I’ve been getting gas at my local Costco ever since the wife and I moved in the area 8 months ago — its not always the cheapest in the area, but given Costco is only 5 minutes away from the house and the line isn’t too terribly crazy, its my usual prefer choice to get gas (I’m probably using it more to justify the Costco membership too).
Imagine my surprise today when I finally looked at my AmEx’s pending charges to find that Costco’s authorization hold at the gas pump is now at $150:
COSTCO GAS $150.00
A quick Google search shows that the authorization amount of $150 has been around since mid-2012, so that added even more to my surprise and made me feel a little bit out-of-touch.
For those that aren’t aware, preauthorization hold at gas station is pretty much standard practice, but it doesn’t seem like it was too long ago when the holds were only $50 at most. Somewhere along the way, they have quickly eclipsed $100 and became $150.
Now, a temporary $150 hold isn’t a big deal, given after a day or two the actual amount you’ve pumped will quickly replace the pending transaction showing up in your online account (so don’t worry if you think you’re being scammed by Costco or some such). Unless you’re driving a gas guzzler and gasoline is ridiculously priced in your area, you’re most likely paying well under $80 per full tank of gas.
The problem with these high authorization hold though is that sooner or later, using gift cards at the gas pump will no longer be an option. If your American Express gift card (or at other gas station, Visa/MasterCard) is under the authorization hold amount, the card will get a nice quick decline when you tried to swipe it at the pump.
Those with low credit limit on their credit card will have to also be mindful of their current available credit limit before they use their credit cards at the pump ($500 credit limit for students, those with no-credit aren’t too uncommon).
Hopefully the trend of high authorization hold will taper off, but given the ever rising cost of fuel prices, the outlook isn’t so good.
My Gasoline Spending Since April 2010
Here’s a random chart as an added tidbit to the post, showing my gasoline spending since April 2010. You can really see gasoline usage becoming more consistent after July of 2012 (no coincident that it was right after we bought our house). Based on what Mint.com is reporting, the average amount we spend on gasoline per month is $86 for the past 12 months:
This is probably a lot lower than most household as I work from home (the lack of a commute can be a real money saver). In comparison, for 2012 the average U.S. household was spending around $242 per month on gas, or $2,912 annually, according to latest report from the Energy Information Administration. At 4% of the mean household income (before taxes), its of little wonder we’re seeing more and more gas friendly vehicles on the market.