Some drivers charged more for gas than what they owe

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PHOENIX -- No one likes how high the price of gas is these days so imagine you fill up your tank at the gas station and then get charged more for the fuel than you actually owe!

Several Valley drivers say that's exactly what's happened to them all because they paid for their gas with a debit card.

"We live paycheck to paycheck as a lot of Americans do right now, especially with the gas prices," Tracy Holmes said.

Holmes is on a tight budget so when she decided to get gas, she pulled into an Arco at 19th Avenue and Thunderbird Road.

"We chose that gas station because it was only $4.05 versus the $4.17 it was in our area," she said.

Holmes says she took her debit card inside to pay in advance and in order to avoid a service charge, she chose to use the credit feature on her card.

"They encourage their customers to use the credit feature on the check card because it saves you the 45-cent debit fee," she said.

At the time, Holmes says she was waiting for payday and didn't have much money in her checking account so she only put in $15 worth of gas.

"Fifteen dollars was going to keep $2 in my account to hopefully buy a gallon of milk," she said.

But when she got home and reviewed her checking account online, she couldn't believe what she saw.

"I came home to check my bank account to see if my direct deposit had shown up and saw they had actually authorized $50," Holmes said.

Remember, Holmes bought only $15 of gas, but for some reason Arco put a freeze on $50.

"I called the station and the young lady on the phone said it's the policy that every time credit is run, whether it's on a check card or an actual credit card, they automatically authorize $50," Holmes said.

That $50 "freeze" threw Holmes' bank account into shambles.

"By authorizing $50, that put me into overdraft so on top of an additional $35 of my money being held, an additional $35 in overdraft charges showed up, of course," she said.

3 On Your Side has learned that many gas stations and banks freeze a higher dollar amount in order to verify that an account exists.

They'll actually hold your money hostage for days before actually posting the correct amount.

Holmes is lucky in one respect because her bank refunded her overdraft fees.

Still, Holmes says authorizing a transaction for more than the correct amount, even if it's temporary, isn't right.

"They have taken it upon themselves to choose to tie up my money without my permission or my knowledge," she said.

To avoid any problems at all, consumer advocates say you might want to consider paying cash.

It may be a hassle, but at least your checking account won't be affected.