If you ever use a debit card to buy gas, you may be familiar with stations temporarily holding $25 or $50 of your money, just to make sure you have enough funds to pay for your fill-up.
But that's nothing compared to what a Clermont County, Ohio woman was hit with when she recently bought gas at a Kroger fuel center.
Shari Renfro stopped to get gas at the Eastgate Kroger store off Rt. 32, swiped her debit card and pumped $47 worth of gas into her minivan.
But when her daughter ran into the store for a drink and snacks a few minutes later, she says the debit card, which had well over $100 on it, was empty.
"She said there was no money on it," Renfro said. "But I knew I had plenty of money on it."
Her debit card was hit with a $125 "hold," which prevented her from accessing that amount of money for a full day, she ays.
"They held $125, which cleared that account, which I think is wrong," Renfro said.
Not just Kroger
More and more gas stations are doing this, at higher and higher amounts, for one simple reason: to prevent drive offs, from people who don't have enough money on their card for a fill-up.
It's called a debit card "pre-authorization hold," and it is perfectly legal.
It can now range from $50 to $125 dollars, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Kroger's pumps now plainly state they may hold $125 for up to 2 days. We saw the sticker on the front of the Eastgate pumps explaining the hold, though Renfro said she never looked at it closely.
"My question is: where is that money? And their answer wa, it is floating in the cloud," Renfro said.
Kroger tells 9 On Your Side "we release the hold within a few minutes, but cannot control how long a bank controls the funds." (See full Kroger statement below)
Shari Renfro just wonders how many families tight on cash are hurt by this gas pump surprise.
"What about a single mother," she wondered. "It's your money and that was your money to get medicine, feed your children, etcetera."
One way to avoid this is to avoid using debit at a gas pump. Pay with cash or credit so you don't waste your money.
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Full Kroger Statement: Kroger is required by credit/debit card companies (Visa, MC, etc.) to do a pre-authorization amount for fuel purchases. They send us guidance on what those pre-authorization amounts should be – typically between $75-$150. Banks determine how long the pre-authorization hold will be on the card/account. Kroger has no control over how long a bank holds the funds in pre-authorization. We send the final amount within a few minutes of the transaction. Some banks release right away; others do not. We would prefer that they release the hold right away. Currently in Cincinnati, we have a pre-authorization for debit cards at fuel pumps for $125. We base that on the price of fuel, taking into account how it can fluctuate. Kroger Fuel Centers serve individual customers, in addition to commercial businesses/trucks, which can take a lot more to fuel then your standard vehicle. We continuously evaluate pre-authorization amounts and will adjust when needed