The Advertised Price for Gas May Not Be What You Pay

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Some gas stations are advertising prices based on a cash discount — something that's not obvious to credit card users.

Cash or credit card? The price at the pump can vary quite a bit, and depending on where you live the price on the sign could be for either one.

The difference is usually about 5 to 10 cents a gallon, but a Long Island, N.Y., gas station recently displayed a price reflecting a cash discount of 70 cents, Consumer Reports says. Last year a $1 difference was spotted at several Long Island gas stations, according to Newsday. Even if you buy just a few gallons, that could add up fast.

This gets tricky for consumers. Most consumers (65 percent) choose to visit a gas station based on the display price, a National Association of Convenience Stores study finds. So what if you fill up and then find out you’re being charged the higher, credit card price?

Almost half of consumers (46 percent) in the study strongly agreed with the statement, “I would pay with cash to save 5 cents per gallon.”

Want other ways to save on gas? Check out the video below to learn what does and doesn’t work.

CR has a few tips, too:

  • Don’t rely too much on website prices. They generally don’t indicate whether prices are for cash or credit.
  • Do some math. If you have a card that gets cash-back rewards on gas, the station’s cash discount may not be worth it. “At 5 percent back on $4 gasoline, the rebate translates to 20 cents a gallon. If a station’s credit price is 10 cents higher than for cash (or $4.10 a gallon), using your card — after taking into account the rebate — would leave you paying a hair under $3.90 a gallon, compared to $4 a gallon with cash,” CR says.
  • Check debit card prices. Some stations have a separate discount for debit card users, but they’re generally charged the credit card price.

Have you found a gas station charging more than you expected? What did you do? Let us know on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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