Visa tackles petrol pump charge holds in the US

After months of claiming it couldn't solve the issue, Visa's US operation has quietly changed the way its transaction authorisation system works in North America.

As anyone who has rented a car, stayed in hotel or filled their car up at an automated petrol station using a debit card (in the UK) may be aware, the merchant often places a shadow authorisation on the account's funds for up to two weeks, whilst the real transaction clears.

This is fine if the amounts match up, but it does mean that, if you gas your car up in the US, the petrol station owner gets an authorisation on your debit card for $75.00 and that money is effectively knocked off your available balance - even when the correct transaction (for say $64.38) goes through.

Visa has always claimed it couldn't release the hold on funds until the actually transaction went through, which can take several days - or weeks, in the case of international cards.

Now, apparently bowing to pressure from the public, the card company has solved the problem and claims that card holds, as they are known, at US petrol stations, will only last a few minutes.

But only at petrol stations. And in the US.

So how is Visa doing this? The card company won't say, but consumers are now asking, if Visa can do it for petrol purchases, then what about other transactions... ?