Read Reporter Nick Boyan's Experience
Bill Ratliff of The Missouri Bankers Association finally cleared everything up. He explained that most temporary holds are set in the contract between consumers and the financial institution when you set up a checking account with a debit card. Ratliff also said that electronic money transfer can be confusing, and in different situations, the gas company or the company that handles the electronic transfer can set the hold amount. Basically, there are many factors at play here.
The process of preauthorization temporary holds is legal and has been in practice since debit cards were introduced in the early nineties. Holds are not unique to gas stations, as they are also common practice at hotels and restaurants. At these businesses, the final total is not set in stone, so a set amount of money is held to ensure they get their money.
Most of the people I talked to said they do not receive many complaints about the practice, since most people have the funds to cover it, or the hold drops before they even notice. Some holds drop within minutes, but it could take up to four days. When I used my debit card at the pump, I checked my balance online and found a hold for one dollar in addition to the amount of gas I purchased.
It makes sense to have a hold to ensure businesses get their money, but it doesnt seem fair the only warning lies in the fine print of a debit card contract. If you are charged an overdraft fee, because of a temporary hold, talk to your bank since all service fees are up for review. The banks I talked to said they would be willing to reconsider service charges resulting from temporary holds. The Lewis family bounced a check because of this, but their bank did refund the charge once they explained the situation.
If I had to give advice from the many people I talked to in order to avoid holds on your account, stick to cash or credit at gas stations, hotels, and restaurants.