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Unleaded 88 and credit card holds: What to expect at the gas pump for the rest of the summer

High gas prices are temporarily dipping, but drivers may expect more headaches later in the summer.

YORK, Pa. — High gas prices are seeing a temporary dip, but drivers should expect more headaches later in the summer, according to experts.

Pennsylvania’s average gas price is again below $5 per gallon, $4.94, to be exact, according to AAA.

The forces that pushed prices up earlier this year, however, haven’t gone away, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, high demand for gas and limited refining capacity.

“There are a lot of different things that could basically cause prices to eventually go back up, especially if there’s a major hurricane,” said Patrick De Haan, Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy. “There are projections that the hurricane season will be above average this year, so that’s certainly a concern.”

Meanwhile some credit card companies have raised the credit hold limit for gas purchases. Visa and Mastercard are now allowing gas stations to put a $175 hold on credit and debit purchases, the Wall Street Journal reported. Holds were previously capped at $125.

The holds are usually replaced by the real value of the purchased gas within a few hours. Within those hours, though, credit and debit card holders are at higher risk of hitting overdraft fees and credit limits.

Visa wrote in a statement, 

"Limits for automated fuel dispenser (AFD) $1 status check authorizations at EMV-enabled terminals were recently increased from $125 to $175. While fuel merchants have always had the ability to set their own pump shutoff limits, this change encourages fuel merchants to allow larger fuel purchases with reduced transaction risk.”

Mastercard wrote in a statement, 

"When a person swipes, dips or taps their card at a fuel dispenser, their account is identified and preauthorized to support that purchase. It’s also at that point that a temporary hold is placed on funds in their account – debit or credit – to support a maximum purchase. In the U.S., that hold amount was increased from $125 to $175 in April, reflecting trends identified by both retailers and financial institutions.

Our rules require that any temporary holds on funds in a cardholder’s account must be released in less than two hours of the fuel being dispensed.

If a cardholder is concerned about potential availability of funds in their account, they have the option to go into the station’s store and prepay a certain amount. But, any questions regarding specific account fees would need to be addressed by the bank that issued the card, as they have the direct relationship with the cardholder."

Sheetz is hoping to ease some pain at the pump with a gas discount. The company will cut prices down to $3.99 per gallon for unleaded 88, also known as E15, and $3.49 per gallon for E85.

Unleaded 88 is a blend of 84 octane gasoline and ethanol. Unleaded 87 has 10% ethanol, and Unleaded 88 has 15% ethanol. The 5% increase in ethanol increases the octane rating to 88. It can be used in most cars made in 2001 or later, though it does slightly decrease fuel economy.

E85 can only be used in flexible fuel vehicles.

De Haan of GasBuddy advised drivers to check their owner manual to ensure their car can take unleaded 88. If so, he said it’s a great deal worth not passing up.

“The 80-cent drop in price compared to regular more than offsets the very small 2 to 4 percent decrease in fuel efficiency,” he said.

Not many drivers at a Manchester Township Sheetz were filling up on unleaded 88 on Wednesday morning, but some expressed willingness to try it.

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