Just like with any of our competitors, pre-authorization charges ensure that funds are available for the purchase. It never charges that amount, it is merely just a hold until the total amount of the sale is known. Some financial institutions take longer to release the pre-authorization than others. This only happens with Credit or Debit purchases at the pump. You will never see this if you prepay inside the store.
The detailed explanation for those with a little more time:
When you pay at the pump, there is no way to know how much your transaction will be, and there is no way to put the product back if your card does not accept the dollar amount. Therefore, when you swipe your card at a pump (whether at Family Express® or a competitor), it checks to see that the card is eligible for use by pre-authorizing a set dollar amount.
If you were to reach the pre-authorization amount, the pump would automatically turn off since that is all the card has approved for the transaction. Family Express® has set the pre-authorization amounts at $75 for debit transactions and $125 for credit transactions ($110 at our stores with Cravin's to Order® kitchens) which act differently and convert to $1 that you see online. When you return the nozzle after pumping your fuel, a message is automatically sent to release the pre-authorization amount and charge the actual transaction amount. We are currently working toward a $175 limit with Discover in the near future as well.
The pre-authorization amount is never paid to the vendor (Family Express®); it is merely held, pending the actual transaction amount. How quickly the pre-authorization amount is released to your account is entirely up to your financial institution. Most banks should release debit pre-authorizations immediately but it may take two to three business days. Some banks release within hours, but not immediately when the release message is sent.
You may wish to contact your bank and speak with someone in the Debit Department to see if they can give you a more precise answer of when and how often they process those types of pre-authorization releases. There are likely different answers to this question depending on if you choose credit or debit at the beginning of your transaction, so it may be that changing which you choose is better for your situation.
To avoid a hold altogether, we would suggest you either prepay inside the store for an amount of your choosing (which eliminates the pre-authorization process completely) or choose "credit" or "skip" for the PIN prompt at the pump.