Well if you don't want my money, I'm happy to keep it!
July 24, 2006 12:48 AM   Subscribe

How long can a business wait to withdraw the money I charged on my debit card?

About two months ago, I charged an airplane ticket (through a website) for my girlfriend to my debit card. We got the reservation & everything with no problem; the trip has long since come and gone. However, the $350 for the ticket is still sitting in my bank account.

I asked my bank how long the seller can wait to withdraw that money, but the people at the bank just gave me shrugs. Is there any sort of standard for this? I've been expecting that money to go away for a long time now... how long do I have to wait before it's forfeited?
posted by scaryblackdeath to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They can try to take it out anytime. Whether they did it legitimately is an after-the-fact issue and would go through your bank's dispute/security process. The best thing to do is keep the $350 reserve in there or call Travelocity/whatever to do the charge. If you used a Visa check card and are more shady you probably could screw them by cancelling the card; the transaction would then come up "declined". This likely won't work though if you did a direct debit; even if you close the account the bank will come after you or blacklist you in Chexsystems (or FruitypebbleSystems, whatever they use now).

And yeah, it sucks that most bank employees are unknowledgeable about their trade and unwilling to find answers. It's one of the reasons I dropped my large national bank and went with a local one.
posted by zek at 1:53 AM on July 24, 2006

I am in a similar situation, but for an $1800 appliance. I've even called the seller and inquired about the missing charge, but still no sign of it. They'll get me at some point, I'm sure...
posted by daveleck at 5:59 AM on July 24, 2006

Yeah, there's not really any limit. As long as they have your info, they can charge you whenver they want. It's up to you to dispute the charge.

That said, if you closed the bank account, they would not be able to charge you.
posted by delmoi at 6:26 AM on July 24, 2006

About a year ago, I got hit with about $300 in charges from purchases I had made about two years prior to that at a tobacco store in Arlington, VA. Apparently their credit card processing company had never actually submitted the charges. During an audit they discovered the discrepancies and gleefully submitted the charges.

I tried raising hell with both my bank and the the tobacco store, but to no avail. As zek and delmoi both pointed out, there's apparently no time limit on when they can take the money out.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:13 AM on July 24, 2006

If anything has anything to say about this, it would either be a Federal Reserve regulation, or the Uniform Commercial Code, as embodied in your state's laws (or theirs).

But, really: you know it's their money; why do you care? :-)
posted by baylink at 11:12 AM on July 24, 2006

In Washington state, the SOL says they're SOL after 6 years.

However, just because they can't collect doesn't mean they can't put it on your credit report for 7 years.

The ideal way to go is to keep the money there for them to take out for 7 years. At 3% interest, that's $80.46 for free. After 7 years you can consider the debt cancelled. It is illegal to renew credit history past that point in the US.

But I COULD BE WRONG! Talk to a REAL lawyer, and not an internet idiot like myself. :-)
posted by shepd at 11:35 AM on July 24, 2006

The credit card companies don't like to talk about the proportion of transactions which get lost in the system, but there are quite a few. So it is quite possible that this one will never make it through to you -- particularly as it was a debit card, not a credit card.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:58 PM on July 24, 2006

shepd is closest to on the mark - the only limit on them is the SOL. You can look up the UCC and your state's limits but be sure you're identifying the category correctly - sometimes it can be hard to tell what something falls into.

The business themselves might run afoul of the limit on how long an authorization is good for, but that's between them and their clearinghouse. Their processing agreement says that if they cross their Ts and dot their Is and submit the charge they're guaranteed to be paid for it. After whatever time goes by that it expires and they submit it they might not get paid - say you run your card up to the limit or your debit account doesn't have the money in it anymore.

BUT you still owe it to them. Think of it this way: if you wrote them a check on a canceled account, would you still owe the money just because the check bounced, or would you magically then be freed from paying? You entered into a contract with them to pay, baring SOL you will have to.

Personally I'd drop them a note. Having to worry about this four years later after I changed banks would annoy me more than the $350 is worth.
posted by phearlez at 4:00 PM on July 24, 2006

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