(WSVN) - Ever bought a few dollars’ worth of gas with your credit card, and when you checked your account noticed there was a separate pending charge of $100 or even $200? Is that legal? Let’s find out in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

You hear it all the time. To keep up with the crooks, you gotta go online and check your accounts.

Kenneth Butler: “I have my apps — my bank apps, my credit card apps — and I check them to make sure when I make purchases, they are as what they say they are.”

That brought Kenneth a shocker the other day, after he stopped to get gas, used his credit card to get $45 worth, and that night checked his account.

Kenneth Butler: “When I looked at the hold, the hold was $200, and I was like put off by that, because I’m like, ‘Two hundred dollars? There’s no reason for even that.’ I mean, $100 was pushing it.”

A $200 hold listed as a pending charge after getting gas.

Kenneth Butler: “Putting that kind of a high hold on somebody’s account for three to five business days is just absolutely outrageous.”

Let’s stop here. Howard, why is there often a pending charge on your credit or debit card when you buy gas?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It’s done to protect the gas station and the bank that issued the card from you exceeding the amount of money you are allowed to charge, or in the case of a debit card, the amount of money in your account.”

Kenneth had been hit with a $50 or $75 hold in the past, and he is not alone.

Kenneth Butler: “I’ve posted stuff on NextDoor when I first had this happen to me to kind of create awareness, and people have said they’ve seen holds on their debit card, too.”

Meaning, if you only have a couple of hundred dollars in your account, that $200 hold on a debit card can leave your broke or hit with overdraft fees.

It can also cause problems if you have a small limit on your credit card.

Kenneth Butler: “What if this was a $300 credit card limit account that I had, and the $300 was what I had to work with into my next paycheck? And now I have a $200 hole that I wasn’t expecting when I only spent $45.”

Needless to say, Kenneth was not happy after filling his tank.

Kenneth Butler: “I think it’s a little abusive on the gas station’s part to put that kind of a high hold.”

Well, Howard, is a hold legal? And how high can it go?

Howard Finkelstein: “It is legal to put a hold on your card, and there is no limit on the amount you can be hit with. If it causes you problems, call your card company to see if they will do something about it.”

Another solution if you are using a card: go inside and pay a specific amount. That way, a hold is not put on your card.

But if you don’t want to go inside a gas station, Kenneth has a suggestion for gas stations and credit card companies.

Kenneth Butler: “A good short-term solution would be to just give them a notification, ‘This is what we place. Do you wish to continue with a credit card?’ And give them the option to say, ‘OK, I don’t want to use a credit card if you’re going to charge that much.'”

How can it be legal to put a temporary charge on your credit card? Because so far, no state legislature has made it illegal, and they won’t, unless enough people complain.

A problem left you gassed? Don’t start running on fumes. Let us hold the problem. We don’t want credit. We don’t charge; we just want to pump up your spirits.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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