FAQ: Should You Use A Credit Card At The Gas Pump?

Young woman pumping gas

Q: Should you use a credit card to pay for gas?

A: Americans pump close to 393 million gallons of gasoline a day, which is more than a gallon for every American! That’s a lot of gas! And when you think about the high prices at the pump today, you want to make sure you’re paying for that gas in the best manner possible. Many people reach for a debit card or cash when filling up on gas, but there are several key advantages to using a credit card at the pump. Here are four reasons why you may want to use your credit card when fueling up:

  1. Using plastic makes it easy to see where your money goes.
    When you use cash, it’s hard to see where your money went. There’s no paper trail, so you can’t review your spending habits or calculate how much you are spending in one budget category. But when you pay with a credit card, there is always a record of the transaction. You can look at your statement at the end of each billing period to see how much you’ve spent on fuel costs.
  2. Get rewarded for every gallon you purchase.If you use a rewards credit card to pay for your gas, you can earn points toward free flights, hotels, or merchandise. In just one year, those points may be enough to fund a full vacation! Just make sure to choose the card that offers the most points per dollar you spend.
  3. Protect yourself from fraud and theft.
    Credit cards are the most popular payment method for online shopping. Unlike cash or debit card purchases, credit card users can file claims if they notice fraudulent activity on their accounts. Credit card companies also offer protection plans that make it easier to file a claim in case of identity theft or fraud. Finally, using cash always carries the risk of theft, but stolen or hacked credit card information can easily be closed.
  4. Avoid the hold.
    Debit cards can be a convenient way to pay for gas, but it’s important to remember that when you choose to use your debit card at the pump, you’re choosing a payment method that will put a hold on your money. Gas stations present a unique risk because the consumer can fill up and drive away without paying. To avoid this type of theft, gas stations will authorize cards by placing a hold on the account immediately after you initiate the transaction—which is before they’ve even begun to pump fuel into your car. The hold is generally between $50 and $150, depending on how much money you’ve requested at the pump. It may take several days for this hold to clear from your account, so if you would like to use your debit card at the pump, just remember that your funds won’t be available until several days later if you need them right away.To avoid paying credit card surcharges when you fill up your car, you can use cash. However, if you use a rewards credit card and get cash back on every purchase, the surcharge may be less than what you earn in rewards. Some gas stations will waive the fee if requested.

As always, it’s important to use credit cards responsibly. If you’re not sure you can pay your bill in full before the due date, don’t use a credit card to buy gas at the pump. Otherwise, you might end up paying far more than the price of gas itself!

When you use a credit card to pay for fuel, you enjoy several benefits. Consider paying with a credit card next time you fill up your tank.