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Debit Card at Gas Station: Is It Safe?

Živile Šarkauskaite

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Živile Šarkauskaite

October 3, 2023

One of the most common problems of the cyber world of today is data breaches. Enormous numbers of stolen debit card data from hacked merchants hit the black market.

While gas stations are the place where many use debit cards, it becomes a favorable target for fraudsters. As a result, millions of debit cards are compromised while making innocent gas purchases.

The question is, should or should you not use a debit card at gas stations, and what are the alternatives? In this article, we’ll answer this question and give you some tips on how to purchase fuel safely.

Paying for gas: Credit vs. debit card

Yes, you can always use cash when paying for gas. However, you may not always have an extra hundred in cash on yourself. Therefore, it’s not as convenient as a credit or debit card.

Nonetheless, what is the difference between using credit and debit cards for a gas purchase?

Using a debit card at gas stations

A debit card may seem like a better option while paying for the gas. Your money comes out of your checking account immediately, and you don’t have to worry about paying heavy interest charges or overspending.

Moreover, if clients pay for their gas with cash or a debit card, the merchants typically charge them less. But before using your card to fill up, carefully clarify this with the attendant.

Even though debit card purchases have reasonable advantages, it also comes with some shortages. Millions of debit card numbers and bank account details are constantly compromised due to data breaches at gas stations.

Furthermore, your culpability for fraudulent charges on a debit card is determined by how fast you report the card as lost or stolen, which is a requirement of federal laws but not credit cards. As much as $500 is possible.

Using a credit card at gas stations

A credit card allows customers to purchase gas without having to fork over cash immediately. The trick is to use your credit card like a debit card and track your credit limit. This way, you can pay off in full after the billing cycle.

If you have enough money on your credit line, you have up to 25 days before the balance is due to use this convenience.

You may avoid high-interest rates and other fees, including late payment fees, that can add a significant amount to the price of a tank of gas by paying off your balance in full every month.

However, it is essential to pay close attention to your card’s annual percentage rate (APR) and make payments on time.

Moreover, there is another persuasive argument for using a credit card to pay for petrol. Many card issuers offer additional security against identity theft.

In addition to the safety features, some credit cards also come with bonuses like free flights, free nights at a hotel, or cash back.

Tips for safe gas purchases

Most of the time, there is no way to recover your funds after you have been scammed. However, you can take some precautions to avoid these kinds of situations. Here are some tips on how to protect your money.

Choose the nearest pump

While gas station fraudsters are savvy, you need to be even more so. When choosing a victim, they frequently go for the pump that is the furthest away from the nearby convenience store.

In this way, they can avoid being spotted by any surveillance cameras placed at the store’s front entrance.

Therefore, you should pick the pump nearest to the store and keep your palm over the keypad whenever you enter your PIN. Keep in mind that safeguarding your PIN is crucial.

Use mobile wallet

If you still want to pay with a debit card, use a mobile payment platform such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Android Pay. You can load money whenever you need it and pay for a specified amount with a digital wallet.

Mobile payment methods are more secure than credit and debit cards in the event of a compromise. It is because of tokenization.

Your actual card number is converted into an encrypted virtual number during the transaction. The virtual number is substituted for your real phone number during transactions.

As a result, if a hacker obtains the virtual number, they will not have access to your actual debit card number.

Check for any indications of tampering

Before inserting your card, it’s crucial to carefully inspect the card reader to avoid any potential tampering.

To reduce the risk of falling victim to such fraudulent activities, notice if the numbers on the PIN pad are raised and appear newer or bigger than the rest of the machine.

Also, look for anything that seems out of place or doesn’t belong to the card reader. When you attempt to insert your card, check if the card reader feels loose or not securely attached.

Moreover, make sure that the fuel pump seal isn’t broken or damaged in any way. If you are sure everything is okay, only then should you use your credit or debit card to buy gas.

Select credit

When you’re asked whether you’re using a debit or credit card when buying petrol, always select credit.

Doing so will prevent the pump from requiring a PIN at a later time. Your PIN is required to access your accounts and must always be private. If you don’t input your PIN, the thief will lack critical information and won’t be able to commit fraud.


Can I use a debit card at a gas station?

You can use debit cards at the gas stations. However, it is risky. Skimmers, devices commonly used by credit card thieves, are commonly seen in public places like gas stations.

Can you use a debit card without a PIN at the gas station?

Using a PIN results in a debit transaction. Nonetheless, if you want to avoid entering the PIN, you can make a transaction that would be handled like a credit card one.

Depending on the retailer, the card issuer, and the system involved in processing the payment, the specifics of this will vary.

There are cases where a PIN transaction will generate a preauthorization against your card. In this case, the live transaction may or may not be instantly clear.

Therefore, until the preauthorization is cleared and the suspended funds/credit headspace is restored to your account, you may see the preauthorization and the actual transaction on your electronic statement.

Can gas stations charge a debit card fee?

It depends on the country. Some countries have laws that prohibit or limit surcharges on card transactions. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the local regulations and check for any posted notices about card fees when fueling up at gas stations.

Is it safer to use a debit or credit card at a gas pump?

Using a credit card at a gas pump is safer than a debit one. Credit cards offer better fraud protection, limit your liability, and don’t risk your bank account.

Debit cards require a PIN, which can be less secure, and resolving disputes can be more complex.

To stay safe, choose a credit card, use the chip, and regularly check your statements for unusual charges. Also, be cautious of card skimming devices and keep your PIN and card info secret.