Credit card limits at the pump

Seven On Your Side
June 23, 2008 4:45:56 PM PDT
We all know high gas prices are causing pain at the pump. But they're also making it technologically impossible for some drivers to fill up their tanks.It may have happened to you already. You pay for gas with your credit card, and you get cut off when the pump reaches $50 or $75. Well, there's a reason for it, and Seven On Your Side has the ways to get around it.

Lauren Sackstein always uses plastic at the pump. But whenever she gases up, the pump shuts down at just $50, whether her tank's full or not.

"It fills up my car maybe three-quarters of the way, but it cut it off at $50, no more than $50," she said.

Gassing up Cori Orr's Escalade is a bank breaker.

Even though a full tank costs more than $100, the pump clicks off at $95.

"And as I'm driving home, I realize that my tank hasn't been filled and I have to go get more gas, Orr said.

"It will be either $50, $75, $100 or as much as a $125, depending upon the type of account that you have," said Andy Harris, of the Long Island Fuel Buyers Association.

These are limits credit card companies put on the amount you pump. Visa and Discover have a $50 limit. MasterCard is $75, and American Express' limits vary by type of card.

The reason is to provide protection against theft.

"If a card gets stolen, they don't want to run into a problem with somebody running rampant on the credit card for gas," Harris said.

There are two ways to get around the card limitations, but they take away the convenience of using the card at the pump. The first is to pump twice, keeping both totals under the maximum. The other is to go inside to pay, where there are no limitations.

"It's an inconvenience for everyone except for the credit card company," Harris said.

One driver, Patrick Gibson, is fighting back. He ditched credit for cash.

"Paying cash right now for gas, I tend to get smaller amounts at the pump," he said.

Officials from Visa say they just raised their limit to $75, but some merchants haven't made the switch yet. Just remember, the way around it is to do two transactions or pay inside and sign.

To search for gas prices in your area, click here and enter your zip code.

Links to Information and Resources:

For The Best Prices Locally:


    For The Best Prices Nationwide:


    Westchester Department of Consumer Protection:

  • Survey of Gasoline Prices

    Government Accountability Office:

  • Guide to Understanding Retail Gas Prices (PDF)


    STORY BY: Eyewitness News consumer reporter Tappy Phillips

    WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King