Paying with a debit card at the gas pump is an inherently dangerous act because of skimmers that can capture the info on your card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge.
Once the criminals have that info, they can have a field day making fraudulent purchases from your account and trying to stick you with the bill.
But there is one way to protect yourself if you insist on paying debit for gas…
For years, money expert Clark Howard has sounded a steady drumbeat about why you should pay inside the gas station if you’re going to use a debit card to fill up.
Finally, it looks like Americans are starting to pay attention!
According to a new CompareCards study, 43% of Americans say they are changing the way they pay for gas because they don't want to fall victim to a skimmer scam.
A full 20% of those who’ve made a change in how they pay are now going inside the gas station to avoid the risk of skimming.
The risk posed by skimmers on gas pumps is acute for debit card users.
By federal law, debit cards are only required to give you two days to report money that’s missing from your account. Some banks may voluntarily choose to give you longer to report any financial funny business, but only a two-day window is required.
With a debit card, money leaves your checking account and it’s gone immediately — unlike a credit card where your charges are paid by a lender upfront, and then you have to settle up with them at the end of the month or pay interest charges if you can’t.
So if you use your debit card at the pump and fall victim to a skimmer, you only have 48 hours after noticing a fraudulent charge to alert your bank. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for up to $500 worth of bogus criminal charges. And under some circumstances, your liability with a debit card can be unlimited.
It’s much less likely for a skimmer to be on the point-of-sale device inside the store than it is to be on the pump outside.
Clark also believes that if you want to continue using debit in your life, you should have it draw from a separate account you set up and fund with money exclusively for your debit card transactions. By doing that, you limit the total amount of money that’s exposed in a potential breach.
Many gas stations try to be proactive about protecting their customers from skimmer scams, but one regional pumper stands head and shoulders above the rest.
QuikTrip has a technology called PumpShield on all of its nearly 800 gas station convenience stores across 10 states.
What PumpShield does is send an alert 24 hours a day to headquarters if anyone tries to tamper with the pump to install a skimmer device. Combined with high-tech security cameras, PumpShield lets QT shut down card skimmers in just seconds — before they can put a hurt on your wallet.
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