More gas stations pulling cash-price scam at the pump

Here’s a warning for anyone who pays for their gas with a credit card: Read the terms of your sale very closely. More gas stations are tacking on a surcharge for anyone who pays with plastic.

It happened to me this weekend at a Shell station near Marco Island, Fla. I pulled up to the pump, swiped my card and then noticed that in addition to the exorbitant $4-a-gallon price, the gas station added a 6-cent surcharge for using a credit card.

Of course, the station had a different perspective. It termed the $4-per-gallon price a “cash discount.” (I took my business elsewhere.)

This is hardly new. But you tend to see the cash-price scam pulled by service stations in bad neighborhoods or remote locations — not in the suburbs of Southwest Florida. There’s a lively exchange on Yahoo! Answers on this topic (warning: the post contains some offensive language).

I can understand why a gas station would want to offset the merchant fees charged by credit card companies. But advertising one price and then charging another is deceptive and probably violates the station’s merchant agreement with the credit card company.

If you’re charged a different rate in a less than straightforward way, the best thing to do is complain immediately. You could get some of your money back.

I think the long-term solution isn’t lower fuel prices or even a uniform rate. It’s a better car.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XMCL5VJEZI6JJHUDS4OY4RBBHA debbie

    live in southern calif, just spent 2 weeks in NC. the day i left calif gas was $4.09 same day got to NC gas was $3.52. in calif u pay an extra .35 cents to pay with debit or .10 cents a gallon more to use credit, not in NC everyone pays the same low price. and at home the pump shuts off at $50.00 so you have to pay another .35 cent fee, not in NC. when I left NC gas was $3.39 got to Calif the same day and it was $4.15., and is still going up. sill being ripped off!

  • Sal

    The real culprit are the banks, they charge the retailer 3% of the total sale. So, do the
    math. If you are paying 3.50 per gallon, the retailer has to pay the bank/credit card company, 10.5 cents per gallon. Most retailers only make .10 per gallon gross profit. A typical gas station can end up paying the bank $10,000 – $15,000 per month in credit card processing fees. Because gasoline is so expensive and a high volume item the numbers add up quickly. Also, if the customer has a reward card, the bank will charge more than 3%. The bank does not pay for the rewards. The retail establishment pays the bill. So in closing get your facts straight. If you want to complain go after the banks.