If you use your debit card at the pump without entering your personal identification number, you may be in for a financial headache. Consumer advocates say it's a little known fact that stations "hold" or freeze money in your checking account for several days.
That hold can cause you financial nightmares like bounced checks and overdraft fees. Debbie Crisco, who lives in Edgecombe County, says that’s what happened to her. Crisco's bank statements show she purchased gas at the pump using her debit card four times over one weekend. Each time she filled up, an $85 hold fee was added to the purchase price.
How did it happen? One explanation, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research group, if there's a block on your account and you have checks come in at the same time, bounced check fees can stack up. The temporary hold fees implemented by the merchant wouldn't have wreaked such havoc on Crisco's finances if they had disappeared after several hours. But several days is how long the hold fees on her account took to clear.
The reasoning behind the hold fee policy, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research group, is that oil companies don't know how much gas you're going to pump. Only transactions with personal identification numbers are processed immediately. Other transactions are not cleared until the merchant does what's called a batch transaction, which typically is done every few days. To add insult to injury, Shell Oil tells us had Debbie ran her card as credit at the pump, or used her card inside as debit and entered her number, no hold fees would apply.
For more information on hold fees, click on the following link: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/credbloc.shtm