Woman runs afoul of unemployment card ‘hold’

Scott Swanson

Teresa Cissney says she got a nasty turn at the store the other day when she tried to use her unemployment benefits card to buy some groceries.

Cissney, 50, said she had bought $12 worth of gas at the Towne Pump in Sweet Home Friday afternoon, then went to Wal-Mart, figuring she could buy groceries with the balance in her account, which she figured was about $100. She used her U.S. Bank ReliaCard, which is issued to unemployment benefits recipients by the state and works like a pre-paid credit card.

Problem was, when Cissney got to the check-out stand at Wal-Mart, she was told her card didn’t have enough money to pay for her purchases. She went to the bank, which told her to check her balance on-line.

“It showed the gas station took $74,” she said. “The gas station put a hold on it until they get their $12. They had to wait for the purchase to clear and they said I should get my money in two days.

“I said why don’t you let clients be aware this is going to happen so they are aware they’ll be without their money? I looked on the pumps but I didn’t see any notice about this.”

A woman who answered a call to Truax Corp. of Corvallis, which owns the gas station, said the company did not want to comment.

Attempts to reach a spokesperson at U.S. Bank were unsuccessful, but, according to the Web site http://www.creditcards.com, card issuers’ policies allow merchants to temporarily ‘block off’ a larger-than-needed chunk of consumers’ credit limits when the final purchase price is uncertain at the time credit is authorized, assuring them they’ll get paid.

The ReliaCard has prompted other news reports regarding Occupy Oregon protestors’ complaints that users are charged to make ATM cash withdrawals and about others who have had the same experience as Cissney at service stations.

Cissney, who lost her job at OK Tavern in Springfield after it closed two months ago, said she had watched a report on a local TV station about the Occupy Oregon complaints the night before she had her own problem.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It was weird. I was just watching it on news and then it happened to me.