Debit card use freezes funds at pump

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Paying at the pump with a debit card could mean spending more than you bargained for. As the price of gas rose over the past few months, consumers were not the only ones digging deeper in their wallets.

"The credit card companies or banks put that hold after gasoline is dispensed the hold is released," said Brad Douglass, president of Douglass Distributing.

Lucinda Laro spent $80 filling up her car Saturday. She paid at the pump with her debit card, but she was charged $100 by her bank as a pre-authorization to make sure she had enough funds to cover the cost.

Ms. Laro is still waiting for that hold to be released.

"Well, I'm terribly angry about it, and I think that it is really depriving someone of their property for any amount of time without their knowledge," said Laro, who purchased gas with her debit card.

Laro says she did not see any notification that a hold would be put on her account if she used a debit card to pay at the pump. Douglass says gas stations do not have to tell you, but there is a way to avoid having a hold put on your account by paying inside.

"If you go inside, it automatically releases, but if you use the dispenser out here then you may have to wait 48 to 72 hours,” Douglass said.

As the Gulf Coast prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Ike, gas prices have increased once again.

"What you are seeing is the average gasoline prices have made the average transaction higher, so I think the banks are going to a higher preauthorization amount," said Douglass.

Officials say that they are working on software that will authorize a debit card transaction more quickly. Until then customers like Lucinda will just remain on hold.

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