HOUSTON – A family goes out to buy ice cream and say they ended up with a $500 tip on their debit card bill. And the store owner admits they’re not the only ones.
Most credit and debit card transactions go just fine. But mistakes can happen. And when they do, they can tie up your money for weeks.
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“I was pretty livid. I said, no, it’s not like that,” Carolyn Sion said.
Sion says her daughter took her and her grandson to Marble Slab on Highway 6 in Sugar Land, paying the bill with a debit card.
“She showed me the bill, $532.50. She was showing her the tip of $509, as a tip for a total of $22 for the ice cream cones,” Sion said.
A $500 tip that Sion says he had trouble getting corrected by the merchant or the bank.
“My daughter needs her money. She has bills to pay this week. She has to pay her rent,” she said.
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The Marble Slab store owner told us over the phone that the credit card machine had done this to other customers. He says he posted a sign on it, warning: “When tipping, no decimals or extra zeros after. Tips are non-refundable.”
The owner says he can’t override the charges and customers should contact their bank to correct them. And he says he’s going to buy a new credit card machine.
Credit card processing errors may occur and block debit card funds.
Just recently, many Meijer grocery shoppers across the country reported that their debit cards had been charged multiple times for the same transaction. It took weeks to clear and unblock their funds.
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The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a woman is in dispute over a $10,000 taxi fare for a one-mile ride.
So what can you do? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says to immediately notify the merchant and card issuer in writing.
“The earlier you identify the problem, the better your chances of getting your money back,” said Wei Zhang of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Federal law limits your exposure to $50 for unauthorized transactions on credit cards, as well as debit cards if the charge is reported within two days.
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Although you don’t have to pay credit card charges during the investigation, they may count against your credit limit. The debit can tie up money in your debit account until it is resolved.
Consumers can also lodge a complaint with the CFPB.
“We will contact the company to let them know there is a consumer complaint. We have a process in place to help the consumer resolve the issue,” Zhang said.
He recommends consumers keep receipts and check statements for inaccurate charges. Since an error on a debit card charge can tie up funds in the account, you may want to consider whether to use this card if you have other bills to pay.