Tuesday, July 30, 2013

7 Easy Tips to Fight Credit Card Blocking

Have you ever had a “hold” place on your credit score?  If so, you were a victim of credit card blocking. Credit card blocking occurs when a business places a hold on your credit card sometimes for more than the total amount that is owed for a reservation such as a hotel or rental car.  Some companies that use credit card blocking are Diners Club cards and Visa.  When you use your credit card at registration for a hotel or to rent a car, the cashier will contact your credit card company and provide an estimated total of your bill. If the transaction is approved, then that amount is held in reserve. In addition to the actual cost of staying in the hotel or renting a car the clerk may add on reasonable "incidental" costs for items such as food or gasoline.  

Some experts believe that credit card blocking is helpful because it makes sure you don't exceed your credit limit before checking out or returning a car.  Using credit card blocking means that the company you receive these services from can be assured that your bill will be paid. If your balance is far enough below your limit you usually will not have a problem. Unfortunately, if your balance is near the credit limit, it may be an inconvenience by tying up credit that you may need and can cause a denied transaction for an item that is purchased after the block is placed.

If you pay the bill with the same credit card used when you checked in or returned the car, the purchase will replace the block usually in one or two days. However, if you pay using a different credit card or with cash the block may be held for up to 15 days after you've checked out. This happens because your credit card company was not notified that you used another form of payment and assumed they had to continue to hold that amount in reserve on your credit card. This can be avoided by asking the merchant to notify your credit card company and remove their block promptly.  Here are 7 ways to protect yourself against credit card blocking:

1.      Pay for a hotel or rental car with the same card you used at check-in.
2.      Ask the merchant the amount that will be blocked, how they determined the amount blocked and the time period the block will be held.
3.      Use two credit cards, one to make a reservation and one to pay the final bill.
4.      Pay with cash.
5.      If you pay using another method, ask the clerk to call the credit company and have the block removed. Get the clerk's name and ask for proof that the block was removed if possible. Also contact your credit card company to ensure the block was removed.
6.      Pay for hotel reservations in full prior to check-in so that a block is not placed on your credit card.  However, if a block is placed after arrival it will only be for a small amount to cover incidentals.
7.      Complain to your state Congressman regarding credit card blocking.
Credit card blocking is not illegal as long as the amount blocked isn't above what the customer is likely to pay at the end of the transaction. Most consumers are not aware that it happens at all because the blocked amounts may not come close to their credit limits. Some businesses will remove a block at the consumer's request if they see the bill has been paid.

Credit card blocking ensures the business will get paid if the consumer does not pay the final bill and prevents the consumer from exceeding the credit limit before checking out of a hotel, returning a rental car or making another type of purchase.

To prevent credit card blocking: use the same credit card the reservation was made, pay down your credit card to allow room for extra items that you may need to purchase in addition to the reservation costs, ensure the block is removed from your credit card after the reservation amount is paid in full.  For more information write to: Credit Card Blocking, Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

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