You can’t always get a full tank

Tess Vigeland Jun 22, 2007
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Gas prices are hovering around $3 a gallon. MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

You can’t always get a full tank

Tess Vigeland Jun 22, 2007
Gas prices are hovering around $3 a gallon. MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

TESS VIGELAND: Picture it with me now: It’s early in the morning, and overnight, the price of gas shot up to four bucks a gallon. You’re fueling the house on wheels that you call your car. The pump stops, so you leave. But you notice your tank’s half empty.

Well, we’ve got two possible answers: You’ve got a tapeworm in your tank, or you went over a little-known limit that many gas stations impose at the behest of credit card companies.

Ieva Augstums is a business reporter with the Associated Press. Ieva, what’s going on here?

AUGSTUMS: Before gas prices actually started rising, you know, people would just swipe their credit card, get a full tank of gas and drive off. But recently, with gas prices being as high as they have been and continuing to increase, some consumers out there have swiped their card and then realized, “Wait a minute, the pump is shutting off.” Sometimes that $50, sometimes that’s $75. I started looking into what was going on, and came to be that it’s actually preventive measure from the credit card companies to stop fraud at the gas pump.

VIGELAND: What do you mean by fraud at the gas pump? How does that happen?

AUGSTUMS: Well, sometimes they’ll say if your credit card is stolen, someone can go ahead and just take that credit card and decide, “Oh, I’m gonna go, you know . . . let’s rack up some charges, and maybe I’ll get a tank of gas with it.” And it’s a policy actually that’s been around for years, between credit cards or the issuer and merchants – in this case, you know, gas stations. And what it is, it’s actually a limit that the credit card companies will put on what they call a card holder-activated terminal, such as a gas pump. And that limits have just been, you know, preset.

VIGELAND: And that’s not something that the consumer, himself or herself, is aware of.

AUGSTUMS: No, in normal cases no. I mean, some consumers have gone into the gas stations and have asked, you know, “Whoa, what’s going on? How come my pump is, you know, shutting off at $50?” And the gas stations have been saying, “Oh, it’s your bank,” or, “It’s the credit card company. It’s not a policy we have.” And in essence, they’re correct – it’s not a policy that they have. But it’s up to the gas station if they wanted to go ahead and abide by that rule. Most will.

VIGELAND: So is there anything you can do as a consumer if you are at the gas station trying to fill up and you can’t use your credit card? I mean, can you like, split it between two credit cards or something?

AUGSTUMS: You can, you can in some cases go ahead and split it. But in most cases, you still can pay for a full tank of gas if you go in and pay for it inside the store. So, you know, it’s the convenience factor. Those that want to go ahead and, you know, pay at the pump, just swipe the card, get the gas and go. But if you want to, you know, go inside, wait in line, you can you know, fill up with $56.36 and let’s say not be cut off at $50.

VIGELAND: All right. Ieva Augstums is a business writer with the Associated Press. Thanks so much for sussing this out and sharing it with all of us.

AUGSTUMS: Thank you.

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