Fueling up at the pump could cost you more than you think

SALT LAKE – Before you pay at the gas pump, Jason Kibbee hopes you’ll think twice.

“Anytime I hear someone say, ‘Oh, I got to stop and get gas,’ I [say], don’t pay at the pump!” Kibbee feels it’s more of a statement than a recommendation, and there’s a reason why.

“My wife and I were on the way to Salt Lake for a doctor’s appointment,” Kibbee adds. “We had about $70 in our bank account, and we stopped to get some gas to make it to Salt Lake, and the rest was going to our copay.” Kibbee said he and his wife were headed to a maternity appointment.

“When we got to the doctor, our card was declined,” he said.

He’s not alone.

“I stop at Flying J, and fill up my tank on a Friday night,” said Delene Jones. She said she put in less than $40. “Sunday, I decided to go to Maverick to get a drink and my card is declined.”

Both were puzzled as to why, until they went home and pulled up their bank accounts. Kibbee said there was a hold for $150, and Jones said there was a hold for $131.67.

“It was such an odd amount that I thought it was fraudulent,” Jones said.

If this sounds familiar, Chuck Groat says it’s common, and it’s not fraud. Groat is the Vice President of Bank Card Risk and Operations for Zions Bank.

“It’s a hold the merchant puts on the account, because they don’t know how much the customer is going to pump,” Groat said.

However, it’s the amount of each hold and how long those holds last that seem to be troubling most customers.

“I would say 75 percent  to 80 percent we see are $1, but we definitely see some stations up to $500, and everything in between,” Groat added. “You get into the $125, $200, $500.”

“Or in my case, $1000,” said Ryan Willden who pulled in to a Flying J in Lakepoint.

“I swiped my card, realized it wouldn’t reach, turned my truck around and came back to swipe again,” he added. Willden has a diesel truck and has to use an additive. It only costs about $15, but you can only find it over where the commercial trucks fill up. Over there, there’s a $500 hold.

“You’d think they’d have to put signs on the pump,” Kibbee questions.

They do put them on, but at Flying J, the font is so small and faded it’s hard to see the message reading:

“Your card may have a pre-authorization hold recommended by your card issuer which is higher than the amount of your transaction. The length of the hold is set by your card issuer and/or your bank.”

“It also depends on how quickly the merchant processes,” Groat adds. “Merchants may take up to three days to even post the transaction in the first place.”

Meaning, when it comes to how long the holds last, it’s a combination of banks and gas stations that determine when they are lifted.

The easiest way to avoid any of these holds is to simply prepay inside the store, and skip the pump altogether.