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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