Bowing to pressure from debit card punters in the US, Visa seems to have pulled a rabbit out of the hat and has changed its shadow authorisation procedures at fuel stations across North America.
As previously reported, Visa debit card holders were reporting that their current account money was being `held' for up to a week after they visited a gas station and bought their fuel.
Unlike in the UK, where sales staff are more trusting, the standard procedure in the US is to visit the cashier and `swipe' your card for a given authorisation level - typically $50 - and only then can you buy your fuel.
Of course, because the amount of fuel you buy doesn't come to $50 exactly, it's difficult for card issuers to marry up the transaction and the authorisation - and so free up your account.
So, basically, if you buy $30 worth of fuel, your account gets dibbed for the $30 and a further $50 is held in abeyance for around a week.
For a lot of Americans who gas up their car with small amounts this can really knacker (that's an accounting term -Ed) their bank accounts, so Visa has done the apparently impossible and speeded up
authorisation matches to the same day, even where the amounts differ.
But only for gas stations in North America.
Visa claims that matches are now possible under ideal conditions within ten minutes of the fuel purchase - and typically within a couple of hours.
So, if they can do it for gas stations, how about other retail transactions - and in the UK as well?...