Here’s why you might see a huge credit card charge after filling up your car

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Do not panic, you are not necessarily debited the full amount.


Key points

  • If you buy gas using a credit card, you may see higher charges upfront.
  • This is a temporary hold and you will only have to pay for the gasoline you actually buy.

For months, American drivers have struggled with rising gas prices. Add general inflation and many people are racking up higher credit card tabs to cover essential expenses.

But now, filling up your car could lead to even higher, albeit temporary, credit card charges. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t panic if you see a big credit card charge

When you use a credit card to fill up your car, gas stations are allowed to block your card for a certain amount. The Wall Street Journal reports that Visa and Mastercard recently increased this hold limit to $175. This means that even if you only fill up $60 with gas, you may temporarily see much higher charges on your card.

The good news is that in the end, you won’t have to pay for more gas than you actually take at the pump. But the bad news is that the hold placed on your credit card for this higher amount could last for several hours or even days. And that could prove problematic if you’re nearing your spending limit and your billing cycle isn’t complete.

So, let’s say a gas station puts a temporary hold of $175 on your credit card when your bill is only $75. Let’s also say you have a few days left in your billing cycle and the $175 charge puts you at your spending limit. This means that if you need to charge $125 for groceries on the same day, you may not have the option. It is therefore important to pay attention to temporary deductions for fill-ups, even if this money is ultimately refunded to you.

Does it pay to refuel with a credit card?

Using a credit card at the pump has its advantages. For one thing, many credit cards offer cash back for gas fill-ups. This is a good way to offset higher gas costs.

But it’s also worth noting that some gas stations offer a steep discount on cash fill-ups. So you’ll need to crunch the numbers to see if you’re winning financially by getting cash back on your credit card rather than paying a lower price per gallon upfront.

In the meantime, if you don’t like the idea of ​​having a large hold placed on your credit card for refueling, you can always ask a gas station employee to pre-authorize a smaller transaction (that’s i.e., place a smaller hold on your card). But if you’re in a rush and need to refuel quickly, this is a time-consuming step you might not want to take.

That said, if you’re usually not close to reaching your credit card limit, a temporary hold — even a larger one — may not be a problem for you. But if you’ve been cutting it lately, you’ll definitely need to start being careful after swiping your credit card at the pump.

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