Paying at the Pump

Paying at the Pump

Everybody by now is familiar with paying at the pump by swiping a credit card, debit card, or prepaid MasterCard card or Prepaid Visa card. What you might not realize is that many gas station pumps are set up to place a “hold” of $50 or even $75 on a gas purchase, which means that your transaction will temporarily be higher than the amount of gas you have purchased. For example, if your gas purchase was $25 at the pump, another $50 might be added to the purchase, making the withdrawal request of funds from your card $75, but only long enough to confirm the actual purchase amount. At that point, the “hold” amount of $50 would be put back onto your card. This process can take a few minutes to as long as 48 hours.  If you aren’t aware of this fact, you could drive away thinking you had that $50 available on your card, and be upset when your card is denied for lack of funds an hour later when you are out shopping.

The bottom line is that the $50 hold amount is returned to you electronically behind the scenes. But you have to have that extra $50 in your account to cover the hold amount, otherwise your transaction could be denied at the pump. For example, if you only had $50 on your card, and go to buy $25 worth of gas, you won’t have the $25 + $50 ($75) to let the transaction go through. So, you could be frustrated.

Why do these holds exist? The reason is that until the transaction is processed fully processed, being electronically transmitted over the MasterCard or Visa network, through a bank, and back to the merchant, there is a delay. Your prepaid card company won’t know exactly how much you spent until the gas station processes its receipts and submits the purchase to the card company for payment. And so the prepaid card company preauthorizes the sale and also adds $50 to cover the full cost of a tankful of gas, and credits it back to your account once it knows the exact amount spent. Again, this could take a few minutes or two days. Until the money is credited back, it’s like you don’t have it in your account.

What can you do? Instead of paying at the pump, take your card into the station first. When you give your card to the attendant inside, the cashier should not preauthorize your card. Because they are holding your card, they don’t need to. After you pump your gas, the attendant will ring up the purchase for the exact amount spent. With no preauthorization of $50 to $100, there won’t be a hold on your funds. To be sure, it is less convenient for you to have to go inside, but if your balance is low on your card, it is worth doing. If you have plenty of funds on your card to cover the preauthorization, then you can benefit from the convenience of swiping at the pump.

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MiCash Inc.
P.O. Box 3528
Washington, DC 20027-3528