Big UK stores with fuel pumps are charging their customers who pay with their bank cards at the pump a staggering £99 regardless of how much fuel they actually buy.
That was the experience of this blogger who after work last night, stopped off at the Sainsbury’s fuel station on Purley way, Croydon Road and purchased £40 fuel using her mastercard for payment
On checking her account later the same night, she discovered to her horror that rather than the £40.01 that she actually spent, a total of £99 had been whipped out of her account.
As at the time of writing this article, the balance had not been refunded which means that Sainsbury’s had actually overcharged to the tune of £59!!!
Previous stories on this matter suggest that it doesn’t mean the store is overcharging, as the customer is refunded the difference between the £99 figure and the amount of petrol they actually buy
However, this can present problems for cash-strapped drivers, as there is a chance they will not be refunded for up to three days.
The reason supermarkets use “earmarked fees” for pay at the pump petrol is to make sure customers have enough money in their account to cover the cost of a large fill.
It works by applying ‘pre-authorisation checks’ on customers, which essentially sets money aside from an account to pay for the fuel.
However, due to new rules from Visa and Mastercard, petrol stations are now charging higher figures than the £1 previously charged and refunded.
She described the process as an “absolute joke” on Facebook, adding: “Don’t go to Asda for fuel unless you can live without £99 for around 2-3 days.”
ASDA told Mirror Money: “This is an industry-wide policy change from MasterCard and Visa in coordination with customers’ banks to ensure that customers have sufficient funds in their accounts prior to buying petrol.
“This amount is ‘ring-fenced’ by banks but immediately made available again to customers.
“The money is never taken or held by Asda.”
Here’s how Sainsbury’s explains it: “The ‘earmarked’ value is never actually taken by the bank, or touched in any way by Sainsbury’s.
“It’s put into a ‘holding’ position before it’s replaced by the amount you paid for your fuel, and then disappears from your statement.”
But they did not explain why it has to take over 12 hours before this replacement is carried out.
MasterCard also argued that this has been introduced to ensure drivers can’t buy more fuel than they can afford.
A spokesperson said that if drivers don’t have the required funds in their bank account to meet this higher figure, then petrol stations can check precisely what funds they do have available, and then dispense a lower value of fuel.
They added: “While some customers may see a request for a higher amount than the fuel they bought – perhaps on their mobile banking app – these funds are not taken from their account.
“Only the value of the petrol dispensed is withdrawn.”
But this statement is basically false because in my experience, it has been well over 12 hours and my statement still reads that a £99 authorisation fee was taken out but the £40 charge for actual fuel bought is not showing.
This system has caused particular problems for the millions of people with basic bank accounts, which don’t have overdrafts.
Because many forecourts haven’t actually got round to introducing the new rules from Visa and MasterCard, which require these larger pre-authorisation checks, a number of banks have elected to block these account holders from being able to pay at the pump entirely, in a bid to stop them spending money they don’t have.