Petrol stations - Pre-authorising cards

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Pay at the pump and pre-authorisation of cards

Huge numbers of petrol stations now allow you to ‘pay at the pump’ by putting in your credit or debit card in to a reader, entering your PIN before filling your tank. In order to stop the spread of stolen cards, a £1 pre-authorisation charge used to be taken. However, some supermarkets have introduced at £99 charge that is ‘frozen’ on your account so the petrol station knows you have enough cash to pay for the amount of petrol you use.

The problem with pre-authorisations is the money – in this case £99 – is held on your account, preventing you from using it. As soon as the transaction is complete, this ‘hold’ should be released, leaving you with access to these funds. Delays can occur, leaving you unable to access your money.

Consumer advice

If a brand, like a big supermarket, is allowing this form of payment then you have every right to take a complaint up with them if you can’t access your own money.

In practice, the simplest way to resolve this is to contact your card provider and ask them to credit you with the missing sum until the pre-authorisation clears. The firm should then take back the credit it has advanced you.

You might need to keep an eye on your spending because there’ll be a point when you have the credit in your account and the authorisation clears. You’ll be responsible if you overspend.

If the business refuses to credit you with the missing sum, then you can make a complaint and potentially go to the financial ombudsman.

On a wider note, banks and businesses should not be able to hold on to your money without permission – even if there’s a mistake. And wherever there’s a pre-authorisation, you should be told in advance so you have a choice before giving the firm your business.


You should know
  • Petrol pumps are checked for accuracy when they are installed and serviced
  • Trading Standards will also check the accuracy of pumps. If you experience issues, you should report the issue to your local Trading Standards. You can do this via resolver
  • All pricing should be clearly displayed to you before your purchase 
  • If you experience any problems, raise them while you are still at the petrol station and take down the name of the person that you spoke with. If your problem is not resolved at the station, you can raise a complaint via resolver

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