Jun 19 2013

Putting More Dollars in Your Gas Tank? Avoid Unnecessary Debit Card Holds

Gas Pump With gas prices close to—and on some days over—$4 per gallon, are you driving differently to save money?

When you’re already putting more dollars in your gas tank, the last thing you want to have happen is an unexpected hold on your checking account from using your debit card at the pump.

Why would this happen, you ask? Since the gas station doesn’t know how much gas you’re going to buy when you prepay at the pump, they want to make sure you can afford to fill up—so they authorize holds of $50, $75, even $100. The trouble is that these holds don’t fall off immediately. If you only purchased $15 to top off your tank, that extra $35-$85 remains unavailable until the station processes the transaction and the hold falls off, which doesn’t happen immediately. If you didn’t know about the holds at the time and were cutting it close with your checking account balance, you may see seemingly unexplained overdraft fees on your statement.

These holds are not a decision Consumers has anything to do with or can change. It’s an internal decision by the gas company.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Holds

Unfortunately, whether you push “credit” or “debit” to process your card at the pump makes little difference in the hold you will see on your account. Selecting debit should eliminate the unnecessary hold earlier, but it’s not a guarantee.

The easiest way to avoid having the gas station hold any more than you’re pumping is to pay inside. Those who prefer to pay at the pump are better off swiping a credit card, not a debit card. If you go that route, you won’t have to worry about not having access to the funds in your checking. (You’ll just want to make sure you pay off your credit card balance each month if the reason you’ve been using your debit card is because you hate to carry a balance.)

If you do have a hold on your account as you’re out shopping (or you’re not sure and want to check), you can find out about it by logging into our mobile site from your smart phone or texting PEND plus your account nickname via our text banking service.

What are your tips for saving money on gas? Share with us in the comments!

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