Sure, leaving your car unlocked at a gas station invites theft, and driving away with the nozzle still in your tank can damage your car. But those are hardly the only potentially expensive mistakes consumers must watch out for at gas stations.
In fact, some of the less glaring missteps can do more harm to your budget, especially if you make them repeatedly.
Following are the three costliest money mistakes you can make at a gas station.
1. Grabbing a drink
We cite stopping at convenience stores as a major money waster in “7 Ways You Throw Away Money Every Day.” And grabbing water or caffeine at the gas station is really no different.
Say you grab a 16-ounce bottle of water for $1. Surely a convenience purchase is harmless when it’s only a buck, right? Not exactly.
You just paid $8 a gallon — far more than you would ever pay for gasoline — for something that flows freely from your home faucet. That’s not the kind of mistake that most folks can afford to repeat if they hope to retire comfortably.
2. Paying for gas with a debit card
Every time you use a debit card at a gas pump, you effectively increase your odds of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Criminals like to attach skimmers — illegal card readers that steal your card numbers — to gas pump payment terminals because they are not manned by employees. We detail this in “Never Buy These 9 Things With Your Debit Card.”
If you pay with cash, that’s not an issue. If you pay with a credit card, it’s not much of an issue because credit card transactions are covered by a federal law that limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50.
Your debit card, however, does not enjoy such protections. You have to report such losses in a timely manner to ensure you get most of your money back.
If a criminal steals your debit card numbers from a gas pump skimmer and uses it to ring up hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases before you realize it, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever see that money again.
3. Buying premium gas
If your car requires high-octane gasoline, you should shell out for it. But if premium gas is merely recommended, you’re better off saving your money, AAA says.
Many drivers are not doing either of these things, though. According to a 2018 AAA report, Americans collectively waste $2.1 billion per year on high-octane gas when it isn’t required or even recommended for their cars.
To learn more about whether regular, premium or Top Tier gas is best for your car, check out “This Is the No. 1 Mistake Drivers Make When Filling Up.” It was one of Money Talks News’ 10 most popular stories in 2018.
Have you ever committed any of these mistakes at the gas station? Share with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.
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