Also, a house mate of mine just had a change of mind about a charge card purchase -- so he had the clerk run a refund right there on the spot. Guess what?
That's right. The charge went through and emptied the balance on his credit card -- but the refund (performed just seconds after the charge), will not go through for 5 days! (Ed)
Unfortunately, Ed, that's just how credit cards work. (And debit Mastercard/VISAs, too.)
Once the authorization for the amount of the purchase has been made, it is reflected in the card's available credit. And it's not going anywhere anytime soon...even if the store then entered a "refund" authorization. That never goes through automatically. (It'd be nice if it did, but it doesn't.)
Your housemate should have called his credit card company with the proof of the intended refund by the store (he should have been given a receipt of this transaction, as well.) His credit card bank can remove the authorization hold immediately, but I guarantee that they will NEVER do that unless they are aware of the refund intentions of the store who made the original authorization...they will NOT just take their client's word for it, (which actually does make sense.)
People would be defrauding stores all the time...you could buy a flat screen at Best Buy, and then call your credit card company right after you leave the store, and say, "I want that $2000 authorization to Best Buy reversed and canceled"...and when BB tried to present the final bill (the receipt you signed in the store) a few days later, they would be denied payment, and therefore screwed. That's why the credit card holder can't just cancel an authorization on their word. (Unless, I suppose, you're reporting the card as stolen, which is a whole other can of worms...) If it was a legitimate purchase at first, then you changed your mind, then the credit card bank would have to receive some kind of proof from the store that they do not intend to collect on the authorization. Then they can free up the credit on the card immediately.
I've dealt with this many times before...once in a situation at a Target... somehow my card got charged (authorized) twice for the same $150 purchase at the checkout. The clerk also submitted a "refund" slip for me, but I knew walking out of the store that I was going still going be down an extra $150 in my account. I immediately called my bank, explained the situation, gave them info from the "refund receipt", and they removed the extra hold within a minute.
(Pain in the butt, I know, but that's how it is.)
If this is a recent situation (ongoing) you should tell him to try this in order to free up his money sooner.
And if the "refund receipt" doesn't work, have the store talk with the bank directly, in a 3-way-call, or by fax. (I've had to do that, too.) His bank will happy to remove the hold on his account---just as long as they know it's cool with the store.