Release the hold

Ryan purchased a travel card to use while he was on holiday. When Ryan checked into his hotel, a pre-authorisation hold was placed over some funds on his travel card, to cover any incidentals. The hotel mistakenly placed a hold over more funds than they should have, so they agreed to release the hold. The hotel sent the card issuer the required information and asked that the hold be released immediately. However, the card issuer did not release the hold, and Ryan could not access the funds until the hold expired 30 days later.   

The card issuer offered Ryan compensation of $110 to recognise the inconvenience he experienced because he couldn’t access his funds, but Ryan did not accept their offer and complained to FSCL.

Dispute

Ryan complained that the card issuer did not release the pre-authorisation hold when requested, so he had to load extra funds onto the travel card. Ryan explained that he was going to lose money when he converted the extra funds back into New Zealand dollars. Ryan wanted the card issuer to compensate him for this loss, and for the loss of use of the funds.

Ryan also requested that the card issuer improve their processes and communication around the early release of a pre-authorisation hold.

The card issuer said they were not required to release the pre-authorisation hold early. However, they recognised that they did not communicate clearly with Ryan, so they offered him compensation.

Review

We agreed that there is no obligation on the card issuer to release the pre-authorisation hold early. However, the card issuer told Ryan they would release the hold early if they received the required information from the hotel. The hotel provided this information, but the card issuer said it was not in the correct format. This meant that the hold was not released.

We found that the card issuer did not properly communicate what was required to release the pre-authorisation hold early. This resulted in the hold lasting longer than it should have.

We also found that, although the card issuer provided some information about pre-authorisation holds in Ryan’s contract, this information was limited. Ryan’s contract did not specify certain details, such as the maximum time it may take for the hold to be released.

Resolution

We recommended that the card issuer pay compensation of $500 to Ryan to recognise the difficulties he had communicating with the card issuer. We also encouraged the card issuer to provide more information to their consumers about pre-authorisation holds.

Both parties accepted our recommendation.

Insights for consumers

It is important for consumers to consider the impacts of using their travel card for transactions where a hold is placed over funds, such as for car rentals or hotel reservations. Companies often place a pre-authorisation hold that is greater than the final bill, and you cannot spend the funds while they are being held.