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How To Avoid Credit Card Blocking Part 2

Updated on February 27, 2010

Many people don't know when they plunk their card into the gas pump slot that even if they're only going to pump $10 worth of fuel into their tanks, many gas companies will block $200 or more! So let's say that you drive around for a few days and put in $10 every morning. By the end of the week you could find that you have absolutely no credit available on a card with a $1,000 that was perfectly clear at the beginning of the week. Extremely frustrating to say the least!

On normal credit card statements where there is plenty of available credit, this transaction (block) never even appears, a typical consumer wouldn't even know about it. But if a consumer is close to the credit limit or using a debit card that could be mistaken for a credit card, it's another story, and one where extreme caution should be used.

Why it Happens

Credit card blocking is a form of pre-authorization. It can happen anytime you're reserving something that you're going to use later like a hotel, car or boat. It makes sense for businesses, because they're guaranteeing that they will be paid if you don't show up or if you've "maxed" out the limit on your credit cards. And credit card blocking is perfectly legal. The problem, of course, is that most consumers don't realize it happens, and that blocks can last for so long.

How to Avoid Problems

If you pay your bill with the same credit card you used to reserve the service, the final charge will most likely replace the block in a day or two, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But if you pay your bill with a different credit card or with cash, check or a debit card, the credit card company of the card you used at the reservation might hold the block for up to 15 days after you've checked out. That's because the company wasn't notified of the final charge and didn't know you used another method of payment. However, there are always exceptions to every rule and many exceptions to this one. I've seen blocks linger for almost a full month even when it was a completely innocent usage.

One final word to the wise: If you are traveling (which is when many blocks occur), always carry at least one credit card with you, but use the same one for all related transactions, beginning to end.

Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of Credit Card Blocking

1. Understand that credit card blocking can and will happen.
2. Know how you want to pay for the final transaction before you reserve the service.
3. Do not use debit cards for reserving any service (i.e., hotel, rental car or boat).
4. If you use a credit card to pay for the service, always use the same one with which it was reserved.
5. Ask how much of a block is being put on your credit card.
6. Ask how long the block will appear.
7. If you pay the balance with a different credit card, cash, check or debit card, ask the clerk to remove the block.
8. Check with your credit card company to be sure that the block was removed.
9. Carry the credit card's 800 customer service number with you at all times.

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