Drivers around the country have reported being hit by surprise fees on their bank accounts when filling up at supermarket petrol stations.
Motorists using the pay-at-pump service at Morrison filling stations are the latest to complain of having additional fees added to their payment but the issue is also affecting drivers filling their cars at Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s forecourts.
The new fees appear as a £99 pending charge on statements and while the money never leaves a driver’s account some motorists have reported issues making other purchases while the money is tied up in pending status.
What is the fee?
The £99 fee is a pre-authorisation charge applied to make sure drivers can cover the cost of their fuel.
The fee was previously £1 and was there to ensure the card was valid but late last year it was increased to be an “available funds” check.
It means that when you use your card at a pay-at-pump machine, your bank is asked to authorise a payment up to £99. If you have sufficient funds the payment is allowed and you’ll be able to fill up. If you have less than £99, your bank will communicate this to the payment terminal and your fill up will be capped at the balance of your account.
Once you’ve filled up, the actual cost of your fuel is deducted from your account and the balance of the pre-authorisation charge is released.
The money never leaves your account but it is ringfenced and can’t be spent until the funds are released. This usually happens within a few minutes but some drivers have reported it taking up to 48 hours.
A spokesman for Mastercard said: “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 Only the value of the petrol dispensed is withdrawn.”
Why has the fee changed?
The change was implemented by card providers Visa and Mastercard last year and the supermarkets have since begun to roll it out across their pay-at-pump services.
The card providers say the new charge helps motorists manage their budget by stopping them from going into unarranged overdrafts. It also benefits fuel retailers by ensuring drivers can’t take more fuel than they can afford.
Mastercard’s spokesman added: “If customers don’t have the required funds in their bank account, a further step is available to petrol stations which allows them to check what available funds a customer has, enabling a lower value of fuel to be dispensed.”
Which supermarkets are charging the fee?
The new charge is being rolled out by all of the UK’s “big four” chains - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons as they implement the changes from the card providers.
Can I avoid the pre-authorisation charge?
The pre-authorisation fee is only applied at pay-at-pump machines, so you can avoid it by paying for your fuel at the filling station kiosk instead.
If you have used a pay-at-pump machine and the funds haven’t been released quickly, you should contact your bank and ask them to immediately reverse the charge.
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