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Fueling Up With Plastic

A new NACS backgrounder explains the unique issues related to paying at the pump with credit or debit cards.

Tags: Pricing

May 19, 2017

​ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Americans have made more payments at stores by credit or debit card than they did with cash or checks every year since 2003, according to the American Bankers Association. Over the past decade, the trend has accelerated, especially at the gas pump. Today, 73% of consumers fueling up pay by plastic, according to results from the 2017 NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.

An estimated 39 million Americans fill up every day, and 28 million of them pay at the pump. However, the system is not without its problems. Credit card and debit card rates are set in a duopoly, where the two largest card issuing companies (Visa and MasterCard) establish rates and write rules for retailers that they can either follow, or refuse to accept cards—not much of an option in today’s competitive marketplace.

NACS has developed a backgrounder to help explain the unique issues related to accepting card payments at dispensers. “Cards at the Pump: A Primer” explains how the use of plastic at the pump is incredibly convenient—but that convenience comes at a cost. The backgrounder was developed to help retailers explain this issue to customers, legislators and the media. NACS has shared the backgrounder with hundreds of national reporters.

“Ultimately, the convenience of paying at the pump comes at a cost—both in terms of higher gas prices and a slew of security-related challenges. This backgrounder examines these challenges with a look ahead at a system that began taking shape nearly a century ago,” said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

The backgrounder was released today as part of the 2017 NACS Fuels Resource Center (nacsonline.com/fuels), which examines conditions and trends that could impact gasoline prices. The online resource is annually published to help demystify the retail fueling industry by exploring, among other topics, how fuel is sold, how prices affect consumer sentiment, why prices historically increase in the spring and which new fuels are likely to gain traction in the marketplace.