Let’s hear it for this gas price bait and switch!

By | November 20th, 2012

Cheaper isn’t always better.

On a recent trip to Bend, Ore., I discovered that cheaper can actually mean more expensive.

The scam was perpetrated by a service station selling unleaded gas that’s 10 cents lower than the other stations along the road. With gas prices pushing $4 a gallon, a 10-cent saving is nothing to sneeze at.

So I pulled in to the service plaza, and before I could whip out my credit card, an employee walked over said, “I’m sorry, but our credit card machine isn’t working.”

No problem, I thought. We’ll do this old school. I’ll just go inside and give the attendant my card.

And that’s when the scammy gas station sprang its trap.

A small sign near the counter informed me that this particular station didn’t accept any of the major credit cards — only a debit card, to which it added a 50-cent transaction fee.

By the time I’d done the math in my head, I was at the front of the line, at a less-than-honest gas station with an empty tank of gas and a family that needed to be fed lunch.

But the numbers worked out like this: The gas station was charging me a little more than its competitors, once you factored in the ATM fee. And after adding the transaction fee from my bank, I was overpaying for the fuel in a major way.

Ridiculous? Many of you will agree. Some of you won’t. Some of you will say, “Hey, that’s the free market. You could have gone somewhere else.”


To those of you who feel the gas station — which shall remain nameless because it doesn’t need any free advertising — was being completely ethical, I have just one thing to say to you: You’re wrong.

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It would have been one thing if the ATM fee had been clearly disclosed before I pulled up to the station. But instead, I was told the machine was “broken” (later I asked how long it had been down, and learned it had been many months). The signs warning of the ATM fee were small and inconspicuous, one inside the store and the other near the pumps, but in small lettering.

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing illegal about any of this. But unethical? Yes.

And this kind of absurdity repeats itself in other parts of the travel industry as well. It’s the party of five that eats at a restaurant, only to discover that a “tip” of 20 percent has been added to their bill. (Check the fine print on the menu, it’s disclosed there, and by ordering from the menu, you agreed to it.)

It happens in airlines and hotels, too, whether it’s the surprise $100 fee to carry on your bag or the mandatory “resort” fee your hotel failed to mention.

The smart customers among us might suggest that if we were just as enlightened as they are and read every contract more carefully, heeded all the warnings, then we wouldn’t fall for this nonsense. But I take a different view. I think anyone can fall for a scam, and I include myself in that group. I think that while we should always be on the lookout for businesses that prey on helpless travelers, we also deserve to be protected from them.



  • bodega3

    Since you can’t pump your own gas in OR, did you ask the attendant, before he started pumping if there were any ATM fees? A lot of small businesses charge for an ATM use and if you use one, that should be the first question you ask, right? You could have paid cash and not had any fees.

  • Sammy

    It actually used to be against their merchant agreements for merchants to demand minimum amounts before accepting cards, to charge a percentage to the customer for them to use the card, or to tack on fees like this. It would be interesting to get a hold of the merchant agreements and see if the language has changed or if these places are just getting away with it because we’re too brainwashed to complain, or they’re counting on the general public not knowing about these “rules”

  • Chris in Oregon

    That was changed last Sept. when the new banking regulations came into effect.

  • Chris in Oregon

    I just looked at our (restaurant) transaction fee for accepting debt cards, it is 2.4% So on a fill up of 20 gallons that is .48 cents so that gas station made all of 2 cents. But for the sake of argument lets say you only got 10 gallons and they made .36 cents on you, times 50 cars per day pay with a debt card payment that works out to huge $650. per year. But that number only works if they get the full .36 cents.
    I have heard of gas stations getting hit with stolen credit cards and a debt card that you have a pin number would eliminate that issue. But then I am only speculating about their reasoning. See you should have skipped Bend and come up to Hood River as all of our gas stations accept C.C.’s…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    A couple thoughts…

    You cannot reasonably factor in the charge that your bank levies for ATM usage as that’s neither under the gas station’s control nor is that money pocketed by the station.

    With that factored out you only need to pump five gallons of gas to break even. Of course, that assumes that other gas stations in the locale don’t charge a similar ATM fee in which case it’s a wash.

    As long as fees are adequately disclosed and you can reasonably use the service without paying the fee, I’m generally good. As bodega3 pointed out, you could have used cash and avoided the $0.50 fee. And unlike airline tickets, paying cash for gas, while less common than credit cards, is not unusual or burdensome

    I have not personally experienced a restaurant that didn’t clearly disclose the mandatory tip for parties above a certain size.

    Though I tend to favor free market, I would outlaw resort fees as deceptive as they are simply unavoidable and there is no justification for separating them from the base fee beyond presenting an artificially low price

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Admittedly its very late and I might be confused, but I don’t believe that your math is correct. Basically, unless people refuse to buy gas because of the lack of a credit card machine the gas station has reduced its expenses by 2.4% and increased its revenue by almost $0.50 for each debit card using customer. A double windfall.

  • TonyA_says

    I’ve never had that happen here in the Northeast. If you can pump your own gas then usually the PUMP machine lets you scan your credit or debit card OUTSIDE before you can pump. If you are in NJ and they pump for you, the attendant will also use the scanner outside after he asks you how you want to pay and before he pumps. The ATM to get cash is irrelevant since the gas station does not usually control its terms. The gas business is PAY FIRST BEFORE YOU PUMP, so how can this really happen often?

  • TonyA_says

    Also no gas station owner is stupid enough to allow one to pump WITHOUT PAYING FIRST. So how can one say he was baited and switched.

  • sirwired

    A bank fee (by your bank) for POS debit? You need a new bank; I suggest a credit union.

    Fifty cents (by the gas station) doesn’t seem out of line for a PIN debit.

  • lost_in_travel

    I am not sure it was a scam as much as an inconvenience. My ATM card does not charge me for use so this would have been alright – I rarely need only five gallons of gas when I stop to fill up so it would have been a deal. However, I greatly prefer to use my credit card that pays me for using it so I reap the extra benefits. Am I scamming businesses because I get the best deal and cash back? Having to go inside and wait on a line would have been the bigger hassle to me as well as the temptation to buy some junk food. Twinkies??

  • sweepergrl

    That is incorrect. I never once paid beforehand to pump my gas in Iowa, Wisconsin or Minnesota, nor do I do so now at the gas stations I frequent in the suburbs of Houston. Have I done it before? Of course. I’ve never found a gas station in Chicago or Phili that doesn’t require a prepay. There are plenty of places in Houston itself that requires prepay. But to say that every gas station requires prepayment is incorrect.

  • You can pump before paying in some places. It’s rare.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry my world is New York City and its suburbs.

    I guess we are not as honest as you guys from the Midwest.

    With $4 gas, what is to stop crazy pump and runs?

  • John Keahey

    I’ve experienced stations that show, on their signs, the price and then find out after I fill the tank that the price is for cash. More for the gas if I were to use a credit card. Your experience was a definite unethical move on the part of the station. And in Oregon, I believe, there is no self service; an employee is required by state law to pump the gas.

  • Bill___A

    Always carry some cash.

  • Luc

    I’ve been to a place on Boston now twice with friends.
    They have all the major credit card logos on the door glass, but when you come to pay, the credit card machine is ‘broken’, and they point to a generic ATM machine in the corner with a huge withdrawal fee. They got me … twice.

  • Bill___A

    They have cameras at our gas stations. If you pump and run, they find you quite easily and you get charged.

  • lost_in_travel

    I was temporarily living in Richmond Virginia and one morning my MG would not start. I had it towed to the garage and the mechanic discovered there was no gas in the carburator. Or the tank, which I had filled the evening before. As a New Yorker, I was totally incredulous that my tank had been siphoned in a suburb in Virginia. I am sure the guys at the garage are still laughing. Gas was 50c a gallon at the time and an MG does not hold much.

  • Dave

    Out here in the Northern Plains, it varies by chain and sometimes the current selling price of gas. But the rule is pretty much you can pump gas before you pay. Most every gas station has a set of cameras on the pumps so if anyone attempts a drive off, the station usually already has your license plate numbers by the time you’re out of the lot.

  • TonyA_says

    The usual logic to allow people to pump gas without paying first is that they want to encourage folks to come in and buy something at the store. However, some local municipalities have passed ordinances banning that practice due to increased pump and runs.

    In my neck of the woods, cameras do not prevent crazies from committing crimes. They might even smile at the camera :-)

  • jpp42

    What bank charges per-transaction for using ATM cards at the point of sale? That’s a seriously outdated banking fee – you need to change accounts or maybe banks! I don’t consider 50 cents unreasonable a fee from the merchant, though the credit card option being “broken” for months sounds scammy. And they would have let you pay cash without that fee, right? Does no one ever use cash in the US any more?

  • Can someone verify that it’s actually the gas station that keeps the 50 cent surcharge? If so, and they’re not proactively trying to fix their credit card machine, they deserve to be publicly called out and shamed. People will start avoiding that station once word gets out. Otherwise, they’re getting away with a scam, since they advertise that they take credit cards when they knowingly don’t. They need to place big signs on every pump that says: CASH OR DEBIT ONLY. Bring on the fury.

  • Cash? What is this word you speak of, kind sir?

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, that practice had been long gone over here. When they changed the pumps over to ones with card scanners, prepay became much easier. Some use scan and pay options with RFID (I think that is the technology). Heck even our EZPass toll system is prepaid (they deduct a certain amount from your credit card based on your passed usage). I can’t see my doctor without paying my co-pay first. We have become a PREPAY society.

  • jpp42

    Interestingly enough, in Sydney, Australia where I live, almost all petrol stations have removed the “pay at the pump” machines and now force everyone to wait in line inside. This is 100% to increase revenue from snacks/drinks/cigarettes in the shop, which have a huge profit margin compared to the fuel. It’s really annoying when you’re at a station with 12-16 pumps and only one clerk on duty.

    Why would a municipality care about the pump and runs – isn’t that a cost borne by the service station or their insurer? Maybe to try reduce the amount of time the local police spend investigating these crimes? Still, it seems like the type of crime that’s easy to track down, and these criminals are probably going to steal from someone anwyay, it might as be somewhere that has good security cameras.

  • TonyA_says

    I guess some local governments want to discourage (petty) crimes.

    As far as tracking pump and runs, it is easy to read the car plates; but can you really recover the money? My bet is they do this so they can prove the theft to their INSURANCE companies. But trying to use the LEGAL SYSTEM to recover that kind of money, doubt the police will really do much except the paperwork. Nevertheless I assume people think that some locations are safer than others. Yeah right.

  • Jerry

    Here is what happened to me last night when I went to fill up at a local Conoco station in Denver CO. It was marked $3.29. I pulled in and noticed that when I inserted my credit card, it was listed at $3.39 at the pump.. I went to look at the sign to see if I saw the wrong price. On the side pointing to the freeway, it showed $3.29. Once you pull in and you can see the other side of the sign, in much smaller print, “with car wash only.” Across the street, it was $3.33. I could have gone there but I was in a hurry.

  • The math doesn’t add up.

    Say Bad Station is selling gas for $3.90/gallon and Good Station down the street is selling at $4/gallon.

    You fill your tank, a 10 gallon purchase. That’s $39 for Bad Station and $40 at Good Station. But Bad Station adds a $0.50 debit card fee, bringing the total to $39.50.

    You’re still ahead by $0.50. What’s the problem here? The only way Bad Station comes out as a worse buy is if you are buying less than 5 gallons. Were you putting less than 5 gallons into the tank? If so, why are you at a gas station?

  • john4868

    Was it really that hard to look at the attendant and say “in that case, I’m driving down the street”?

  • DAH

    In Texas, you can lose your drivers license for pump and run if caught and convicted. There is also a large fine.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    While in college, I worked the 3 to midnight (closing) shift at a gas station on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska. Most of our drive-offs were out of state plates. We wrote down license plates when they pulled up; locals soon figured out that the Lincoln police force would soon be at their door if they didn’t pay after they pumped.

    I re-visited that station this summer while traveling. They now require pay in advance or pay at the pump. Times have changed.

  • Cornhusker

    We have some less than scrupulous gas stations in the western part of the state that show a lowball price on the sign visible from I-80. It turns out that price is only available at one pump out of 16 and that pump either has someone parked at it like an employee’s car or it is “broken” with the other pumps being substantially higher. They get away with it by fine print on a small sign saying “available at one pump” and our attorney general says they can do it since it is disclosed.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I think that the point of Chris’ post wasn’t about him coming out ahead financially or not; it’s the nature of the “gotchas” that lurk out there. I had an unpleasant experience with an Oregon gas station while following the Lewis and Clark route. (Trying to recall the details, but I ended up going inside to pay with cash with the so-called attendant yelling at me not to get out of my car – for some reason I didn’t trust the attendant with my credit card.)

    I’ve also had nasty experiences in Iowa and Kansas vis a vis ethanol and unleaded pricing and labeling. Oh, and there’s a service station right off I-80 in North Platte, Nebraska that’s made lots of news for advertising a crazy low price found only on one pump, one grade of gas – but not on the other pumps. We in the Midwest pride ourselves on our honesty, but evidently all moral compass is lost when it comes to gas. (As I mention in another post, I worked at a gas station, so I’ve seen both sides!)

    “Gotchas” are sneaky, nasty ways to do business. I agree with Chris; honest businesses don’t use them to make money.

  • MarkKelling

    If the 50 cents is added in when they do the transaction at the terminal, yes the merchant keeps all of that that. IF it is at an ATM, the fee is split between the merchant and the ATM owner (which may be one and the same) depending on the agreement between the two.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Woo hoo! I just posted about that at the same time you were posting.

    Hint for everyone: try not to buy gas at the stations closest to the interstate, like that one in North Platte. There’s a station in Lincoln right off one of the exits that’s regularly 20 cents above the prices found at the next stations, 3 miles down the road. Cornhusker , I’ll bet you know exactly which exit I’m talking about.

    I use the Gas Buddy app to avoid that kind of mistake.

  • Charlie Funk

    Sounds like you were in a suburb of Bend. On the map it’s called Overlook, but most of the locals just refer to it as Bend Over.

  • EdB

    that rule did not apply to debt cards.

  • MarkKelling

    I’m a bit confused.

    Did you use your debit card and your bank charged you a fee in addition to the 50 cents the gas station charged? Or did you use their ATM to get cash incurring a bank change and the 50 cents?

    First off, if your bank charges you a fee to use your debit card to pay a merchant, run right now today immediately and find another bank. This is more of a rip off than the undisclosed fee at the gas station. Most banks I know of do not charge a debit card usage fee and I would never be a customer of any bank which does. I left one bank because they decided it was necessary to start charging a $25 annual fee to allow me the privilege to carry their debit card.

    Merchants are not required to display signs listing ATM fees for ATM cash transactions anywhere except on the ATM. I’m not sure about the POS surcharge. There are many fast food chains around where I live that tried doing the surcharge thing, but were met with such a large customer backlash they stopped. They found it was more economical to take the cards without the fee than to handle all the cash they would take in.

    Oh, and if they are accepting debit cards to pay for the gas, their credit card machine is not broke because it is the same machine.

    I do think that the gas station is running a scam. They can be reported to the various credit card companies and their right to accept cards or even display the sign saying they accept cards can be revoked and they can be fined.

  • MarkKelling

    The merchant still pays a fee when the customer uses a debit card. It can be less than the equivalent charge for a credit card, but only if the customer has to enter a PIN. Otherwise it is billed at the approximately same rate as credit. So in the stated example, the merchant is only reducing his expense by 50 cents, not avoiding the fee completely.

  • emanon256

    Same in Colorado, lost license, mandatory jail time, and a huge fine. They have cameras everywhere, and I have only had one gas station ever require me to pre-pay in the Denver metro area, and it was a sketchy one to begin with.

    In all my travel around the west coast, they all seemed to let me pay after as well. I usually pump, and go inside to use the bathroom, buy food or drink, and pay all at once and havne’t had a problem in CO, ID, WY, UT, AZ, CA, MT, and WA. I left out OR as I think that is the state where it was illegal to pump my own gas and they did require pre-pay. However on the east coast, NY, MA, CT, etc, I think I have always had to pre-pay, heck in a lot of places in the east they won’t even let me pump my own gas either. Long Island, NJ, and random towns around Boston.

  • emanon256

    When I used ed to manage a retail opp, the debit card fee was $0.25 per transaction. This was a number of years ago though. Perhaps its $0.50 now?

  • Stephen Pickford

    I don’t mind paying at the pump first…what burns me most, as a visitor to the US, is that I am forced to go into the store, as the new machines think that they are combatting fraud by asking for one’s zip code…which means that they become nationalistic bastions, barring visitors from using them…how does 1 fill up a rental car on return if you have to ask the attendant for a $ value of gas???

  • If your car really NEEDED gas, and you filled it up, the 50 cents works out to about 3 cents more per gallon. (~16 gallons / 50 cents). Where’s the problem here if the gas station was 10 cents per gallon cheaper? Also, why on earth would you be on a trip with no cash?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I couldn’t make the math work out, either. Chris says the tank was empty. Well, even smaller cars hold something like 13 gallons. So, at bare minimum he’d have been putting around 10 gallons in the car. The $.10 per gallon savings should easily have covered the $.50 charge for using his debit card. The fact his bank hit him with fees because he used his debit card isn’t the station’s fault.

  • Robbie H.

    This happened to me at a small gas station in Rocky Mount, VA. Very similar situation and story. I wonder if there is a network of these stations?

  • terri217

    I live in Bend and I know exactly which gas station it is. I don’t give them my business. Charging the ATM fee, plus you have to get out of your car to go inside to pay is a rip off. The ATM fee should be absorbed into their cost of running a business. I am a business owner and I don’t charge people to use their ATM card. There are two stations in town that do this. They don’t get my business.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Given the store’s claim that the credit card machine isn’t working, it’s most likely that the store is running the transaction as a pin based Point-of-Sale transaction and not a signature based transaction.

  • emanon256

    Back in the day when I worked in finance for a student center, we had an ATM and we got a per transaction fee from the bank. They charged $1 and we got $0.20 per transaction. We had a contract with the bank and the deal was we would let them put an ATM there and they maintained us and paid us the fee to use our space. The other ATMs in the area charged $1 as well.

    Several years later when I managed finance for an entire campus at another school, I found that we had ATMs from some commercial bank. These ATMs charge $2.50. There was a credit union across the street from campus and it charged $1.00. It took me quite some time to track down the contract as it was signed years before I started. I finally did and all it said was that they got space on our campus, and in turn we had the convenience of using their ATMs. There was nothing in it for us, and it cost our students more to use them. I asked them bank to remove them and they refused as they made money off of them.

    I decided to put out-of-order signs on the ATMs, and directed students to the credit union ATMs so they would save money. When someone came to refill the ATMs and saw the out-of-order signs they asked me what was going on, I told them there was a cheaper ATM across the street and suggested they lower their price, the commercial bank refused. I suggested they simply remove the ATMs, they also refused. Then they sent some suit to my office who yelled at me and said that I am breaking the contract by putting out of order signs on the ATMs when they are working. So I changed the signs to, “Save $1.50 use the ATM at the local credit union.” with directions. I got yelled at when they discovered those signs. But there was nothing they could do. Finally after a few more months of this, they said they were loosing money on our ATMs and asked if they could break the contract and remove the ATMs and I happily gave them permission.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    First off, their business practices stink. No argument on that point. But I could not make the math work to see where Chris actually lost money so the “cheaper can actually mean more expensive” line doesn’t appear to apply to this case.

    There’s a $.50 cent transaction charge mentioned…but he was saving $.10 per gallon on the gas and he said the tank was empty. Bare minimum he put in 10 gallons. (And that would mean there was still probably a quarter tank left in a smaller car; certainly not empty as he said.) So, in that scenario he’d still be ahead $.50. (And he probably saved more if it wasn’t a tiny car and he really was empty.) Doesn’t make it right how the station was operating, but there’s no “ripoff” if you still come out ahead financially.

    The REAL ripoff is that his bank was charging him for him using his debit card. That’s inexcusable. Chris should have started shopping for a new bank or credit union that very day to rectify that problem. How can a consumer advocate be caught in that sort of horrible deal? (And not even recognize in the article that the real problem was the bank fees?)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Surprisingly thereare a few stations where you pay afterwards. I found one in Fresno, CA, a few years ago. There is even a legal nickname for people who buy gas and run off. Its known as “gas and dash” I actually had one case where my client gassed up and paid afterwards with a check from a closed bank account.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    They care because its their police that are called to track down perpetrators thus imposing additional burdens on law enforcement and ultimately the tax payers.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Excellent post. It sounds like Chris needs a new bank. The gas station was being deceptive, but minus the bank fees Chris would still have come out ahead despite the $.50 fee the gas station stuck him with.

    It’s rather stunning to me a consumer advocate and bright guy like Chris would write this article and never even touch on the point that he was being ripped off by his bank. That’s the real story here. With a decent financial institution he’d still have saved a bit at this station even with their extra fee tacked on.

  • EdB

    Thinking about it, the claim the machine is broken doesn’t make sense. If they could run debt cards, sounds like the machine was working. I can’t recall ever seeing a merchant using two different machines, one for credit and a different one for debt.

  • Nigel Appleby

    My son was told by a gas station attendant to enter his phone area code followed by 2 zeros. Apparently it worked, although I haven’t tried it yet. His area code is 604, mine is is 250. If you live in Canada use your area code, if you live in another part of the world use one of ours or look up a Canadian code that’s easy to remember. I hope it works for anybody who uses this.

  • Dutchess

    This math isn’t really adding up for me. Gas price savings = 10 cents/gallon while ATM transaction fee was 50 cents for the entire transaction. If you purchase 5 gallons of gas you’re at break even, so unless you arrived on a riding lawn mower, you’re still coming out ahead.

    Also, why would your bank charge you a transaction fee for debit card? This is almost unheard of when you make pin based transactions they are usually free to the cardholder.

    I think the only scammy thing here is your bank for charging you to use your debit card.

  • Dutchess

    I agree, the only scammy thing here is a bank charging you to use your debit card. Of all the national big bank, this is a fee I haven’t heard of.

  • y_p_w

    There is a little something called paper currency. I’ve yet to find a gas station with personnel that didn’t accept cash without an additional transaction fee.

    Of course there are some gas stations that are open 24 hours or late hours with a credit card, debit card, or gift card. I know of one Chevron station that has low cash prices, and one can get the same cash price with the company’s gift card.

  • Nigel Appleby

    In Canada retailers may not charge the customer a fee for using a debit or a credit card. I think it’s federal legislation, but it was also written in our contracts with Visa etc. Also in British Columbia it is provincial law that one must prepay for gas, either at the pump or inside the gas station. Which solves a lot of problems. The law was introduced after a gas station attendant was dragged under a car to his death while trying to stop a driveaway.

  • Cornhusker

    Living in Lincoln, I am guessing it is at 56th st exit. The ones elsewhere are OK

  • mszabo

    I’m not sure this was ever against the law. What it is is against the terms and conditions the Merchant has signed with the Credit Card companies. Debit cards may be a whole different animal and probably work the same as a 3rd party ATM which almost always has a transaction fee.

  • BillCCC

    Last time in NY State the machine had a sign that had you enter the numbers from your postal code + 00 and that worked fine for me.

  • y_p_w

    There was an segment of the cartoon “Garfield and Friends” where Jon decides to give up his credit card, but when he tries to buy something at the mall nobody seems to recognize this thing called “cash”.

    http://www.tv.com/shows/garfield-friends/cash-and-carry-98049/

  • calbff

    Most places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada are pump first, pay after.

  • Logan B.

    For the sake of informing the conversation:
    The parents of a close friend own a small watch business. My friend tells me that it costs only about $0.25 to run a PIN-based debit transaction, while credit cards usually take a fraction of what is being charged (1-2%). The exception is AmEx, which is known to charge up to a 5% transaction fee.

  • William_Leeper

    Here’s the thing, there are many gas stations in the country that charge an additional 3-10 cents per gallon when you pay with a card. Many times, this is not disclosed, but when you swipe your card, price just changes at the pump, and there is no notice at all. Here where I live, we have a station that does not accept credit cards, but has an ATM on site. Their gas is 10-12 cents per gallon cheaper than anywhere else in town, but they rely on their cash customers, and make it as difficult as possible to pay with a card! This is simply business, and there is nothing different about it than me telling my customers that if they pay with cash/check I offer a 3% discount (I offer this to credit card customers too), but if they want me to bill it, they will have to pay the full price!

  • y_p_w

    Not in Oregon. That got me the first time I drove into Oregon. I reflexively went to try and pump myself, but the attendant informed me that it was the law in Oregon. I asked if it was OK for me to clean my own windows, which was allowed. I’m not sure whether or not to leave a tip though.

    The prices weren’t bad either (cheaper than most gas stations in California or Washington during the same trip).

  • I remember taking a cross country trip with my family back in 1979. We were in the pan handle of Texas and every gas station was advertising for 80 cents while one station was advertising for 50 cents. So, my dad pulled into the cheaper gas station only to find out that their price was per liter, not gallon.

    ——

    What I have an issue with is that the gas station plays the game of not accepting credit cards at the pump and only accepting debit at the register.

  • bodega3

    As a small business owner I can tell you that the fees vary with the merchant account company you use. There can also be a transaction fee on top of the percentage cost plus the monthly fee the business is charged. All for the ‘priviledge’ of accepting a customers card.

  • y_p_w

    Oh – the days when the attendant trusted people to not drive away.

    There’s a gas station near where I live which operated that way. Even with self serve, the attendant had to come out to reset the pump with a mechanical reading that made a clicking sound. Even as other gas stations were implementing pay at the pump, the attendant had a credit card imprinter using carbon paper. I think he had a card reader to check to see if a card had been reported stolen or declined, but the place never got a printer. Then they embraced the 21st Century in a big way; they now have a convenience store and attendant inside. Still – that station still has two service bays with an actual mechanic on duty.

  • emanon256

    Good point! I remember my last commercial bank tried to charge me that, i closed my account before it went into effect.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Agreed. But without question the biggest (and recurring) gotcha in the article was his bank charging him to use his debit card. Yet, strangely, that doesn’t even get mentioned. He’ll never go to that gas station again (possibly will never even be in the area to use them again even if he’d consider doing so) yet he’s apparently still carrying around and using his lousy debit card. That gotcha is still getting him.

  • Andrew F

    If I did that in Chris’s situation, I would’ve been eaten alive by my better half for penny pinching. However, since I never pay with a debit card anyway, I would’ve just used cash.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I think it was the merchant that grabbed the 50 cents, not the bank that issued the debit card. ???

  • BeckyAintheBay

    There is a gas station company near where I live which operates in exactly the same way. They are able to offer lower prices by being cash and debit only, and there is a surcharge for debit; they are effectively cash only, but also 10-15 cents cheaper, on average. I live in Northern California and I imagine they operate in Oregon as well. It doesn’t display this unless you drive up to the pump, but anyone from around here knows, so maybe it’s just a case of uninformed traveler (though not your fault, Chris).

  • Dutchess

    I had the same questions when I moved to Oregon 3-4 years ago. You get used to not pumping your own gas and No, tipping is never expected or required. I do occasionally tip around the holidays or on very cold nights or when I see one attendant busting their @ss out there to make sure nobody has to wait longer than necessary.

  • Dutchess

    I love you and as a former starving student you’re my personal hero.

  • Carrie Charney

    No sales tax in OR.

  • y_p_w

    The sales tax on fuel in California is only 2.25% of the “base price” (before other taxes). The difference in prices was closer to 50 cents a gallon.

    Of course I won’t pretend to know how fuel is priced, such as why two Chevron stations a block apart charge different prices. Or why some gas station 100 miles from the closest refinery and in the middle of nowhere is considerably cheaper than a gas station blocks away from a refinery. And yes, I do realize that gasoline is transported through pipelines.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Nice

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Oh, I agree. I think the store owner is lying through his/her teeth.

  • TonyA_says

    I believe that Oregon and New Jersey are the 2 States where they pump gas for you. Over here in the TriState area, NJ has the cheapest gas. So you get full service and cheaper gas :-)

  • Chris in Oregon

    When you use a debit card for $10.00 we only receive $9.66 of that transaction. The 2.4% fee charged to us as a business is for the company that sorts out all of the various banks that debit cards are issued to and draws that $10.00 from the right bank keeping the .24 cents as the cost of doing this.

  • frnkbnhm

    Would the really way to deal with this to be to inform the credit card companies that they are advertising they accept their cards but do not. There must be some rule about displaying the VISA, MC, etc. logos and not actually accepting the cards.

    Also the math doesn’t make sense. You got charge $.50 for the transaction if the gas was really $.10 cheaper per gallon so long as you bought more than 5 gallons you came out ahead. How would you come out behind?

  • Chris in Oregon

    When you use a debit card for $10.00 we only receive $9.66 of that transaction. The 2.4% fee charged to us as a business is for the company that sorts out all of the various banks that debit cards are issued to and draws that $10.00 from the right bank keeping the .24 cents as the cost of doing this. We do over half of our business in Credit Cards (slightly higher fee) and the monthly hold back by these companies is staggering. To me it just looks like this gas station A is trying to break even with the fee as the other stations have it built into the gas price and if you pay with cash you have given gas station B that fee plus.

    But Chris the real gas station issue here is why do we let gas stations get away with raising and lowering prices as a daily ritual. The gas they have in their holding tanks didn’t go up in price but they play the game so often that we accept it. The price of crude goes up and they raise prices a day later even though that higher priced crude oil is not even close to becoming gas for weeks or even months.

  • sershev

    Arco gas stations always charged 50 cents or something fee for use of debit card and do not accept credit cards. The gas price at Arco stations on overage a bit cheaper compare to other stations but not always. Everyone knows about this fee. And it is in place even if you buy a gum inside and use a debit card. I wonder, the 50 cents fee was in place when banks charged the merchants the same fee for debit card transactions. However, the government recently capped the fee banks can charge for debit cards transactions to 15 cents or something. Arco, however, did not reduce their debit card fee.

  • Extramail

    Had a similar experience recently when trying to fill up the rental car near an airport. The sign at the station we pulled into was 10 cents less a gallon than one down the road. Only when you try to pay does it say that using a credit card would mean you pay a higher price – the reduced price was a cash only price. Now how many of us have THAT much cash on us. I got in th car, drove down the street and paid one cent a gallon more just because I wasn’t going to do business with a scammer. I remember when pay at the pumps first started credit cards were a different price but haven’t noticed that in a long time.

  • TonyA_says

    I am a quite confused with the way an ATM card is used in the article and posts.
    My understanding is my bank’s (Bank of America) ATM card only allows me to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). I cannot use it to pay for gas UNLESS I add a debit card option with it. If I do that (make my ATM card also a debit card), the new card has a Visa or Mastercard Logo added to it.

    Having said the above, when people use the term “pay by ATM”, are they really saying pay by debit card? Thanks for helping clarify this.

  • TonyA_says

    Here in the NYC Tristate Area, working for a gas station or convenient store at night is one of the most dangerous jobs. Sometimes they get even…

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/qns_drunk_fatal_brawl_bCDPAbUR2Gk4H19hMcJE6O

  • EdB

    Pay by debit and pay by ATM terms have pretty much come to mean the same thing, but there used to be a difference. From what I have seen, almost all banks issue Debit/ATM cards these days. I remember some time ago that there was a method for a merchant to accept ATM card by basically having a special card processor at the counter. It basically made an ATM withdrawal the the customer’s account and transferred the money to the merchants account. Of course you had to be a member of the ATM network like Star and Cirrus. This was before debit card were being issued.

  • TonyA_says

    As far as I know the Durbin Amendment to Dodd-Frank capped the banks charging the merchant [about] 23 cents per transaction.
    What I don’t know is whether the merchant is capped from charging the customer the same amount. From what I see here, I don’t think so.

  • As would I.

  • Joe Farrell

    I’m going to say this – and wait for the abuse . . . .

    Anyone who rolls into a gas station they have never been to, which is by definition off brand, hoping that they can use a credit card, and does not have enough gas to drive 4 blocks to the next gas station, deserves what they get. At that point, this gas station owner could have charged you $10 a gallon with a ten gallon minimum and apparently you would have been forced to pay it because you were on fumes.

    The basic question remains – when you saw it was impossible to pay with your credit card and there seemed to be unknown transaction costs – why didn’t you just leave? You were THAT low on gas that you could not go someplace else?

    Has common sense been tossed in the trash these days?

  • Joe Farrell

    But could you pump before you paid HERE? We don’t care what the station three states away might have done. . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Most merchant agreements also do not permit merchants to ask for identification in order to use a credit card. I generally refuse to present ID when asked. When I get told ‘its for my protection,’ thats bull. No one has liability for fraudulently used credit cards. Identification is for the merchant’s protection – not mine.

    The merchant is simply required to match the signatures – if the signatures match to a commercially reasonable level the merchant is protected from a charge back. they NEVER check the signatures – everyone is hung up on ID. Which is so easily obtained that any one using a credit card fraudulently can get get an id in about 4 minutes. . .

    For the life of me I don’t understand why we don’t simply use pin numbers for credit card swipes in the US.

  • fshaff

    Having lived in CA for many years and using ARCO gas stations quite often, I can attest to the fact that they do not accept credit cards of any kind. They do accept debit cards and tack on a fee (when I lived there it was 35c) for using it. However, I never heard of one that did not accept cash??? The pay-at-the-pump equipment accepted cash or your debit card. Or, you could pre-pay at the counter in cash. Isn’t ARCO now owned by BP?

  • EdB

    Oh man. It’s great to see someone else that refuses to give into the merchant’s paranoia. That is in the MasterCard agreement (Sec 5.8.4 – MasterCard Rules, update 1 Aug 2012 http://www.mastercard.com/us/merchant/pdf/BM-Entire_Manual_public.pdf). I love how they try explaining it’s for my own protection and I point out I am only liable for the first $50 and the issuer of my card waives that fee. Then they try the, “It’s for the store’s protection.” Wrong again. Once they have the authorization number, they get their money. MasterCard does not want merchants to be ID police and they even have a website to report merchants that require it http://www.mastercard.us/support/merchant-violations.html. It is one of 4 violations they are very interested about in hearing from the public.

    I have gotten to the point that if they have a PayPass terminal, I use my Google Wallet. I had one merchant actually ask for ID when I used it and I asked him what he was going to compare it to? I just took my stuff and left while he stammered. With the PayPass, you don’t have to even sign!

  • EdB

    Yes, they are a part of BP now and is one reason I refuse to patronize them. (Not because of the recent gulf fiasco but because of other issues).

    My mom always goes to the ARCO station by her house and pays with cash. I have never heard of one not accepting cash.

  • y_p_w

    Visa Debit only means that a debit card can be used for standard credit card style transactions. It’s not used for PIN-based transactions.

    I’m not sure exactly what would be used, although there is a company called Interlink (owned by Visa) that provides such a service.

  • y_p_w

    I’m guessing this may be close to what’s going on:

    http://www.davidsugerman.com/2011/10/01/arco-debit-card-fees-again/

  • y_p_w

    I knew of one ARCO station that accepted credit cards, although I’m not sure today. The individual franchise owner opted to accept credit cards and business was considerably higher than any other gas station in the area.

  • y_p_w

    It’s perfectly legal now under California law. I believe any merchant agreement in California either can’t contain such a requirement or that part would be unenforceable. A retailer can’t record the information, but they can make photo ID a requirement to accept a credit card.

    http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=01001-02000&file=1747-1748.95

    “1747.08. (d) This section does not prohibit any person, firm, partnership, association, or corporation from requiring the cardholder, as a condition to accepting the credit card as payment in full or in part for goods or services, to provide reasonable forms of positive identification, which may include a driver’s license or a California state identification card, or where one of these is not available, another form of photo identification, provided that none of the information contained thereon is written or recorded on the credit card transaction form or otherwise. If the cardholder pays for the transaction with a credit card number and does not make the credit card available upon request to verify the number, the cardholder’s driver’s license number or identification card number may be recorded on the credit card transaction form or otherwise.”

  • TonyA_says

    The Bank of America ATM with Debit Card allows the Debit charges to be authorized with PIN or with SIGNATURE depending on merchant. I think they use VISA but I am not sure how that works.

  • TonyA_says

    Joe the issue is when the customer was ready to pay (AFTER PUMPING), they told him the credit card machine was broken and only the ATM/Debit option was possible BUT WITH A SURCHARGE (FEE). So if this was a PREPAY instead, the customer would have known about the surcharge BEFORE he pumped. He can decide whether to continue or go somewhere else.

  • EdB

    Yes. Been through this one before. The key is “does not prohibit”. It basically says if a merchant requires it, they are not violating state law. However, if the merchant agreement says that on condition of accepting the card, they cannot require, then they cannot require. The law does not overrule the agreement. If MasterCard finds the merchant is violating the rule and is requiring ID, MasterCard has the right to pull the merchants ability to accept MasterCard. So basically, under state law you have the right to. But under the contract you signed, you agreed not to.

  • TonyA_says

    Chris can you check your figures one more time.

    I thought that the merchant paid more than 2% transaction fee for CREDIT card sales and about 23 cents only for a DEBIT card transaction.

    The logic is with a DEBIT transaction, the customer’s money is just moved to you. While on a CREDIT card transaction, the bank has to lend money out.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My understanding is that the card associated with your checking accout is one of more of the following:

    1. ATM Card. Withdraw Cash

    2. ATM with Point of Sale. Allows you to make PIN based purchases. These do NOT use the Visa/MC owned networks.

    3. ATM with VISA/MC Logo. Allows the transaction to be processed using the Visa or MC systems as a signature based purchase

    Today, the default at many financial institutions is a card with all of the above although it is possible to get one of more functions removed. A long time ago, #1 was the default, you could add #2, and sometime you had to apply for #3.

    I don’t know when was the last time I saw a checking account card that didn’t have all of the functions as the default.

  • TonyA_says

    I believe you.

    #3 Visa/MC SIGNATURE (offline, you sign like a credit card) Debit.

    #2 PIN based (online) Debit using something like Interlink or another network. I believe the law requires the bank to use at least 2 unaffiliated network.

    #1 use the automated teller to get cash.

    I asked BA to get me #1 only. They looked at me as if I was nuts but they gave it to me anyway. Problem is I hate having to remember my PIN code so even #1 is no good for me. I am the type of person who uses the teller and always forgets my PIN code so I need to show ID.
    Come to think of it. I don’t remember my BA and Citibank ATM PIN codes, so my dear wife gets the cash for me:-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In my mind, the terms ATM and Debit refer to usage. My card is an ATM card when I use it to withdraw money. It’s an ATM or Debit card when used to make PIN based purchases, and a Debit card when used to make signature based purchases (i.e. Visa/MC)
    Basically, I never call it a Debit card when withdrawing money from an ATM, and I never call it an ATM card when using a signature based purchase.
    I don’t know if those designations are technically correct.

  • sershev

    Sorry, I mean don’t accept credit cards. they do accept cash

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    What’s her cut? ;-)

  • TonyA_says

    I cook.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My husband had to come downstairs to see why I was howling with laughter. Thanks for a bright ending to my day!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yeah, I get that. Its the original post that seems wonky, even in the light of day. If you fill up at 20 gallons at $4.00 that’s $80.00. At 2.4%, the Merchant pay $1.92 to the CC company. At 50 fill ups per day that $96 per day paid to the credit card company. That’s about 35k annually that the merchant is paying to the credit card company, not $650.

    I suspect you multiplied 20 gallons by 2.4% to get $0.48, (not .48 cents) but that’s mathematically meaningless as categories are being mixed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Dupe

  • technomage1

    Yes, I was wondering about the cash, too. I always carry extra cash for those little wrinkles in life, but it seems that is a lost practice.

  • bodega3

    If you refused to show me an ID at our business, if we were to ask, your purchase would be canceled. As a merchant, I have to protect myself. I don’t see what your issue is with it. I was asked twice by merchants just today and had no problem with showing it.

  • Tracy

    I”ve noticed that more gas stations are going back to one price for cash and one for credit again. I remember it being that way when I was a kid and I’ve noticed it again over the past six months or so.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I found out something interesting which I had never considered. The higher the gas prices, the less money the station makes. How is this possible? The markup for stations is relatively fixed regardless of the gas price. But as the price rises, they pay more in credit card fees.

  • bodega3

    We had a gas station as a client and were surprise to find out how little per gallon they actually make. The one out here by us when it was a Texaco station, asked people to apply for a Texaco card as they paid less in fees than if you used MC, DI, VI or DS, which cost them a lot more to accept.

  • bodega3

    When I was a kid, we would get gas at the local corner station and just sign our name to a tag. At the end of the month the owner would total the receipts up and my parents would write the owner a check. We did the same at the corner grocery store. We never paid with cash and credit cards weren’t even used back in the dark ages.

  • grannana

    in hendry county fl. they charge 5 cents a gallon extra if you use a credit card. the signs are small but when you put your credit card in the price goes up.

  • I think the point is that both he couldn’t use his credit card (which would’ve been free) when the gas station advertised he could AND he had to pay the transaction fee levied at the station in addition to his bank’s fee. While the bank fee isn’t on the station, they’re complicit in that they forced him to use the debit card without prior warning.

  • What’s a liter? (I jest.)

  • Not abuse, but reality check. If you were single, in a normal mood, then yes. But if you have a carload of hungry kids, have waited in line, etc., then paying $2 or whatever more isn’t as much of an issue. I’m sure we ALL have paid extra for something just because we couldn’t be bothered. Doesn’t mean we like it!

    (When I first moved to Cambodia, a local friend was helping me buy a cell phone. We drove all over town to like four shops. In the end, we saved $2. I was like: WTH?!? But to him, it was worth it…)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m with you. Much like the locks on my front door. It won’t protect against all criminals, but it will deter enough of them.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I stumbled across one ARCO station that accepted credit cards in my 25+ years living in California,

  • EdB

    The issue is when you agreed to accept MasterCard, you also agreed *NOT* to require ID to complete a transaction. By requiring ID, you are in violation of MasterCard rules and subject to having you ability to accept the card revoked. Merchants expects the consumers to abide by the rules for using the cards they agreed to for using the card. Why do merchants feel they don’t have to give the same consideration to the consumer? Requiring ID gives absolutely *ZERO* protection to the merchant.

  • EdB

    requiring ID won’t deter anyone wanting to commit credit card fraud. The times I have shown ID for purchases that did require them (purchased online – pick up at store type), I just show it in the little windowed part of my wallet. Never had to take it out. I could have easily printed up a fake ID and put it in there and they would never have known the difference.

  • TonyA_says

    Address Verification using the address from the Driver’s License does.
    Maybe these are card not present sales. With swipe, the merchant is protected.

  • EdB

    Cards not present sales are not covered by the rule. That rule is for POS transactions.
    Address Verification is for online type sales where the card is not present at time of purchase. Address Verification does absolutly no good at a POS since the merchant does not get the card holder’s address to compare against. And even with that, the billing address for the card does not have to match the residence address. And in California, when you move, you don’t get a new driver’s license. You just attach a note to the back of your license with your new address. So even if you had the card holder’s billing address at the POS, you still have no way of verifying against the ID.

  • TonyA_says

    Ed, how about the zip code verification? My gas stations always makes me key thst in.

  • EdB

    That is actually a process put into place by the credit card companies, not the gas stations. Again, the merchant does not have that information and you enter the zip code of the billing address. I have one card who’s billing address is in San Jose yet I live in Los Angeles. Since I can’t produce any type of photo ID with the San Jose zip code, does that mean I am using the card fraudulently? This is why the credit card companies don’t want merchants to be ID police. I once had a business card that only had the business name on it. Anyone at the business could use it. How is the merchant suppose to check ID with that? The only way is for them to ask the credit card company if it is okay to do the transaction. That is the confirmation number they get back when they run the card through the terminal. It is the credit card company’s job to verify the valid use of the card, *NOT* the merchants.

  • TonyA_says

    Ed, you just got me to read both the Visa and Mastercard guidelines for AFDs (i.e. Gas Stations).
    Anyway, one quick thought. Anyone reading this and most of the articles here might get the impression that vendors are just a bunch of money hungry businesses that will do anything to “steal” from customers.
    However, in my opinion, there is more fraud done by dishonest consumers out there. They can range from shoplifting, fake credit cards, nigerian scams, etc.
    If you sell airline tickets over the phone, you will be amazed about how many try to buy with stolen credit cards. Also many dispute what they actually ordered because they FORGET what they say and do :-) During Hurricane Sandy, our phone system got hacked and someone made a ton of calls to the Carribean. So we did not only lose money due to no sales, we had to pay our long distance carrier for the fraudulent calls. Maybe we need a merchant advocate.

  • TonyA_says

    I remember that, too. Life was simpler then. Now it is GLOBAL, meaning no one throughout the whole world trusts anyone. So, the banks and processors get to tax us 2-3% of everything we buy. Pretty stupid, ha? Need to go back to using cash.

  • EdB

    for me, i dont think of the merchants as money hungry businesses. but i refuse to do business with one that treats me as a criminal and have to prove to them it is my card. and they are not even the party with the right to determine if i can use the card.

  • y_p_w

    Most will consider credit card fees in their markup.

    Many stations are ticket off because of the high prices. People are stingier these days after paying $4 a gallon and aren’t buying the donuts and sodas that make the station owners their real profits.

  • Joe Farrell

    Assumes facts not in evidence . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Ok – but most places do NOT require ID as a condition of accepting a credit card – its not posted anywhere – and if you use the self-serve checkout they don’t ask. So its merely an annoyance that they interject into human to human transactions . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Protect yourself from what? If you read your merchant agreement and follow what they tell you to do – you will not get a chargeback. You are not required and not allowed to ask for id as a condition of accepting a card. . . . there is no protection factor here. . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Why would you have to pay for fraudulent calls? There is no requirement to pay for something you did not use.

  • bodega3

    If we asked and you refuse, we would not sell to you. Do we ask? Almost never. But if we thought we should and were refused, we would cancel the sale. We don’t have a machine to run the card so no way to know if the strip is valid. All entries are through the computer.

  • EdB

    you dont have a machine but all entries are through the computer? do you enter the card info by hand? Are you a mail order business? I don’t see how you could have a store front and not have some sort of machine to swipe cards with.

  • bodega3

    I have been in stores that have had signs saying two forms of ID would be required to make a payment with anything other than cash. Now cash is not even safe. Local banks around here are holding seminars on how to spot a phony bill as $5, $10, along with the larger bills. The crooks are getting good with using legal currency and changing the face value so even the counterfeit pens don’t work. For get about checks, Traveler’s cheques, too, as most small merchants won’t accept them.

  • EdB

    just because they put up a sign does not change the fact they are in violation of the contract they agreed to in order to accept the card.

  • BeckyAintheBay

    Unless, like mentioned above, this was an Arco station (or similar) that has always only accepted cash and debit with pin (for $0.50). If this is the case, the attendant may only have been saying that the card reader at the pump was not working. Perhaps there was just some miscommunication between Chris and the attendant?

  • TonyA_says

    LOL. Looks the males in the family are the misers. I do the shopping, too. My wife cannot see “SALE” signs.

  • TonyA_says

    Unfortunately that argument did not work with our Service Provider. Cost me $2k in just 2 days. They called the same number in St. Lucia (758 area code) and Dominica (767 area code) again and again.

    The phone company explained that CORRUPT CARIBBEAN PHONE COMPANIES (YEAH CORRUPT !!!) charge US carriers an arm and a leg to complete calls to their networks. So they pay hackers to go in private phone systems and call a number in the CARIBBEAN that is just some voicemail or answering machine THAT NEVER HANGS UP!!! Since PBXs have multiple lines, they make many calls at the same time!

    If you use a PBX in your business, be careful!

    I would never touch that place (Caribbean) even if you pay me. Good luck to those cruising there.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    There are two fees mentioned–the 50 cents the merchant took and the fee he paid his bank for using his debit card. Chris says he spent more than he would have at a station charging 10 cents more per gallon. The 50 cent charge would only make that happen if he bought less than 5 gallons worth of gas, yet he clearly says the car was empty. He still comes out ahead on the deal if his bank isn’t ripping him off by charging him a fee to spend his own money.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My apologies, Joe. I re-read the story and saw:

    “And after adding the transaction fee from my bank, I was overpaying for the fuel in a major way.”

    Okay, I don’t cuss much in public, but WTF? The BANK charged a TRANSACTION FEE to use its OWN card?!?!

    Last month, I purchased a Travel Card from my local bank so that if my credit card acted up overseas (very, very long story) I’d be able to withdraw cash or make purchases until I got the matter straightened out yet again (told you, long story). The Travel Card looks and acts just like a regular debit or VISA card, but charges a 50 cent transaction fee for Every. Single. Transaction.

    That’s the only scenario I can think of (using a Travel Card) that would explain why Christopher Elliott, author of Scammed, would have a bank card in his possession that charged him to actually use the card.

  • sunshipballoons

    Here’s another example of such a fee, but this one, I think, is illegal. In San Francisco, many restaurants add a surcharge of 2-5% to pay for the “Healthy San Francisco” initiative, which is a City law requiring that all employers provide health insurance. I’m not a fan of the surcharges, but if they are disclosed on the menu, I think that’s fair enough. (I don’t really have a problem with the disclosure being in small print at the end of the menu, though I know others do. But that’s not what I’m commenting on here.)

    Here’s the scam, though. Big chain restaurants have standardized menus. While there aren’t a ton of these restaurants in SF, there is a Cheesecake Factory. Cheesecake Factory uses its standard corporate menu at their SF restaurant. Obviously, no Healthy SF disclosure. But it’s on the bill. So, yes, the first time you learn about this fee is when presented with the bill. I cannot imagine that this is legal.

    I’ve only experienced this at CF, but I imagine other restaurants (Chevy’s? OG?) may be guilty of this as well.

  • sunshipballoons

    @comanchepilot:disqus, you keep repeating that merchant agreements do not allow askign for IDs, but you leave out a key limitation: ONLY IF THE BACK OF THE CARD IS SIGNED. In my experience in retail (which, though rather extensive, is over 10 years old at this point), the vast majority of people do not sign the back of their cards. In fact, nearly as many people write “please ask for ID” in the signature block as actually sign it.

  • bodega3

    Most of the agencies I have worked for never have had a machine to swipe nor does our family business. Our merchant account charging is done online, same at the agency.

  • bodega3

    For airline tickets, we must have a copy of the credit card, front and back or a signature on file. ARC rules.

  • bodega3

    Actually as a business owner, I have the right not to accept your credit card. Look, we are all in this together but it is the merchant who gets burned if the card is fraudulent and we have to take steps to protect ourselves.
    With checks, according to the local police, we must have a DL written on the check before they will even look at a bad check.

  • bodega3

    Exactly!

  • bodega3

    Also, if you have ever been burned by a customer, you might think differently.

  • EdB

    It is not legal. You can refuse to pay it if it is not disclosed. If it is a required charge, for example the California charge for computer screens, it still has to be disclosed. You could try disputing the charge and explain it was not disclosed.

  • EdB

    And did you realize, as a merchant, you are not allowed to accept cards that do not have a signature? If all they have written is the “Ask For ID”, you can’t process it until they sign it and yes, in this case, you can require ID.

  • EdB

    So it sounds like your business isn’t even the type we were talking about this rule applies to. You don’t have a store front where people walk up and hand you a card and you get a confirmation number from the credit card company.

  • EdB

    In your situation, yes you have to have the ID. Your business was not the type being discussed about the ID rule. The rule does have a clause about requiring ID *IF* it is a transaction that requires ID by law, like alcohol and tobacco. But a regular store front type business, they are not allowed to require ID.

  • EdB

    Actually, according to your agreement with the credit card company, you *DO NOT* have the right not to accept a customers card. Your business is not the type that was being discussed with the ID issue. And with the DL written on a check, in California, that is a violation of State law.

  • EdB

    If you have been burned by a bad transaction, it is because you did not follow the rules.

  • TonyA_says

    Actually we are supposed to have a SIGNED COPY of the UCC Credit Card Authorization Form. Since that is (close to) impossible to get, to protect our behinds, we make the customer sign nd fax a credit card authorization form, the front and back copy of the card, and a State-issued ID. Card must be issued by a US bank (Warning: Barclays cards are UK), and we Address Verify.

    If I don’t get all the above, I don’t sell. People are free to buy from someone else and hopefully do not get screwed by them :-)
    I couldn’t care less what Visa/Mastercard/Amex says because the real merchant is the Airline through ARC Corp. (An airline obviously checks your ID for TSA purposes so go ahead and complain. ha ha ha)

    I have returned my swipe machine many, many years ago since it is a pain in the rear to maintain it and the paper. No reason to have it unless the customer is coming to the office where you can swipe the card. Moved to online (terminal) since then. But recently we considered getting rid of that, too, since it served very little or no purpose when all we do is key in the customers credit card number in the GDS or on other supplier’s sites.

    Also want to clarify the Debit Card MERCHANT FEES. Different vendors TYPES have different arrangements with their card processors. Large supermarket chains, I believe, pay the least percentage fees. Gas Stations (AFDs) pay more than supermarkets. But the vast other type of merchants pay at least 2% of the sale to card processors. Visa/Master already will allow (some) merchants to add a card usage surcharge. That is part of the settlement they had with huge vendors. When people complain that a gas station adds 50 cents to a debit card charge, they need to understand WHAT A VENDOR IS GOING THROUGH paying the banksters just to use their networks. Don’t get mad at the vendor, get mad at the banks and the money networks.

  • TonyA_says

    Ed, I’m curious, are you a vendor with a merchant account?
    I am sure you read about all the FRAUD perpetuated on vendors with fake cards.
    If we know our customers already, we go easy. But if someone with a thick
    “Nigerian” accent calls or wants to buy a ticket to that part of the world, we ask a lot of questions. We chose to whom we sell or we might lose our shirt.

  • bodega3

    I do own a store front business that takes walk in business. We process all credit card charges through a POS merchant account online, similar to the brick and mortar agency I work with. We process service fees online though a merchant account. Both gives me a approval number or declines the card.

  • bodega3

    No DL, no acceptance of the check. All businesses here require it. One agency I was with took a check and no DL and there was nothing the police could do.

    I certainly do have the right not to take a credit card. There is nothing in our paperwork about having to accept any card.

  • bodega3

    No I we were burned because the jerk who wrote a bad check filed for bankruptcy and closed his business. Since that happened, our county has now opened a bad check department in the District Attorney’s office that has been very helpful for merchants. We are more cautious now, use small claims (successfully!) and also use a collection agency.

  • EdB

    I used to work at a store front where we took CC. The owner had several cards used over the time I was there that had been stolen, but not reported yet. Because we had the authorization number on each of those transaction, they were covered and we got our money.

  • bodega3

    I just checked and it is not a violation of State Law for a DL to be requested, plus it can be written on the check.

  • EdB

    If you are not swiping a card, you fall under a different set of rules. But I have never experienced a store front that didn’t have a terminal to run the transaction. When you don’t have a card swipe, there are a different set of rules that get applied in regards to fraudulent charges.

  • EdB

    You have to remember that those comments were made *BEFORE* you disclosed the information about the business you have. If you look back at my posts, I posted a link to the MasterCard Rules and it says that a merchant *MUST* accept a properly presented card. Your business falls under the clause in the rule that covers purchase of items that require ID to be presented.

    And for the DL, I said in the State of California. If you are not in California, you state laws may be different.

  • EdB

    When did checks come into the discussion? The discussion was about CREDIT CARDS companies having rules stating that merchants can’t require ID. Checks are a whole different matter.

  • EdB

    Did you not note that I said that was in CALIFORNIA?

  • TonyA_says

    Ed, the Patriot Act required airline travel agencies to “KNOW THY CUSTOMER” – meaning to collect ID info and lookup some database. But the Treasury was assigned to make the rules and they did not include travel agencies in the enforcement of the law. Asking ID to buy an airline ticket (if they do not know the customer) is SOP for almost all travel agencies who want to protect themselves.

  • TonyA_says

    If you do NOT swipe the card then you have no protection, period.

  • TonyA_says

    You SWIPED and got authorization code, that’s why.
    With CARD NOT PRESENT (CNP) there is no guarantee.

  • y_p_w

    There are several chain restaurants (Chevy’s, Denny’s, Olive Garden, Ruth’s Chris) in San Francisco that aren’t fast food. While they do have standardized menus, almost all chain restaurants have custom printed menus for each location, complete with different prices and sometimes different menu items. I have been to Cheesecake Factory, and they constantly reprint menus for changing menu items and prices.

    If they’re not including a disclosure, it’s not because they can’t put it in. The inside edge of the binder includes a place where they can put in a page of specials or seasonal items. They could easily put a disclosure there. They can easily customize their menus. For CF, they would simply need to add a “notebook page” to their menu. I have been there (upstairs in Macy’s Union Square), and decided against it when I was told the wait for a table was 2 hours.

  • y_p_w

    The merchants prefer the PIN based transactions because it costs them less. Visa prefers the signature based transactions because they can charge a percentage like they can for regular credit cards. I don’t know if the banks really care either way. With most point of sale terminals, they’ll ask if you want credit or debit. I’ve even seen some disclaimers taped to the terminal asking that the customer use debit if possible.

    http://epx.com/blog/2010/the-surprise-demise-of-pin-debit-debit-networks-have-been-quickly-diminishing-the-cost-advantage-of-pin-vs-signature-debit/

    How it all gets sorted out by the bank and service provider is too complicated for me to understand.

  • bodega3

    I am in CA and our local police told us to get the DL plus I looked up the law and it isn’t a violation in CA.

  • EdB

    Yeap. You’re right. The Song-Beverly Credit Card Act only covers recording credit card numbers on checks.

  • TonyA_says

    Good article. Even if it LOOKS the same to me as the customer, I would like to know which method least penalizes the vendor. Since I make it a point to buy from family owned local stores as much as possible, then I would like to do whatever it takes to make them survive. I think they would prefer cash.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s because those store employees were poorly trained and.or sloppy. Bodega, who is neither poorly trained, nor sloppy, would not operate that way, so the comparison fails.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    All commodities are priced that way.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The story states that at the time Chris paid he had an empty gas tank along with a hungry family. That suggests away from a prepay situation.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If they can. The competition in an area might prevent that. A nearby Arco perhaps which does not acccept credit cards might put a crimp on those plans.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The problem is that using a PIN generally gives you little or no protection if the purchase goes bad. Even with a Debit Card, you can dispute a transaction

  • TonyA_says

    Don’t you guys in CA use Telecheck or something like that.
    You need to input DL to check.

  • TonyA_says

    In that case he’s lucky he found a gas station :-)

  • EdB

    Actually, because of the business Bodega is in, where the ID is a required part of the transaction because of Federal Law, his experience was not part of what was being discussed.

    But as for the poorly trained sloppy employees, that is why the credit card companies don’t want merchants to be ID police. The clerks are not trained how to check for ID. I had one representative from MasterCard explain to me that if they had a case of fraud and discovered the merchant was asking for ID, even though the merchant did have an authorization number, they could charge it back to the merchant because they were violating the rule.

  • y_p_w

    For whatever reason, ARCO stations don’t seem to put other gas stations out of business. In my area there’s an ARCO station (used to take credit cards but I don’t know if that’s true now) right across from a Shell station. Both have stayed in business for over 25 years, even though right now that Shell station has prices about 40 to 50 cents higher per gallon. I actually wonder how they stay in business since that Shell station has prices right now that are about 30 cents per gallon higher than the other “name brand” gas stations less than a mile away.

    Heck – there’s even a gas station where the gas is almost a dollar per gallon higher than any place else nearby. They get some retail business, but I suspect the prices are because the city has a contract to fuel up there. There might be a volume discount, but they probably base it on the retail price.

  • cahdot

    they should not be allowed to accept credit cards and should be out of business ..u should name them maybe some of the cc companies will hassle them…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My understanding is that gas station barely break even on the gas. They make money on the concessions. Which makes sense as gas stations tend to be clumped together in close proximity and comparison shopping is easy as the prices are prominently displayed.

  • ajaynejr

    And all the while I am arguing with the clerk, my car sits in front of the gas pump. I don’t know how long it will take and I’m not about to use up gas and time moving my car and losing my spot in line.

  • BMG4ME

    Not if you don’t have any gas in your car! If that weer the case I’d buy what I needed (and pay cash) to get safely to the next station.

  • Opinionated12cents

    great point

  • sunshipballoons

    Yes, I do realize that. Totally non sequitur to my point.

  • EdB

    Well, given that the conversation was about properly presented cards, and your example was about something covered by another rule, I would say that your response was the one that was non sequitur.

  • oldpro

    or just hand over ,with a “sweet smile,” 75¢ or whatever small change is in your pocket…let the station use it’s time and tie up a pump…be sure to wash ALL your windows, too!

  • salondeogloria

    In these days,almost every where debit cards or credit cards are accepted but you got a problem then you must be assure that next time when you move out then you must take care of these things so that at the particular time you couldn’t got any problem.I went to Orlando and moves to a restaurant and got the same problem but the owner of the resort was very helpful who took care of everything.restaurant was Jimmy-hula’s restaurant. Jimmyhulas{dot}com

  • Marcin Jeske

    You incorrectly assume that accepting is a zero cost option. Cash handling costs money, from extra employee time, trips to the bank, to risk of theft.

    While a 2.4% fee does mean you only receive $9.74 of a $10 transaction, the same transaction in cash may cost so much that you only “receive” $9.50 of it. (Or $9.80, or $9.90, depending on how efficiently you handle cash.)