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  Home >> Accounts >> ATM/Debit Cards  
What is a Current and Available Balance?

When I check online for my debit card account balance, it states a balance with one amount and a lesser available balance. Now obviously that means I cannot withdraw the larger amount from an ATM, but does this also mean that I cannot do online transactions?


Your current balance is the amount of funds in your account, but the lesser available balance represents transactions that are pending. If you had $100 in your account and used your debit card to buy $20 of gas, the terminal at the gas station sent a message to your bank that you wanted to spend $20. The bank's computer said OK, and that it would put that money aside for a period of time. That withdrawal is pending, and comes out of the actual balance, leaving you with an available balance. It would not be wise to spend this amount. If you conducted an online transaction for $85 and then the $20 debit came in, you'd have an overdrawn account and potentially an overdraft fee. The problem we hear more often is that when you scan your card at the pump, or a hotel or anywhere else, they withhold a standard amount. Say the average fill up costs $50. They'd tell your bank to hold that amount. You actually pump your $20 because you know you want to spend $80 later that day. You spend your $80, and still have $50 on hold. This too can cause an overdrawn balance until the $20 transaction clears and the $30 hold is released.

Published on BankingQuestions.com 10/18/06