How to Avoid Costly Credit and Debit Card Holds at the Gas Pump

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On May 22, 2022, Visa raised the limits on its status verification authorization holds on credit cards when paying for gasoline at fuel vending machines from $125 to $175. Mastercard made the same change in April in response to “trends identified by both retailers and financial institutions,” according to a Mastercard spokesperson. These temporary monetary holds are neither new nor rare, but their increased number has alarmed some consumers. And now that gas prices are skyrocketing and household budgets are stretched enough, there are some things you can do to avoid that unnecessary and unexpected sting at the pump.

Card blocks are in place to protect retailers against fraud. When you insert your card at the pump, the gas station doesn’t know how much gas you’ll be pumping, so it checks that the card is functional with enough money or credit on the account and charges a pre-authorization hold. After you pump your gas, it charges the actual monetary amount and the hold is released later.

“While fuel merchants have always had the ability to set their own pump stop limits, this change encourages fuel merchants to allow larger fuel purchases with reduced transaction risk,” a doorman said. word of Visa in an e-mail.

Depending on the retailer, card processor, and credit card company, this hold can be released almost immediately, within hours, or longer. Visa and Mastercard say their holds on purchases at gas stations are limited to two hours. For those who rely on every dollar in their accounts and lines of credit, these suspensions could create major problems or disruptions in their daily lives.

There are ways to avoid these holds, but the methods involve extra time, extra steps, and more trips to the gas station. This is far from an ideal situation, but consumers can only work with what they are given. Here’s what you can do to avoid risking a credit or debit card hold when filling up.

Try to use only cash

Cash? In 2022? Yes, cash in 2022, and I’m not talking about the app. If possible, withdraw the green from an ATM that does not charge fees and use the money to pay a specified amount before pumping gas. This completely avoids cards and avoids any hitches you might encounter while using a card.

The downside is that it takes longer to go to the bank or ATM, you won’t always remember to go to the ATM before you go to the gas station, and it takes longer between the pump and the cashier. You also lose the chance to get credit card perks like cash back or points this way.

Know your balance and pay in advance with a specific amount inside

It’s possible to continue using your credit or debit card without fear of being hit by a massive hold, but it will take a bit of extra effort. You will need to physically go to the cashier inside the gas station and tell the person exactly how much you want to charge the card.

“If a cardholder is concerned about the potential availability of funds in their account, they have the option of going to the resort store and prepaying a certain amount,” a Mastercard spokesperson said via email. -mail.

This ignores the holding aspect of the transaction as it charges a specific amount. Since the transaction is carried out immediately, it will simply be declined if the account does not have the funds. Before doing this, it’s a good idea to check your account balance, whether at an ATM or online, to make sure your credit or debit lines will be able to support the purchase.

“Amex policy encourages having pre-authorization for fuel purchases to help mitigate fraud, but we do not set a specific hold amount,” an American Express spokesperson said in an email. -mail. “The decision as to the amount is up to the trader.”

Look for the label or ask the cashier about the gas station retention policy

Not all service stations will have the same plug. It can be $1, $50 or $175. In some cases there will be a physical sign on the pump that will clearly indicate the amount withheld, but not always. If there is no sign, you can also try to enter the station and ask the manager or employee if they know the amount withheld.

Unfortunately, that’s no guarantee that whoever is working at the counter at the time will know the number or even know what you’re talking about. Plus, if you’re already inside, you might as well specify how much you want and pay on the spot.

Anecdotally, when I called gas stations in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, most cashiers didn’t know what their station’s holds were (or even what a hold was), and many wrongly suggested contacting the bank. This is something the station needs to know, however, as some credit card companies set the liability limit ($175), while the gas station or card processing company determines the amount withheld (1- $175).

If these options don’t work for you, find the station with the lowest wait

If you don’t want to use any of the above methods, we suggest you find a nearby station that only places a $1 hold on your card and make that your station of choice. This way, you’ll avoid any surprises you might encounter during random push-ups.

How often will I encounter $175 blocks?

It’s almost impossible to say. While the limits have been increased, that doesn’t mean gas stations will automatically follow and increase holds to $175. Whether or not stations are aware of the changed limits, some stations may keep reservations exactly where they were before, most often at $1, $50, or $100. You may not meet him at all.

Logic suggests that residents of states with higher gas prices, such as California, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, and Oregon, or inner cities, might encounter the holdups more often. $175, but it’s not guaranteed. Each person will have a different experience depending on where they live.

So to recap: know your stations, pay cash or prepay inside the store if you don’t want that kind of disruption to your bank account. And really, who would?

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