When a consumer uses a credit or debit card to purchase gas, there is often an authorization hold placed on the card which authorizes electronic transactions of a specified amount (usually more than the expected transaction amount) and holds this balance until the transaction clears.
For example, a gas station may place a $100 hold when authorizing the card even if the consumer only intends to purchase $50 worth of gas. The $100 hold will remain until the transaction clears, which can take 48-72 hours.
Gas stations place holds to ensure full payment for the gas purchase because they do not know at the beginning of the transaction how much gas will be purchased. Rest assured, gas stations do not keep the difference between the hold amount and the amount purchased.
In general, holds involving PIN-based debit transactions are cleared almost immediately. The more lengthy holds generally occur with non-PIN debit transactions.
We recommend making a PIN-based transaction whenever possible for both enhanced security and avoidance of temporary holds on your funds.
Debit PIN Transactions
Although gas stations still place holds on debit cards when consumers use a PIN-based transaction, these holds are often cleared instantaneously after the transaction. This is because the money is being immediately deducted from the bank account.
With PIN-based transactions, if a gas station sets its hold amount too high, it could deny potential consumers because the amount of the hold must be available in the account. For example, a consumer with $50 in their bank account would not be able to get $20 of gas if the station requires a $100 hold.
Debit Non-PIN Transactions
Even when a consumer uses their debit card like a credit card, non entering a PIN, they must still have that amount in the bank account. A problem may arise when a consumer attempts to use their debit card for a specified amount (which they have in the bank) but a hold is placed on the card for a higher amount.
Additionally, a consumer who purchases gas may have to wait up to 48-72 hours for the transaction to clear and is unable to use the amount of the hold.