Your card has been declined.

More New Jersey drivers may be getting that surprising message from the gas attendant these days. Gas stations have the green light from Visa and Mastercard to put a hold as high as $175 on your card when you ask to "fill it up."

Stations need to check that your card account has a decent amount of funds available when they don't know exactly how much money you're going to spend. So, with gas prices as high as they are, the major card companies upped the limit to a more reasonable number.

"People were filling up big SUVs and the cost was going over the limit. By increasing it to $175, that should eliminate that problem," said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association.

It's up to gas stations how much of a hold they actually place on your card, and, ideally, the hold would only last a couple of hours.

Motorists can easily avoid the uncertain situation by using cash or a prepaid card at the pump, or by simply asking for a specific dollar-amount's worth of cash at the pump.

"If you say 'fill it,' that temporary hold is going to be put on your card," said Paul Oster, president of credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown.

Drivers may have enough funds on their card to cover a tank's worth of gas, but not enough to cover a $175 hold, Oster noted. So, individuals with debit cards may get declined more often. The hold could also present issues for those carrying high balances on credit cards.

"If you go over your credit limit by $1, you could easily lose 25 points off of your credit score," Oster said.

Oster said he's seen random instances in which a temporary hold lasts for days — typically the result of processing issues at the gas station — which limited individuals' purchasing power at other locations until the hold was released.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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