Help! The Gas Station Froze $100 For $12 Of Gas And My Rent Check Bounced!

Reader WW is upset because a gas station froze $100 on a debit card transaction for $12 worth of gas. This caused his rent check to bounce. Now he’s got overdraft fees and he’s wondering why gas stations are doing this.

I’m trying to find out a little more information concerning an issue I ran in to today with an oil company. Here’s basically what happened…

I went to the BP gas station located on Barnett Shoals Rd on the East Side, to fill up my motorcycle a couple of days ago. I pulled up to the pump and swiped my debit card in to the card reader. It asked if it was a debit card, I clicked yes. It then prompted me to type my pin number in, etc. So, I did. I filled up the tank, a whopping 12 dollars. I went on my happy little way. I checked my bank account today and I saw an overdraft fee on my rent check, and my rent check had not gone through. Thing is, there was still money in my account. I called the bank to get to the bottom of it. They looked and saw where the BP station had put a $100.00 hold on my account. Apparently, these gas stations are holding 75-100.00 on debit transactions. They don’t list this anywhere in the store as a policy either, so that you have the option to opt out. The bank basically said that this is something that gas stations are starting to do. I was irate! How are they allowed to access my account and hold anything beyond the price I purchased for. That is stealing. Sort of like someone coming into your yard and taking your lawn mower without asking, but intended to give it back later. They took money out of my account that wasn’t theirs and without my permission! So, basically I now have about $100.00 in overdraft fees, both from my bank and the rental company. Now, typically this wouldn’t be too much of a financial issue, as I usually have plenty of money to cover things. Unfortunately, this month money’s a little tight, with extra things popping up.

So, after speaking to the bank, I called the oil company that was listed on the draft in my account. Acree Oil Co. I let them know that I was very unhappy about the situation and that I would no longer support the station where this happened, or any other station that takes money out of my account like that. The guy there checked with his people and they said that they have no control over it. It is the credit card company that does this. I said that I didn’t use a credit card, and that my bank had just said that the oil company was responsible. He said that wasn’t so. I also asked him why there wasn’t a sign in the store letting people know about this policy. He said they didn’t need to post a sign because they weren’t the one taking it out, the bank was responsible for doing that. I then called the bank back to see if what he had just said was a lie or not. They said it was, and that they (the bank) have no control over it. I let them know that they do have a responsibility to protect my money, and that they should figure out how to prevent this. They were doubtful that they would be able to control this. They also mentioned that a lot of their customers have experienced this and are also irate. They mentioned some recent story in the news about it. They said that if they could do something about it, they would have already done it, because they have so many customers who are upset. Unfortunately, I had no knowledge of this even being an issue. Now I do and I want to make sure that as few people as possible have to go through it as well. The bank lady was nice. She mentioned a story about a mother recently having the same issue on a weekend when the bank was closed. She had no money in her account the entire weekend and could not buy food or diapers for her children. I think that this is wrong and should not be allowed. Rather than accepting it, I’m going to try to find a station that doesn’t do this. So sorry for the long winded email, but it took me by surprise, and I would hate to see someone experience this. Also, does anyone have any knowledge of this kind of thing? Can they legally do this?

Thanks,
WW

Well, you may not like it (and we don’t blame you) but gas stations have been doing this for some time. The Charlotte Observer explains:

When a consumer swipes a card at a gas pump, most gas stations freeze $1 as a confirmation that a valid checking account exists. That hold usually lasts for a few hours, but can stretch for a couple of days. The station later debits the actual amount of the gas purchased from the account.

As gas prices rise, however, the stations are increasing the amount of money they freeze in order to lessen the risk that they’ll be ripped off.

The hold policies can cause financial headaches for consumers in several ways, said Nathan Tothrow, director of marketing for Charlotte Metro Credit Union:

A debit-card transaction might be rejected even though drivers have enough money in their accounts for the gas they want to purchase. “They have enough money for the gas, but not for the hold,” he said.

The holds can tie up cash that can’t be used for at least a few hours. Unsuspecting consumers might have other transactions declined because the holds are in place.

And there’s a danger that the holds can stay on for longer than a few hours, causing other transactions to cause an account to be overdrawn, triggering fees.

Tothrow said the credit union has received complaints about excessive holds. The bank investigated and found several gas stations were freezing $75 and $90. Most still froze only $1, he said.

“For a lot of folks, a $90 unexpected hold can cause a problem,” he said. “I really don’t like that they are doing it to our members.”

What can you do about it? Not much. The NC Attorney General’s office says to “use the debit card with a gas station attendant and enter your PIN number because there are no holds involved and the account is charged immediately for the exact amount.” Of course, some banks still charge a fee for using PINs instead of signatures, so keep that in mind.

The bottom line? If you’re in danger of a hold like this causing you to bounce your rent check– be safe and use cash.

Debit-card holds can take a nasty bite [Charlotte Observer]
(Photo: .schill )

Comments

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  1. raisitup says:

    how can a consumerist reader NOT know this?

  2. Coder4Life says:

    So you had just enough money for $12 of gas, and to pay your rent?

    You have lots of other problems besides the $30 fee.

  3. pete7919 says:

    If you are concerned about holds you need to pay inside! REcently I’ve been using up all of the typically $75 authorization and need to hang up the pump and re-swipe! It makes sense that the gas station wants to make sure you can cover the bill prior to pumping the gas as you can’t really return it!

  4. KyleTurner says:

    In Canada, or atleast here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan when you use your debit card for a fill the pump tells you the will authorize $75 on your debit card. If you are not getting a fill just enter in how much gas you want and thats all you’ll get.

  5. Bagels says:

    All the gas stations by me have a notice right by the pump about the hold. I always use my debit card as a credit transaction at the pump and never had a problem or hold of any kind

  6. Skankingmike says:

    I knew this when i was in high school..

    Which further proves that the public school system needs to better educate children in the ways of finance.. sigh

  7. khiltd says:

    The alternative is pumps that limit the amount of gas you can get out of a single swipe. This hit me ten years ago when I had to fill up a U-Haul in the Mojave desert and they made me put my card back in every $20.

  8. evslin says:

    I wonder why the bank said this is something gas stations are only “starting” to do… as far as I know they’ve been doing it for years.

  9. shoelace414 says:

    This has ALWAYS been happening. What happens is the authorize am amount to make sure there are enough funds available. The credit card company then reserves those funds for you, but doesn’t take them. Then when you complete the transaction you take that authorization and turn it into a sale with the correct amount charged. So the oil company (gas station) has told the bank “take the $75 authorization and turn it into a $12 charge”. Then it’s up tot he bank to expire the authorization (hold on your money). It’s has been like this for years. HOWEVER, this has become a problem because people use Visa backed debit cards where the banks are holding their actual money instead of “potential credit”. There is no way for a merchant to release an authorization because banks don’t accept “reverse authorization” transaction.

    In conclusion, it’s the banks fault, not the gas station.

  10. Get with the program people, debit cards are shit. You are not protected from fraud with the federal $50 limit, you are at the whim of you banking/financial institution with debit cards. They can change policies at any time and screw you 10 ways from sunday and make checks bounce, why do you think banks push people to use debits, they are betting that people will get overdraft fee’s when petrol stations do holds. They get to point the finger at the station and say hey, it’s them not us, you know what our fees are for overdraft, it’s not our fault you agreed to our fees….sucker

  11. 67alecto says:

    The notice is almost always posted right next to the keypad. As the commentary states, this is something that has been done for years, however in the past it was just $1 to verify that the card was active and in good standing.

    With the days of $1 gas long behind us, the gas stations need to make sure they’ll get their money for that liquid gold.

    Otherwise, someone could swipe a pre-paid visa gift card that had $5 on it and get $100 in gas.

  12. Kajj says:

    @Coder4Life: Don’t be an asshole. Millions of people live on tight budgets for any number of reasons, and they don’t deserve to be insulted for it.

  13. johnva says:

    Either go inside and use your PIN, or better yet, use a credit card instead. This happens with gas transactions because they don’t know in advance how much to authorize your card for (since they don’t know how much gas you’re going to buy at the time they authorize your card). $100 seems somewhat excessive, but the fact is that you should expect this sort of thing if you use a debit card all over the place. Debit cards are crappy that way.

    This can happen with a credit card too, but it would just come out of your credit line instead of your actual money. So it most likely wouldn’t affect you at all unless you were very near your credit limit. Also, there are plenty of credit cards where you can save 3-5% easily on gas. So I think it makes a lot of sense to use one for gas even if that’s all you use it for.

  14. fostina1 says:

    @raisitup: ive been reading consumerist nearly every day for a couple months and i have never heard of this.

    @pete7919:

    the station gets paid by the bank if he has the funds or not, hence the “overdraft fee”

  15. Pithlit says:

    @Coder4Life: Yeah, he should have got an education. Be like Coder4life, everyone. B cool. Stay in school You’ll be flush with cash 4 ever. Just like Coder4life.

    Seriously. He did say money was tight that month. Maybe you missed that part? Would it kill to cut people a little slack in times like these, especially with gas prices like they are? I know this is a comment section on the internet, so it’s practically law to be a douchebag to anyone having money trouble, but still.

  16. xkaluv says:

    $1000 emergency fund baby!

  17. Gopher bond says:

    Who uses gasoline anymore? You know it’s bad for the environment. I bet you used that gasoline to eat at McDonalds after you shopped at WalMart.

  18. allstarecho says:

    Common sense: The pump doesn’t know how much gas you’re going to get or how much you want. So it’s programmed to authorize at least a certain dollar amount, usually $50, $75 or $100. This pre-authorization can be held for up to 7 days. Then it is released and you’re charged for the actual amount you purchased. If you don’t want pre-authorizations, pump first then pay (ever seen those signs on the Murphy USA pumps?). Or pre-pay a set amount inside if the station requires pre-pay.

  19. RevRagnarok says:

    @full.tang.halo: Thanks for blaming the consumer for me… didn’t log in until now.

    I have been telling everybody for years about how debit card != credit card. It’s finally starting to sink in on a few.

  20. ilikemoney says:

    @Coder4Life: Get off your high horse, dude. Sometimes life happens, and us poor-folk find ourselves barely managing to scrape by to the next pay check. I speak as a 24 year old family-man with a career, not just some single dude working at a call center making $8/hr.

    I could understand a 1-10 dollar hold on a debit transaction, but $100??? And with no warning? That’s straight up ridiculous.

    Quit blaming the victim here. I’ve known for a while that gas stations have been doing this, but I never would have expected a $100 hold.

  21. ptkdude says:

    This is why I like QuikTrip’s pump activation card(they took my driver license info when I got the card so if I drive off they can find me). I start the pump with the card then pay inside with my debit card, and there’s no hold over what I actually bought in gas.

  22. carso says:

    I’ve had this same problem. The easiest solution for me is mentioned in the article above – go inside with your debit or credit card and pre-pay for your gas. Then you’re charged an exact amount with no holds. If you’re trying to fill your tank, you may have to intentionally underestimate.

    @Coder4Life – What an incredibly ignorant statement. He wanted to pay for $12 worth of gas, and had a hold added for $100. It’s the extra $100 that caused his rent check to bounce. Some of us unfortunately don’t have tons of extra cash sitting in our bank accounts every week – I know that a $100 hold would put me in the red at certain times of the month. A -real- consumerist would have appreciated the information rather than making a stupid statement.

  23. jak312 says:

    Yet another reason why debit cards are evil and credit cards are a better financial tool for the consumer.

  24. bravo369 says:

    i don’t know if it would have registered differently but if you ever scan a debit card and the machine asks you whether it’s credit or debit, pick credit ALL THE TIME! alot of places will pass the bank fee onto you and your account if you choose debit and put in your PIN. Choosing Credit will go through like any other credit card, still charge your account but eliminates the bank processing fee.

  25. cmdrsass says:

    Consumer tries to be nice by paying with a debit card to save the station owner the credit card processing fee, gets hosed.

    Lesson learned: put the gas on your credit card and let the owner eat the 2% fee.

  26. monkeybot says:

    @Coder4Life: He was filling up his motorcycle… smaller tank.

  27. ianmac47 says:

    Why any consumerist reader still uses a debit card that debits money from THEIR bank account is beyond me.

  28. Wormfather says:

    @Coder4Life: Is that even neccisary? Until about 4 years ago I was often in the same position. You are not the judge of someone’s life, lifestyle and whether having rent + $12 dictates a problem. For all you know he was getting paid the a couple of days later or maybe he’s a college student. Even if it’s none of the above that was just abusive.

  29. rbaldwin says:

    Can you dispute this with your bank/merchant? It looks like fraud if you make a purchase for $12 and it’s accounted as $100. This process doesn’t make sense. Why can’t they just debit the amount of gas that you used?

  30. johnva says:

    @cmdrsass: Beyond problems like this, I also hate the fact that debit cards put the exact amount of money coming out of my account, even temporarily, out of my control. It makes it much harder to track your spending and available funds. It’s just much better to have a credit card as a buffer between the merchants and your actual money. Then you only pay your bill once a month and you know exactly how much money comes out.

  31. Wormfather says:

    …and yes, I know I cant spell and I’m fine with that.

  32. kepler11 says:

    yes, no need to dump on a person who didn’t know. Not everyone has thousands in the bank. Now this person does know, and unfortunately an expensive lesson learned.

  33. MissPeacock says:

    @raisitup: What, were you born knowing this? You have to discover facts somewhere. I didn’t know about this until I started reading the Consumerist a few months ago.

  34. Daniel-Bham says:

    Pro-tip: Don’t click “yes” when it asks if you are using a Debit card and your card has a Visa/Mastercard logo.

    You will save yourself in fees, holds, and hassles. By clicking “no” with my debit card, I get no fees, and the money is withdrawn later.

  35. ilikemoney says:

    @rbaldwin:
    The way it works is that the merchant, in this case being the gas station, will put the hold to verify that the cardholder has enough funds in his/her account to pay the amount of the purchase. Debit card transactions don’t always happen instantaneously, and can take up to a couple days for them to clear all the way, which can leave the merchant vulnerable to fraud/theft. A lot of bars do this, as well, whenever a patron opens a tab. Once the transaction finishes clearing the bank, the amount that was initially cleared will be unlocked, and only the amount of the purchase will be taken out.

  36. johnva says:

    @rbaldwin: The process makes perfect sense once you understand how debit/credit card processing works (sadly, most people don’t). When you pull into a station, they want to authorize your credit/debit card to make sure that it’s actually a valid card, etc before they dispense any gas to you. So the first step is the “authorization”, where they basically check if your card is valid and then place a “dummy transaction” in place. They have to estimate some amount to place as the temporary hold because they don’t know how much gas you will be pumping. Then, when they settle their books 1-7 days later, they remove the temporary hold and charge you for the actual amount you bought. It’s just a quirk of how card transactions get processed. $100 seems slightly excessive, but I can understand why they’ve increased it as the average price of gas has increased.

    Bottom line: either be able to absorb temporary authorization holds like this out of your debit card account, or don’t pay at the pump with a debit card. Go inside or use a credit card.

  37. sean77 says:

    They do something similar with credit cards (not a hold though). When you swipe your card the pump checks your card to see if you can cover a certain amount. It doesn’t actually charge that amount, it just asks visa/mastercard if you can cover it. It used to be $50, I believe it’s $100 today.

    So even if you only want to put $5 of gas in your tank, unless you can cover $100 on your credit card, you’re going to have to pay inside.

  38. MsClear says:

    I’ve heard of this before, but I thought it could be avoided by using the PIN at the pump. Obviously not in this case because the customer did use his PIN.

    I’ve never had a problem using my PIN at the gas station or had any problem with holds. I’ve got a buffer if it did happen though.

    But some people don’t. And they should be ridiculed for living within their means. If it wasn’t posted, then it’s not a fair practice. The letter says it was not posted.

  39. dripdrop says:

    I was the one who suggested he post his story here. Shame on some of you for dumping all over him and generally being rude. I told him to contact Consumerist because they would help spread awareness about this kind of thing, instead everyone just jumped all over his case.

  40. Wally East says:

    @xkaluv: You’re just going to leave $1000 in a checking account? You’re dumber than Coder4Life.

  41. tcp100 says:

    People, CUT IT OUT WITH THE DEBIT CARDS.

    Yeah, it’s just my opinion, but too many people are using Debit cards without understanding how they work.

    This happens at other places where approval is required before purchase: Hotels, car rentals. You shouldn’t use your debit card for these.

    @rbaldwin: No, it can’t be prosecuted as fraud. It’s normal procedure. It makes absolute sense. They need to approve the transaction. They can’t approve after you’ve pumped because then you already have the gas. This is an automated machine. They need to approve the transaction before purchase.

    @cmdrsass: You really think anyone would do this to save the merchant money? You do realize that credit card ‘costs’ are included in whatever prices you’re paying, regardless of how you pay – cash or credit card. (In order to take credit cards, merchants must charge the same price for all forms of tender. This wasn’t true in the past; if you remember cash/credit prices for gas.)

    @ilikemoney: I don’t care how poor you are, not having a $100 margin in your checking account is asking for trouble. Unless you’re destitute and unemployed, you should be able to save that up over time, and have the discipline to not touch it – just for incidents such as this. “Stuff happens”.

    How is it always “blaming the victim” when people continue to do things that are well known and avoidable? Yelling “stop blaming the victim!” doesn’t change the fact that people need to know what they’re doing with financial instruments.

  42. tcp100 says:

    @MissPeacock: Well according to most people on here, we’re not even supposed to point it out, because that’s “blaming the victim”, and feelings are more imporant than facts.

  43. Shannon says:

    Needless to say I am now starting to just use cash because I hate the time it takes to TAKE OUT OF MY bank. I had got gas on a Friday and it didn’t take out until the following wednesday- that right there sucks because I’m lazy and don’t always balance my check book…. my fault there but still, I’m poor and don’t want them taking 100.00 out of my account for 50.00 of gas either.

  44. humphrmi says:

    In his explanation above, the OP says several times that they “took the money out” of his account. This may be why the gas company isn’t fessing up. While it’s true that from the OP’s perspective, the money is “out of his account”, it’s actually on hold, and that is a distinction that needs to be made clear when discussing the situation with the gas company. They will, of course, never fess up to taking more money out of an account than was charged; because it wasn’t. It was put on hold, when he swiped his card, before he pumped any gas, to cover their estimate of how much gas he would pump. He can’t access that $100, but it is still “in his account”.

    So my advice is, cool down a little, don’t accuse the gas company of “stealing” it, call them back, and talk about removing the hold, not putting the money back.

    That said, I think the gas company is purposely trying to confuse him by saying that “the bank” is responsible for the hold. This makes it sound like the OP’s bank is responsible, which is why he keeps needlessly jumping back and forth between his bank and the gas company. In actuality, it is probably the gas company’s bank that is responsible for the hold amount and the duration it’s held. And only the gas company can hold their feet to the fire.

  45. bobbleheadr says:

    All those “dont use a debit card you moron” folks need to remember, not everyone can get a Credit card. Try getting one after a bankruptcy or with a bad credit history. It will cost you a couple $100 just to get a low balance card.

  46. PinkBox says:

    I agree, there is no need to be rude about how much money this guy has. For all we know, he may have a seperate savings account that could have covered the loss if he had known about it.

    I personally keep 60% of my money in savings.

  47. hellinmyeyes says:

    That sucks. I thought that was 1/2 the reason to select “debit” anyway, so that you don’t have to go through the typical credit card BS, like ridiculous holds/authorizations. This is another reason I’m glad to use my rewards card for daily expenses and then pay it off monthly out of my checking account. I agree with some of the other commenters… pay inside with debit using the PIN, and tell them “I only want $12 on pump X”.

  48. NotATool says:

    @ilikemoney: With the price of gas the way it is, a $100 hold is reasonable.

    @rbaldwin: They didn’t charge him $100, they charged him $12. They put a “hold” on $100, which would be released when the $12 charge goes through.

    @cmdrsass: Merchants pay fees for debit cards too. Sometimes more than credit cards. You’re not doing them any favors by choosing a debit card over a credit card.

    That being said, the station should have a sign posted that warns of the $100 hold, and advises that if you pre-pay, you will not have to deal with the $100 hold.

  49. johnva says:

    @humphrmi: Agreed with all of that. I do think they may be lying to him, but it may also be that based on the wording being used the gas company rep simply doesn’t understand how it works.

  50. MrsLopsided says:

    @rbaldwin: The station doesn’t know how much you will pump and don’t want to be stuck when your debit/credit card gets declined AFTER you have filled up your tank. I am surprised that the hold is $100 and that it wasn’t reversed the same day.. before the bank’s nightly run.

    By law, all fill ups must be prepaid in my county. Gas stations cannot accept payment after purchasing. This means prepaid by cash or pre-swipe of debit/credit card.

  51. zentex says:

    and this is why I always choose “credit” when I swipe my check-card. I’ve been preaching for years to never use debit!

  52. tcp100 says:

    @bobbleheadr: This is exactly why it’s important for people to know and learn these things, and why it makes sense to point out the error and naivete of the OP in situations like this.

    It’s not about him being poor, it’s that he has been using a financial instrument without knowing how it works – which is HOW people get bad credit and end up in bankruptcy.

    The “Don’t use a debit card” chant isn’t “rude”, it’s sound advice. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have a better instrument, USE CASH. A debit card is not appropriate for pre-authorized transactions if your finances are tight. That is not an emotional statement, that’s a fact.

  53. Spaztrick says:

    @testsicles: Wrong! I went to Wal-Mart first.

  54. ilikemoney says:

    @tcp100: It’s “well known” that there are usually holds put on debit card transactions. It’s not that “well known” that pumping gas can mean a $100 freeze on one’s account.

    Blaming the victim is when you ridicule and use demeaning language to a person for relating a painful lesson learned. He fucked up, there’s no need to add insult to the injury. The vast majority of the comments made here have not been very constructive. Not everyone that posts on here has read every single Consumerist entry ever posted. The whole purpose of this site is to give people who are consumer unsavvy a heads up, not for 1337 h4x0rz like yourself to feel better about how superior they are to the casual reader.

    Get your head out of your ass.

  55. Saboth says:

    This is why I use credit cards instead of debit cards. “oh hey, we accidently took too much out of that checking account…ooops? did your mortgage and car payment bounce? car get repossessed? our bad! Lol you want money for our screw up? hahaha…hohoho….good luck!”

  56. johnva says:

    @tcp100: Yeah, I think a lot of people think of debit cards as basically a cash equivalent (no doubt helped in that impression by bank advertising). They aren’t. They have rules and pitfalls, and in many cases they are more complex to deal with than credit cards. I bet accidental bank overdrafts are way more common among debit card users than people who use credit cards and pay them off every month.

  57. katylostherart says:

    that blows. at my local gas stations they assume it’s a credit transaction anyway. on top of that, a few of the shell stations actually cap your limit at what your card gives it. in one case i had something like $23 and change left on my debit card and was completely prepared to go over the limit since i got paid the next day but the pump automatically stopped me at $23 and change.

    bottom line, that’s bullshit.

  58. tcp100 says:

    @ilikemoney: Oh, but it’s ok for you to name call? I see. I don’t see where I called him any names. I pointed out facts people should know. Where did I try to “make myself feel better about myself?” It’s fun to be a hypocrite, isn’t it?

  59. silver-spork says:

    If you learn one thing from the Consumerist (besides never fly out of PHL) it’s this:

    Never use your ATM/debit card as anything besides an ATM card. You get no protection from fraud and stores that are allowed to drain your bank account basically at-will.

  60. razremytuxbuddy says:

    The fact that Consumerist regularly warns its readers about this gas station practice doesn’t make the practice legal or ethical. It’s not okay to take more money out of a customer’s account than the advertised cost of the merchandise the customer bought, i.e. the amount that shows on the receipt. A merchant who takes more money from a customer’s account than the customer authorized, should be prosecuted for theft, and be required to reimburse the customer in some multiple of the overcharge. The law should be that clear.

    I just Googled Acree Oil Company and saw that last month they were a finalist for a “Family Business of the Year” award. Too bad Consumerist readers didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the company’s worthiness for that nomination.

  61. johnva says:

    @ilikemoney: How are the comments “not constructive”? Most people have just been pointing out facts and ways to avoid this sort of situation.

  62. Gokuhouse says:

    What’s with all the folks bashing this guy? He’s broke, we get it. Lots of people are broke. You people remind me of Southpark where Eric Cartman keeps telling Kenny he had better stop being so poor or else he would start chucking rocks at him.

    More on topic:
    A $100 hold is excessive. I understand some trucks take that to fill up, but not the average car. Probably closer to $60 for most cars. I think holding something more like 50% of the average cost of a fill-up would seem adequate to recover any losses incurred.

  63. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I certainly don’t blame the victim for being broke (and nobody should, as nobody knows jack shit about his financial situation), but I find it hard to believe he didn’t know about this. Gas pumps have done this so long as I have been pumping my own gas (8 years now). Also, unless this is the first time he’s ever used his card at the pump, how is it he never noticed this happen before?

  64. bobbleheadr says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: They arent taking the money out of the account, so its not theft. Its called a preauthorization hold. They freeze the funds to make sure that you can pay the final charge. Its how that industry works, and its both legal and ethical (and usually a consumer convenience, since it lets you fill up without having to specify an amount in advance).

    The $100 is sadly indicative of the cost of gas these days.

  65. johnva says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: It’s perfectly legal (“ethical” depends on your definition). As has been repeatedly pointed out, they DID NOT “take more money out of the customer’s account than the advertised cost of the merchandise the customer bought”. They simply placed a temporary authorization hold on the customer’s card…it’s NOT an actual debit from their account. The money is still there; it’s just inaccessible temporarily because the bank makes that money unavailable to protect themselves.

  66. Orv says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: They’re not taking the money out of the account. They’re putting a hold on the funds. The money is still there, you just can’t use it until the hold is released. The gas station never gets the $100; they only get the $12.

  67. CaptZ says:

    Ok….I use my debit card everywhere. It’s a debit Visa. I always choose credit over debit and it takes at least 2 DAYS sometimes longer, for the transaction to hit my account and when it does it’s always for the exact amount I spent.

    Hint:

    NEVER USE YOUR PIN!

  68. @Gokuhouse: Gas stations need to pre-authorize in order to make the charge. they may not charge more than their authorization amount, but can charge less. Most CC companies will not allow a single card to be used more than twice within 24 hours at any pump (even differnt stations with diffent companies, it is imposed by the card issuing bank). the banks remove the authorization hold once it has been used to make a charge for that amount or less, AND that charge has been processed by the merchant. most merchants do this at their end of day, but it then takes time for the bank to verify it.

    best advice if you use debit cards, pay inside before pumping. as bad as this sounds, i have to lay the blame at WW’s feet for not understanding the way his debit card functions. it certainly is not the merchant’s fault.

  69. stupidjerk says:

    @Coder4Life: welcome to America, you must not be from around here

  70. xl4xlus3iehl says:

    As mentioned above, use credit cards (even your check card if your debit card doubles as a MC/Visa) instead or pay inside. The downfall to paying inside is that you will need to pick a prepay amount at most stations these days. With the price of gas and increase in drive offs, most stations require prepay on all transactions.

    As far as the ethics, most stations do have it posted near the keypad or card swipe. It is possible that this station didn’t, but I see more that do than those that don’t.

  71. ClankBoomSteam says:

    @Coder4Life: Gonna go ahead and pile-on with everyone else, here. Who pissed in your Cheerios, pal? The OP makes it clear that this was an unusual situation for him, financially. To wit:

    “[...]typically this wouldn’t be too much of a financial issue, as I usually have plenty of money to cover things. Unfortunately, this month money’s a little tight, with extra things popping up.”

    So it’s clear from the article that this is not the norm for this guy and his finances. Why would you assume that it was, unless you didn’t read or fully comprehend the article? Now: who has the bigger problem? The guy who was in unusual financial dire straits choosing an unfortunate time to cross paths with a gas station with a shitty policy regarding debit cards, or the lordly dick who can’t parse out the meaning of the article?

    Judging by the reaction to your post here, I think I know the answer.

  72. DeeJayQueue says:

    Maybe I just live in crazyland or something, but just about every time I use my card to get gas (which is every time I get gas) I use Debit. It’s when I use the Credit function that I start running into Mysterio-Holds and charges that don’t show up till 2 or 3 days later when the money may or may not be there to cover them. Every time I use my debit card it takes the exact amount that I pump right away. As a matter of fact, more than once I’ve been short in my account and it let me pump out exactly what was in there, to the penny, and then shut off. No wacky $1-$100 holds, no “takes-three-days-to-appear” charges.

    I will say that I recently went to the 7-11 for a splash of gas the other day, I was low in my checking acct, and the pump wouldn’t auth my card, so I had to go in and the teller charged me the $20 instead. This could have been them trying to auth the card for some high dollar amount. I could see mom-and-pop or smaller gas chains doing something like this to avoid pump-n-runs.

  73. caywood86 says:

    Depending on the gas station I usually have a $75-$90 hold on my AMEX card. Yesterday I filled up at a Valero and they put a $150 hold on my card… I think $150 is a little over the top.

  74. xl4xlus3iehl says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: So now following an industry standard practice should disqualify your from winning business awards? Yes it sucks for this guy but I really don’t think they did anything out of line here. Take it as a lesson learned and use your credit card from now on.

  75. DeeJayQueue says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: what needs to really happen is that the banks need to realize the difference between a “Hold” and a “charge” so that when a “charge” comes through a “Hold” won’t put the customer into the red. But then again, that would be convenient for consumers and would mean the banks wouldn’t be able to bilk them for fees, so they won’t do that.
    Also, they already DO know, and when you call to complain, the CSR will be able to see exactly what happened, and then read off some bullshit anti-consumer policy the bank has in place to keep your money.

    Remember when banks used to be a place where you could go put your money and leave it there, and they would use it to invest in things so that they could make money, and share the profits with you? Halcyon days.

  76. Sarge1985 says:

    For those of you deriding the OP because a $100 hold against his checking account caused him some difficulty, go back and RTFA! He plainly states that NORMALLY he has sufficient funds to cover something like this, but this month he had some things pop up. While he doesn’t go into specifics, this could simply mean that he had unexpected expenses and he slipped below his normal safety threashold.

  77. snoop-blog says:

    sorry for jumping in late here, but I have two cents burning a hole in my pocket…

    I never really understood the whole “$50-$100″ hold that gas stations put on your card. All I know is that they do it, and my account is like my gas gauge, always on “E”. So I never use my card at the pump because of this right here. Most of the people that use cards at the pump (where I live at) seem to be just well-to-do people. People that could use a fifty to wipe with and not miss it. If your like me and broke all the time, don’t worry about saving the 1-3 minutes you wait in line and just pay at the register. Not to mention the added risk of all the card skimmers crooks are using to steal your information. Most of all the skimmers I’ve heard about were place on the pump itself.

  78. tcp100 says:

    @DeeJayQueue: Good point, but the problem is that the intent of a “hold” is that it could turn into a “charge”.

    As I mentioned, Hotels are the converse of this. They usually put a “hold” for the cost of the stay, but then later the actual charge could be larger – when incidentals are added.

    In order to work this, they’d probably need a special case specifically for automated purchases like a gas pump, that is “reconciled” within minutes after the hold.

    The answer would be something like – if it’s a gas purchase, place the hold, and then convert the hold to the actual charge once completes. Granted, many merchants have their POS system inside the store tied in to the same one on the gas pumps, so if you went in to buy a candy bar, it could throw the whole thing off.

    Possible, yes, but would require some re-tooling of the way credit/debit POS works.

    If anything, what they should do is remove the hold within a shorter time (say, 90 minutes) if the purchase is classified as from a gas station.

  79. loganmo says:

    FYI, if you are using a debit card, but select credit at the pump, it is still going to do the same thing! If you don’t keep much extra cash in the account tied to your card, you are either going to have to plan well for this or pay cash. Simple as that. Deal with it.

  80. chiieddy says:

    Ummm. it’s too long. I’m not going to read it, but on every gas station pump I’ve been to in the last month or so it’s said:

    DEBIT CARD USERS: We will place a hold of up to $XX on your account.

    Often it’s $75 – $100.

  81. tcp100 says:

    @snoop-blog: “Most of the people that use cards at the pump (where I live at) seem to be just well-to-do people. People that could use a fifty to wipe with and not miss it.”

    Now this seems to be bashing, but in the other direction.

    Sorry, just because I use my credit card at the pump doesn’t mean I use money for personal hygiene.

    If there’s a perception people have of those with less money, there’s also a perception “poor” people have towards those who “aren’t poor” – that we’re all “filthy rich”.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth.

  82. mac-phisto says:

    NEVER select DEBIT at the pump (even if it is a debit card). VISA/MC still only authorize for $1 – the $75, $100 authorizations only correlate to DEBIT transactions. if you select CREDIT, you don’t run into this problem.

  83. GrandizerGo says:

    I have never seen this happen when I use my Speedpass at Mobile stations…

  84. @Coder4Life: Epic Fail.

  85. B says:

    12 dollars for a fill up? That’s it, I’m getting a motor cycle.

  86. Gokuhouse says:

    @valarmorghulis: Thanks for replying to me, but I haven’t the faintest idea what you were correcting on my post. Did I say they shouldn’t pre-authorize? I said they shouldn’t hold $100 dollars as it was more than the average fill-up. I’m on the side on the consumers here, I don’t like it when companies I do legit business with are being over protective of their assets while being completely reckless with mine.

  87. baristabrawl says:

    If I have $115 in my account and the gas station authorizes $100 and my fill up is $42, does the gas station payment bounce? ‘cuz I’d think that it would.

    We have overdraft protection on our account so we don’t run into things like this anyway. But I know we could.

    OH…recently I went to fill up at a Shell station in the ghetto and I swiped my card and the pump shut off at $50. I still had room in my tank for more gas, but the pump shut off.

    Queer.

  88. NoWin says:

    a) never swipe a debit car at a pump BEFORE you pump
    b) give it to the attendant before you pump
    3) or use a credit card or branded station gas card

    Many stations I see in New Hampshire have a notice on this “pre-authorization”, so the notification laws vary. In any case, your bank’s “electronic funds” disclosure already covers this.

    And it’s not controlled by the bank; it’s controlled by the merchant’s authorization system (usually under contract from the fuel distribitor or wholesaler, and not the station owner, so don’t dump on him/her)

    “Card blocking” info – Here ya’ go:

    [www.ftc.gov]

  89. tcp100 says:

    @scarletvirtue: Scarletvirtue, this is unrelated and you are probably a very nice person, but is anyone else getting tired of the “epic fail” “failboat” “serve him a heapin helpin of delicious fail” meme? I believe I am.

    Just a comment. Nothing personal against you. Moreso against the Internet.

  90. baristabrawl says:

    @B: It used to cost $12 to fill up my car. :-(

  91. tcp100 says:

    @baristabrawl: This actually happens at most pumps; the limit is probably just a little higher.

    I’ve seen it happen at $75 and $100, when filling up a (shudder) U-Haul.

    Yeah. I know. My bad. Putting $4.25 gas into a U-Haul I believe qualifies you for advanced placement credit in Hell.

  92. d.ham says:

    I overdrew similarly once when I had exactly $11 in my bank account and tried to buy a $10 metrocard. The first try the card wasn’t read properly, so I tried again. I got a statement in the mail saying I owed an overdraft fee, but there was still $1 in the bank.

    Despite the embarrassment of explaining to a Citibank teller why I had $1 in my bank account, I got them to get rid of the overdraft fee.

  93. SinisterMatt says:

    @full.tang.halo:
    How is using a credit card any different? You could argue that those same things happen with credit cards, just as with debit. Most debit cards, if I recall correctly, have the same amount of ID theft protection as credit cards at least if you run them as a credit card.

    @ianmac47:
    I’m more inclined to do that than use a credit card merely because it limits my spending more. The illusion that a credit card is someone else’s money prompts me to think that I can spend it without consequence. In other words, it’s free money. However, that’s not the case because I end up paying more later anyway due to service charges and interest. Why spend more money that way? A Debit Card is just as valid as a credit card.

    Back to the OP, it’s ridiculous that they took $100 out, especially for $12.00 of gas. At most, I would say that they should do $1.00 initially just to prove the account exists, and then place a hold for half of the total amount. I would be screaming and hollering at the oil company or whoever to get that changed immediately.

    Cheers!

  94. henrygates says:

    It really doesn’t make sense that they do this with debit. No, they don’t know how much gas the customer will pump, but it’s not like the card would be declined if they had insufficient funds. So long as they run the $1 to verify it exists, the transaction will go through and the customer, if they do not have enough money to cover the transaction, will just be hit with an overdraft fee.

  95. mac-phisto says:

    @B: how does $5.00 sound for a fill-up (& you can go ~100 miles to boot)?

    check out the ruckus

  96. Sherryness says:

    @xkaluv: Yes, it’s good to have a $1000 emergency fund. But what if you need to buy gas and pay your rent immediately following a $1000 emergency? Hmmm??? Ever think of THAT?????

  97. Sherryness says:

    @henrygates: I’ve been wondering which costs the station more – credit card transactions or debit transactions? If debit transactions cost more, it would make sense to me that they do think kind of thing to get you to run your debit card as a credit when you pump.

  98. Osi says:

    The NC attorney general is wrong. Here in Juneau, the CARRs/Safeway gas station will place $75 on hold on your bank account whether you use the debit at the pump or via attendant.

  99. razremytuxbuddy says:

    @bobbleheadr: @johnva:
    @xl4xlus3iehl:
    Thanks for clarifying, but I stand by my simplification of the issue. I’m making a policy statement here, rather than merely accepting that “that’s what banks and gas companies do, and customers should all know it already.” This customer was unduly harmed by the practice, long after any legitimate “preauthorization hold” on his money should have been released. If the hold can be placed immediately; it can also be released immediately upon determination of the total gas bill. He wasn’t buying the gas on credit; every penny in his bank account is his to be paid to whom, when, and in such amounts, and only in such amounts, as he demands. (Yes, I know “deposits are not always available for immediate withdrawal”, but we’re not talking about a run on the bank here.)

    There’s also a second problem here: When this customer tried to get to the bottom of the problem and correct it, he got the runaround from both the bank and the gas company. Unconscionable.

    These types of business practices really, really tick me off, and I think businesses should be held accountable for them. Guess that’s why I subscribe to the Consumerist.

  100. tastybytes says:

    i make over 6 figures and i regularly have less than a few hundred in my checking. this limits my liability if something were to happen.

    it is getting worse and worse how consumers are treated. companies can take whatever they want from consumers these days. I am wondering if they are getting the money and holding on to it to get interest, then releasing the money. even if my bank holds money, they generally front me the cash when i need it. my paycheck shows pending on my account 2 days before it gets processed. i can always take money out on that balance before it actually gets posted. usaa ftw!

  101. Tightlines says:

    You know, I haven’t read all of the comments, but I’ve read enough. You guys can be real friggin’ assholes sometimes. I’ve been driving for 12 years now and I never knew about this. Does that make me an idiot? I guess it does. What a bunch of pompous douchebags.

  102. Invalid_User_Name says:

    @Coder4Life:

    A number of folks have already said it, but there’s no reason for insulting those who are lower on the learning curve. We aren’t born knowing this, and some of you “geniuses” who are insulting everyone else probably learned through the school of hard knocks too.

    I don’t see what the consumer did wrong: he was had a budgeted amount to spend and did so. OP’s message will prevent this from happening to others and therefore propagate the knowledge consumers need against the evil banks.

  103. NoWin says:

    @henrygates: “So long as they run the $1 to verify it exists, the transaction will go through and the customer, if they do not have enough money to cover the transaction, will just be hit with an overdraft fee.”

    Not fully correct with a debit card. Here’s the rub – the “pre-auth swipe” has no ability to know “how much” will be fully dispensed at the pump; remember, this is done beforehand.

    Is it a dollar, 10, 110? And the actual transaction may not be presented for payment to the bank until later that day or within 1-3 more days. By then you could empty your account of funds, and when the debit “transaction” hits, the gas station gets nothing but a nsf notice.

    I’m not saying it’s pretty, but thats the regulation. Hey, if you have a local station that pre-auth’s just a buck, patronize them. But if they pre-auth some ungodly amount, you simply need to consider use of the alternative methods. It’s the times we live in, my friend. :-(

    Remember, a debit card is basically “cash”, and use of the debit card vis a vis the Reg E laws allows the merch to hold the funds pending final transaction settlement. See the FTC link above.

  104. IsraelPenthesilea says:

    Hey, yes people do sometimes get tight on budgets for a variety of
    reasons. The bottom line is that someone is freezing your money. So
    to the people who have $5000 in your checking account – how would you
    like to go buy something at a store for something that costs $4300 and
    have them tie up $5000 .. same difference, right? Who’s to say if gas
    stations get away with this, that everyone doesn’t start using it as a
    little “insurance” to cover thefts and any number of hidden costs. What
    if every retail establishment did something like this and you went and
    spent $25 at 5 of them and ended up with $500 tied up. It’s wrong –
    period! No matter what you think of someone’s budgetary issues, it’s
    plain wrong!

  105. Stormslanding says:

    Sorry, but no sympathy from me for not understanding the rules.

    You own stupidity caused this and nothing else. Getting angry at the oil company and bank for fronting your money is dumb. You can avoid all of this by simply using cash. Most gas stations give you a discount for cash anyways, so now your double stupid.

  106. Sherryness says:

    @Stormslanding: I haven’t seen discounts for using cash since the late 80s/early 90s! Where/when do you live?

  107. quail says:

    @67alecto: I travel a lot. In some areas the station post this hold notice for debit cards. In other areas they do not. This hold situation can occur with hotels and car rentals too.

  108. fostina1 says:

    @Stormslanding: where you been living the last 5 years? this is practically a cashless world we live in.

  109. Osi says:

    Wow, gotta love people who can’t read. It does NOT say at the pump that they will hold your money hostage. If it does not say that at the pump, then the gas station is breaking the law …

    simple enough for the fake geniuses on here.

  110. cerbie says:

    @raisitup: it’s easy. You hit the button for, “no,” even though it is, in fact, a debit card. I’ve never seen such a thing…I always have it rung up as credit.

  111. stopNgoBeau says:

    If I have $2 in my account, and I authorize my card (debit or credit) for gas, and it authorizes $1, and I fill up $100 of gas, it will still post to my account. It doesn’t matter how much is in the account. If I’m negative, I get overdraft fees. The card doesn’t “bounce” like a check would.

    Also, it is important to remember that there are two banks at play here. The gas station hires a bank to process their credit card payments. If not a bank, then some clearinghouse company. These people are the ones who authorize it for certain amounts of money. So while the oil company is correct in that they don’t control the authorization amounts, they could switch companies or ask the company who runs their authorizations to not authozie as much.

  112. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    My bank doesn’t enforce holds so it wouldn’t be a problem. It would just overdraft the account of the $100 actually came through, but it doesn’t.

  113. antisane says:

    @xl4xlus3iehl:
    I tried to prepay last night at a local Irving gas station.. the only problem is that you CANNOT prepay there using a debit/credit card. I ended having to take out $40 from their ATM (with a $2 hit for outside transaction) and then pay with the money I took out.

  114. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    To everyone who’s saying this has been happening for years:

    Obviously it hasn’t been happening where the OP lives because this is the first time it’s happened to them. Somehow I doubt this is the first time the OP has ever bought gas on a debit card.

    I’ve never gotten a large hold on my debit card before but then I’ve never had to buy gas outside of my state.

  115. johnva says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I think it depends on the policy of the gas station. I’ve seen some do this, and others don’t.

  116. @tcp100: Heh – I couldn’t really think of any other way to put it, that wouldn’t involve being obscene. So, that was a rare usage for me.

  117. DH405 says:

    The blame here lies with the bank. When the debit came thru as $12 vs the $100 authorization and resulting hold, then they should have reversed the overdraft charges.

    The money was never OUT of the bank, so the account was never ACTUALLY negative. His bank screwed him.

  118. William C Bonner says:

    I’m glad that the preauthorization value has been moved up to $100 in many cases. My tank holds 26 gallons worth of super. It’s frustrating to not be able to fill the tank with one transaction.

    I’m sure that the preauthorization would hurt just as much with credit if I was running at the limit of my credit, but luckily I’m fiscally responsible enough and well enough off that I’m never close to my credit limit.

  119. Eoghann says:

    My tank holds 26 gallons worth of super.

    How much does it hold if you’re not filling it with super?

  120. sean77 says:

    @stopNgoBeau: yes it does. Every morning at 10am your bank sends Visa an updated balance. That’s why you get overdraft fees.. because visa doesn’t keep track of your balance throughout the day.

    If you have $5 in your account, and you try to charge $10 to it, it will decline your card. However, if you have $100 in your account, and you spend $99 somewhere earlier in the day, visa will still think you have $100 on your card… that’s how you overdraft.

  121. jgodsey says:

    I put an image in the consumerist pool of the sign on the SUNOCO pumps. that declared that if i used my card i was allowing them to hold 50-75 dollars for up to a few days and also blame your bank. technically it is the banking service that the gas station subscribes to, who is actually reserving your money.
    [www.flickr.com]

  122. n0ia says:

    Wow, I’ve never had a hold for that much money on my account (to my knowledge), but I recently had a check clear for $100 more than what I wrote it for.

    Needless to say, when I went to the grocery store after work (second shift) Friday to pick up something for dinner, and a six pack of beer, I was really disappointed and confused as to why my card was being declined.

    I ended up walking out empty handed. :(

    The issue was resolved by Monday, but I was really irked.

    Oh, and I’d say he needs to ask his bank to credit him back the overdraft charges – since the issue was beyond his control. Most of the time they’ll credit you back if you’re not notorious for overdrafts.

  123. haoshufu says:

    Many have been warned about this, whether you use a debt or credit card, it does not matter. When you swipe a card at the machine, they don’t know exactly how much you will be putting in so they do a pre-authorization. It used to be $50 and now it can be $75 or $100 depending on the gas station. The pre-authorization has a time-out period and during this period, the money is tagged and not usable.

    To avoid this situation, you go up to the cashier and tell them you want to buy $x of gas at pump #a. The cashier will run a real transaction that only takes out the exact amount. Once the transaction is approved, the cashier will punch in that $ amount at pump #a. That’s the only way to avoid pre-authorization at gas station. People running their credit card up against their credit limit also should avoid swiping their card at the pump because they will get caught with over limit fee on their credit card. Hotels and car rental companies do the same thing.

  124. christoj879 says:

    STOP IT! JUST FUCKING STOP IT! GET A CREDIT CARD!!!

    I can’t stand these sob stories about using a debit card and having your life fux0red over because of it. Just use credit! Failing that, go to the ATM and get cash. Simple as that. UGH!

  125. feralparakeet says:

    Check out the RaceTracs in town. I don’t know the East Side well, but I haven’t had that experience at any of those stations, or with any of the Golden Pantrys.

    2 Athens stories in a week, wow.

  126. ChuckECheese says:

    At Murphy USA in El Paso, they put a $125 hold on your card now.

    @NoWin: Why not let me decide how much to authorize? The pumps already make me punch in my billing zip and a PIN, so why not an authorization amount?

  127. Concerned_Citizen says:

    I guess this was a hard way to learn that you should never ever EVER use a debit card as a credit card. Why would you give any business that you use that card at the ability to have direct access to your money? Mistakes are made all the time. It’s just a fact of life. And of course the company making the mistake is never going to easily fork over the money to pay for any fees you incurred as a result of their mistake. Get a credit card and move on. That being said, it would be great if a class action was formed against the companies doing this. People are hurt when these companies lock funds that they have no right to lock.

  128. planetdaddy says:

    Been using debit for years. Have never had this problem. I have also never been screwed over by Bank of America. In fact I have never had any of the things people bitch about on here happen to me. Guess I am luck or someone is just unlucky.

  129. rmz says:

    I love how all of these people who are jumping on Coder4Life for blaming the victim have, themselves, likely blamed the victim in other posts (OMG why did you go to that restaraunt it sux!!! credit union! don’t carry a balance!!!111).

    I don’t agree with Coder4Life’s statement either, but he’s doing what the rest of you do every day on here.

  130. WraithSama says:

    The OP can sue in small claims court under the tort of conversion. The gas station willfully, and without permission, blocked access to his property (ie. money) and therefore denied him his right to enjoy the use of said property. This falls under the tort of conversion almost to the ltter. I think this should be a slam dunk in small claims, and he can easily recover any damages (bounced check fees, etc.).

  131. Pithlit says:

    @rmz: Well, I for one haven’t. I’m constantly bitching about the trolls that comment here and blame the victim all the time. I’m willing to bet a lot of the people who jumped on him are in the same boat I am. I’ve noticed more people complaining about it. I think some are just getting fed up, and that’s why they jumped on him. He was a perfect example of the typical troll around here.

  132. Pithlit says:

    @Stormslanding: I worked in the credit card fraud control division of a bank for years, and didn’t know held dollar amounts this high. Granted this was a few years ago. But they never held dollar amounts this high did this high while I worked there. The pre-auth for gas stations was a dollar, and that was standard practice across the board. This must a relatively new phenomenon, so it’s pretty ridiculous to blame someone for not knowing about it. It has never happened to me. I was not aware about it until I read this article.

  133. olegna says:

    Solution is even simpler: banks shouldn’t charge you $30 if this hold ends up bouncing other checks. The consumer didn’t O/D so s/he shouldn’t be slapped with a $30 O/D penalty because the consumer didn’t OD, but rather the retailer sent a temporary hold the consumer’s own property (his or her money). There is no justification for a seller to hold even a penny of somebody’s money in escrow for 7 days like that, and if that’s part of the “contract” then it should be in BIG RED SIGNS NEXT TO THE CASH REGISTER. As somebody who isn’t very smart or rich, and once had a mountain of CC debt, I know what it can be like to live paycheck to paycheck and how frustrating it can be to be faced with treading constantly on a mine field of $30 charges from your bank and CC companies.

    My advice to anyone in that situation: don’t use your debit card if your current balance (including anything with a little red asterisk on your online checking account) is $100 or less. I’d increase that to $150 or $200 if possible. Withdraw $20-$40 at a time from your ATM machine at your bank, and do not use your credit cards for anything if you’re carrying a balance, period.

    Then listen to David Ramsey instead of these very smart and fiscally responsible people saying it’s all your fault. They’re such downers!

  134. ColleenS says:

    I’ve never had a gas station hold more than $1, so wouldn’t expect a hold of $100. Personally, most of my bills hit the same week as my rent is due, so I don’t always have a ton of extra money in my account, so I can’t blame the OP for being a bit low on funds when he went for a $12 fill up.

  135. timsgm1418 says:

    @dripdrop: not everyone dumped on him. I certainly wouldn’t, there are many times I’m in that exact situation. I feel $100 hold is way too much. Maybe they should set the pumps up so you can say at the beginning $12 and it stops the pump at $12? The attendant can tell the pump when to stop why can’t the customer do that with a debit card? problem solved.

  136. forgottenpassword says:

    Yeah, I am going to be one of those smarmy “dont use a damn DEBIT card at a gas station!” types. In fact, you are better off just NOT using a debit card if you can help it. Credit cards for the win!

    Clark Howard warned me of all of this long ago.

    Now flame away!

  137. RetailGuy83 says:

    The reason the hold is so high is because of CC/DC gateway fees. If a person in a truck has 20+ gallons to fill up, thats $80. If they authorize lower then you have to swipe your card again and start a new transaction. The gas station has to pay two gateway fees. (which aren’t cheap considering the rediculously low margin of fuel. often times they are already losing money on CC transactions.)

  138. meefer says:

    Get the BP credit card if you can – I think you get a 5% back on all your BP fuel purchases. Every little bit helps!

  139. gliscameria says:

    Its because the price on the sign is a ‘teaser’ cost. They can bill you in the future based on increased cost.

    $3.80/gal*

    *Based on current estimated costs. Rates may vary as speculation moves upward.

  140. @Coder4Life: Elitist much?

  141. @Jinx: I think it’s different in different states. Here in North Carolina, I have literally NEVER seen a notice about authorizing anything, and I have lived here for 20 years and visited many, many gas stations.

  142. @xkaluv: I hate to harp on it, but seriously, it’s pretty bold to assume people can just squirrel away $1000. I know I can’t, even though my expenses are fairly small and I don’t have much debt.

  143. seth1066 says:

    The hold itself, as well as the $100, is justified. In a normal purchase you carry your items to the register; if there is not enough balance to debit the purchase, you don’t get the merchandise.

    In the gas purchase, once the fuel is in your tank, it can’t be given back, therefore it has to be “pre-paid.”

    As others have already mentioned, the $100 is built in to cover up to a approximate 25 gallon purchase. Some SUV’s and a lot of trucks have more than 25 gallons of capacity. In fact, I wonder if the pump cuts you off at $100 even if you have more than that in the account.

  144. mikelotus says:

    @Kajj: forgive him, he is a coder4life and you know we don’t normally let them out in public. now if we can just get them to document their code, design before coding, etc.

  145. Joe S Chmo says:

    Don’t like then use cash. Works every time.

  146. MrEvil says:

    Hmmm, that’s funny, I buy gas all the time with a PIN# debit card (linked to an account I keep a relatively small balance in) and have never had a problem with sticky pre-auths. I think part of it is the gas station’s merchant bank and the other half your own financial institution.

  147. DeeJayQueue says:

    @tcp100: OR, how about, since we already know that when I swipe my card the POS knows how much money I have, and will only let me pump that much into my tank, as has happened to me before.

    I know I sound like a troll here or something, but it’s 2008 and a half. Is it really that difficult or bandwidth intensive to be sending a few bytes of data back and forth in real time between a bank network and a gas pump? I don’t think it is. I think it’s the fees and the bullshit bureaucracy that keeps stuff that would benefit consumers and make businesses run faster from hitting the market.

  148. ShadowFalls says:

    Again this is why you use credit cards that you pay off the balance at the end of the month. It keeps problems like these from occurring.

  149. sodden says:

    WHY would anyone use a debit card? It’s insanity. Use a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month.

    Sure, you say you have credit cards with debt, or you can’t get a credit card without putting down money. I say BS!

    Gas stations offer credit cards to everyone. Anyone can get a gas card. If you have credit cards with debt on them, don’t use them for your day to day needs. Get a new card for regular things like gas and groceries, and ONLY gas and groceries, and ALWAYS pay it off each month.

    Don’t use the debit cards. You have absolutely no protection with them like credit cards. The banks will screw you, the merchant will screw you, and you’ll have to sue to get your money back if you’re wronged.

    Sure, places might put a hold on your credit card for $75 too, but they aren’t grabbing your money in that situation.

  150. Amelie says:

    So if you use a debit card, don’t have a reserve saving fund, etc., ad nauseum, a company can screw you anyway it wants because you it. I really hope karma catches up with some of you self-righteous asshats.

  151. goldenmonkey says:

    @Pithlit: I have an education and still run into times where there is just no money. Arts degrees are useless. Anyway, coder4life must be going through some sort of emotional turmoil to be so snarky and judgmental. If I weren’t an athiest, I’d pray for coder4life.

  152. TamarMelcator says:

    I worked at a gas station, and I know on credit card purchases in Canada,
    we do a $100 pre-charge to ensure the card will swipe, however it is never
    a bank hold (at least in the station I worked at). Shell Canada.

  153. @khiltd: oh please no…
    i’m working at a local YMCA this summer and have to fill the mini busses… put $120 into one last night, and it wasn’t even empty.

  154. Jon Parker says:

    What actually bugs me the most about this is the bank charging an overdraft fee for money that wasn’t actually being removed from the account. Overdraft fees should only be charged for actual cleared charges, not for holds.

  155. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    What happened to the second page of comments?

  156. K-Bo says:

    @Jinx: Maybe the NC attorney general is referring to NC laws. They probably vary state to state.

  157. freejazz38 says:

    STILL haven’t figured out why morons use debit cards. Oh yea, they’re morons. Typical imbeciles who think banks suggest using them for THEIR benefit. Can’t THINK for themselves, like most of the REST of this country. That’s why we get the elected officials we do. MORONS

  158. aikoto says:

    @raisitup: Because the holds didn’t used to be that high. They’ve changed thus making it a pretty big problem for people that aren’t expecting it. It’s not as if the gas stations have signs.

  159. The Porkchop Express says:

    For a motorcycle, I would just alway keep a 20 in my pocket just in case I need to fill up.

    anyway, I thought this has been going on since the beginning of all this debit/check card stuff.

  160. ophmarketing says:

    I love how the gas station guy admits that a lot of people are irate about it, but says that the station “didn’t need to post a sign because they weren’t the one taking it out.”

    Clearly they DO need to post a sign, whether or not they’re the ones doing it, as it’s impacting THEIR customers. It’s a little thing called ‘respect for the customer.’ The station should look into it.

  161. asaturn says:

    use your card as credit

  162. wilstanton says:

    Okay, it might have been said earlier, but here’s a little Debit Card 101.

    If you punch in a PIN, an authorization hold is placed by the vendor’s card processor through Visa or Mastercard (however your debit card is branded). Neither the bank nor the gas station has control over this.

    If you wish to avoid this hold (and any fees that come from not having enough money in your account), always select “credit”.

    Different gas stations have idfferent amounts that their processor holds. The gas station probably has no idea about how much is being held. (By the way, I write for Finance For Youth if someone wanted to read about this or other finance related subjects!)

  163. rawsteak says:

    @raisitup: @allstarecho:

    i read the consumerist frequently and i didn’t know about this. it’s not really common sense either. if i bought $12 of gas, why would i think that the gas/bank company would hold $100 JUST IN CASE? why not just freeze $12 since that’s all they got charged? or hold at the very least, freeze $42 in case i didn’t have the money and might get charged overdraft fees? $100 is a little excessive

  164. I_can_still_pitch says:

    @Coder4Life: These are the kind of stupid comments that are turning me away from Consumerist.

  165. SumanolataFantaztical says:

    when it asks if you’re using the card as a debit card, always say ‘no’
    even if it is a debit card. i use my debit card (which is not a credit
    card and doesn’t have any credit card affiliation) at the pump and
    always tell the machine i’m using it as a credit card. so far, it
    hasn’t rejected my card OR pulled $50 or $100 from my account along with
    my gas amount, and i’ve done this several times with no ‘buffer’ amount
    in my checking (e.g. got $30 worth of gas with $35 in my account).

    JBi

  166. myfigurefemale says:

    There are a lot of misconceptions here in the comments about how debit and credit cards work. If you use your debit card as a credit transaction, the hold will have the same effect of holding actual cash rather than a credit line. So in this case, the consumer would not have been protected by selecting the “credit” option. Credit card machines do not differentiate between debit or credit cards when they authorize – it’s up to the consumer to be aware of the policies since they are legal (though unethical). Also, these hold policies are designed for credit cards – once the companies puts the actual charge through, the credit line is freed up immediately on a credit card. On a debit card, it may take up to 72 hours since we are dealing with actual cash and not a credit line. It is up to your bank as to how long the hold is on your account – but in most cases there is nothing they can do to remove it once it’s there. So if you’re out in the cold with a $100 “hold” there’s nothing you can do about it. In this case, the gas station legally put a hold on the account. (And though it’s unethical, it’s also legal not to tell you about it.) And the bank, since it’s a debit card, was unable to reverse the hold immediately. So both are claiming innocence, but in a way the situation is a result of both policies.

    When using a debit card as a credit card, the main difference is that credit transactions don’t have to be put through for 30 days by law. Debit transactions must be put through within 3 or 5 days depending on the state. In my experience, it’s usually smaller mom and pop stores that don’t authorize the charges the same day.

    I personally prefer debit cards because I know how much money I have when I check my balance – when I use credit I get a surprise charge a week late which then gets me an overdraft fee. I am fully aware of my financial situation and do not spend money on unnecessary items, however, my rent alone is half my paycheck so there is nothing i can do about living paycheck to paycheck. Thanks, recession!

  167. myfigurefemale says:

    also, i’ve started using cash all the time since my salary decreased while my rent went up. that way i don’t overdraft or pay stupid holds, fees, ect. with my bank account being so low all the time, this is the only way i can avoid bullshit like this.

  168. wildazndude says:

    I am a manager at a gasoline station and I often wonder who the hell in their right mind would approve many of my customers with a credit/debit card. If you possess a credit/debit card, then dear God, understand how the system works i.e. credit/debit hold/block.

    On one occassion, a customer attempted to utilize their Bank of the West Mastercard debit card at the pump. Since the card reader couldn’t read the card, the customer approached me.

    I asked them if they wanted to use the Mastercard feature of the card or the debit feature of the card. The customer said, “Debit.”

    Since my cash register requires a fixed amount for debit transactions, I asked the customer, “How much would you like to set it for?” The customer said, “I want to fill it up.”

    So I responded, “For a fill-up from the register, I can only do that using the credit feature of the card.” So the customer responded, “Okay. Do credit then.”

    I swiped the card for credit. It pre-authorized her pump for $75. She dispenses $15 into her vehicle. She drives off and returns several hours later.

    She yells at me, telling me that her debit card was declined at Winco. She had $100 in her account before she came to the gas station. When she went to Winco to purchase 50-some-odd dollars in grocery, to her embarrassment, her card was declined.

    I went to where her pump was at and pointed to a little sticker with a “fine print” that stated Mastercards have a hold of $75 per transaction. Near the bottom of the sticker, it also states that there is no limit/hold when transactions are conducted with the station attendant.

    Of course there is no limit/hold, in the sense that the customer would specify how much they would like to set the pump for. If they keep saying “I want to fill-up” or something along those lines, then the station attendant will swipe the card and it will pre-authorize, just like swiping the card from the card reader at the pump.

    The customer then proceeds to threaten me with a lawsuit for emotional distress and fraud, which I later then provided her with a phone number to my parent company.

    Who the hell gives out credit/debit cards to lunatics like this customer? Seriously. If you don’t understand the system, then don’t bother participating in the system.

    To all of you out there complaining about the inconvenience of not being able to fill-up your vehicle in one transaction, take your head out of your ass, open your eyes, and learn how the system works. Credit/debit hold/blocks are there for a reason. If you don’t understand the reason, then throw away your card(s), shove your head back into your ass, and remain in that position ’til you die. The world doesn’t need more idiots like you wasting time and resources.

  169. jhacez says:

    I have never seen such a thing, i have only ever seen 1$ being held, in fact i have a 1$ hold on my account now for gas i got 2 days ago. I cant understand why a hundred dollar hold would be necessary, so if you want 60 in gas, but have 65 in your account, u cant get gas at the pump because you cant cover the 75 to 100 dollar hold. I would be livid if my rent check bounced and i incurred fees. I feel as though some legal action could be taken to recoup the fee’s due to the lack of notice anywhere on the pump and the (most likely recorded) denial by the oil company that they responsible for the action

  170. ChaosMotor says:

    “You have lots of other problems besides the $30 fee.”

    How about you share a bit so that we can judge you also.

  171. This story makes no sense.

    The story says the consumer used their pin code.

    Consumerist says use your pin code to prevent what happened to this customer.

    I don’t believe the consumer used a pin code. I believe they used the debit card as a “credit transaction.” If you use a pin code, the gas station cannot put a hold for anything beyond the amount you owe.

  172. whatevernever says:

    There are a few gas stations out there that don’t follow this practice. Maybe consumerist can make a list of these gas stations….sent in by us. So that we are aware of which ones to go to and which ones put a hold on our money.

    I know it would be time consuming to do this but I think it would be worth it, with the way gas prices are now who wants a gas station to put a hold on their money? I for sure don’t.

  173. RevRagnarok says:

    @whatevernever: Why bother? Just get a “real” credit card and the problem goes away. And you get all the other benefits like building your credit rating and perks like 1-5% back on everything you are buying anyway, including this expensive gas. I am personally getting 5% on Shell and 3% at Costco. Sure, $3.80/gal sucks, but it’s better than $4.00.

  174. geoffhazel says:

    @Bagels:

    “All the gas stations by me have a notice right by the pump about the hold”

    Same here (Seattle) on the pumps I use. It would suck if you were surprised by it, though. Sounds like OP is getting the big runaround.

  175. WachoviaEmployee says:

    Neither the Bank/Credit Card company or the gas station is at fault here. It is the debit/credit PROCESSING company used by the gas station. Something to consider: both Visa and Mastercard specifically disallow a participating business from obtaining authorizations for anything other than the actual purchase amount. $1 authorizations have been the norm for years, but they have technically never been allowed either.

  176. gpatrick says:

    Here is what I was told by my bank. Debit cards ran as pin transaction, the hold must be released as soon as the transaction is done. If not the merchant is violating the atm rules set by Nyce, Star, Pulse, etc. My advice is file a dispute with your bank. Holds can be any amount regardless if it is a pin or a signature transaction. My advice is if your going to use debit cards, only use one check a month. There is no law that requires businesses to tell you they are going hold more that your purchase amount.

  177. trasildo says:

    I work for a company that owns and operates a gas station.

    When customers pay at the pump, there’s a slight possibility that the merchant processor and/or the bank might process the card as a credit card even if the customer selected debit/atm. We have no control over this, most of the time it’s actually the customer’s fault.

    This is a common practice. The reason is simple: if we do not reserve a specific amount of money in the customer’s account, how would the system know how much gas to dispense? Many customers have $20 in their account and think that the system is smart enough to allow them to pump that much money worth of gas. Wrong.

    Additionally, the amount that is being reserved has increased across the board at all gas stations because with the current price of gas, allowing a customer to pump $50 or $75 dollars isn’t enough. I receive more complaints from customers complaining about not being able to pump enough than for the $100 lock on their money.

    Finally, this is NOT at all like the station stole the customer’s money. That $100 hold is released after 24 hours.

  178. The_Daleness says:

    Same bull happened to me at a QuikTrip a few months ago. They thought it would be really awesome to put a $75 hold on my account for a few hours. I called my credit union (Mazuma) and she said just to run it as credit next time and I wouldn’t have a problem.

  179. BStrunk says:

    As a former gas station worker, when I worked, the prices were relatively low ($1.75 at it highest point when I left the station) and as such the preauthorization hold was only one dollar. With the rise in prices, to protect from overdraft relating to those who have $1 in the account but perhaps not enough for the all to common $75 fill up, the hold amount increased. The best tactic is to prepay an amount: This does require you to go inside, but it will charge your card exactly the amount you wish to specify. For those of you who fill often enough, you can often times guess rather correctly how much a fill up will cost you.

  180. Ilikenumbers says:

    What has begun to infuriate me about the tone of this discussion (and many contentious Consumerist postings) is this seeming indifference to the nature of business by the average consumer.

    For the love of God man, the GAS STATION DIDN’T TAKE HIS MONEY. And for the record, the OP’s bank is the one responsible for determining the duration of the hold on the account. One my clients is a hotel that frequently has problems like this when guests will use their Dr card rather than a Cr card and end up with overdraft. They can only call the users bank and request that the hold be released (if the guest has checked out, if not, they can’t do anything).

    Consumers need to understand that the $75-$100 hold policy is likely calculated based upon the high average for a fill up of premium gasoline and is only used to guarantee that the card in question has the funds to cover this hypothetical transaction at the time of purchase.

  181. TardCore says:

    Hotels do the same thing if you use a debit card. Otherwise they have no recourse when you trash the room and leave early without paying. There’s no reason not to know this.