Paying for your petrol or diesel at the pump – rather than paying the cashier inside the filling station – can leave you without access to money in your bank account.
More and more filling stations are offering this seemingly easy service where you can choose to pay in advance at the pump before putting fuel into your car. When you do that, the retailer tells your bank to ringfence up to £120 to make sure you have sufficient funds to pay for a big fill up – around 80 litres at today’s prices.
Once you’ve put in the fuel you need, the actual cost should be debited from your card and – in theory – the ringfence should be removed within a few minutes. However, that doesn’t always happen: sometimes the ringfence stays in place for a couple of days, which can leave you without access to all that money. And if it’s more than you have in your account you are effectively shut out from your own funds.
For example, let’s say a few days before your salary goes in you have just £40 in your account. You need some fuel to take the children to school or run errands. While you might carefully put petrol worth just £20 in the tank, leaving £20 in your account to spend over the next day or so, the pump will automatically secure enough money to fill up an SUV. If you have less than the required amount in your account, the retailer will want to ensure that you really can pay. And only when the £20 payment is fully cleared will the ringfence be removed.
Unfortunately, there are instances where that does not happen straightaway and it can take 48 hours or more. Until it does, you will be unable to access the remaining £20. Paying at the pump is undoubtedly convenient but some filling stations now offer no other way to pay. That saves the cost of employing staff, especially at night or a weekend. But you could lose out if you are close to your limit on your card. It’s much safer to find a garage with a cashier so you are only charged for the actual cost of the fuel you have bought.