A new form of charge has been noticed by customers at some petrol stations across the country when they try to fill up by paying directly at the pump instead of inside the store. Customers reported having a £99 authorisation charge taken from their accounts by Asda on top of the filling up cost itself.

A large sum

Jade from Yorkshire bought £5 worth of petrol from Asda, only to discover that £99 had also been removed from her account. This charge is a new authorisation charge that is being trialled at a few stations in the North of England. While the money was later refunded to her, she was £99 short for 2-3 days.

Asda are placing this problem on the shoulders of Mastercard/Visa as they say that it is now industry standard. However, Asda didn’t inform anyone that this would happen and have covertly released the charge at three stations first and are looking to roll it out nationwide.

The rules behind it

Mastercard/Visa recently introduced a new pre-authorisation charge on all pay at pump transactions to ensure that a person has enough in their account to be able to afford the fill-up. The pre-authorisation charge is ring-fenced by the bank, rather than Asda, and is held until you have finished filling up. After you have finished filling it should be released although in this situation it took a few days for the funds to return.

Visa released a statement about the pre-authorisation charge here:

“The way that pay-at-pump fuel payments are treated has been standardised across the industry to ensure security for individual cardholders, retailers and card issuers.

“When an individual chooses to pay at a pay-at-pump fuel dispenser, an initial amount is held against their account while they dispense their fuel to ensure that they have sufficient funds to pay for the cost of their fuel. This initial amount should be adjusted immediately after fuel is dispensed to reflect the actual cost of the fuel.

“Visa has been working closely with card issuing banks to ensure that consumers do not experience delays in the adjustment of the initially-held amount, however if consumers notice that initial amounts held against their accounts are not adjusted immediately, they should raise this with their card issuing bank in the first instance.”

What other companies are doing

While Asda is the only one currently running this scheme, other retailers are aware of the changes, but have not implemented it yet.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said “We are aware Visa and Mastercard are rolling out an industry wide update for pay at pump machines. We are currently reviewing the update before any introduction at our petrol filling stations.”

BPme, the filling up app from BP, has a £100 pre-authorisation charge if you select full tank, otherwise it will pre-authorise the amount you select from within the app. This has been in place since they launched the app.

A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “At Morrisons Petrol Stations, the amount taken out of customers bank accounts should be the same as the amount they pay at the pump.”

Shell said that this wouldn’t affect customers when we asked, although their app terms and conditions state that “pre-authorisation happens with PayPal or your nominated financial institution (whichever is applicable) of the amount of money equal to the value of the offer…If the offer is rejected; cancelled by you or the site cashier; or automatically cancelled in the case of inactivity, the amount pre-authorised may be unavailable for use until the pre-authorisation has expired. Expiry times for pre-authorisation amounts can vary between financial institutions… You can dispense a maximum amount of fuel with a value equal to the pre-authorised amount of money and you will only be charged after the fuel has been dispensed.”

In a bid to stop people from buying petrol who don’t have the money, some banks have gone a step further to protect them. Basic bank account holders who don’t have overdrafts are struggling so Santander has blocked anyone with a basic debit card from using pay at the pump. Other banks such as Halifax and Lloyds have elected to block basic cardholders from using pumps that have not been updated to meet the new requirements. As not many forecourts have introduced the new £99 authorisation checks, this will no doubt affect a lot of people.

Can you get around this?

The simplest way is to avoid using pay at pump, while in some situations this may be impossible, there is often an alternative manned station in any part of the country.

However for some people pay at pump is the only option since Asda is usually the cheapest in an area and many of their sites are unmanned. There is nothing you can do to avoid the situation, but make sure that when you do fill up at a station that you have enough money in your account to cover the maximum amount it would cost you to fill up, which is £99.

While the amount ring fenced should be released straight after filling up and then the correct payment for fuel is taken, it can take between 2-5 working days for some banks to release the authorisation fee back to your account. Although we can understand why Visa/Mastercard are imposing this rule to ensure people can pay for what they fill up with, it is simply not acceptable that banks are holding onto authorisation funds and are not releasing it back the very same day.

PetrolPrices will keep monitoring the situation and report on further developments on this story as they emerge.

UPDATE Asda are withdrawing the trial until all banks can comply. An Asda spokesperson told MoneySavingExpert: “We always want to do the right thing for our customers, which is why we have made the decision to suspend Visa and Mastercard’s pre-authorisation transaction trial.

“The intention of Visa and MasterCard in this trial was to ensure customers had sufficient funds in their account to pay for their fuel, and the £99 would be immediately released back to customers by their bank.

“Whilst we have received very few complaints about this process until we can be given assurance that all banks are able to comply with the Visa and Mastercard rule change, we cannot continue to implement this change and risk harming our customers’ trust in us.”

Has this ever affected you? Would having a £99 charge affect you? Let us know in the comments below.

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