CHARLOTTE, N.C. – We’re all paying close attention to how much we’re spending at the pump, which may explain why more people are now noticing “hold fees” tacked on to their gasoline purchases.
And as gas prices soar, those hold fees are rising too.
Linda Begley stopped to fill up her gas tank the other day. But this time, the gas pump hit her debit card for $125, almost draining her checking account.
“They put a $125 hold on a $32 gas purchase which was like four times the amount of my gas,” she said.
It’s called a “pre-authorization hold, ” and they are getting bigger as gas prices rise.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, raised the temporary hold from $125 to $150, meaning you must have $150 in your checking account to buy gas with a debit card.
Luckily, the charge was removed 24 hours later.
What happens if your bank account is low
But Begley wonders what would have happened had she needed her money that night. Her account would have been precariously low.
“It really leaves people in a precarious situation if you need food, medicine, stuff for the baby or something.”
So why do pump holds exist in the first place?
Experts say it’s a security measure to make sure you can afford that expensive fillup and are not going to drive away with free gas.
Nathan Grant of MoneyTips.com said, “When you pull up to the pump they don’t know if you’re gonna be putting in $10, which I know is a rare occasion nowadays with the price of gas, but you could be getting a little bit, or you could be filling up the entire tank.”
Grant says a hold can happen with a credit or debit card.
There’s no industry standard, so holds can range from $20 to $100 ($50 is the most popular amount).
The gas station decides the amount, but your bank makes the hold.
What you can do to protect yourself
So how can you avoid it?
Grant says pay with cash, or pay inside.
“If you park and go inside and pay at the register, that will alleviate the hold, too,” he said. “It’s literally just for paying at the pump, using the terminal itself with your card and everything.”
And don’t be surprised by other hold charges as you travel this summer: They’re also common when booking a hotel room or rental car.
Linda Begley wants to warn others.
“I feel bad for people whose account bounces and they are charged fees,” she said,
That way you don’t waste your money.