ANJ Investigates

Send Ben: Fueling Frustration: VyStar debit card issues uncovered at gas pumps

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The price at the pump was bad enough, there was also a problem for people like Susan Pai.

“This fueling frustration for you?” asked Action News Jax Ben Becker.

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“Yes, absolutely it is,” Pai said.

She attempted to buy gas at a Gate station in St. Johns County. She tried three times, but the purchase didn’t go through and she did not get any fuel.

“Later on that day, I had $375 in charges frozen on my account,” Pai told Action News Jax’s Ben Becker.

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That’s right, $375 for gas she never got -- what appeared to be three different charges of $125 each.

“At first I thought it was a credit card skimmer or criminal fraud,” Pai said.

But it wasn’t a fraud. It was VyStar.

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An Action News Jax Investigation found VyStar was not releasing pending holds on the accounts of some customers who made pin-based debit purchases at fuel pumps.

And the pending holds were lasting up to three days instead of two hours, which is beyond what’s allowed by Visa and Mastercard.

The result? The potential for overdraft fees on customers’ accounts.

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The gas station determines how much of a pre-authorization hold to place on your card to make sure the card is valid and has enough funds, but a bank controls releasing the hold.

The maximum hold allowed by Visa and Mastercard was increased earlier this year from $125 to $175 because of soaring gas prices.

Patrick De Haan with Gas Buddy said people can be vulnerable to overdraft fees even if the hold is lifted by a bank within the required two hours.

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“It may not be bad to pay in cash next time if you are finding it hard and those credit limits impacted you negatively,” De Haan said.

Action News Jax first reported in May that VyStar customers were having separate online and mobile banking issues that took a month to be resolved.

VyStar told Action News Jax Investigates this new issue began approximately on August 10, but it’s unclear how many customers were impacted.

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VyStar issued a statement:

“All VyStar debit and credit card transactions at gas stations are operating as normal. In the past week, we learned of and investigated an isolated situation where canceled PIN-based debit transactions at fuel pumps led to a hold that could last up to three days. We worked with our card processors to implement a correction to the isolated incidents on August 18.

“As is common practice, holds are placed on pre-authorized transactions. Once the transaction is complete, holds are immediately cleared. Pre-authorization amounts vary by merchant based on a gas station’s pump sales limits.”

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According to the National Conference of State Legislatures over the past two decades, 17 states including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, have introduced bills to regulate any and all kinds of debit hold.

But only Connecticut and Tennessee have laws that limit the amount gas stations can hold and they require notice when placing holds of certain amounts.

Pai contacted Vystar.

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“I was able to call corporate and get them to reverse the charges,” Pai said. “But I’m a lawyer and had the time to do that. Not everyone has the option to do that.”

VyStar said if you have any questions or concerns, visit a VyStar branch or call the Contact Center at 904-777-6000 or 800-445-6289. It’s open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding holidays.

In addition, you can reach out to Ben Becker at SendBen@ActionNewsJax.Com.

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

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