How and Why You Should Use a Credit Card at the Gas Pump
Cash or credit? When it comes to paying at the pump, using a credit card can offer benefits that cash simply can’t.
Every time you pull up to a gasoline pump to fill up your vehicle, you have to answer one question: Cash or credit? Well, using a credit card to purchase gasoline can offer multiple advantages over paying with cash, yet many people still insist on paying with cash. We’ll get into those advantages, but first, for those of you still paying with cash because you’ve never tried paying by credit card, let’s cover the basics of how you actually go about paying at the pump with a credit card.
How to Pay at the Pump
First off, let’s acknowledge that not every filling station out there allows you to pay at the pump. Some stations may not have up-to-date pumps with integrated credit card terminals. It’s also possible, if not probable, that one or more of the pump terminals could be out of order. Other stations may be located in states that don’t allow customers to pump their own gas or have restrictions limiting self-service (we’re talking about you, New Jersey and Oregon). Still other stations may only accept cash or debit card payments. If any of these apply to the filling station you’ve pulled into, then you probably won’t be able to pay for your gas via credit card at the pump.
But, if the filling station you choose allows credit card purchases at the pump, here’s how to make it happen:
- Follow the pump’s onscreen instructions. You will typically be asked you how you want to pay and then be given the option to select your answers by pressing buttons or via touchscreen.
- When you’re instructed to insert your credit card, insert it into the card slot, oriented the way illustrated. Some pumps want you to quickly insert the card and then withdraw it, while others tell you to leave the card in the slot until you’re instructed to remove it.
TIP: Gasoline pumps are sometimes targeted by thieves, who insert skimmers into card slots to unlawfully obtain credit and debit card information. Prior to inserting your card, use these tips to detect a gas pump skimmer.
- After inserting your card, you’ll typically be instructed to enter your zip code. This is the billing zip code that your credit card issuer has on file for you. If you reside in a different zip code or you’ve moved and haven’t updated your billing zip code with your card issuer yet, be sure to enter the zip code they currently have on file for you or your purchase will likely be declined.
- Once the purchase is authorized, the pump display will instruct you to select a fuel grade and proceed with pumping gas.
- Select the grade of fuel you want, remove the nozzle, and fill up your tank same as you always have.
- When you’re finished, the pump will typically ask you if you want a receipt. If you select “yes” and the pump is equipped with a printer, your receipt should print right then and there. If it doesn’t have a printer (or the printer is broken or out of paper), the pump may instruct you to see an attendant for a receipt.
And that’s really all there is to it. Now that the how has been answered, let’s concentrate on why you should use a credit card instead of cash to purchase gas.
- Paying at the Pump with a Credit Card Saves You Time: It obviously takes more time to get out of your car, walk into a gas station or over to a pay window, pay for your gasoline, and then walk back to your car to fill up. It’s quick and easy to step out of your car, take a few steps, follow the onscreen pump instructions, and fill up. This is especially true if, when you go inside to pay, you have to stand in a long line of people or wait for the person in front of you to fish exact change out of his pocket to pay for purchases.
- Paying at the Pump with a Credit Card Allows for Social Distancing: If you’re standing all alone outside between a gas pump and your car, and you don’t have to go inside or stand in a line with other people, it’s much easier to social distance. Plus, other people using pumps “near” you are typically six or more feet away.
- Purchasing Gas with a Credit Card Makes it Easier to Track Gas Expenditures: For those of you interested in tracking how much you’re spending on gasoline every month, using a credit card provides you with accurate accounting. Each month you’ll get an itemized statement showing exactly how much you spent as well as when and where. With cash, you’d have to manually record each and every gasoline expenditure in a log and be diligent about it.
- Purchasing Gas with a Credit Card Can Be Safer: When carrying cash, there’s always a risk you could lose that money or have it stolen. Let’s say you’re going on a driving vacation and anticipate spending $400 on gasoline. Well, that’s a $400 wad of cash you’d have to carry on your person instead of one thin piece of plastic. Or it could mean multiple trips to ATMs to get cash and paying ATM withdrawal fees. And, if you lose that cash, it’s gone for good.
Lose your credit card, however, and it can be replaced with a phone call. Even if your credit card is stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases, by federal law, your maximum liability is $50. Many credit card companies, Credit One Bank included, offer zero fraud liability, which means you are not responsible for paying back any fraudulent charges. While it’s true that a debit card offers protection against fraud as well, your liability for fraudulent charges could be more with a debit card than with a credit card.
- Purchasing Gas with a Credit Card Frees Up Your Money: If you make a gas purchase with cash or a debit card, your money is gone and no longer available. Using the same driving vacation example as above, that means if you buy $400 worth of gas with cash or debit card, that’s $400 you won’t have available for other trip expenditures. But, with a credit card, you don’t have to pay for purchases made within a designated billing cycle until the payment due date for that billing cycle. This frees up funds in your bank account for other things. Just make sure you have enough money left in your account to make at least the minimum payment by the payment due date.
- You Could Earn Rewards for Buying Gas with a Credit Card: If you drop a $20 bill on gasoline, it earns you only that gas. Debit rewards cards are rare, but many credit cards offer rewards on eligible purchases, and gasoline may be one of those eligible purchases—it is with many Credit One Bank rewards credit cards. So, instead of just gasoline, you could be earning cash back rewards, points, or even travel miles just for using your credit card to fill up instead of cash or debit card. If you drive a lot, those rewards could add up quickly and maybe even help offset the cost of your driving.
The next time you pull up to the gas pump, rather than automatically paying with cash, consider using your credit card instead. It could save you time, be more convenient, and maybe even earn you rewards.
If you’re interested in a Credit One Bank rewards credit card that earns you cash back rewards on gasoline purchases, see if you Pre-Qualify. It takes less than a minute, and it won’t harm your credit score.