Buying Gas With a Debit Card

Just a quick word of warning to those of you that like to buy gas with your debit card… Most gas stations place a sizable hold on your funds whenever you swipe your card at the pump. The amount of frozen funds varies from station to station, but can be as great as $75-$100 no matter how small your purchase ends up being. Unfortunately, these funds aren’t always released at the conclusion of the transaction. Rather, many stations don’t relinquish their hold on your money for several days. Obviously, if you tend to carry a low balance in your bank account, this sort of a policy can dramatically increase the likelihood that you’ll overdraw your account. While this might end up being good news for fee-crazy banks, it’s definitely bad for your pocketbook. The easiest way to avoid this problem is, of course, to pay with cash or a credit card.

Update: It seems that Sunoco has changed their practice with regard to debit card authorizations.

9 Responses to “Buying Gas With a Debit Card”

  1. Anonymous

    I want to know if there is any possible law suit this is
    absurd…It should be listed outside at the pump if
    they are holding funds..
    there shouldl be a class action law suit

    I am going to check more into this.

  2. Anonymous

    1. To avoid a hold in excess of your purchase, go inside to pay with your debit card. That way only the exact amount will be used.
    2. The individual merchant cannot stipulate the hold amount, that is a parameter set in the equipment at setup time.
    3. You people have no idea what is involved in this process from the banking side. In our community, most pay at the pump merchants hold only $1. If they don’t settle their transactions daily (and MANY do not), the bank faces the overdrafts and potential losses.
    4. Debit cards are one of the safest forms of payment.
    5. Do not use your debit card to reserve a car or hotel. Use it for the final payment, but not for the reservation. You will have a huge “hold” on your funds if you use it for the reservation.
    6. The “hold” placed on your funds does not remove any funds from your account. The merchant does not have use of those funds. As soon as the transaction is settled, the hold will drop off. Some merchants only settle weekly. If you frequent a merchant who does this, stop shopping there and tell them why.

  3. Anonymous

    after reading about debit cards used to buy gas, I guess I’m lucky that they don’t ‘steal’ money from my account. however, I think I’d have to plan ahead from now on to get cash from debit card and pay gas that way. the only problem is, just when do I know I’ll need gas and I’m out of cash? I can’t spend all day trying to find a gas station that’s honest enough to let me buy gas with my DC without dipping into my account.

  4. Anonymous

    I am sick to death of hearing about how companies, specially Gas Stations, are placing holds on funds in customers bank accounts.
    Does anyone else in Free America see anything wrong with this??? A sibling of mine just had a 75 dollar “hold” on her account for using a debit card at the pump. We have a right to own a debit/credit card. We have a right to use our funds. A gas station, or any other company for that matter, has absolutely NO right to touch our funds over the amount of our purchase. To allow them to continue to do so is illegal, unprofessional and it makes me sick. Let’s do something about it!!

  5. Anonymous

    This practice of holding funds is no less than stealing on the gas companies part,they should be able to verify available balance and if its over the amount of filling up an average tank drop the hold as soon as you fill up.I had a Company place a 225 dollar hold on my debit Card due to their computers screwing up.It is now day 3 and the hold is still in place.It is a hardship on myself as I had to scramble to try and get more funds deposited before other checks came thru and caused an over draft.
    People how do we get this practice stopped,any ideas of where to go with this. I want to get a Law passed to protect consumers.

  6. Anonymous

    If newer law would legislate any and all gas merchants or all merchants to have a higher speed bank clearance then this type of thing wouldn’t happen. Lets see, electronic…..instantly…..hmmm….something in that link is missing.
    They should get a clue and have immediate fund withdrawl for any elec. debit trans. Legislate it to happen within a reasonable time frame after the swipe….like 60 minutes.

  7. Anonymous

    Well, the story has an extraordinarily stifling bias, and it doesn’t really say that Sunoco has changed their policy.

    It’s worth pointing out that the merchant determines the amount of the hold. In this case, the merchant is the gas station. And while they may or may not get explicit instructions from a corporate parent company, the decision is still made at the station level.

    The thing is, with gas prices where they are lately, especially in heavy-tax environments, setting the hold for pay-at-the-pump transactions to $100 doesn’t really seem unreasonable to me. I routinely see pumps that have pumped almost that much gas for previous customers.

    Remember that cashiers can look out the window, see how big your vehicle is, and set the hold price based on a guess of how much gas can fit in it. Pay-at-the-pump systems have to assume you’re driving something with a huge tank.

  8. I’m not sure how related that Snopes link actually is… I didn’t claim that they’re adding a surcharge to your purchase. Rather, they’re blocking out a portion of your available ‘credit’ to ensure that they get paid. This is standard practice with credit cards. However, in the case of debit cards, they’re not putting a hold on your credit line — they’re putting a hold on your bank balance. This can lead to overdrafts, unnecessary fees, etc., especially if you typically carry a low balance.

    While they address this near the end of the Snopes article, they didn’t falsify it. In fact, gas stations in my area have admitted to doing this ‘for their own protection’ on the local news, and Sunoco recently made headlines for changing their policy on this. So this is definitely a real thing.

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