If you buy your gas at Kroger fuel centers, watch out for a bigger hold fee on your debit or credit card, starting this week.
As gas prices soar, those hold fees are rising too.
Linda Begley of Middletown stopped to fill up her gas tank at a nearby Kroger recently.
But she says the gas pump hit her debit card for $125, almost draining her checking account.
"They put a $125 hold on a $32 gas purchase which was like four times the amount of my gas," she said.
It's called a "pre-authorization hold, " and they are getting bigger as gas prices rise.
Shortly after Begley filled her car, Kroger raised the temporary hold on debit cards from $125 to $150, meaning you must now have $150 in your checking account to buy gas.
Kroger says this benefits shoppers in the end, because it now allows you to fill a large pickup truck or van and get your Kroger Fuel Points discount. (See below for full Kroger statement).
But it was still a shock for Begley.
Luckily for her , the charge was removed 24 hours later.
What happens if your bank account is low
But Begley wonders what would have happened had she needed her money that night. Her account would have been precariously low.
"It really leaves people in a precarious situation if you need food, medicine, stuff for the baby or something."
So why do pump holds exist in the first place?
Experts say it's a security measure to make sure you can afford that expensive fillup and are not going to drive away with free gas.
Nathan Grant of MoneyTips.com said, "When you pull up to the pump they don't know if you're gonna be putting in $10, which I know is a rare occasion nowadays with the price of gas, but you could be getting a little bit, or you could be filling up the entire tank."
Grant says a hold can happen with a credit or debit card.
There's no industry standard, so holds can range from $20 to $100 ($50 is the most popular amount).
The gas station decides the amount, but your bank makes the hold.
What you can do to protect yourself
So how can you avoid it?
Grant says pay with cash, or pay inside.
"If you park and go inside and pay at the register, that will alleviate the hold, too," he said. "It's literally just for paying at the pump, using the terminal itself with your card and everything."
And don't be surprised by other hold charges as you travel this summer: They're also common when booking a hotel room or rental car.
Linda Begley wants to warn others.
"I feel bad for people whose account bounces and they are charged fees," she said,
That way you don't waste your money.
FULL KROGER STATEMENT:
Kroger remains committed to providing its customers savings at the pump. Due to rising fuel costs, customers were not able to fill up before hitting the $150/$125 credit/debit limit. In order to ensure customers are taking full advantage of their fuel points savings, we allowed the limits to be raised. Customers have the option to preset the pump for any dollar amount by prepaying at the kiosk.
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 $150. 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
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