Using debit cards at gas pumps can cost more than you realize

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's a no-brainer: you pull up to the gas pump and pull out a debit card. You probably don't think twice about using it, but maybe you should.

"It comes out right then. I know when I put my PIN number in, that's gonna come out of my account then," Brad Pugh of Senatobia said.

More may be coming out then you think. That $30 or $40 tank of gas can mean more than $30 or $40 from your bank account.

"It could cost you problems when you are out there trying to use your debit card to make transactions and it's declined and you have no idea what's causing that and you know you are supposed to have that money in the bank," Faye Carson of Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions said.

Carson said when you use debit, banks want to make sure they get their money. To do that, they put a block-hold on your card, increasing your gas purchase by $30 to even $100.

It's temporary, but it could be up to a week the money is held out of your account.

"It presented a problem with my college child. She actually has overdrawn our account before with  that hold being put on our account because they allowed other things to clear that have gotten to it first," Lee Henry of Germantown said.

"It can cause problems, bounced checks, and it could cause you to lose money out of your pocket by just not knowing that this could happen," Carson said.

If fact, banks often don't tell you. Some gas stations will, if you pay attention to the signs while pumping, telling you a hold of $1 to $125 may be applied to your account.

"It takes mine almost a week and a half for it to come out of my bank. It will show up as a dollar, and then a week and a half later it will finally come out. So I always use cash," Emily Jasper of East Memphis said.

That may be one of the best ways to avoid the hold. Pay with cash or, as an alternative, pay inside with your debit card instead of at the pump.

"When you're outside, that is the reason for the hold. They don't know how much you are gonna be pumping. That's the reason for the cushion," Carson said.  "Consumers really need to know what is really going on when you swipe that card at the gas tank."

Credit experts say your other option is to use a credit card at the pump. Credit payments won't put a hold on your checking account.

4 comments

  • Lesley

    if you use your debit card with your PIN then it wont charge you that max hold. Only if you dont use your PIN. So I only go to gas stations that allow me to put my PIN in like Kroger. If it doenst allow me to put my PIN in then I pay inside.

  • Johnny

    I’ve used my debit exclusively for everything the last 14 years.
    Keep a fixed cushion like $200.(or higher) That is your 0 balance.
    It’s also nice to have a savings account at the same bank. That will auto pull out of, if you should over draw your checking account.

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