on their purchases.

Authorisation holds allow merchants to delay processing transactions in case the credit card was stolen by fraudsters. This gives the credit card holder time to realise that their credit card is missing and then contact the merchant to inform them about the situation.

The merchant will then simply release the hold and cancel the transaction and this protects the merchant from being a fraud target as the credit card becomes worthless once the card holder realises it is being used in fraudulent activities.

In summary, authorisations can help in reducing costs and prevent unnecessary hassles like reauthorising a transaction. They can also protect you from fraud and help to prevent chargeback.

How Do Authorisation Holds Work?

To understand how the authorisation holds works, you can carefully follow these guidelines below;

  • Once you have booked reservation in a hotel restaurant, the hotel will ask for your credit card details which include; the credit card number, expiration date and the security code.
  • The hotel sends an authorisation request to the card holder’s bank.
  • The bank approves the transaction and puts a hold on the card holder’s account.
  • The authorisation hold stays on the card holder’s account until the card holder checks out of the hotel.
  • Once the card holder checks out of the hotel, the hotel submits the total charge on the card holder to the issuer or bank for settling and then the hold is lifted.
  •  The funds are transferred from the credit card-issuing bank to the merchant’s account.

It is the same process for other cases like car rental companies and gas stations. As car rental companies can use the authorisation hold to pay for potential damages on the car. Gas stations also use the hold because they don’t know how full a tank is when the customer begins fuelling the vehicle.       

How Is An Authorisation Hold Different From Administrative Hold?

Authorisation holds are usually carried out by merchants as the administration holds are issued by the credit card issuing companies, this making it the major difference. Though they also have differences in what causes them.

For example; the administration holds are caused by late payments and one exceeding the credit card limit whereas the authoritative holds are placed on credit card accounts so that the merchants can prevent risks.

The authoritative hold or the pending charges are always greater than the actual payment and these are set by the merchant to be used as security deposits.

Authorisation holds will only be lifted or removed once the payment for the transactions is complete.

How Are Holds Different On Credit Cards And Debit Cards?

Holds placed on your credit card account reduce the available credit line or the available balance on ones credit account while placing holds on your debit account means that your actual bank account balance reduces.

You can earn points and your cash back as long as  you have settled your transactions and you use a rewards credit card.

Read: 15 Best Secured Credit Cards For Bad Credit In 2021

What Key Terms Do I Need To Know?

1. Credit Card Processing

This process is summarised in two steps unlike for the debit card where processing usually takes place in real time. The steps of the credit card operation are as follows;

The merchant submits transaction information to the credit card issuer or bank by swiping the credit card in the swipe machine.

The credit card issuer can either return an authorisation or a denial. Once the credit card issuer approves the transactions, they deduct the amount for settling your purchases from the remaining credit balance on your account, and then keep it as a pending transaction for your purchases.

The merchant settles the transaction and is then paid by the credit card issuer. Since many merchants prefer processing all transactions in a single batch, there could be a delay in posting a purchase in your credit account.

2. Administrative Hold

This can occur as a result of two major causes which are:

Late payments; if you make regular late payments, then you will be a victim of the administration hold and most card issuers don’t have a grace period and will deny charges on the credit card as soon as the payment due date is exceeded.

The second cause is exceeding the credit limit where the administrative hold will remain in effect until you pay your card down below the credit limit.

3. Authorisation Hold

It occurs when a merchant verifies existence of funds on your credit account sufficient enough to make an electronic transaction.

merchant has two main options for placing an authorisation hold on ones credit card account and these both reduce your available credit balance until the hold expires or it is lifted by the merchant.

The time limit of an authorisation hold defers varies from one merchant to another and also depends on the nature of the transaction.

You can get more details from what we have already looked in the credit card authorisation hold above.

4. Multiple Transactions

The merchant often makes two separate transactions with the first being the actual payment for the purchases, whereas the second can be used as a security deposit.

For car renting companies, the second transaction is to pay for potential damage on the borrowed vehicle.

In hotels, the second transaction may be used to pay for incidentals like room service, spa services, damages etc.

The hold can be dropped once the merchant has settled the second transaction and then the correct amount is charged on your purchases.

5. Issues and Errors

There can be issues and errors such as inaccurate record keeping and double holds. Double holds can occur when a merchant accidentally places multiple holds on a single transaction.

However, contact the merchant immediately if you see more than one hold for the same credit card transaction.

This could happen due to a number of reasons including; use of test transactions to verify accounts. If this happens, the card holder can file a chargeback.

How Does A Credit Card Hold Come About?

Like we stated earlier, a credit card hold is in two ways which are; the authorisation holds and the administration holds.

To mitigate risks, merchants put an authorisation hold on the customer’s credit account until the credit card holder has paid for the transactions made.

The authorisation hold is used as a security deposit, once the transactions are cleared, the hold is lifted and the credit card owner can now access their funds.

Secondly, administrative holds will be issued on your credit card by the credit card issuing company if you make regular late payments or if you go over your credit limit.

Read: The Best Credit Cards With 0% APR AND 0% Interest

How Long Does A Credit Authorization Last?

A credit card authorisation hold is a way for merchants to reserve a certain amount of money in a customer’s credit account to ensure that they have completely paid for the services provided to them.

Merchants use authorisation holds to give adequate time to customers so that they can complete their payment.

The time limit for an authorisation hold depends on different factors i.e. the nature of the transaction and variation from one merchant to another.

The Merchant Category Code that accompanies your transactions largely determines how long your hold can last. Depending on the credit card issuer, the hold can last between 1-30 days.

 It is important for one to be aware of hold time limits so that;

  • You can avoid resubmitting the transaction for processing since it is a difficult process.
  • The other reason is to avoid the “misuse fees”. These are fees imposed by ‘Visa and MasterCard’ on authorisations that are not settled within the allotted time. For example, in hotels, most holds are to be settled within 24 hours.

 Alerts from your credit card issuer also help to keep track of transaction holds since they can notify you when merchants place holds on your account and when they lift the holds.

For transactions which require one to insert their pin, the hold is cleared immediately after the transaction as the funds are deducted from your account instantly.

But transactions where there is no room for inserting your pin will delay as the payment has to go through the credit card network so that it is approved within a few days of your purchase.

How Can I Avoid A Credit Card Hold?

A hold being a temporary delay in making funds on one’s account available for transactions, avoiding holds means looking for the quickest ways of making deposits that are likely to become available as soon as possible.

Holds can be so annoying but this could be the cure to the problems you are facing as a result of the holds.

The following could help you prevent holds on your credit and debit cards:

You can sign up for a direct deposit. Electronic transfers are fast in paying for the transactions made such as the payroll deposits.

In case of larger deposits, you can divert to using a payment method that includes the use of wire transfers and cashiers’ checks which is quicker in clearing the payment.

You can also decide to make deposits in person with a bank employee since deposits using ATMs and mobile devices could delay.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a hold last on a credit card?

A credit card hold can last for 1-30 days

Is a credit card hold a charge?


Does a hold affect your credit score?

Yes, an administrative hold can.

Is a credit card hold different from a freezing a credit card?


Is there a limit on credit card holds?

Time limits for authorisation holds depend on the merchant and transaction type.


A credit card hold could be embarrassing as it is frustrating. While this article explains what a credit card hold is in detail, it also helps you learn how to revert it and avoid it as well.

Best case scenario would be avoiding a credit card hold or it not happening at all. But that’s unpredictable in some situations and therefore it’s important for you to know how to go about it.

Let us know what you think or share an experience with us.



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