Why does the Bank list electronic transactions as "pending"?

I call my Banks automated line periodically to check my balance.

Invariably there will be electronic debts pending. I’ve figured out that the balance provided is my actual balance that includes the pending charges.

I’ve never understood why they insist on pending charges?

You buy a meal for two at Wendy’s. Hand the cashier your debit card. $14.43 is authorized and charged against your bank account. The money is spent. It’s gone. Vaporized. It’s never coming back! Guranteed!

But, call the bank’s automated line the next morning and that charge is listed as pending?

Why the extra step?

I assume online banking would show exactly the same pending charge? I’ve never set that up because of computer viruses. I’m very concerned that access to my accounts could be handed over to some hacker.

This never happened with checks. The bank was blissfully clueless that I paid for lunch with a check. It took two days for them to find out.

Various steps in the handling of payments used to take some time. Now the systems are capable of doing everything almost instantly, but by saying “we have to wait a few hours/a day” for everything to clear the bank can

a) remove the money from your account so you don’t get interest
b) wait to deposit it in the recipients account so they don’t interest either

multiply by thousands of customers with hundreds of payments per year and it all adds up.

Because of batching and clearing - http://lifehacker.com/this-is-why-your-credit-card-transactions-take-so-long-1786567382

Keep in mind that there are certain types of purchases where there may be a real temporary hold, or the amount could change after the fact.
These are a consideration for hotels and rental cars, where the company might require you to pay a deposit, which is returned after the end of service.

It can be even worse than the OP says. Many a bank will remove the pending charge if the merchant doesn’t redeem it quickly enough, in effect giving the money back to the account holder even though it will never truly belong to them again. Then when the merchant’s transaction finally does reach the bank, it’s “presented” just like a paper check would be and the account holder needs to be sure the funds are there to meet it. It’s not a big deal if you carefully track your debits and withdrawals, but it can certainly trip you up if you labor under the impression that your online balance represents only the money you haven’t spent yet.

Some transactions are run initially to put a hold on a certain amount and only finalized later when the merchant runs a batch.

You are at the gas station and swipe your card at the pump before you fill the tank. When you do the initial swipe the merchant might place a $100 hold on your account. When you finish filling you know the final amount was only $40, but your bank does not know yet - not until the merchant runs that batch of transactions.

If you check your account before the batch is closed you may only see a $100 hold. Check back in a day or two and you will see the transaction was settled for the actual amount of purchase, the $40.