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Cash vs. Credit Card: Gas Stations Charging Different Prices

This article was written by in Consumer. 306 comments.


I noticed something disturbing last night. I pulled into my favorite low-cost gas station, which happens to be Valero. It’s my favorite simply because it’s the least expensive in the area and it’s right on my route home from work. Apparently they have begun charging 6 to 8 cents more per gallon for payments with credit cards than they are charging for payments with cash. This is a very new development, as the last time I filled up a few days ago, this was definitely not the case.

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I didn’t look at the pump until I gave the attendant my credit card and he began pumping. (New Jersey is still a full-service-only state.) There was nothing on the large sign that indicated that there was now a price difference between credit and cash.

Valero gas pricesThe price difference practically wipes out the cash back bonus I’d receive by using my credit card with rewards, so it will now be more difficult to determine which method of payment will actually cost less in the long run and which gas station to use, as prices vary daily.

I thought it was against the terms of service of a merchant account — and possibly against the law — to charge different prices for cash and credit or to add a surcharge for credit card purchases, all else being equal. Here’s how the stations apparently get around this issue:

Now we all face dual pricing, and as was the case when the practice first popped up, to comply with the law, the pump price has to be the credit price from which the cash discount comes.

But the price advertised on the big signs that draw people to the stations is the cash price. That is misleading. According to North Jersey Media Group, gas stations are “forced” to adopt this policy because merchant fees eat into their profits. I understand that individual stations are put in a squeeze when prices are increasing. Understandably they want to pass that cost onto the consumer without pricing themselves out of competition.

As I’ve been following prices practically day to day, it’s clear that when this was initiated at the stations within the last few days, the cash price is the one that followed the trending line and an extra surcharge was added to the credit card prices. Nevertheless, they can still consider it a “discount” for cash purchases. The regular credit card price should be the one advertised on the large signs, not the discounted price.

Updated December 10, 2013 and originally published June 21, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 306 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Eric

Use the credit card to buy gift cards. This only works if the surcharge does not apply to the gift card of course.

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avatar pidgeon92

I remember back before we started using credit cards extensively (early 80s) that all gas stations gave a “cash discount.” I was very surprised when they dropped it. I am not surprised that they are bringing it back, particularly in the case of independent station owners, who don’t make much off the sale of a gallon. What really surprises me are that there are still places where attendants have to pump the gas for you.

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avatar The Happy Rock

The funny part is that most people spend way more money with credit cards. From what I have read, that is why some many companies can charge the same price for cash and credit cards purchases. The extra spending they receive on credit cards far exceeds the small percentage the credit cards fees take up. Forking over 50 cash, versus swiping a card is a big psychological differences.

I will be putting this to a test personally with a cash only July, to see if I really will save 12-18%.

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avatar Patrick

I noticed this when I was on vacation to CA about 2-3 years ago. The price differnece was about $.10 a gallon. I paid cash.

What I don’t like about it is that I love pay at the pump – no lines, no hassles. :(

I guess that is another way to drive customers into the stores and get them to buy more snacks, cigarettes, etc.

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avatar mapgirl

I am surprised Jersey is doing this. I have to tell my parents because our gas station is close enough to Jersey that we lose a tiny slice of customers. (The crazy full-serve people)

Fascinating. I thought advertising like this was illegal because it was deceptive. I am also surprised that gas stations are still allowed to charge two prices. My parents don’t and I highly doubt they will. (Prices are back below $3 in PA, DE, MD, and VA anyway.)

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

This is good news (the cash/credit difference, not the sign issue). The only reason I stopped paying cash was because the price advantage disappeared. Coincidentally, I am working on an article where I mentioned the old days of paying less for cash so now I have to update that part.

I received a server error so I am resubmitting this comment.

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avatar kurt

“I thought advertising like this was illegal because it was deceptive. ”

I think as long as they advertise the higher price and charge a lower price for a cash transaction they are in the clear. Seems reasonable to me.

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avatar My New Choice

I too had thought this was an illegal practice and it does seem to be pushing the line if the large sign advertises the cash price but the pumps themselves list the credit price.

I’ve been known to skip stations that advertise their price on the main sign being a discounted price if you purchase a car wash. When I pull into a station, I would expect to pay the price that was displayed on the main sign.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open here at our gas stations to see if there is any difference in the sign/pump prices.

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avatar Ian @ FamilyFinanceBlog

I’ve noticed this popping up more in California, too. Just a year ago there were no stations with two price tiers, now there are a few that I know of. I’m sad to see this myself since I use a 3% cash back card to get money back from the sale, and it’s about awash with the cash/credit price difference. Hopefully my favorite stations will continue to be one price.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Patrick: In NJ it won’t necessarily drive people into the stores to buy higher-profit-margin items because the attendants often take your cash right at the pump thanks to the full service requirement.

J: It’s not a price advantage for cash — cash prices are in line with the station’s historical trend — it’s the credit card prices that jumped. I guess it’s just semantics, but it’s important to note that there is *not* suddenly a “new discount” at these pumps.

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

Flexo, yes, I noticed from your first post that cash is the old combined price–for now–but in the long run credit-payers will become like bottled-water-buyers by bearing the profit burden for the cash-gas-payers (paying cash for gas is like only buying lost-leader sales items at the grocery store).

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avatar TK

At least in busy places like grocery stores, it has been found that credit and debit cards take less time than cash or checks at the check out and thus save on labor costs and reduce customer annoyance from having to stand in long lines. This would at least partly justify keeping the same price for credit cards as cash.

But this might not hold true for gas stations that don’t necessarily have long lines anyway.

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avatar Bags

I got caught by this same exact thing in NJ as well. I didn’t realize it until my tank was half filled and at that point it was too late. Annoying thing is that I had the cash on me, but I just found it easier to pay with the card at the time and save the cash for a wedding later that night rather than having to hit up an ATM.

I don’t mind gas stations doing this, but it should be made clear to the customer rather than using deceptive advertising. In defense of the gas station they did have the credit price on the main board as well, but the cash/credit part was tiny and in odd placement and I just assumed the prices were the usual regular/plus/premium prices.

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avatar Kevin

My understanding is that this practice went away because credit card companies began enforcing their contracts with the stations. When you contract to accept Visa or Mastercard you have to agree NOT to charge higher prices to consumers. You can get your ability to handle credit cards revoked for this kind of nonsense — unless something has suddenly changed and Visa/Mastercard doesn’t mind retailers discouraging the use of credit cards. How likely is that?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Kevin: The stations get around this regulation by calling the credit card price the “real” price and then offering a cash “discount.” The only problem is they’re advertising the “discounted” price on their huge signs. But I still don’t see why Visa/Mastercard lets them get away with the practice, as it’s effectively the same thing.

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avatar kurt

According to the TOS for mastercard (too lazy to look up visa) it is okay to offer a “discount” for cash payers.

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avatar Neely O'Hara

>>What really surprises me are that there are still places where attendants have to pump the gas for you.

LOL — one place anyway — it’s called “New Jersey”

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

I passed two different Valeros yesterday, and they have changed their big signs to advertise the CASH price for regular unleaded in the top position and the CREDIT price for regular unleaded in the second position (where the price for plus unleaded used to be).

I haven’t passed my regular station yet — and I probably won’t again as I am moving.

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avatar Ted

What’s eating into your pocket in NJ is those unnecessary labor union gas attendants.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Ted: are you sure? Gas prices in NJ are among the lowest in the country, and as far as I know, gas attendants in this country are not unionized. I’d welcome any evidence otherwise, however.

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

Flexo wrote, “I haven’t passed my regular station yetâ€â€?and I probably won’t again as I am moving.”

Might that be overreacting to the sign placement?

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avatar Marcy

Here in the MD suburbs of DC there is a chain of stations (FREESTATE) that only takes cash and is the low price leader in the area. The lines to gas up and/or pay are always long on the weekends, although mid-day during the week is fine. Pricing for these stations is consistently 3-7 cents less than the stations 1/4 mile down the block that take credit cards for regular unleaded.

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

Marcy, that is a good point and reminds me of another point: In the old days, after the cash/credit difference first disappeared, I used to seek the stations that had the old pumps where you needed an attendant to process your card, because the stations with the fancy self-swipe pumps were naturally getting their customers to pay for the high-tech pumps with higher gas prices.

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avatar Interrobanger

No question the gas station owner is trying to steer the consumer away from credit cards — you sound a bit skeptical about the owners motives, but this is part of a much larger fight between merchants and the banks issuing credit cards. See this newspaper column, “Credit card interchange fee outrageous” for one explanation.

I consult for the Merchants Payments Coalition on the issue, and they’ve got a lot more information about this up at their website, UnfairCreditCardFees.com.

Long story short: Merchants aren’t the bad guys here. They’re just trying to keep their heads above water, and while they watch profit margins narrow, the banks’ profit margins thanks to the interchange fee keep going up and up.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

?!er: I’m aware of the slim profit margins for the owners, but the merchants are not free and clear of deceptive practices. Either raise all prices to compensate for the low profit margin, or advertise the CREDIT price (non-discounted) on the large signs that draw people into the stations. When Station A is (inappropriately) advertising their lower cash-only price reflecting the “cash discount” (say $2.80), and the Station B across the street is advertising their price for all transactions (say $2.85), you pull into Station A for their lower price, and once the gas is being pumped you realize Station A’s *real* “non-discount” price is $2.88, you’ve been a victim of deceptive advertising. You have to be observant if you’ve been used to paying credit cards for all transactions, but you shouldn’t have to be, you should be able to compare apples with apples.

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avatar Andrew

Visa rules are available here:

http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/rules_for_visa_merchants.pdf

Surcharge rules are on page 15.

I believe that what this particular station is doing violates these rules, as it is stated that the cash discount offer must be clearly disclosed.

Also: If credit card interchange fees are eating up so much of the merchant’s profit, switch to debit only! It’s a flat fee instead of the fee-plus-percentage of a credit card.

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avatar DK

But you forget – a debit card means you have to actually have money in your checking account to pay for the gas.

This means 90%+ of Americans couldn’t use this option ;-)

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avatar Foobarista

The problem is that, ironically, the more expensive gas is, the less money most gas stations make. Gas stations make most of their money by sales at the mini-mart or from car wash sales. They typically make a fixed amount per gallon of gas, whether the gas sells for $1/gal or $4/gal. But at $4/gal, the CC merchant fees eat far more of their (fixed) profit than at $1/gal – and people are much less likely to buy a Coke if they just caughed up $75 to fill up their truck…

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Foobarista: As I’ve said, while I feel somewhat sorry for the station owners’ plight as gas prices rise, it’s not an excuse for advertising only the “discounted” cash price. The bottom line is that if I want the best price, I’m going to start having to carry much more cash than I normally would, and be more discerning about the stations I frequent. I still find the practice of charging cash customers one price and credit customers another price inappropriate (raise all prices is the credit card fees eat too much into profits) AND don’t use misleading advertising. If it is truly a cash DISCOUNT as required by the merchant agreement, list the regular credit card price.

If this type of advertising was truly allowed, gas stations could offer gas at $1 a gallon with a $30 car wash, and list the price on the sign as $1.00 for regular unleaded.

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avatar J at IHB and HFF

Flexo said, “If this type of advertising was truly allowed, gas stations could offer gas at $1 a gallon with a $30 car wash, and list the price on the sign as $1.00 for regular unleaded.”

I like 1 penny per gallon with a $3 per gallon pump rental. If the total was competitive, I would buy that guy’s gas for his creativity.

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avatar SteveC

This just happened to me yesterday. I agree that you are used to seeing the 2nd price on the sign as the next grade gasoline and not a “credit card” price. This is just wrong – it should be more clear. I was half-tanked before I noticed the difference. My wife went back to her credit card receipt and noticed a 6-cent/gallon charge.

NJ Officials certainly did not to a good job informing consumers that this was coming.

Finally, with cash, there is almost never a receipt. It is easier to hide cash sales and cheat the Government.

Never again will I go to Valero….

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avatar C.G.

Hi,

I am so glad you raised this issue. I have had this happened at a Valero gas station. They do not display the price for using a credit card and you find out only if you look at figures when the guy is pumping which is how I caught this.

So how do I beat this, well simple, avoid Valero!

Once people stop coming they will stop deceiving the customer.

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avatar sammy

i see not many of people here are getting the actual point, “hiding gas sale has never happened and do not need to be hiden” you are probably thinking tax but goverment charge merchant tax on per gal which is .44 cents a gallon before its even delivered to the gas station. and credit card fees are normaly 2 to 3 % + 10 to 25cents per transaction so do the cal for every gal merchange will pay minimum of 10+9 = 19cents per gal if gas price is $3 per gal, so in reality they can offer 6 – 9 cents and be able to stay in market with bigger companies.

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avatar Laney

I went to the gas station this morning, Garden State Fuel on Rt. 130 in Bordentown, NJ, and their sign displays the cash price as well. When you pull up to the pump, they display both cash and credit. The attendant atleast let me know that since I would be paying with credit, I would be charged a different price. I was blown away and can’t even believe this is LEGAL!
And for all of you who aren’t from New Jersey, we DO have one of the lowest gas price averages in the US. On average, we’re $0.10 cheaper than PA alone.

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avatar dave

I had the same experience last month on Rt 27. There are an Valero Gas Station and a BP Gas Station. Since I was used to go to the Valero Gas Station to fill my car, and the BP station and the Valero station showed the same price on their roadside sign, I went to the Valero station, and you know what happened next: I was charged about 6 cent higher per gallon than the price listed on the road side sign. I felt that it was kind of deception going on there. Later I filed a complaint about this to State Office of Weights and Measures. The office sent a person to investigate the issue. Today I got reply from the office saying the Valero station is in compliance. So if you feel you’ve been treated badly by Valero, you need to file complaints to the Office, and talk to your senators. See the link

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avatar JJ

Obviously the one way to combat the practice is to NOT support that station. Drive to one that has one price. Boycott Valero!

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avatar Floridian

You might want to check your state’s laws. The laws of several states have laws against surcharges for using plastic to pay for products & services. Florida’s law specifies that it’s a 2nd degree misdemeanor to do so.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Floridian: In some cases, merchants are able to get around that law by declaring that the lower cash price is a “discount” from the regular price. The question then is whether they, in the case of gas stations, can advertise their “discounted” price to compete with other stations, and by the time you pull into the station and notice that you’re bing charged more, drivers may not be motivated to pull away and find another station.

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avatar San

Where I live in Southern California, there are two stations that advertise dual pricing: the first is now a Chevron, the other is a Valero (though the only Valero in town to do so). Both have large signs advertising both prices.

Remember though, it costs now about 9 cents a gallon to process your credit card, by which point the station makes maybe a nickel GROSS per gallon sold.

The minority of sales and majority of profits are from non-gas sales.

Personally, I now usually fill up at one of the Arco’s (BP). Cash or debit only, 45 cent charge for debit.

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avatar jack

iam a gas station owner and here are the facts. because the consumer likes to use credit cards how do you thing the cc company makes their millions. thats right by charging to merchants. here is the break down. mc/visa charge 2.5% plus a .35 cents transaction fee amer.express charges 3.1% plus a .35 cents transaction fee you do the math on how much it costs a gas station. when gas was a dollar we made 10 cents a gallon and when gas went to 3.00 dollors we still make 10 cents. when you buy $35.00 in gas on your ax it costs us $1.43 in fees. thats aprox. 12 gallons @ .10 profit. that gives us a loss of .23 cents

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Jack: Thanks for sharing the info on the fees. There’s no denying credit card companies are making massive profits through these fees. It’s not an excuse for some gas stations to use deceptive advertising.

I drove past the original gas station this past weekend and noticed their large sign was changed to include the cash price for regular unleaded in the top position and the credit price for regular unleaded in the second position where the “plus” price used to be. It’s hard to see that one price is cash and the other is credit until you pull into the station. Also, I still maintain that charging more for a credit card transaction is a violation of the credit cards’ terms of service, even if you call it a “cash discount.” On the signs, it is the top price that is compared when choosing a station. You don’t know that you’re comparing apples and oranges until you pull into the station.

Regulators confirmed that this practice is okay — so as consumers, it’s something we’ll have to look out for.

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avatar Adam Richards

This is not a problem in NJ. From what I have seen, these Valero and the independents who may offer a discount for cash are within the consumer protection laws for posted prices. Look it up.
Full serve (best called mini-serve) is consumer-friendly, fast, safe, secure, compfortable convenience mandated and VERY popular … certainly not “crazy” when you consider New Jersey consistently ranks among the states with the LOWEST average price for regular gasoline, and is often the second or third lowest. That “attendant-only pumps the gas” law promotes greater competition. The law is good for the local and state economies (payroll taxes, employment, etc.), and gas statin attendants do nopt belong to a union. This is a law with overwhelming bi-partisan support in the state. Get your facts straight.

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avatar TT

Flexo,

Can you mention any commercial that is not deceptive. The credit card companies T&Cs (terms of services) that you defend so much have the most deceptive ads possible by mentioning low transfer fees, low introductory APRs, then in very little character fonts all the penalties and fees for the following years. Were these clearly visible at first ? No.
I guess you do not yet a merchant business, otherwise you would even “love” more these credit card companies. Most of you here want to boycott gas station merchants but none want to boycott legal racketers and rippers off namely credit card companies. Of course you cannot understand that point of view as long as you are just comsumers and not retailers.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

TT: I am no fan of credit card companies, either, and I don’t defend them when they are deceptive. You can’t excuse retailers for being deceptive by saying, “But the credit card companies do it, too.” I deal with merchant accounts so I understand the retailer’s point of view. I also understand that gas stations are working with razor-thin profit margins. The problem here is that customers have been led to expect street advertising from gas stations that includes the regular, “plus,” and “super” prices for a gallon of gasoline. When a gas station suddenly changes that or advertises a “cash-discounted” price as the standard, the customer cannot make a fair comparison from the street.

I’ve simply stopped going to Valero because of this. They’ve changed their signs since then, but I want to pay by credit card to earn rewards and to keep my wallet free of dollar bills, and whether or not they’re advertising deceptively still — most of the stations I’ve seen have changed their signs to show “cash” and “credit,” though it still looks as if the two prices are “regular” and “plus” — there’s no reason for me to pay more than I can at other stations.

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avatar Winning Bucks

Hey Happy Rock, did you get your discount when paying cash in July? Do you live in Jersey. I have a bet going with my girlfriend that you don’t get a discount when paying for cash (she says you do), but we live in Ohio (the bet didn’t specify what state).

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avatar Believe in Cash

Credit Cards are not money. It is a convinience that is given to a buyer. Now if you are being charged to use that convience, it is ok. Or you can carry some Real Money in your pocket for change, instead of making the Credit Card company rich. Believe in Cash, it is as good as Gold.

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avatar Mike

Does anyone know what the law is for Texas as far as not advertising a price differance for credit cards vs cash? And are visa/mc check cards treated like cash or credit?

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avatar kimberley

Actually, it *is* illegal to have a lower price and charge more when a credit card is used. It is ONLY considered a cash discount when the price normally charged is discounted once cash is presented. The cash discount cannot be a discount from the credit card price–if that makes sense.

In other words, the price is the assumed “regular” price for everyone, therefore it should be the advertised price. If there is a discount on that price, the regular price should still be advertised for everyone, though you could also advertise a cash discount along with it.

Advertising only a “discount” price IS deceitful, and is not in accordance with Truth in Advertising laws. Unfortunately, too many consumers are ignorant to this fact, so it goes unreported more often than not.

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avatar JIM

I pay cash anyway its a lot better to pay in cash because you can see what you are paying. I always spend $40 on gas and then I can use the best option for the carwash, I use the air vaccum, I buy 10 snickers bars and I buy 24 pepsi cans for less than $20. And that $20 make me feel better than the $40 on just gas.

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avatar John

I pay everything in cash

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avatar Matt

Actually, I think this is a violation of Mastercard’s terms of service, and you can complain here:

http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/contactus/merchantviolations.html

One of their complaint categories is: “The merchant/retailer is adding a charge for using your MasterCard card.”

I was just at a gas station in State College PA (the Shell at 1282 N Atherton) which advertised 3.15 on the big roadside sign, but charged 3.23 at the pump for credit, with a sign saying “8 cent discount inside for cash or shell card payments”

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avatar Champaklal

I’ve boycotted Valero because of this… A few times I didn’t realize that they were charging me a lot of surcharge just for using my credit card. I fought (in vain) for misleading the customers. Since then (4 months ago) I’ve stopped using Valero.

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avatar John

Thank you for that Mastercard “report violations” link Matt.

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avatar Deutsch 65

People, you have to remember NJ and Oregon are the only states by law that requires service gas. Mr. (comment 59) Champakal, all other states I have seen gas charge more for service gas pumping then self serviced. I have heard and saw a publication some where that gas stations are charged 5 to 7 cents more per gallon for serviced pumping. Reason, extra credit charges by gas companies to gas station francise owner.

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avatar Oscar

I agree with the last point of the article. The advertised price should be the one for credit. I just had a sour experience with a Shell station (see my site – http://www.muychingon.com/2008/02/05/shady-shell-practices-buyer-beware/) where I didn’t see the sign for cash or credit until I had already paid. On top of that, the signs that you actually see from the street are all the ones with the “cash” prices. And the small sign that specifies “cash” or “credit” is very small, unlit and basically out of sight.

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avatar tony

I suspect Valero of watering the fuel and diesel . Who can I report this to t get a sample ?

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avatar Javahut

I went to a BP station in FL and diesel on the sign said it was $4.05. I go to the pump swipe my card and next thing I know I am being charged $4.10! I go to complain and the lady tells me this is perfectly legal to do. One problem, I told my wife what happened, she did a little research and infact what they are doing is illegal. There are no signs siginfying a price difference. The BP gas station is in violation of both VISA & MASTERCARD Rules along with Florida State Statue 501.0117, which is a second degree misdemeanor. I am going back with my documented info and requesting my money back. If they don’t want to comply I am sure the state and the credit card companies will be quite interested in my findings.

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avatar Jackie

I also have a concern about the misleading prices at gas stations. If they want our business I think they should be upfront and advertise which prices are for cash and which are for credit. This is a criteria I use when I go to fill my tank since I do not usually carry a lot of cash but at the same time want to make a good decision of what price gas I want to put in my vehicle. I think it is false advertising and it should be illegal to do. It is not just Valero it is a variety of different companies.

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avatar Anne

I live in Westchester County and have a Lukoil station right near me. They always pumped the gas and now became a self service station. They also charge 5 cents more a gallon for credit cards. I have been told it is illegal to do that. Any further comments. I haven’t read anything so far that says it is illegal. It is not shown on their signs that there is a price difference.

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avatar teresa262

I just came across the double charging, and let me tell you, I am livid. I live in michigan and was just reading on the michigan.gov website about the breakdown of charges that make up the gas price. Funny, in michigan everyone is already charged 4 cents per gallon for credit card transactions. So how can they legally charge even more on top of that. I have written my govenor and hope to hear a response.

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avatar visitor

Merchants have a federally protected right to offer lower prices on cash items.

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avatar reference

Please provide a reference.

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avatar speedytax

Average crdit card fees are 2.2% price of the gas. Which means they are at par with gross profit of the gasoline. Average station runs at 8-9 cents over the year per gallon. Credit cards fees are more than that now in Florida. Not to mention, everytime someone uses papertowels, it is about a penny each. There is no way merchants are going to survive, unless, there is dual pricing, and yes it should be displayed as to one should know what they are paying. I am just a small dealer, and I know my days are numbered along with my investment. The only model will survive in long run is no attendants, no help, no water squeeze, and anyone to give help like at big box.

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avatar smart11972

you people are all clueless. The reason for the higher credit card price is that the credit card companies are raping the gas stations. Do you realize that the credit card company makes more $ per gallon than the gas station. Americans are so stupid, and this is because they don’t use cash. The credit card company rule is that you cannot charge more for using credit cards, but you ARE allowed to give a discount for cash, and that is how the gas stations have outsmarted the big credit card companies.

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avatar Cheryl

Hey, smart11972…spoken like a true deceptive service station owner!!! I don’t think the issue is with the difference in price…it is with the deceptive advertising. The station should state on their signs Cash/Credit pricing. Also, I can see when credit card companies charge fees, but I use my ATM card…no fees associated there! Who drives around with an extra $100 in their pocket???

BTW…It’s illegal and it’s called “Full Disclosure”:

June 7, 2007
Contact: Senate Republican Office / 609-292-5199
Senator Diane Allen (R-7) Allen Legislation to Protect Consumers Against Inflated Gas PricesSenator Diane Allen (R-7) introduced legislation today to protect consumers from price gouging and false advertising by gas stations. The two bills would establish new penalties for violating the law.
The first bill provides that if a gas station charges two different prices for cash or credit card they must advertise both prices on their signs. The second bill would clarify the existing law that does not allow gas stations to change their prices more than once in a 24 hour period. This legislation will allow a gas station to lower their gasoline prices at any time in a 24 hour period without penalty.
“Some of my constituents have complained that they’ve seen one price advertised on a sign, and when they paid with a credit card and got their receipt they discovered they paid a lot more for using a credit card,” said Allen. “This practice violates customer trust and should be against the law in New Jersey.”
A gas station that violates the price clarification would be liable for a penalty of $5,000 for each violation, and could also face other penalties.
“We to want make sure that when customers go to fill up their cars and trucks that gasoline stations are providing full disclosure,” added Allen. “Furthermore, if gas station owners feel they can lower their price and be more competitive, why should we stop them? It just makes sense to encourage lower gas prices.”

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avatar Plustick

This is a rip off to the public. They can call it a discount but, it is really a service charge to use a credit card. I suggest anyone who would pay with cash, should use single dollar bills or better yet, use change, a lot of change that has been prepared in advance. Once it becomes a burden to visit a bank several times a day, the service charge will stop.

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avatar GasPrice1

Not trying to be critical, or show that I know it all, just figured I would point out that the term is actually “loss leader”, not “lost leader”…meaning a company takes a loss on one product or service to get people in the store etc. so they buy other things that they hope will exceed the loss. Again, not telling you this in a bad way. Have a good day.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Hi GasPrice1: I don’t see where anyone wrote “lost leader.” Must have been somewhere else.

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avatar Kurt

Flexo, see comment 11.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)

Kurt: Got it. Thanks. :-) Never mind, back to your regularly scheduled whatever.

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avatar Chris

I never use a credit card but I do use my debit card always because I never know how much Cash to have on hand to fill my tank. But because debits are handled as credit cards the “discount” does not apply to me.

Personally I think this is a despicable practice!!!!

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avatar j-anonymous

Price advertised should reflect price charged. Period. File complaints with proper authorities. Use your consumer power to boycott the stations that do this and they will take notice. Either they fight for you business or go out of business.

Let’s put another spin on this…the amount that gas stations pay for their gas is based on market posted prices. They all basically pay the same and must then set a price to compete for your business. Margins are slim and competition is tough. Eating into the amount that customers like you and I pay for gas includes credit card fees. Offering discounts for those paying with cash helps these merchants stay in business.

Visa/MC/Amex/Discover, etc all make money two-fold on these deals: the fees charged to the merchants and the fees that you pay when you run a balance month to month. Chew on that for awhile. It’s a win-win for them.

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avatar cindy

Some stations here in South Jersey are doing it as well. I have seen Citgo and one called Pioneer, which is a local “generic” in my opinion. They list both on the sign, but my friends and I have been caught by it assuming it was the usual reg, premium, super listing and not seeing the tiny “cash” “credit” words.

It does seem to be a “discount” for the moment as these stations are cheaper for “cash” than the local one-price Wawa and Sunoco, but the credit price is about 2 cents higher than the local average.

My son just got a Wawa credit card. He gets 10% rebate on gaspurchases for the first 90 days and 4% after that. It is given to you in the form of a wawa gift card. Great deal and he is just 18. (tiny credit limit). I go there a lot for gas and might consider it.

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avatar Vin

Flexos comment is right.
They can’t tack on a surcharge to the final price because you are using a credit card (that part is law). But they can give a discount off the final price if you use cash, They can swing it as a coupon, the same way you have coupons like Lowes 10 of 25 which is only valid if you use a VISA card. As a business owner I am glad that this is starting to happen. As for America Express our business outright refuse to accept it. Our profit isn’t that big, the CC don’t pay rent, don’t contribute to my local community like I do, don’t have the expense of consumables like I do so why give them my profit?

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avatar Anonymous

I pulled up at to US Gas in town when I saw the price on the billboard. When I got out to pump, it was about 5 cents more per gallon. I got back in the car and drove to the next gas station. It was about the same price at the other gas station, but I didn’t like feel duped by the the lower advertised “cash only ” price.

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avatar Sue

This happened to me just this morning 6/27/08. To say I’m upset is putting it lightly. I have gone to this local gas stations for years. The gentleman that pumps the gas has always been courteous and pleasant. This morning he asked if I was paying cash and of course I wasn’t but I had never been asked that before. He then pointed to the sign that was then going to charge me 9 cents more per gallon for using my debit/credit card. Now, if that had always been the policy I would have been preparedm it wasn’t the policy last Thursday but now it appears that it is. I said to the attendant. Is this legal? and with that out from the bay came another man, HIM I wouldn’t call a gentleman. He was rude, and told me to go somewhere else if I didn’t like it. I told him “Welcome to America” where I can get raped by the big oil companies, overseas companies and my local company all in one day. I was also rude and left after paying the self-imposed raping fee. I will not go back. I’m so angry that 3 hours later I’m still hanging onto it.

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avatar mapgirl

Interesting. I have recently found out in DC the “Lowest Price” gas stations take cash only. To compete, a Citgo across the street charges two prices. Cash to match the Lowest Price store and then a charge price. This takes me back to the ’70′s when this was much more common.

I guess these days are coming back all over the east coast. The question is, is this a national trend?

Perhaps Valero and the Citgo have different merchant agreements which allow the price discrimination between payment types?

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avatar Kate

I saw Cindy said something about Wawa’s credit cards. I just wanted to point out that it is Wawa’s national policy is to charge the same rate for cash or credit.

Even when buying with cash I usually go out of my way to find companies that have the same price for cash or credit. It only seems fair. (Wawa happens to be my favorite)

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avatar Janet

I was completely disgusted when my “cheap” NJ gas station all of a sudden had a cash price and a credit price, and of course I found out 2 seconds after he programed the pump for credit not even allowing me to switch to cash. What’s this cash discount I’m reading about? I’ve NEVER seen that in the 16 years I’ve been driving. I actually called my VISA card and they told me that merchants do reserve the right to pass on the cost that the credit companies charge them. Why all of a sudden? It’s this whole gas mess! I don’t feel sorry for anyone but us consumers. Everyone else can figure a way to absorb extra costs and probably even wind up with a profit. Gee, wouldn’t be nice for our employers to say “We’re increasing your salary to accomodate your increasing expences.” Another point, I don’t like carrying a lot of cash on me so I always use credit and enjoy the cash back rewards for paying it off monthly. Now, I’m going to have to make sure I have at least $70 on me at all times so I don’t get screwed at the pump. Gas stations should not be allowed to do this. It’s just WRONG!!!!!!

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avatar Kirk4Life

I just pulled into a Valero in Rancho Cucamonga, CA where the sign on the highway read $4.39/gal. After I got ready to pump the gas using my Discover card (because they have 5% rebate on gas purchases from July to Sept.), I noticed the price for credit was $4.53. I got back in my car and left.

As I was leaving, Valero had a sign advertising a Valero credit card that will save you .10/gal.

LOL – The jacked up price is .14/gal. higher for credit!

I rarely carry cash any more, I’ve always thought electronic transactions were the preferred method of payment these days. 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

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avatar NM156

In accordance with credit card rules for merchants you can not charge a customer a fee for using credit cards.

Gas stations do not offer a discounts for cash, they charge a higher price for credit cards. In some states this practice is against the law.
But dont expect any of these useless lawmakers/enforcers to do anything about it , unless it actually affects them.

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avatar STR

On Monday night, 7/7/2008, I too noticed for the very first time that a BP on Route 27 near Rocky Hill (NJ) has 2 prices for gas. I’ve been using my BP card for years at another local BP station, and there were never 2 prices. Yes, I HAVE A BP CARD and they still charged me the HIGHER PRICE.

Discount my foot! It’s a way to pass along the costs…or a way to maintain current profit levels…or a way to ripoff consumers. And yes, everyone but an employee can ‘pass along the high cost of gasoline. grrrrrrrrrr.
Wait!
Maybe I can tell my employer that I have to increase my salary to cover the higher cost of gasoline which has increased my transportation costs! (Sheeeee-eeeeet.)

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avatar mjdol

I heard that the credit card companies take up to 3 % (12 cents a gallon on $4 a gallon gas!) for every gallon of gas sold and the average profit for gas before fees was ony 12 to 14 cents. CNN reported that a typical gas station made only $60 a day selling gas…seems like a lot work for little money. It appears Visa and Master Card are getting rich, not the folks selling gas!

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avatar mikep

Is it cheaper to withdrawl cash from an ATM with the fee than to just buy the gas with the credit card?????

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avatar STR

The BP station (which just a month ago was a no-name station) on Route 27 near the intersection of Route 518 (Kendall Park) is charging a higher price for using a credit card…even a BP CREDIT CARD! (But the BP station just north of them in North Brunswick which has been there forever and a day, isn’t doing that.) Oh, and one day the one in Kendall Park also ‘ran out’ of gas, except for the highest priced formula. (Riiiiiiiight). Be careful of the Kendall Park BP. Personally, I don’t trust them so I won’t patronize them.

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avatar Steve

People – wake up and realize the obvious here. I don’t care how they want to call it – these are NOT “cash discounts” – they are merely a deceptive description for what they really are – credit card surcharges – and some are now running as much as 15 to 30 cents per gallon. Do the math – that’s an extra $20-30 /month on average. I can remember back in the ’80s when Getty proudly touted “Same Price Cash or Credit” at their pumps, and had ads attacking competitors who charged extra for using credit cards (Shell was one practicing this disguised as “Pay Cash and Save” – while they didn’t even have to post the credit prices!) The ad compared the practice to a restaurant charging extra for a customer using a credit card to pay for a meal. The outrage practically made this injustice disappear by the end of the 80′s, but with merchants losing profits with today’s gas prices, it has crept back into play. Given $4+/gal, who’s really going to have $75 or more in cash on them when they fill up … unless they run to the ATM beforehand. What also bothers me is that there is no law nationwide to clearly post both cash and credit prices, should the stations choose to do this. And those stations who force customers to pay “cash only” better be fully insured – as they will become obvious targets for robberies. I don’t have a Getty station in my area, but if they are still around (they’re being rebranded as Lukoil nationwide) I’d like to know if they are continuing their practice of charging the same price, cash or credit – and if they are, perhaps rolling out those old ads from the ’80s would help curb this injustice once again.

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avatar Jon

I admit that i’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but i seem to recall in the history books that we left England on of items very simular to this. I am not saying that we over throw the government, but i do think that we, the people of this country, should be on the phones, e-mails, snail mail, what ever it takes to let our so called reprensitives know that we are not happy with the job they are doing. If we worked like they do we would be fired.

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avatar anonymous

Merchants are absolutely delusional if they think that credit cards are “hurting” their business! The amount of business that is attributable to people using the “convenience” of credit cards far outweighs any loss due to CC fees. At one point, my favorite gas station (low price, close to home) started claiming that their credit card machine was “broken” when I asked them to “fill-it-up” with premium. I said, “Okay, then just give me $5 worth of gas.” The attendant (yes, I live in NJ) said “You would fill it up with credit card?” I said yes and all of a sudden, their credit card machine was no longer “broken”. Merchants have to accept the fact that credit card fees are all part of the cost of doing business. If they dislike credit card fees so much, there is a simple solution, stop accepting credit cards! And watch yourself go out of business! The only reason that credit card companies get away with charging the fees that they do is because merchants cannot afford to not accept credit cards because of the impact it wouldhave on their business. Good or bad, personal debt is what our economy relies on!

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avatar J. Schmidt

I am surprised at how many fear mongers are out there rearing their ugly heads. I do not work for an oil company, a convenience gas station, or for a credit card company. However, I feel compelled to state the obviously absent facts here.
I do own a small automotive service business and we have been reeling from the increases in credit card processing fees in the past couple of years. We spend on average, between $500-$900 every month, in credit card fees.
Now, from our perspective, the 45% of our customers who pay with cash or check, or even low cost debit cards, are going to have to pay higher prices, just as those paying with credit cards will, because we need to raise our labor rates to cover the ever increasing costs of doing business, specifically the costs associated with increases in credit card usage. Is that fair?
If I were a customer who pays my bills with cash or check, should I have to pay more because other customers use a payment form that actually costs the business a significant amount of overhead? (Keep in mind that it takes many repair bills to cover that expense every month. Considering that every sale must also cover other costs too: cost of parts, labor, taxes, building mortgage & property maintenance, tools, training, large equipment (like hoists), etc., and finally, a small fraction for owner profit.)
I only came across this article/discussion as I was looking for information on the legalities of offering a discount to customers who pay with cash (that means actual cash or check), or a little less of discount if you pay with debit card.
It’s unfortunate that when ever we feel wronged on an issue, we rarely get to the see the flip side of the argument.
What’s really going on with the retail gas price situation is that people are paying with credit cards, buying less in the convenience store (where the only real profits are), and the only ones getting rich are the fuel companies providing the gasoline (certainly not the retail sellers – check it out) and the credit card companies.
PLEASE stop bashing your local merchants, they are only trying to make a living – just like you. Look around at how many businesses cannot survive in the current business climate we have. Our only options are soon going to be large retailers and service companies, where you might have to park a mile from the door, stand in the snow and slush to fill your tank and wipe your windows, eat out of styrofoam containers, etc.
Really. They are the only ones who will be left – once you take the profit out of the small local businesses, and give it to the conglomerates who can save pennies but cuting your wages and insurance.
Take a real hard look at the credit card industry. The are making great profits, and even though people are filing bankruptcy at an alarming rate (we just had an employee go through it), the credit card companies keep giving cards to young adults without financial sense or experience, especially to struggling college students, and to mature adults that are already too far in debt to be able to pay them off each month. Not to mention the rates Visa, MC, Discover, etc. are charging to retailers to cover the extra costs associated with all the perks and programs promoted to those end card users. Often times the card users never really even benefit from those programs, but the credit card companies sure do!
Our economy is faltering, credit card companies lobby for laws that only protect them and their profits, AND the government will bail them out when they get into trouble. (Like the insurance companies that got bailed out after Katrina – even though they had lots of real estate they could have sold, and were making great profits!) (Golf anyone?)
Oil companies are posting record profits too! (Profits are from pumping & refining gas to sell, and from gas credit card fees.) Yet, our government still subsidizes this industry. Why?
Who is going to bailout the little guy, your corner market, local barber, or your auto repair shop when the expenses to their bottom line put them out of business because they can no longer compete with the big retail bullies (like Wal-Mart)? Just look at what happened to many of the little family farms – gone.

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avatar bumperhanger

A big amen to you, who uses the head on his shoulders.

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avatar Susan

What REALLY stinks is that my car only takes premium. Now they’ve changed the big signs to list only the prices for regular/cash and regular/credit. How am I supposed to comparison shop for premium when i don’t know what stations are charging for it????!!!!

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avatar eric

I think it’s funny that a state doesn’t even trust its citizens to fill
their own gas tank without mayhem ensuing. Living in Texas and
California for years, I can’t even *remember* the last time I
saw a full service station. How can you be trusted to vote
intelligently if you can’t even fill up a gas tank?

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avatar Remav

Eric,

You don’t know how bad it is. In NJ we actually got it on the ballot (after *lots* of hard work) …but the blue state sheeple are so used to having the government (and now apparently the gas station attendents) take care of them from cradle to grave that they voted it down! I often heard “I wouldn’t know how to operate the pump” as an excuse. …especially from the women. Like government programs, once they were used to having someone else do the work, the cost no longer mattered to them… never mind that they would still have the full service lanes available to them. They screwed the rest of us good and locked us into this unnecessary/unwanted service forever. NJ is a state where the people truly do have the government that they deserve. It’s so frusterating to me to pull into a station & have to wait for some slow @$$ed lame third world illegal attendent when I could be in, filled, and gone before they can get the cap loose. What a bunch of LIB losers we have in this state… and you know what? The’re going to ensure higher taxes by electing Obama(nation) in Nov. Meanwhile they’ll all lament the mass migration of businesses out of here & mass migration of illegal parasites into the state. Their problem is that they compare everything to Utopia instead of Reality. 11 Million people and apparently at least 5.6 Million don’t have the brains to:

1) Insert Nozzle in tank
2) Select Grade and payment method
3) Begin Pumping
4) Replace Nozzle
5) Vote Republican or lose the above options

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avatar jj

There is no labor union in New Jersey that represents gas station attendants. State law requiring this is supposidly for safety reasons.

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avatar jj

Statistically, the working class has always done better with Democratic presidents. Some of the worst years for the northeast were under Reagan which McCain of course wants to return to.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,505 (Platinum)
avatar KLS NJ

Really, why should the person who pays in cash be charged the extra 7 to 10 cents per gallon that is tacked on to a credit purchase? Why should I the cash customer be paying your credit charges privellage!! This charge is not collected by the oil company. This charge is charged directly to each gas station by the credit card company’s. So with all of the gas taxes (Federal and State) you really think the Moma and Papa stations are making a killing. You ought to think twice about that.

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avatar lucky

most branded stations are forced to have reader pumps by the oil company. The cost to run a card is usualy 2.5 to 3%do the math.

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avatar Lazaro

Frankly, I am appauld at this new development. If they can legaly do that then they need to fully advertise both prices so that you are not surprised when you get to the pump. A local grocery store in MA does just that. They advertise a price for those who carry their shoppers card and a higher price for those who don’t. That is a more ethical way of doing business.

I never carry cash. Everything is about convenience.

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avatar TiteWad

And it cost money to provide the extra service. Pay up for YOUR convenience and let little old cash payer me not pay for YOUR services!

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avatar crash

I use a credit card to purchase gas, simply because 1) its faster to swipe at the pump ( and here in NY, unlike NJ, almost all stations are self serve , so no attendants to handle a cash transaction at the pump; you have to go inside and actually stand in line with the people buying beer and twinkies !!) 2) I have online record of all my gas purchases and 3) since i use the discover card 5% cash back, the cash discount would need to be greater than the 5% im getting back. So far, for the cash/credit prices ive seen, its been exactly 5 % or less.

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avatar Heather

This makes me so angry because I have a specific credit card just for gas purchases (Discover Open Road) that earns 5% cash back. Now it is pointless! I hope the gas stations get their payback with a huge increase in robberies, since now we all know they’re packing major cash :)
How you like them apples???

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avatar TiteWad

The gas station gets robbed by the bank every swipe of a card by the bank fees banks charge. Believe me some chump with a gun will only get chicken feed compared to what the bank gets from these fees in a month at a gas station.

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