How to Use a Prepaid Credit Card at the Gas Pump

The good news is that prepaid credit cards can be used to buy gas. Before you pay at the pump, however, there’s something you should know. Paying for gas at the pump can put a hold of up to $50 or more on the money on your card. While you won’t pay more than you actually spend, you may lose access to some of your money for a few days. Fortunately, as Visa debit has noted, there’s a way to avoid all of this when you fill up.

When you use a card at the pump, the gas station doesn’t know how much you’ll spend when they approve your card. So what stations do is authorize your card (whether its a credit card or a prepaid card) for a set amount of money. While the exact amount varies, most stations approve the card for $50 to $100. When you finish pumping the gas, you will have spent less than the authorized amount. The problem is that the prepaid credit card company won’t know exactly how much you spent until the gas station processes its receipts and submits the purchase to the card company for payment. And this process can take a couple of days, particularly if you filled up over the weekend.

This means that you won’t have access to the amount of the authorization until the transaction is processed. That may not be a big deal if you have a lot more on the card than you plan to spend. But if you are really watching your money, not having access to some cash can be a real problem. So how do you avoid this?

Simple. Rather than paying at the pump, take your card into the station first. When you give your card to the attendant inside, they typically don’t preauthorize your card. Because they are holding your card, they don’t need to. After you pump your gas, the attendant will ring up the purchase for the exact amount spent. With no preauthorization of $50 to $100, there won’t be a hold on your funds.

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  • Sung

    I hate to do this when I need fill a gasoline. I used AMEX and VISA prepaid card at same time, same station The VISA need to paid some guessing amount first then can use a pump but AMEX prepaid card not require at all, just use a credit card at any time when you need. So I personally I like AMEX prepaid card.

    • Aaron

      Prepaid cards are notoriously difficult when it comes to buying gas at the pump. They typically put a hold on your account for $75 regardless of how much gas you actually buy. And it takes a few days to get any unused funds back. Thanks for letting us know about the Amex prepaid. That’s very helpful.