Debit Card Holds When You Pay at Pump

June 2, 2011 22:57 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Last week I used my debit card to pay for $35 worth of gas.  The next day when I went to buy groceries, my card was declined.  I called my bank and discovered that the gas station had placed a $100 “hold” on my account, reducing my account balance to nearly zero.  Are they allowed to do that?


Consumer Ed says:

Yes—at least for now.  Although it seems unfair, gas companies justify this to make sure they are paid when consumers take advantage of pump-based debit card transactions, which usually do not require a PIN number and often take days to process.

What likely happened was when you swiped your debit card at the gas pump, the transaction verified that you had money in your account but could not predict how much money you would need to pay for the gas that you were about to pump.  This unknown is why the debit card swipe automatically placed a $100 hold on your account—which prevented you from buying groceries the next day.  This hold lasted so long because such non-PIN number transactions often take days to process.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself:

  • If you must use a debit card, pay inside where the cashier can verify the amount of your purchase and thus allow a PIN number transaction—which processes immediately and does not result in an unfair hold on your account.
  • If you pay at the pump, use a credit card.  Although gas companies also place holds on credit card limits, such limits do not usually prevent access to your credit line.
  • Pay with an oil company credit card because most oil companies do not place holds on their customers’ credit card limits.
  • Pay with cash.  This may save you money because some gas stations give discounts if you pay with cash.

 

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This


High Gas Prices: Is it Price Gouging?

March 10, 2011 17:50 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

At $3.65 per gallon, it seems like the gas stations are just using the situation overseas to make a higher profit at the expense of consumers.  Not to mention, just blocks away, another gas station is charging $0.20 less per gallon. I’ve heard that this isn’t price gouging, but that can’t be right, can it? And if it isn’t, what do people like me do to be able to afford gas?

Consumer Ed says:

What you’ve heard is correct. Georgia’s price gouging law is only activated during a declared state of emergency. And in order for gas prices to be covered, the Governor must specify fuel as one of the goods and services to which the “price gouging” law applies.  Since Georgia is not under a state of emergency, the gas station is not price gouging.

When there is no state of emergency, the free market allows gas stations to set their own prices. They do so based on various factors, such as supply and demand, the price of oil, transport costs, refinery problems, what the competition is charging, as well as the political happenings in the Middle East.

As a consumer, you can ease some of the pain of rising fuel prices by shopping around for the lowest price per gallon via websites such as gasbuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com.

In addition, you can improve your fuel economy by following these tips*:

  • Slow down. According to the EPA, every five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents a gallon for gas.
  • Drive smoothly. Frequent starts and stops can reduce mileage by 2 to 3 miles per gallon, so avoid tailgating and slow your rate of acceleration from a stoplight.
  • Combine small trips. Half of all car trips are less than 6 miles. Since driving with a warm engine saves gas and limits engine wear, try to string your errands together.
  • Don’t be idle. Shut off the engine if you’ll be idling for more than 30 seconds.
  • Lighten your load. At highway speeds, more than half of the engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag. If taking a trip, keep luggage inside the vehicle rather than strapping it to the roof. Remove unnecessary items, especially heavy ones, from your car and trunk so that your engine doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Proper maintenance. Regular tune-ups, oil changes, replacement of air filters and keeping your tires properly inflated can all help improve your fuel economy.
  • Economy cars. If you’re buying a new car, consider a hybrid or other model that’s received high ratings in fuel economy.
  • Consider alternatives. Take public transportation or arrange to car pool. For short trips in your neighborhood, walk or ride a bicycle; you’ll save on gas and get a work-out!

 

*Source: Consumer Reports, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This


Gas station charging exorbitant prices

November 4, 2010 07:37 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

The gas station on the corner is charging 30 cents more per gallon than other places in the area.  Isn’t that price gouging?

Consumer Ed says:

Not unless there’s been a state of emergency declared by the Governor.  And even then, maybe not. Georgia’s price-gouging law only applies during a declared state of emergency. While the price gouging statute is in effect, gas stations may raise their prices, but only by the amount that their cost goes up when they receive a new shipment. For example, if a station’s overall costs for its fuel increases by thirty cents a gallon, then the station can raise its retail fuel prices thirty cents—but no more, or the station will be violating the Fair Business Practices Act. 

Remember – during a state of emergency, you may see a station charging more than other stations in the area, but that does not necessarily mean that the station is price-gouging.  The amount stations pay to buy gasoline can vary greatly.

Call the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection at 1-800-869-1123 if you are unsure of whether the price-gouging statute is currently in effect.  If it is, report any incidences that seem out of the ordinary (e.g., prices-per-gallon that rise by more than a third within a short period of time). 

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This


Credit/Debt
nav_cap