Debit Cards at Gas Pump Splooge Your Bank Account

Watch out when using the debit card at the gas pump. Some banks will “block out” $50-$75 on your card until the transaction clears.

For the unaware with low balances, this could result in bounced checks.

To avoid your funds getting tied up, you have a few options:

  • Pay with cash.

  • Pay with credit card.
  • Don’t be broke.

Hosed at the Gas Pump — By Your Debit Card” [MSN Money] (Thanks to Tham!)

UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle did a piece on this same thing over a year ago. (Thanks to Jason!)

Comments

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  1. SharkJumper says:

    And with gas prices the way they are, the $50 block they use at the gas station I frequent is not enough for my pickup. If I’m running on E, I have to make two separate transactions, replacing the nozzle in the pump, waiting for the machine to reset, placing the nozzle back in the car, reswiping my card, etc.

    It’s annoying. I was just on the verge of having a talk with the manager when I saw a new sign on the pump explaining the policy (someone must have beat me to the complaint). They block out $75 for all major card types except Visa cards, for which they block out only $50. Are we Visa holders less trustworthy or something?

  2. ducksauce says:

    To clarify, this is only a problem if you use your debit card as a credit card. If you enter your PIN at a pump they don’t do this.

  3. Ben says:

    How about a fourth option: Don’t Buy Gas.

    You can stop laughing any time now…

  4. ValkRaider says:

    Ben:

    I switched to biodiesel and haven’t bought gas in several years.

    :)

    Seriously though, this could happen with any business depending on how they have their card machine set up.

    Try renting a car or renting skis or something like that and you might have the same problem too…

    The issue is that when they do this to your debit card account – it is *actually* your checking account, so that is where the risk is….

  5. matto says:

    Probably something most Consumeristas know by this point, but worth mentioning- There have been numerous reports of card skimming devices being mounted at gas pumps. Entering your PIN at any POS device really has become a very bad idea.

    I wish there were some way to avoid it at Costco gas pumps besides using an Amex card.

  6. Juancho says:

    I often buy prepaid Visa/MC gift cards to use for Internet shopping, and they actually come with an instruction manual and a warning label that says if you intend to purchase gas with the card, you must have at least $25 in balance left, or the charge will not go through. It blocks out that large charge amount ($25 bucks or so) until your actual purchase goes through.

    I have heard of restaurants doing this so people don’t skip out on dinners (and I’ve heard horror stories of these temp charges staying on the bill), but this is really getting out of hand.

  7. EricaJoy says:

    This is a fairly interesting post simply because I’ve found this to be untrue where I live. In the days when money was supertight, there were times when I’d float a charge for gas. If I was close enough to payday, I could easily pump a full tank of gas with nothing in my bank account (yes, yes, I’m a terrible human being) knowing that the actual charge wouldn’t hit my account until days later.

    I’d like to know if this practice is limited to specific chains or specific areas of the country?

  8. Ben Popken says:

    Ellen writes:

    “The best tip for debit cards is – don’t use them! Credit cards have a lot of built-in protection. Debit cards issuers may claim the same level or protection, but the money is out of your bank account while you fight it out with them. Even if you win, how many checks have you bounced, or interest lost. The ability to dispute charges is a fabulous benefit of using credit cards, but you’ve also got the protection of that no one can touch your money until you send or authorize the payment.”

  9. MirDreams says:

    I, on the other hand, have had credit cards turned off if I use one twice in a row to buy gas. I grant you it was for a rental car and I don’t ussually buy gas (much as I bitch about the NYC MTA, that unlimited under $80 montly metro card’s lookin real good when you can spend that much at the pump). Still it’s interesting that that in particular sets off fraud alarms.