If you have ever had a debit card statement that had two different balance amounts, then you have probably been subject to an authorisation hold.
Authorisation holds are a feature used by some merchants, such as airlines and ticketing companies, to ensure there is enough money on a debit or credit card to complete the transaction.
The holding period usually lasts between one and five days, but it can be confusing and frustrating when trying to figure out a debt card account balance.
How Authorisation Holds Work
Just like we may reserve tickets for flights or events, some merchants will reserve money from a purchase until the bank or debit card provider has transferred that amount. It is a way for them to make sure they get the purchase amount without worrying about how much money is on someone’s card.
Usually the authorisation hold will only be for the amount of money spent, so if you have bought tickets to a concert for $100 then only $100 will be held.
However, this does depend on when the hold is put in place, and in some cases the hold may be for more than is needed, which means you have access to less money than what is in your account.
In other situations, such as when booking airfares of accommodation, the authorisation hold that the airline or hotel places on your debit card may not clear at all.
Because the authorisation process goes between merchant and debit card provider, sometimes one will forget to take the hold off the account even after funds have been transferred, again limiting your access to debit card funds.
This can happen at any time, but often it is more common when using a card overseas because it takes longer for the merchant to check the authorisation and funds.
Dealing With Authorisation Holds
In cases where the money has been taken and a hold is still in place, the simplest solution is usually to call the debit card provider or merchant and ask them to remove the authorisation hold.
It is also a good idea to keep any purchase numbers or receipts handy to provide them with as much detail as possible so that the hold can be removed without any more hassles.
If you are not in a habit of checking your debit card account, it may be worthwhile glancing at it after bigger purchases to make sure everything has been processed smoothly.
Understanding how this feature of credit and debit cards works can save you time later, and also reduce the chances of any problems if there is an authorisation hold in place.