Hosed at the gas pump -- by your debit card
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  1. #1
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    Default Hosed at the gas pump -- by your debit card

    Hosed at the gas pump -- by your debit card.


    You may have topped off with just $20 worth of unleaded, but the debit-card transaction could freeze as much as $75 in your account, sometimes for days.

    By Christopher Solomon

    If you ever use your debit card to pay at the pump, watch out: Did you know that every time you top off the tank, a chunk of your checking account can be blocked -- sometimes for days, with the potential to cause you all sorts of financial headaches and bounced checks?

    That’s what happened to Jessica Hathaway, a state employee from Allentown, Pa. Earlier this year Hathaway stopped during her commute to fill up her car at Rauch’s Mini Mart, a Shell station. She bought $22.29 worth of gas using her debit card.

    The next day Hathaway balanced her checkbook using her bank’s telephone service -- and something didn’t add up. The bank said that she’d made two purchases the previous morning: one for the $22.29 and one for $75.

    Trouble is, she’d only bought the gas.

    Finally Hathaway called the service station, and an attendant explained to her what few people know.

    How your money gets frozen
    If you use your debit card at a pump that does not require a PIN, the station regularly will block out an amount -- often $50 or $75 -- on your card.

    That amount doesn't “un-block” as you drive away. Instead, the hold remains until that evening, and sometimes for up to several days, until the station does a “batch” transaction, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Find a loan that's
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    Each big oil company has a different policy:

    Shell places a $75 hold for gas purchases, and it can stay in place for as long as three business days.


    British Petroleum places a $75 hold on accounts when customers use debit or credit cards, but the hold is usually lifted after about two hours, said spokeswoman Sarah Howell. The same policy applies at its Amoco and Arco stations, Howell said.


    Chevron applies only a $1 hold to debit cards, to ensure that a card is active, says a spokeswoman.
    The reasoning behind this policy is that oil companies don’t know how much gas you’re about to pump -- only PIN-based debit transactions are processed immediately -- and so they earmark a certain amount of your money. “We want to make sure that we’re protected, that we get payment for the gasoline,” says BP’s Howell.

    This general idea isn’t new. Credit-card companies have done it for a long time. (Think of when you rent a hotel room or a car, and the attendant runs your card upon your arrival to ensure you can pay for it.) It’s less of an issue with credit-card owners, however, because you’re usually told that it’s happening and you’re probably not flirting with your credit limits.

    If a company puts a chunk of dough in your checking account off-limits without your knowledge, however, it can cause real migraines.

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    that must be an American thing, our debit cards here in Canada can't be accessed without a PIN number, and are simply unuseable any other way. The machine you swipe won't process without the PIN.

    That is AWFUL and I think somebody, (gas company perhaps) is benefitting from holding that money. Do it enough times and the interest on it becomes a short term loan for the gas company, of money that they can get interest from, and is frozen out of your account.

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    Thanks for the article. I never knew that. I pay with my debit card all the time at the pump.

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    Do you have a link for that article? I'd like to send it to a couple of people.

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    I pay with a debit card too and thought I was doing a good thing! No more. I noticed that when I'd call in for my checking balance there was a difference between my balance and my AVAILABLE balance - this must be the reason.

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    I pay with my debit card all the time and they do put a hold on my account for a day, but it's only $1. I've never seen it go more than that. The dollar is off hold and back in my available balance 24 hours later, so it's not a biggie.

    I must say though, that I wouldn't be happy at all if $75 dollars was on hold for days.

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    Sorry Kim. I didn't save the link. It was on yesterdays MSN.com Homepage and I don't know how to search for articles that they list.

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    Here is a link to the article. There is actually more to the article if you scroll all the way down past the ads after the portion that Carolyn showed us.

    http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/...ng/P118381.asp

    Thanks for sharing this with us Carolyn. I think that this practice is just outrageous, it is sneaky and underhanded on the part of the businesses. If they are concerned about the ability of the consumer to pay, they need to require a pin number at the pump (in a recessed keypad to provide some confidentiality).

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