Sign Of The Times: $100 "Pay At The Pump" Limit

Reader Paul sends in this photo of a sign he saw at a gas station in Texas. First people were upset that gas stations were putting “outrageously high” holds of $100 on their cards when they paid at the pump. Now $100 is just the most you can buy at the pump without going inside and having them swipe your card. Sad.

Here’s a Washington Post article about consumers who aren’t able to fill their gas tanks for the usual (former?) “pay at the pump” limit of $75.

One expert explains:

The average station makes a profit of $60 at the pump per day, says Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores. “It’s not uncommon to lose money selling gas. So the idea of losing $20 or $50 [in charge backs] is too much.”

Stations “are faced with two bad options — allow the pump to go beyond $75 and risk not getting paid . . . or take a customer from frustrated [with gas prices] to outright anger,” Lenard said.

At the Pump And Past The Limit [Washington Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. sahhhm says:

    Be sure to refuse to show ID!

  2. simplegreen says:

    i cant see gas stations only making 60 bucks in profit a day. I know the ratio is pretty lean but come on…

  3. TWinter says:

    Hmmmm. I thought it was more or less impossible to do a charge back on charges at pay at the pump systems?

    The gas is all burned up by the time the charge back goes through, so it’s hard for the station to prove you got it and hard for you to prove you didn’t.

  4. evslin says:

    @simplegreen: On gas, yes. The money’s in groceries.

  5. tom2133 says:

    I saw this same sticker yesterday. OP must have gone to Safeway for gas.

  6. Youthier says:

    @simplegreen: At my regular station, they could probably increase profits if they only employed one cashier and two people smoking cigarettes out back instead of the one cashier and four people smoking out back.

  7. tom2133 says:

    Also – wouldn’t it have been easier to say:

    Limits on Pay at Pump Purchases

    Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Debit: $100.00

  8. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @TWinter: I would have thought that too. Do people really do charge backs on gasoline?

  9. thelushie says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: That’s what I was thinking. A chargeback on gas? Ahhh, yes, the ones who screw the system and we all end up paying. Selfish bastards.

  10. Shappie says:

    $60 at the pump…or $60 PER pump?

  11. smirkette says:

    I can the reasoning behind applying this to credit card purchases where there is no verification of who you are, but I don’t think they should be allowed to do this for pin-based transactions.

  12. Uptowngirl says:

    I don’t see a problem here. If they place a hold over $100 on a debt card/credit card when using pay at the pump the customer is going to be really ticked off.

    I don’t get why this is, Sad.

  13. You can always stop at $100, hang the nozzle, then pump the rest of your tank. It IS possible to fill your tank up by using two different transactions. It won’t hurt your engine.

  14. TouchMyMonkey says:

    My heart bleeds for those poor, unfortunate souls who drive full-size SUVs that use 25 gallons or more a week. It really does. NOT.

    I use something like six gallons a week because I wasn’t one of those bozos who had to go buy a Tahoe for no better reason than that I could. In the 1990s, it was because I’m a cheap bastard. In the 2000s, it’s because I’m too smart to fall for GMC’s “it’s not more than you need…” BS.

  15. Tmoney02 says:

    @simplegreen: Here is a link to a NPR Report on where and how gas stations make their money.
    Stations love it when after paying for your gas you get a soda/bottle of water and then a car wash from their little station wash.


  16. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @thelushie: Someone did point out a computer error could result in being overcharged in that get the receipt for gas story but that’d still be really rare.

    @Git Em SteveDave displays attention-grabbing vanity: Good point.

  17. thelushie says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I was coming back to amend my statement. I just read it too. There are reasons to do a chargeback on gas as stated on the other post.

    But doing it just to be a jerk and screwing the rest of us is wrong and they are selfish bastards.

  18. Sollus says:


    I take it that you don’t live in hicktown, USA in the winter. Families use SUV’s/Trucks here for what they were made for. They live in the country and need to haul trailers among other things and in the winter that means a ton of mud and snow. Way to generalize everyone who buys these things. But I will agree people buying these things in the city is completely retarded unless they are building contractors who need to haul things.

  19. rellog says:

    Many pumps in my area…. Metro Milwaukee, have a $50 max pay at the pump. I have seen signs stating that it is a credit card policy…

  20. hellinmyeyes says:

    I’m really confused about why this is a story. Is it about the terminal fees or about the chargeback liability or about SUV-wielding guys/girls who must fill in separate transactions or about low-profit-margin gasoline sales or what? Very poorly written.

  21. ambrooks16 says:

    Those $100 limits are typically not set by the individual gas station, but is rather a contracted limit between the payment processer, Visa/MC/Amex, and the station brand parent company (BP, Conoco, Exxon, etc.) $60 a day is probably right for the average station in fuel sales. Inside sales – such as candy bars – are how the station stays in business.

  22. I drove from Jersey to Michigan last week and I could swear I saw something even worse at one of the stations on the Ohio Turnpike. It wasn’t a ‘Pay-at-the-Pump’ limit, but a general credit card limit, inside OR outside. It was $100 limit for any credit card except for their own branded card, which had a $150 limit.

  23. fafi says:

    @tom2133: Maybe for this station in particular. On my drive from Atlanta to Orlando yesterday, somewhere on the border of FL on 95 there was a similar sticker on the pump but it was 50$ for MC, VISA & 75 DISCO, 100 AMEX. I’d never seen anything like it before, I just thought it was FL being weird.

  24. Jesse says:


    The number is $60 a pump. So if a station has 18 pumps, that’s $1080 a day.

  25. I live in the Bay Area and I mostly see $75 limits at the pump. I almost hit that maximum filling up my Toyota.

  26. Jesse says:

    These $100 ceilings can put a temporary dent in a passenger car driver’s bank accounts if they use a debit card or check card. A lot of places will just charge the $100 as a pre-authorization. If you only put $40 in your tank but are hit with a pre-auth for $100, that can make cash tight for paycheck to paycheck customers for a few days.

    And to make things a little worse, quite a few stations with the intent to prevent drive offs are making their pumps prepay or credit card only. So it’s either go inside and estimate an amount which may be wrong or go outside and have to run multiple transactions. Some systems even limit the number of outside transactions.

    In the end, these systems were designed to make things more convenient for the station and customer. However, it’s quickly becoming the opposite.

  27. incognit000 says:

    If you drive a large vehicle like a truck or van you can easily smack up against that $75 or $100 limit.

    Me, a full tank is about $50. So I walk. I moved back in March to a new apartment that permits me to walk/bike to work, and I love it. I wish that everyone had that option.

  28. Norcross says:

    It’s been this way for a while. I’ve got one of those “kick mother earth in the face” SUVs with a 31 gallon tank, so I’ve had to either do the two transaction pump, or just be satisfied with my $75 or $99 fill up.

    And before I’m hung in effigy, I bought it because I am restoring an old house and need the cargo room, and I still have to move myself and my family as well.

  29. SinisterMatt says:


    That was my thought. Just run two separate transactions and it defeats their controls. Bwahahahaha!

  30. camman68 says:

    QT or QuikTrips are great. They will issue you a “PumpStart” card. You insert it into the machine, then pump as much as you want. You pay when you are done and they only charge/authorize the amount you actually use.

    Some other places like Loaf & Jug or Kwik Shop (Anything KROGER) actually authorize a set amount (like $75.00). When you are finished, it takes the money from your account but doesn’t release the authorization for 2-3 days. If you buy $30 in fuel, it ties up $105 in your account.

    It would be nice if they could do something similar to QT since they issue shopper’s cards to everyone anyway.

  31. SinisterMatt says:


    Ooops. That comment should be for Git Em SteveDave displays attention-grabbing vanity


  32. FatLynn says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Yes, I did one when my wallet was stolen. Verifying identity with your zip code doesn’t do much to stop a thief that also has your driver’s license.

  33. TVarmy says:

    This is why I use cash. I never buy that much gas at one time (I don’t think my car has a tank that big, but I never get it much lower than what the gauge calls a quarter), but I like the discount I get at the station I prefer, and I don’t have to worry about extreme holds.

    Oddly enough, the cheapest gas station in town (the one I go to) is a kinda old looking place without any grocery or repair place connected. All there is to buy there is gas and compressed air. They undercut the other stations by a good 5 cents, so I don’t know how they do it if they really make under $60 a day. They’ve been around a while and have always been cheap, so I doubt they’re trying to cut their losses and sell as much gas as possible before they close up shop.

    Disclaimer: I live in NJ and drive a PT Cruiser. NJ because it’s a nice place, the Cruiser because I could afford it.

  34. synergy says:

    That sucks, but a lot of people drive overly large vehicles. I’m glad it takes less than $50 to fill up my car from empty. Of course it used to cost less than $30… :(

  35. synergy says:

    @Sollus: I’ve always said that I have no problem with ranchers, farmers, etc. to buy the large vehicles because they’re actually being used for what they’re for. The number of people, though, who buy those vehicles and don’t need them is ridiculous. There’s probably equal or more number of people in the city whose hardest drive is going to be getting on the interstate and not hauling a ton of things like rural users.

  36. ShadowFalls says:

    This isn’t about the chargebacks, this is about the credit card fraud. Gas stations tends to be the easiest mark for credit card fraud. It takes little to authenticate, at most needing a zip code.

  37. Orv says:

    I first encountered this a few years ago when I was driving cross-country in a U-Haul truck. Even back then, it was easy to hit the $100 limit when you were filling a 50 gallon tank.

  38. enine says:

    @Git Em SteveDave displays attention-grabbing vanity:

    You still have to go inside. When your card goes through a second time a code comes back alerting the clerk, they are supposed to ask you if you’ve used the card there earlier and if you say no then that means someone else has used your number. The clerk has to ack the code and let the transaction go through. so you have to go inside to do this.
    I had a resturaunt in a small town we were staying say a code came up when we went to pay for out dinner since we had ate breakfast there earlier that day and refused to accept my payment then even though I assured them I knew I had ate there for breakfast so this second charge was legit.

  39. @enine: Well, every time I have done this in NJ, it went through. I think the computers at Visa or wherever are savvy to what is happening, and shouldn’t flag the transaction. When I worked at a gas station, we would only get a error message if we tried two transaction for the same amount in a short period of time, I.E. two charges for exactly 10.00. It would pop up as a dup(licate) and require us to hit “yes”.

  40. pax says:

    @Sollus: My DH theorizes that people drive Suburbans and such around NYC because then they don’t feel the potholes.

  41. SharkD says:

    @simplegreen: I can believe it. The key words in the article are: $60 in profits at the pump.

    Gas stations typically use gasoline as a loss leader. The snack foods and soft drinks are were they make their money.

  42. rlee says:

    A station near me (DC area) has an unannounced $50 limit on CC use. When I got cut off, I went in and the attendant told me to just repeat the process. Whether the 2nd charge would have gone through if I hadn’t gone in, I am not sure. I’ll have to try it next time. $100 or even $75 would be fine, but at current prices even a car needs over $50 to fill up.

  43. stinerman says:


    You have a Designated Hitter? Nice.

  44. breny says:

    When I’m met with a low limit for a fillup (say $50) I just do the first $50, close out that transaction, then swipe again and finish filling up.

  45. Solution: Don’t drive a vehicle with a 25 gallon tank. Typically, the only vehicles with these tanks are SUVs and “light trucks” in the 3500-6500 GVWR range.

  46. AD8BC says:

    For some reason, most stations around here in Dallas/Fort Worth, although they list the maximum at $75, they allow me to go over pretty consistently.

    With a 27 gallon tank, it’s easy to hit $75.

    I don’t bitch because the truck is paid for. I just budget for the gas.

  47. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    I feel that at the rate we’re going, we’re going to see limits not unlike those during the OPEC embargo.

  48. ianmac47 says:

    What stops a customer from having two separate $99 transactions at the pump?

  49. pax says:

    @stinerman: Designated Hitter, Computer Fixer, Garbage-Taker-Outer…all that and more. ;)

  50. crlarkin says:

    There is a station here in Chicago with a $50 limit, and it actually stops the pump at $48. The sad thing is, I have started to it hit when filling up our 99 Camry. When I do hit the limi, I just swipe the card a second time and finish up.

  51. Egg Yolkeo says:


    $50 debit limit at a station here in Pittsburgh. I think it’s $75 for credit. So far I haven’t crossed the line yet.

  52. sean77 says:

    @Sollus: SUVs are horrible in the snow, most don’t even have proper snow tires.

  53. t325 says:

    I’ve never had a pump preauth more than $1 on my debit card.

  54. krunk4ever says:

    I had posted a similar story and sent it in several weeks ago. Guess they must’ve missed it.

    Safeway Gasoline Visa $75 Limit

    My story was more about the fact why there was a different limit for Visas compared to the other credit cards.

  55. krunk4ever says:

    In there I discussed about the absurdity of such a low limit, but apparently you are allowed to swipe your card multiple times at the same pump, to bypass the $75 limit. Since credit cards collect extra fees per transaction, that just means more cost to the gasoline stations.

    Credit card companies responded that people were allowed to go into the store and swipe there card there for a high transaction, but who’d give up the convenience of swiping at the pump for that.

    Just another story about how credit card companies are screwing the little guys.

  56. bwcbwc says:

    @rellog: @krunk4ever: Well, it’s also for the CC companies to limit the risk on unsigned CC transactions. Pay at the pump transactions don’t get a signature, so there’s a cap or else they get treated like internet purchases (with an even higher transaction fee rate). Apparently the rate difference is enough for the gas stations to prefer limiting the purchase amount.

  57. reflection717 says:

    @ianmac47: Nothing at all, but that’s not the issue. Gas stations routinely put a hold on your credit card for a fixed amount (in this case $100) regardless of how much you pump. If they put that hold on your account and then let you pump $150 but you only had $100.01 available they’re going to have problems when they go to put through the final charge. If you do two different transactions they’re putting two different holds and won’t run into that issue. This makes perfect sense and has nothing to do with their profit margin or making you go into the store (although I’m sure they love that too!)

  58. shepd says:

    This is nothing new at all. Filled the U-Haul last year, it needed $109. Pump slowed and stopped at $100. Hung up the gas, put the card in again, and topped it off.

    $100 is probably the right amount, since that’s the hold they’ll put on the card. If this is inconvenient when you’re filling your beast, consider how much MORE inconvenient it is to the vast majority of people that drive cars that take less then $50 to fill to find they can’t use $50+ of their money for a day/week. If the station let you go over the hold amount, they can’t guarantee they’ll be paid. They probably don’t want to take the risk, considering how little profit the stations make on the gas (the real profit is made by the gas company, not the station owner, but the owner is on the hook for people who can’t pay).

  59. gregbrutsche2 says:

    So I didn’t read all of the posts to see if this has already been said, but here it goes. I just moved to TX from OH and I used a 17′ moving truck. The 30 gallon gas tank let me with almost no choice in paying more then $75-100 at the pump. If I needed more than the limit I simply replaced the nozzle, waited for the pump to reset and reinstered my card to keep filling up. I figured it was probably the best way to do it because I didn’t feel like dealing with gas station attendants…

  60. Brazell says:

    I could have sworn that I read an article on here explaining this. There have almost always been $75 limits since as long as I’ve been pumping gas. I don’t really see this as being “sad.” IT’s not like you’re being charged anymore to, OMG, go inside and talk to a human being!

  61. AMetamorphosis says:

    We use only one card for gas fill ups in our house.
    The card is designated as a ” gas only ” card and has a 5k limit. As a result, we have never had any problems with fill-ups or “holds” affecting our $$.

    We drive a convertible, an Explorer, a boat & a motorhome so we frequently run into the limits when filling the tanks. The easiest thing to do is turn off the pump, reset, reinsert card & repeat. Yes, it is a pain when you have to do this 4 times to fill the motorhomes 70 gallon tank but it is easier than going inside and begging the cashier to allow you to buy their product.

    Oh and before anyone attacks me for having multiple vehicles, this still is America and I worked and paid for them all. If I want to spend my $$ on gasoline that is my right.

  62. the_wiggle says:

    @AMetamorphosis: thank you thank you thank you!!! gets quite tiresome seeing the persistent bash/rant/self-righteousness fits about who should own what.

  63. DjDynasty says:

    I’m one of those selfish bastards who has done chargebacks on pay at the pump purchases. A Speedway by my house, the cashier would re-run the numbers after the person drove away, for the same amount, resulting in a double charge and the cashier would pocket the double dip. Since the inside reports generate a WHOLE card number, not just last 4, In fact I successfully sued speedway several times as a result of their receitps continuing even as of 3 weeks ago, to display the whole card number. Now when they hand me a receipt, I take both copies and walk out, if they say anything, i tell em, I don’t trust them with my card number, if they want me *NOT* to do a chargeback, they’ll leave me be.

    Sometimes the cashiers are just so stupid, they call the cops for theft because I refuse to sign the receipt. So I go on a speedway chargeback spree. Hundreds of hundreds of dollars in chargebacks as a result of them being an ass. And BofA agree’s with my logic,.