Should I Use a Credit Card at the Pump?

Q: Is it a good idea to pay for gas with a credit card?

A: On average, Americans pump close to 392 million gallons of gasoline a day. That’s more than a gallon for every American! Each day! With fuel prices spiking, 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 fuel. However, there are several key advantages to using a credit card to pay for gas. Here are four reasons you may want to use your credit card at the pump.

  1. Paying with plastic makes it easy to track your spending

Cash leaves no paper trail. Once you’ve spent it, you have no way of knowing where that money went unless you actively record the expenditure at the time of the purchase. When you pay with plastic, though, there’s always a record of the transaction. You can review your spending habits, or calculate how much you are spending in one budget category (transportation) to help you stay on top of your finances as best as possible. Just check out the credit card statement at the end of the month or billing period to see how much you’ve spent on fuel costs.

  1. Earn rewards for every gallon

If you own a credit card that offers rewards or miles for every purchase you make, you can earn a lot of rewards by using your credit card to purchase the gas you’d buy anyways. In just one year, you may have enough rewards or miles to fund a full vacation! Just make sure to choose the card that offers the most bang for your buck.

  1. Fraud and theft protection

When it comes to protecting your funds from fraud, credit cards are the number-one choice of payment methods. Unlike payments made in cash or with a debit card, a credit card purchase can always be disputed if found to be faulty. Many cards offer a zero-liability plan in cases of fraud as long as the credit card company is notified within a predetermined amount of time. Finally, paying with cash always carries the risk of theft. However, a stolen or hacked credit card account can easily be closed.

  1. Free up your money

When you choose to pay with a debit card at the pump, you’re choosing to put your money on hold. Gas stations present a unique risk to their owners, as the consumer can fill up and drive away without paying. To avoid this form of theft, gas stations will immediately authorize cards by placing a hold on the debit card account as soon as the consumer initiates the transaction, which is before they’ve even begun to pump fuel into their car. The hold is generally between $50 and $150. After the consumer has finished pumping gas, the card will be charged for the appropriate amount. However, the hold on the card may not clear for several days. If you need every dollar in your account immediately after paying for gas, you may want to use a credit card rather than a debit card at the pump.

Many drivers choose to pay for gas with cash to save on surcharges that some stations issue for payments made via credit card. However, if you use a rewards card and get cash back on every credit card purchase, the small surcharge can be more than offset by the rewards. In addition, some stations will waive the surcharge upon request.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that, as always, credit cards should only be used responsibly, even when paying at the pump. Only use a credit card if you know you will be able to pay the bill in full before it’s due. Otherwise, the interest charges you’ll accumulate mean you’ll be paying for far more than the actual price of gas.

Using a credit card to pay for fuel can have unique advantages over other payment methods. The next time you’re at the pump, consider pulling out your credit card instead of paying with debit or cash.

Your Turn:

Do you use a credit card at the pump? Why or why not? Tell us about it in the comments.

About Kyle Trondle