Using a credit card to buy gas provides convenience and documentation for the purpose of tracking expenses. Generally speaking, gas stations offer two options to use a credit card: pay-at-the-pump and paying at the counter.
Paying at an Enclosed Counter
If the gas station situates the attendant behind security glass, the credit card is passed using a drawer. The customer tells the attendant the amount of gas that will be purchased and the card is charged for that amount. The attendant then returns the card through the drawer, along with a receipt to be signed. The customer returns the signed receipt and goes back to pump the gas.
Paying at an Open Counter
There are two processes for paying at the counter: swiping the card on a counter top terminal or handing the card to the attendant for payment. The attendant charges the card for the gas to be purchased, the customer signs the receipt and goes back out to pump the gas.
Paying at the Pump
Purchasing gas at the pump avoids the walk, signature and paperwork associated with paying at the counter. After swiping the card, most pay-at-the-pump systems will ask for the ZIP code of the billing address for the card. This is a security measure to prevent the use of stolen or lost credit cards to purchase gas at the pump. After keying in the ZIP code, the customer can start pumping gas.
Identity thieves target pay-at-the-pump terminals for the purpose of stealing credit card information. This is done by installing a device that reads the card information when it is swiped. Having credit card information stolen in this manner can be avoided by paying at the counter instead.
Holds on Credit Cards
If the amount of gas that will be purchased is unknown when the card is swiped, the gas station can put a hold on the card for a pre-set amount. This ensures that the card being used can cover the amount of the purchase. For example, when a customer paying at the counter intends to fill the tank, a hold will be entered by the attendant. The amount of the hold varies between gas stations, but is commonly set between $75 and $125. Once the purchased is finalized, the actual amount is charged to the card. The hold usually falls off of the account within 3 to 5 business days. Holds also are placed on pay-at-the-pump transactions.