use a debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump, a restaurant meal, check
into a hotel or rent a car, the estimated amount of the transaction is usually
“blocked” from your credit line or checking account balance immediately as a
gas pump, expect your card to be charged anywhere from $1 to $125 or more as a
pre-authorization depending on the financial institution that issued the card.
renting hotel rooms or cars, ask representatives how much is being blocked on
your card to avoid potential problems.
cases, the amount blocked from your credit line or checking account balance may
remain for several days, depending on the card or financial institution’s
renting a car or hotel room, if you choose to pay your bill with the original
card, the block is usually removed within a day or two once the final charge
has been settled.
selecting a credit or debit card, ask the card issuer how long credit lines or
account balances are blocked for transactions.
pay your bill with a different credit card or cash, ask the representative if
they can release the block or “authorization.”
How card blocking works
When you use a debit or credit card, the merchant
contacts the card issuer electronically with the estimated cost. If the card
issuer approves the transaction, your available line of credit or checking
account balance is reduced by this amount. This is called a “block” or
At the gas pump or in a restaurant, this is usually a set
amount determined by the financial
institution that issued the card. In the case of renting a car or hotel room, this could be much more depending on the length of use or
stay. For example, if you check into a
$100-a-night hotel for five nights, at least $500 could be blocked
on your credit or debit card. In addition, hotel and car rental companies sometimes add extra
anticipated costs for incidentals such as food, beverages, or parking. These
amounts can vary widely among merchants.
If you pay your bill with the same card you used at the
beginning of the transaction, the final charge will replace the block,
typically within a day or two.
If, however, you use a different card, cash or check to pay the final bill, the block may remain after you checked out of the hotel or returned the
rental car. This occurs because the card issuer does not receive notice of the
final charge and is not aware the transaction has been
completed by another method of payment.
These blocks ensure that card holders do not use their
entire credit limit before checking out of the hotel or returning the rental
car, leaving the merchant unpaid. Most card issuers have automated processes to
release blocks that are not replaced by final charges after a
specific number of days. The number of days blocks are retained varies
among card issuers. You can contact your card issuer directly to find
out what their specific policies are.
Why card blocking can be a problem
Consumers who are far below their credit limit probably will
not be affected by card blocking. But for those close to their credit or
account balance limit, card blocking can present problems.
For example, consumers who need to use their cards for
emergencies may not have available
credit left to use because of a temporary block.
Consumers who pay for their hotel room or rental car with a
different method of payment than originally presented may also have problems.
They may not have access to the blocked funds for several days,
even though the bill has already been paid in full.
How to protect yourself
If you do not want the embarrassment or aggravation that
blocking may cause, you may want to:
how much will be held as a pre-authorization at the gas pump or in restaurant
to ensure that your credit or account balance will remain above zero. Check if
you can pay for gas inside to remove or reduce the pre-authorization amount.
paying for hotel or rental car expenses with the same card you used at the
beginning of the transaction.
check into a hotel ask the representative how much is being blocked on the card
and how that amount is determined.
pay with a different payment method, ask the representative if they can remove
the block or authorization.