Pay for fuel with a card? Stations can spend $175


Your card has been declined.

More New Jersey drivers today may get this surprising message from the gas station attendant. Gas stations have the green light from Visa and Mastercard to put up to $175 on your card when you ask to “top up.”

Stations need to verify that your card account has an appropriate amount if they don’t know exactly how much money you’re going to spend. With gas prices so high, the major card companies have increased the limit to a more reasonable number.

“People were filling up big SUVs and the costs were going over the limit. Raising it to $175 should eliminate the problem,” said Sal Risalvato, executive director of New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association.

It’s up to the gas stations how much credit they actually put on your card, and ideally it would only take a couple of hours for the credit to be applied.

Motorists can easily avoid the uncertain situation by using cash or a prepaid card at the pump or simply asking for a certain dollar amount in cash at the pump.

“If you say fill it out, it puts that temporary hold on your card,” said Paul Oster, president of the credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown.

Drivers may have enough balance on their card to cover the contents of a tank, but not enough to cover a $175 stash, Oster noted. Therefore, people with debit cards can be rejected more often. Storage could also pose problems for those with high credit card balances.

“If you go over your credit limit by $1, you can easily lose 25 points on your credit score,” Oster said.

Oster said he’s seen random instances where a temporary lockdown has lasted for days – typically the result of processing problems at the gas station – limiting the purchasing power of individuals elsewhere until the lockdown was released.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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