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Why Is My Debit Card Being Declined at Gas Pumps?

by Alia Nikolakopulos, Demand Media
    Being declined at the pump is inconvenient, but in many cases, it can be resolved by paying inside.

    Being declined at the pump is inconvenient, but in many cases, it can be resolved by paying inside.

    There are several reasons a debit card can be declined at the pump while trying to get gas. However, being declined does not necessarily mean there isn't enough money in your account to cover your purchase, or that you won't be able to fuel up at the station where you've been declined. While each possible cause is frustrating, most issues can be resolved by paying inside the store instead of at the pump.

    Authorization Declines

    Most gas stations have a “pay-at-the-pump” feature that allows you to insert your debit or credit card at the pump and authorize payment before you dispense gas. Your bank or the gas station's payment processors may set different authorization requirements for prepayment at pumps. Authorization requirements can range from as little as $1 to as much as $100. If you don’t have enough funds available to cover the station’s authorization requirements, your transaction will be declined, even if you have enough money on the card to pay for the gas you want to purchase.

    Billing and Account Information

    Many pumps require you to enter a billing zip code or PIN to authorize your gas purchase. If you enter the wrong billing zip code or PIN number, your card will be declined. If your card is declined for incorrect billing or PIN information, you may use the card to pay for gas inside the store without providing your zip code. If you request that your card be run as a credit card, rather than a debit card, you also won’t need to provide your PIN. However, when using your card inside the store, a clerk may need your driver’s license to confirm the card belongs to you.

    System Issues

    When you use a debit card to pay for gas, your card information is captured by the station’s payment processor and sent to your bank to verify funds before your transaction is authorized. If either the station’s payment system is down, or your bank’s system is down, your transaction can be declined. In this instance, you must wait until the system is back up before you can proceed with your purchase. If the store’s system is down, a clerk inside can tell you when it is back up. However, it may be more difficult to tell when a bank’s system is back up unless you are able to call the bank for updates.

    Card Issues

    Other issues that can cause your card to be declined at the pump may be linked directly to your debit card. Some card issuers can restrict or prohibit card use for prepayment at gas pumps. This does not mean you can’t use the card at the station, it simply means you must pay for your purchase inside the store. Other card issues may include a damaged magnetic strip which can make the card unreadable, using an expired card, or using a card that has been blocked, frozen or deactivated by the bank.

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    About the Author

    With a background in taxation, Alia Nikolakopulos specializes in business and personal finance topics. She is an IRS enrolled agent pursuing a Bachelor of Science in accounting and journalism at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    Photo Credits

    • Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

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