The Washington Post

Two gas prices: Cash and credit. Is this fair?

This post has been updated raises a question I’ve been thinking about for the past few months, as I’ve encountered more and more gas stations charging higher prices for credit/debit card payers (me): Is this fair?

The product goes in the same way, but can cost more if you pay with plastic. Fair? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(My colleague Ylan Q. Mui has closely followed the swipe fee concerns from retailers. See story here and her other consumer coverage here.)

My view: They are the ones offering the credit card transaction — if they don’t like the fees, don’t offer up that payment option, and then let the market decide whether they’re right. My guess is that they’d lose a ton of business, especially for the 64-ounce sodas and other junk food inside, which is where many gas stations really make their bread.

Apparently the different prices are legal in Maryland, and so is advertising the lower cash price. The report says:

Although credit card prices may differ as much as 5 cents from cash prices, gas merchants are “within the law,” said Joe Shapiro, a spokesman with the comptroller’s office, which regulates gas stations.

“The legal requirement is to advertise the lowest price for regular gas,” Shapiro said. He said the comptroller’s office has not received many complaints about the practice.

Some consumers, however, say they feel deceived.

Among the aggrieved deceived is 18-year-old Eli Bergman of Rockville, who said: “The signs are misleading. I’ve driven up to the pump thinking I was paying one price and ended up paying significantly more.”

What do you think of this practice? Weigh in below.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.


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