Neb. Senator Targets 'Hold' Charges on Debit Cards

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Hotels, gas stations and restaurants would have to notify customers if they place temporary hold charges on their debit cards, under a bill set for review in the Nebraska Legislature.

The holds guarantee that merchants are paid for gas bought at the pump and food taken from hotel refrigerators. But they also temporarily deny customers access to money in their accounts, sometimes in amounts $50 to $100.

Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff presented the bill Monday to the Legislature's Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. Harms says the bill is designed to help low-income people who don't realize their money could be held.

"Without first telling the public the professional courtesy, I'm going to do this to you, I'm going to take this dollar and freeze it for 48-72 hours," said Harms.

Nebraska business groups say they agree that the holds could create problems, but they question whether the bill will address the issue.

One opponent of this bill is Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association. She says one way to avoid this is if you fill up with gas, go inside to make your purchase and avoid the card reader outside.