I just checked my HSA account after using my debit card for a bi-annual dental cleaning, and the numbers weren't adding up for my expected balance. The debit card transaction is still pending, but the PreAuthorization is still on the card as well (it currently looks like a double transaction, which makes my balance $141 lower than it should be). I expect that this will disappear eventually, but it makes me wonder if I need to be cautious about using my card even when I have enough to cover the expense (i.e., if I have a $1,200 transaction when I only have a $1,400 balance).

Is this normal practice? What would happen if I didn't have double the balance of this transaction available in my account?

HSA Debit with PreAuthorization

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    "Is this normal practice?" I've seen this happen on my CC, where there's a PreAuthorization and the actual charge. (Always at gas stations.) – RonJohn Sep 11 '19 at 16:47

It's not exactly normal, but it is not unusual, either. And it is not unique to HSA; this happens occasionally to any bank account with a debit card.

Pending transactions are not final; they will expire if they are not ultimately confirmed. Only one of these transactions from your dentist will be confirmed, and the other will timeout. The bank doesn't know that, however, so they have temporarily removed enough money from your available balance to cover both transactions.

If this had been a credit card account with a large credit limit, this would be no big deal at all; you don't have to pay for any pending transactions on your credit card, so the pending transaction would just eventually disappear and wouldn't affect you in any way.

However, with a bank account and debit card combo, where you have a limited balance of your real money in the account, it certainly can cause temporary problems. Fortunately, in your case, it looks like your HSA balance is much more than the amount of this extra transaction. But to answer your question, yes, this could be an issue if you are using your debit card for transactions that are a significant percentage of your balance.

For this very reason, I don't use my HSA debit card (or any debit card) anymore. Instead, I either write an HSA check or I pay for medical expenses with my credit card and then reimburse myself from my HSA after the fact.

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