Pain at the Pump: Gas Stations Can Now Hold Up to $175 on Your Credit or Debit Card

Making a payment for gas at a fuel station.
Extreme Media / Getty Images

That joke about having to take out a loan to afford today’s sky-high gasoline prices might not be so far-fetched after all. Surging fuel prices convinced both Visa and Mastercard to place holds of up to $175 on customers’ cards when they swipe at the pump.

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Such holds are nothing new. They exist because gas stations don’t know how much fuel drivers will buy when they swipe and pump, so a hold is placed on the account for an amount set by the gas station, the Wall Street Journal reported. Gas stations then authorize the payment networks to lift the hold once the final total of the payment is determined.

The problem is that the holds might take many hours to settle. This raises the risk of overdraft penalties for debit-card users. For credit-card users, it might eat into credit limits.

Spokespersons at both Visa and Mastercard told Business Insider that their holds are typically lifted within two hours, though some holds last longer based on the payment network at the gas station.

Although holds have always been a part of fueling up, what’s different now is that gas prices are so high — the national average surged above $5 a gallon earlier this month — that Visa and Mastercard raised their hold limits to $175 from $125, Business Insider reported. That’s because typical gas transactions surpassed $125 for drivers with larger cars.

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“While fuel merchants have always had the ability to set their own pump shutoff limits, this change encourages fuel merchants to allow larger fuel purchases with reduced transaction risk,” a Visa spokesperson told Business Insider.

There are a couple of ways you can get around the holds. At many gas stations, the cashier can pre-authorize a smaller gas purchase, Kelley Blue Book reported. Instead of swiping your card at the pump, go inside and ask the cashier for a set amount from the pump you plan to use. They can pre-authorize just that amount.

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The other option, of course, is to prepay in cash. But you’ll have to walk inside the station to do so.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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