5 reasons there's a hold on your gift card
By Gwen Moran
I actually had to wait for the payment to fully process weeks later past the cancellation period before I could use the remaining amount on the card.
Gift card user
Hotels may keep the hold in place for as much as a week after checkout, in order to ensure that all applicable charges have come through. Once the merchant settles the actual amount of the transaction, the card issuer typically removes the hold the following business day. To find out specifics, check with both the hotel and the card issuer about their policies.
Rental car companies follow similar procedures to cover gasoline or other charges you may incur in using the car. But they may take even longer to remove a hold. Maher says he's seen cases where the rental car company hasn't presented the transaction for settlement until a month after the car was returned.
"Let's say somebody decided to use one of the toll passes that came with the car and all of a sudden, the tolls were charged to the car company," Maher explains. "That might not show up for 30 days."
One way around hotel and rental car holds: use a credit card to check in or rent the car, and use the gift card to make the final payment when you return the car or check out of the hotel.
3. Gas station purchases. Paying at the pump for gasoline can also result in a substantial and lengthy hold. Maher says gas stations can authorize up to $150 on your card, even if the purchase is just a fraction of that amount. That's because when you swipe your card at the pump before you fill up, the station doesn't know how much the final purchase will cost -- so it puts a hold on the card for a blanket amount, which isn't removed until the final transaction clears. While some of these holds resolve at the end of the day, others could take a day or two, depending on the merchant and the card company.
You can avoid such holds by paying the cashier in person after you've filled up, rather than paying at the pump.
4. Fraudulent activity. Sometimes, unsuspecting card users get burned by fraudulent activity, says Jeremy Levi, director of marketing at Brick, New Jersey-based CardCash.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling prepaid gift cards. If the card was purchased fraudulently and then sold to someone else, the buyer may find that the card has been invalidated. This often happens with cards purchased through online auctions or classified ads, Levi says.
In addition, some fraudsters peel back the security strip on prepaid cards available in grocery stores and steal the card numbers, then wait to use them until the cards have been purchased and activated by unsuspecting consumers. If you suspect that's happened, contact the card issuer to report the problem and determine how it can be resolved.
5. Refund processing. If you made a purchase with the card and then returned the item, you may find that it takes days, a week or even more time for the amount to be credited back to the card account. Until your card is credited, that amount will be unavailable to you.
In most cases, your funds will become available to you as soon as the transaction has been settled or a credit has been issued. However, if you have questions about the transactions or suspect fraudulent activity, contact the card issuer immediately to report the problem.See related: Gift card scammers skirt security with new tricks, Gift cards 2013: Reload, please, Cashless toll roads and rental cars: 6 tips