Charging an EV in public has become much simpler than it was in the early days, when drivers required a pocket full of cards for different providers. But the issue of pre-authorisation and pre-payment before plugging in can cause confusion, especially when it comes to reclaiming costs and understanding exactly how much has been paid.
The Government has put in place legislation to make paying for charging simpler and easier to understand but pre-authorisation payments are still required by many providers. Here’s what to look out for, and also how to make it simpler.
For drivers using a debit or credit card to pay for charging, many charge point providers require a pre-authorisation first.
This means that before charging takes place, they will take a temporary hold on funds from the card, in order to ensure that the user has enough funds in their account to pay for it. It is usually taken every time a driver charges, and not just the first time a particular card is used.
It will often show up as a ‘Pending Transaction’ in a drivers’ bank account, and depending on the charging provider, the amount can change. Some, such as Gridserve, charge as little as £1 up, while other providers require around £50 in some cases for faster chargers.
Usually, once the payment for the EV charging session is finalised, this reserved amount is then released, and the amount is replaced by the actual fee for the kWh used. But there also may be an adjustment made by some providers, where the pre-authorisation amount is factored into kWh used and further balancing payment (or refund) made to reach the actual cost.
One of the main issues with pre-authorisation values is confusion. Charge point providers do it slightly different and have different costs, while the process of cancellation can vary depending on their systems, and how banks deal with them.
The charge point providers often warn of this on their websites, advising that pre-authorisation fees may take longer to clear and be refunded than expected. While it should happen straight away, it can sometimes take days.
For drivers using their own cards to pay for electric charging, who are trying to understand what they need to claim back from their employer, this constant stream of costs in, held, and out again can be very confusing, leading to erroneous claims. For those suppliers that take the payment, rather than it being held pending, drivers may feel they are paying twice, even though eventually the money is refunded – never good when cashflow is tight.
Some charge point suppliers use pre-payment or subscription systems, where either through an app or card, a driver puts an amount of money into an account before any charging takes place. It could be as little as £5, but some ask for more.
It’s less common now, and especially since the Government mandated that all rapid and ultra-rapid chargers have contactless payment facilities.
Often this can access cheaper charging rates, but also it requires the driver to use those chargers, or their money sits there, paid out but unused.
Firstly, nobody likes to spend money on something they haven’t yet bought – and claiming back this expense through their employer is not straightforward, as topping up the account doesn’t usually generate a receipt, as the energy hasn’t yet been used. So there is likely to be a time lag between a driver spending the money and being able to claim it.
Secondly, paying for charging this way means carrying round a load of different cards and apps so each account, and the money in them, can be accessed. From admin and security perspectives, it can be a faff.
All these issues can be solved very simply, using the Allstar One Electric card. There are no pre-authorisations or pre-payments needed, and the card can be used across 16 major charge point networks, at over 13,000 charge points across more than 4,000 locations.
Just tap the card when instructed on the charge point screen and the payment will be taken. The cost will be shown on the Allstar Online portal, making it clear exactly what was paid for, and when.
For participating charging providers, the Allstar One Electric card can also be used in the Zap-Pay app so payment can be taken on a phone without even having to use the card.