I got a question in the comments of another post on this site, about something annoying that happened to a reader when he filled up his gas tank:
Q. Can a Credit Card company pull more money than the purchase for a period of time?
Ex. I had 80.00 charged to my account for gasoline and when questioned the Amx guy said they always did that.
I can’t find anything to back this up other than my statement. If true could the companies be making money by holding my money for a period of time. Thanks for any comments.
Michael, the unfortunate truth is, yes, they can (and often do) do that. They usually only do this on debit cards, but if you have an American Express (Amex) charge card, I can see where they might treat that like a debit card. So what’s the story here – why do they do that, and why are they allowed to do that?
According to the MSN Money article “Hosed at the gas pump — by your debit card,” when you use a debit card at a pump that doesn’t require that you enter in your PIN, your bank can block off an extra amount of money in your account – “often $50 or $75.” Also,
That amount doesn’t “un-block” as you drive away. Instead, the hold remains up to 72 hours, until the station does a “batch” transaction that lets the bank know the actual amount, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
While the length of the hold is up to your bank, the amount of the hold is up to your gasoline retailer.
This annoying (and sometimes harmful) practice is designed to protect the oil companies. When you put your card in, they don’t know how much you’re going to pump, so they want to make sure you can pay for it before they approve you. So they “earmark” a portion of your money to make sure there’s enough in the account.
If you ask me, this is grossly unfair. If you stroll up to the pump with $80 in your account to pay for gas, and then they put a hold on your account for that $80 and then you pump $50 worth of gas – you overdraft!
And although most people might not skirt that close to the bottom of their account, I know plenty of people who do. After all, I’m in college – I hear things like “I’ve only got 30 bucks right now, and I’ve got to save that for gas” all the time.
What can you do to avoid this sticky situation?
Don’t pump with a debit card. This may not always be possible, but it’s a solution, none-the-less, and it’s the one I use. Actually, I try not to use my debit card for any purchases, for a variety of reasons. But this is definitely one of those reasons. And according to reader Michael, this also applies for Amex charge cards. Don’t use them at the pump, if you can help it.
I use my credit card at the pump – cash would obviously also avoid the problem. Cash usually isn’t as convenient, however.
If you do use your debit card, use your PIN. According to the MSN article, PIN-based transactions are processed immediately, without placing a hold on your account. So when it gives you the option to treat your card as a debit card (and enter your PIN) or as a credit card, pick “debit.”
Buy Sunoco gas. I actually noticed this a few months ago, while pumping at Sunoco – they have signs right on their pumps, that say they don’t believe in the practice of putting holds on debit cards, so they don’t do it. Kudos to Sunoco for that! So if you have the option of filling up at Sunoco, know that you can do it without facing a hold on your debit card.
Don’t drain your account down to the bottom. This might be a useless point to give to some of my college-and-minimum-wage readers, but I’ll say it for everyone else – if you can avoid bringing your bank account balance too low before you fill up, you won’t have to worry about whether you’re going to overdraft or not.
Also, keep in mind any checks that you’ve written that haven’t cleared yet, which may end up bouncing if the gas pump puts a hold on your account that lasts more than a day.
If you do get hit with a fee because of a gas station hold, call your bank. Dispute the fee, and do it right away. Politely, but firmly, explain the situation, and you have a good chance of getting the fee(s) reversed, especially if it doesn’t happen very often. This goes in line with the above tip – if holds are constantly making you overdraft, they’re going to stop reversing the fees after the second or so time it happens.
This is a slick, somewhat dirty – but mostly just annoying – practice, so I can see why reader Michael was peeved. I hope these tips help you, Michael – and anyone else who doesn’t like the idea of the gas companies latching onto an extra chunk of their money for a few days.
Doesn’t everyone know that this is how credit cards (and now debit cards) work?
In order for the gas to start pumping it needs to send an authorization request to the institution that issues your card. This places a hold on your card for a certain amount. At a hotel, this is normally the room rent and tax plus 10%, at the pump it’s normally above what you pick to put in your tank, and some ‘larger than normal amount’.
Now I’m not sure how the pumps do it, but normally all the credit card transactions for the day get held in a kind of ‘ready to go’ state and then settled each night when the business closes their day. This will send the actual amount of the transaction to each financial institution through a credit card processor. At that point, some banks will release the authorization, some don’t. Usually within 72 hours the holds are lifted.
You can see the terms and conditions on visa.com in their check card section:
I’m sure it’s same for most credit card/check card issuers.
Come on people, learn how your tools work.
You’re a smug prick, aren’t you?
And I’m supposed to know that the gas station is taking $75 out of my account? Please.
True. It happened to me just yesterday. No I had no idea this happened for paying gas at the pump. Will be paying inside store from now on. This should be criminal.
I agree with you! I never knew this & it happened to me yesterday. I used my unemployment debit card & bought $10.09 worth of gas. When I checked my balance on my account, I was charged an additional $75. How DARE they do that! There were NO signs anywhere to indicate this would be done. They robbed me! I went back to the station & complained to the attendant & she tried to explain the reason. It didn’t make me feel any better. I need that $$ NOW.
I thought there was a law that said they had to post how much the pre-authorization for. I bought $5.47 worth of gas from Walmart to mow my grass. Got home and discovered that the $5.47 AND the $75 were pending. When your paycheck is only $170 a week, that’s a lot of money frozen. My electric bill is going to be late. Do you think they care that Walmart froze $75?
Actually this is the first time this has ever happened to me and I’ve used my debit and credit card at many many places and gas pumps have never had this happen so your comments are completely rude and uncalled for. I hope you can ease some of that hate in your heart. God bless you.
Plus, I would assume Sunoco will reverse their trend when they start having people fill their tanks who don’t have money to pay . . . that will be interesting.
“If you ask me, this is grossly unfair. If you stroll up to the pump with $80 in your account to pay for gas, and then they put a hold on your account for that $80 and then you pump $50 worth of gas – you overdraft!”
What happens if they don’t hold the funds, since their batches will be done nightly . . . then you pump your gas and then go out and buy some new pants? Then the station gets hosed.
You seem annoying. What is common sense to you isn’t so common to others 🙂
Wow, do you work for one of these gas stations or credit card companies? You sure sound like you do. If a person can pay with a debit or credit card, inside the station and not get a hold put on it, then why can’t the same be done at the pump? It makes absolutely no sense! This should be illegal! It’s like walking into a grocery store and buying 50 dollars worth of food and then being told because you’re paying with a credit or debit card, you’re gonna have to pay them a hundred dollars and they will give you the other 50 back in a couple of days. That’s nonsense! If the card has enough money on it for the transaction, it will go through. Nobody is going to steal gas from using a credit card and getting billed the proper amount! The credit card companies know ahead of time if there is enough money on the card to pay for the transaction, otherwise they wouldn’t clear it and decline it. Stop trying to justify something that is wrong! They are stealing money from people! Call it “holding” call it whatever the hell you want, it’s still stealing!
You are correct. This IS stealing. I am very out of joint about this practice of deception. I am going to write to the CEO of Sunoco about it. There needs to be signage to inform the public ahead of time so we have the option to continue or not.
KELLIE J CALKINS says
I agree and so by that logic if I walk into your yrs and steel your car out of your driveway it’s ok as long as it’s back in 72 hrs. BS!!! ITS LEGAL THEFT. Sheetz just wiped my account out for 10$ in gas and I’m furious. I will never buy from them again. And I told everyone on my way out of the parking lot that they stole my money.
Arin Lynette Alandt says
Exactly. How do they choose their victims? Who they will extract a random amount to steal or legally “Hold” from an account holder? If the amount is not authorized by Account holder and the bank Bank allows all the funds to be seized when the bank Knows that amount seized overdraws the holders’ account, Recourse is a bitch. Do they randomly push a button when they see me coming, or does A.I.? I can’t work or go anywhere without gas to provide essential services on which many depend. The oil vendors will be protected over all else, including my rights to receive the gas needed at any station or time I approve the purchase of needed fuel? What about protecting my right to work, which my car requires. It is my responsibility and they cut off my legs and income for up to 72 hours? Is there a Class Action?
Yup. I had the same thing happen to me at a gas station last year. Then I went to a store and tried to use my debit card and it was rejected because of the extra “hold” on my account. I knew I had money in there so I called my bank the following Monday and found out what gas stations do. I no longer use my debit card at the pump.
Another way they take more than you paid for is by not compensating for temperature. Getting gas when it’s hotter than 60 degrees F, means that you’re getting less gas than you think. More details of that practice are outlined here: http://www.richerbytheday.com/2008/03/saving-on-gas.html
Peter Mottola says
What’s the deal with Sunoco anyway? Why do people have Sunoco bumper stickers? Is it a cult?
I don’t pump with my debit card, but I think I might start going to Sunoco anyway! I think it’s grea that they’re taking a stand against unfair credit practices.
No one has unfair practices SD. This is kind of like wandering in to a grocery store and eating any food you put in your cart and then paying for it after. It just doesn’t make sense, they need to know you have money to pay the bill before giving you the service.
Rental car places do it.
Hotels do it.
Pay at the pumps do it
Restaurants do it for tips (they auth 20% more than the bill usually)
That’s how the cards work, no one is doing anything unfair.
3 days ago I stopped at a Shell gas station to fill up. I swiped my card as I always do at Shell gas stations (I had never been to this station before) and when I squeezed the trigger to get gas nothing happened. I ran inside to ask the clerk if there was a problem with pump number 1. He said they had no gas. REALLY, NO GAS???
I went back to the pump and ended the transaction with no money spent. They put an $85 dollar hold on my account anyway!!!
I went to another Shell right after and filled up with a $38 purchase. There was no hold at all on my card.
I get gas at Shell all the time and there is usually a $1 hold.
Three days later that $85 hold for zero transaction is still pending and the $38 cleared the next day.
This is a total RIP off by multi billion dollar companies.
Whoever disagrees is spoon fed.
i pumped at sunoco 2 days ago w/ a debit card and they held 75$–from my business bank account that i use for gas and mailing pkgs–imagine my surprise when i got to the post office and had nothing in my account!!!!!!!!! screw sunoco tooo!
I just pumped at Sunoco today and they put a &75 hold on my debit card so they are practicing this horrible deal too. Screw Sunoco indeed. I will not go there anymore.
I used to have this problem when getting to my part time job driving. But lately, and I must say, smartly, I’ve been getting around town and campus using an electric motor bike. Works like a charm.
Paris Hotel says
That is why I try to only use cash. Sometimes the way that banks work drives me crazy. But I can understand their reasoning.
It’s hard not to use credit/debit cards these days, but if we want to pay down our debt, we must. Cash is the best practice if you can do it.
I prefer to pay on cash whenever I go for a refill.
Annie @ Credit Dispute says
I use to pump with my debit card. But that is over now. After I have encountered some problems with it. Right now, I prefer using my cash(its really hassle free).
Yup happend to me – Put a full tank in (60 worth) went to the cash point one hour later and the card had been blocked.
2nd time 30 in fuel then some swine behind the counter cloned my card and 2 weeks laster spent 2k over seas!
COME TO JOLLY FISHKILL NY THERE IS A MOBIL GAS STATION ON RT 9 THEY POST GAS AT $4.09 CREDIT–$3.99 CASH,WELL I PAID WITH MY DEBIT CARD WITH PIN AND GUESS WHAT IT CAME OUT I PAID THE PRICE OF $4.O9 WHEN I SPOKE TO THE ATTENDANT HE SAID THEY DO NOT HONOR A DEBIT CARD AS CASH ONLY AS A CREDIT CARD,I WILL BE TAKING THIS MATTER UP WITH THE BBB ALSO THE LOCAL NAWSPAPER.
@traciatim, I now go to the bank, get cash (because of the upcharge for credit as well as the hold) pull my screaming two year old out of the car, in the rain, pay cash, start the pump, buckle her.back in and go about my business. No, she may not have gum or milk and I no longer get coffee, soda or anything else at the gas station. I havn’t bought anything in a gas station in years because I feel manipulated into this process and I won’t reward a business owner for behaving that way. I may not have much choice, but I exercise what choices I have. I also tend to avoid upcharge stations if I can. Sonoco doesn’t engage in these practices? Here I come, and please keep the coffee ready for me.
Gabi sandoval says
Thank you for all the information here my big question
how do these gas station get rated, some charge holds
are 15,50, 75, Clark station are really bad for this and
then when you call you get a smart mouthed kid, he told me
a sign was on one on the pumped for the charge, I told him
that stupid it like putting a health hazard warning on
one pack of cigarettes, Exon and Shell charge only one $ for
a charge until the charge goes through, I will only go to
Exon or Shell from now on. Tanks again!
I will be calling by bank on Monday.
Sunco does do a hold they check for 75 and if your account passes they hold a dollar for about 3 days then they charge the full amount. I go there all the time. I have had less then 75 in my account and had to swipe twice but they still only held the 1 dollar. The secound swipe was to see if I had what I pumped in my account.
another way to avoid the hold, although a little bit inconvenient, is to take your debit card inside and pre-pay for your gas. i’ve had to do this several times to avoid the dreaded hold…..
Actually I paid at a Sunoco myself, and they did it to me. Ticked me off something awful because I needed the whopping $70 they earmarked in order to pay my phone bill. Thankfully I was able to scrape it together, but still! No signs on the pump warning about it either!
I was socked with a whopping $150.00 hold fee from Pilot today! What the heck!
Sunoco DOES impose this hold. Stopped for $6 of gas…they are holding $75! Second day…not cleared. Now I have no money for gas!!! I will not buy there anymore.
The safest bet is to get out of your car and stay near the meter while the attendant fills your tank and pay in cash. Over the last few years, I have started doing this because even I have noticed that sometimes the meters are rigged. The best bet to avoid getting fleeced is to go for an odd number. Want to fill the tank before a trip and thinking of filling up for $100. Make it $107. It really works because these meters are rigged with the most common amounts like $100, $50, etc.
Seeing as how this article was written back in 2008 (and this is no shot at the author), there must have been change in the business of Sunoco, because I have been overcharged on my debit card at the pump several times (though not so frequent as maybe some others) at different Sunocos within the Greater Houston area. Now the hold-out lasts about an hour or so until they correct my funds, but it is absolutely sad that the main source of my gas with E85 gas does this. Moreover, reading this article that spoke about Sunoco being a gas station that did not do such a thing before is even more heartbreaking because I knew there was a reason why I was fond of this company.
Sunoco I used started charging a $90 pre-authorization fee instead of the usual $1. I used discover and chase credit cards.
Tatiana Quin says
I came to Shell and put in my EPPI (stste child support card) and yhen I realized I hadnt put in my savings number…to save 10 cents per gallon. So, I cancelled the transaction. I did not spend not even 1 cent, nothing! I went inside to give my number and run the transaction for 25 dollars, my card declined. Then I said well maybe its acting weird and grabbed a bag of potatoe chips and tried to pay for it with the same card -DECLINED- WHAT? I looked at my online account to see if it was me and I had the amount wrong that was available. Well my account showed zero dollars zero cents avail….I freaked out and looked at the transactions. I mean did I forget and ran my card for that amount? …well it was fishy that I would have nailed it so close and made it 0.00…. So I called they said there was a hold on my account for all the money!! All of it!! Mind you I dont have much in there but every cent is accounted for. So I went in and asked why if my transaction was cancelled did it process a hold and one so large, his response was to print me a reciept showing zero dollars and cents and said to call the bank, I let him know I was on the phone with them. There would not have been any issue with me leaving and waiting but that was the only money I had today. I said charge me the 25$ I was going to pay in gas and charge me separately for the chips for ine of my kids…he said ‘Oh no sorry can you put it back. I cannot help you.’ Please leave.
To say the least I was amazed! At the service and the lack of will to resolve. This took all I had I couldnt get gas -which by the way was well i to fumes, my kids were hungry i had the dogs with me and I had nkthing to buy snacks or gas… I had no other choices!! It was to say the least frustrating!
I sat in my car for about 4 hours while my oldest son got off work and came to my rescue. I was so embarrased and felt violated that they could tie up my money for however long.
I cancelled my transaction before attempting to pump or anything else! Why was it alllwed to take my money?!!
That’s awful! Did you contact Shell corporate about this?
No it’s not. They debit my account for 79 usd and then another 166 usd. I’m not a lending institution.
That’s wrong, when u said to use your pin. That’s what I just did on the first, and put in 10$, the pump took 80$ more.
Deidre Vansickle says
I was just at the Flying J in Post falls, Idaho. I pumped $25.01 in gas and before that amount came up on my banks ledger that gas station charged me $76. The amount I pumped still hasn’t come up and when I went inside the manager said they always put a hold on the accounts and it is posted outside at the pumps, there is nowhere where this is posted I have used this gas station for the 8 years we have lived in Post Falls and never had this happen to me at this gas station or any other gas stations I have used in Post Falls. The manager told me the hold wouldn’t be lifted until they counted out their cash drawers tonight, when ever that is. I’m really upset that they can do this to someone whenever the mood strikes them. I checked my bank ledger one more time about twenty minutes later and the hold had been lifted and I was only charged the price of the gas, I am happy about that my only wish is that he had only been honest enough to say that the hold was only put in place to guarantee payment and that he was in the process of removing it and I would have felt better about the whole thing!!
Okay so I went to pump $12 worth of gas at the Mobile Station on Akron Drive in Winston-Salem NC using my prepaid debit card. Shortly there after, when checking my current balance via mobile app, I learned that a $75 hold was maintained on my account. While I’m aware that this happens with credit card purchases, given that I entered a pin which made it a debit transaction; meaning the same curriculum as handling Cash, the hold should have been released at most an hour following the transaction conclusion. There were no signs, not 1 once of advance notice whatsoever, and upon my return to the fuel station and inquiring about this hold, I was told in a nasty tone by the attendant that I simply had to call my bank and challenge the transaction. I see this business practice with regards to debit cards and theft and ransom of my hard earned money. 5hey got paid but I’m shit outta luck, $63 dollars of it. This should be a crime. If you purchase items in store at a Walmart $43 and hand the cashier a $50 bill, they owe you $7 on the spot and would never get away with telling a customer that they had to wait 72 hours before their $7 would be mailed to them, no one would settle for that. Why should I deal with that same bull cocky at a fuel pump, and especially during a pandemic when pretty much everyone in my economic bracket is ultimately on their last leg financially? This is wrong and these merchants ought to be grossly and utterly ashamed of themselves.
Arin L Alandt says
Reaping up on bank balances. It looks great on paper for them. Highway Robbery!
Peter Ebersole says
I noticed certain debit cards will put a hold on your account with my pnc debit card it’s usually $1.00 hold, then a few days later they take the actual amount out. I had a debit card from unemployment and I got $20.00 worth of gas it put a hold on $75. When I looked at all the paperwork that came with my debit card it tells you how much money will be put on hold. Not all places do it, but it tells you if you read the information that came with your card. You just have to know what billing system each station uses to find out if they put any kind of hold on your debit card money. If I use my debit card at the pump and treat like a credit card by not entering a pin then I can pump up to $50 in gas and not get any holds and won’t be charged for almost 3-4 buisness days. Usually if your have a prepaid debit or debit card that gets loaded with cash at a store, then you have a up to $80 put on hold even if you pump $2 worth. Kinda sucks but they are making sure the person has the cash. You’ll be surprised how many ways there are to scam a gas station straight from the pump. Crazy world we live in.