National Consumer News

2 reasons to never use a debit card at a gas station


By Clark Howard

Oh, the poor beleaguered debit card. If you carry one and use it at a gas station, you are asking for trouble! It’s not a matter of “if” you’ll get into trouble, it’s only a matter of when…

Pay at the pump with debit is dangerous

If you do “pay at the pump” and you use debit, the gas station will put a giant hold of $100 to $150 or more on your card. You may only pump $20 of gas! But many times that hold won’t be released for days, and your checking account reflects that $100 or more hold. If you bounce a check because of that hold, your bank won’t cut you any slack.

So if you need to use a debit card, go inside and present the card to the cashier. I know that defeats the whole purpose of pay at the pump. But that’s the only way to be sure you’ll only be debited the actual amount of gas you pump, rather than the $100 hold.

The other disadvantage for debit card users is the plague of fake PIN readers. Criminals will put a device called a skimmer that is barely recognizable over where you put in your card. They use that to capture the transaction data from your card’s magnetic strip. And then they have tiny digital camera to record your 4 digit secret code as you enter it.

Equipped with that info, the crooks can then duplicate your card and empty your checking account. When you complain to your bank, your bank treats you as the criminal. It’s ridiculous.

So the reality is debit cards are not secure. Even more infuriating to me, as the banks rush to replace old credit cards with newer cards that have a chip, they are stalling on replacing people’s debit cards. That’s because the burden with a debit card falls on you, while the burden with a credit card falls on the bank.

I know lots of people love their debit cards, so just know there is a lot of hazard that goes with using one!

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