If you use a credit card to buy gas – always get a receipt

We do not live in a perfect world yet, and some of the things we rely on do not always work the way we think they do. I have had enough readers tell me of their adventures with gas pumps that it stirred me to write an article about the things they have discovered.

For example, the gas pumps that you use every week are not as foolproof as ATM terminals. There are a number of ways in which the ongoing transaction can get messed up and can put you at risk.

Your best protection is to make sure that you always get a receipt. If the pump does not print a receipt for you, go inside the store and get one. You may be surprised at what you find.

The pump system may have dropped out of credit card mode and defaulted to a cash sale mode. What that means is that you pumped gas into your tank, but your card has not been charged and you need to see the cashier and pay for it in person.

There are several ways in which a credit card transaction can fail to complete successfully. This is by no means a complete list:

In smaller gas stations in remote areas, a dial-up connection is required to complete the credit card transaction. If that gets interrupted, the card is not charged and you will need to pay the cashier. There may be no message at the pump, but there will probably be no receipt either, so you have been warned.

On some pumps, I am told, picking up the nozzle before the authorization is complete will void the transaction and set up a cash sale.

In some stations, the clerk initiates the authorizing message at the pump, so that customers are not kept waiting for a dial-up connection to go through.

In other stations, the printer is out of paper so no receipt is printed. Do not assume that this is the case. Some readers who have gone in to get a receipt from a cashier report that their card were not charged. Do not let this happen to you.

Driving off without a receipt can create problems for you and for the gas station. In Virginia, this can expose you to threat of arrest and loss of license.

Once you have a receipt, you have confirmation that you paid for your gas.

For a graphic description of what can happen if you fail to get a receipt, read my earlier article.

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