A Facebook post went viral after a consumer saw a £99 debit on her online bank when she bought petrol at the pump from Asda at the weekend.
The mother-of-two’s complaint about £99 being taken from her was shared widely on social media.
But the money never left her account, according to the supermarket and banks.
The £99 is in effect a holding charge introduced to help cut down fraud and stop people inadvertently going into the red.
The pre-authorised amount is cancelled as soon as the correct value is paid.
Change in the rules
A Mastercard spokesperson told the BBC: “Last year, a change in industry rules meant that petrol stations with automated fuel pumps were required to pre-authorise a value equivalent to a full tank of fuel, so that customers didn’t fill up with more fuel than they could afford.”
Under the previous system, motorists had just £1 taken from their accounts as a pre-authorisation to confirm that their card was valid.
The new system is designed to protect consumers and the petrol station, according to Mastercard.
“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,” the spokesperson explained.
In short, that means that if you only have £40 available in your account, you will only be able to buy £40-worth of petrol, under the new system.
Asked about the £99, 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 Only the value of the petrol dispensed is withdrawn.”
In other words, the money never leaves a consumer’s account – only the actual amount they spend is taken.
£99 Asda shock
Jade Louise got a shock when she viewed her online statement after buying a fiver’s worth of petrol at Asda in Dewsbury over the Bank Holiday weekend.
She used the pay-at-the-pump system which allows motorists to buy petrol without having to go into a kiosk.
“All I wanted to do was top up my almost full tank, because having two children, you never know when you’ll need it,” she told the BBC.
“Anything could happen over the next few weeks that might mean I can’t afford to put fuel in, so as a precaution to make sure I can get me and my children from A to B, I sometimes top up silly amounts like £5 to keep it at full.”
So when she saw the £99 pending transaction (pictured above) on her account, she took to Facebook to warn others of the charge.
She said: “I’ve been told the money doesn’t actually leave your account, it’s just ring-fenced until Asda claim the second transaction of the actual amount of fuel you took. Regardless, for three days I was unable to access my money.”
Asda said: “We take any customer complaint seriously, but it’s important to clarify that at no point has Asda taken or held Jade Louise’s money as a result of this transaction.
“Visa and MasterCard have increased the minimum pre-authorisation amount at pay at the pump petrol pumps for all retailers and unfortunately, there seems to have been a delay in Jade Louise’s bank releasing the hold.”
The supermarket said it was unaware of anyone else having any problems using the system.
Even though the new higher pre-authorisation level was set last year, it is only now being introduced. Asda is trialling it at three sites over the next two months at petrol stations in Dewsbury, Barry and Widnes.
It is likely to be introduced more widely and at rival supermarkets when their petrol stations are upgraded.