Blanco County News received a report that customers paying at the pump at a local gas station were getting more than they bargained for — a $100 pre-authorization hold. For the time that hold is on a credit or debit card, that money is frozen. A $40 fill-up at the pump could mean that $140 isn’t available to the customer until the hold expires.
The hold usually falls off the account overnight, if not before. Sometimes, the hold can stick around for up to five business days, which could lead to returned check fees, in the case that a debit card was used, or being declined for other payments.
The practice is becoming commonplace as gas prices rise and stations raise their hold amounts to protect themselves. Gas stations previously authorized a card for $1, to make sure the account is valid, before allowing a customer to pump. Now, to assure that customers have enough on their cards to pay for the gas, stations are holding up to $100 or more.
Blanco National Bank has reportedly received complaints about the Blanco Ice House/Texaco station pre-authorizing cards for $100. Unfortunately, Blanco Ice House is stuck in the middle. With the price of gas going up, the potential for theft requires a pre-authorization hold. The expiration of the hold is sometimes delayed.
The best course of action, if a $100 hold might be a problem, is to pay the clerk inside the store as this avoids the hold.
Blanco National says it’s up to the merchant to decide how much money to pre-authorize and how long to hold it. It’s a different story according to Sean Comey with Texaco’s parent company, Chevron.
“When a customer uses a debit or credit card at the gas pump,” Comey says, “the automated system contacts the financial institution associated with the card to authorize the transaction. The amount of money temporarily placed on hold is determined by the financial institution. For a fuel purchase, the amount can be up to $100.”
“If the transaction is for less than that amount, the financial institution that issued the card is supposed to release any hold on unused funds. Occasionally, some financial institutions do not immediately release the unused funds. Chevron has no direct access to customer’s accounts, so only the financial institution can affect holds placed on a customer’s account.”