Mailbag: At the Gas Pump – Cash vs. Credit

by | Jul 29, 2013

Every day, we receive emails through our Web site from people who have questions related to agriculture or services provided by our department. Answering emails is part of our efforts to provide the best customer service to North Carolina residents. The following question was answered by Stephen Benjamin, director of the Standards Division.

The Standards Division is responsible for enforcing the North Carolina Weights and Measures Act, the Gasoline and Oil Inspection Law and the LP-Gas Inspection Law. You can submit your own question about agriculture or NCDA&CS services at this link:

Subject: Understanding gas prices when debit card vs. credit card

Comments: I don’t understand how some of these stations can charge 10 cents extra to buy gas when you use your credit card.  They also charge that when you use your debit card which I don’t
feel is right since it is the same as cash. Also shouldn’t they display when you use your
debit or credit card that the price is 10 cents higher.  The ones I see around
Statesville and Harmony show the increase for credit but no mention of debit card till you
use it.


Gas stations and other businesses are charged for accepting credit cards. However, gas stations pass that along to the customer, where most businesses don’t. If a location has different prices for cash and credit, then it should be noted on the road sign that the price displayed is “cash” or “cash price” (They tend to want to post the lowest price so I am making an assumption that is the price displayed). In addition, on the dispenser we require a label notifying the customer of either the credit price per gallon, the additional cents per gallon or the percent surcharge for using a credit card; so the customer is aware of the difference and can make a choice. Most states do not require this additional label.
The debit card is a stickier situation. Personally, I agree with you, I consider it cash. However the banks often consider it credit (this is not an area we have any jurisdiction over) and there is a charge to the station for accepting it. We have also found the stations and the banks point the finger at each other on this issue. If we have a station that treats debit as credit, then we have them state that on the label as well.

Thank you,
Stephen Benjamin, Standards Division