Credit Card Gas PumpEven though your credit and debit cards will work fine in most US stores, (provided you choose ‘credit’ rather than ‘debit’ at the checkout, even though your card is a debit card, fuelling your rental car can be a little problem unless you follow a few simple steps!

The USA and UK chip and pin systems are a little different and no place does it show more than at the gas stations that all mainly operate on a ‘pay at pump’ basis.

The whole process can drive first time US visitors crazy as they battle with the subtle differences between the payment process back home and here in the sunny Sunshine State!
  1. As in the UK, card processing takes place before your fuel.
  2. Insert your card fully and remove as soon as it hits the back of the slot.  Unlike the UK pumps, the US card readers actually don’t like it if you leave the card in there for any amount of time.  Our advice is to be zap it in there all the way then immediately remove it and place it back in your wallet.  Leave the card in the reader for more than a second and you get an error message ‘too slow’.
  3. Next up, you may be asked to enter a zip code.  Some forums advise just entering 5 zeros (00000) although we have not verified this ourselves.
  4. If this fails, simply walk over to the pay office and ask the attendant to authorise a prepay a set amount of fuel.
  5. It’s very difficult to try and work out what an empty tank of fuel is going to cost, so don’t go crazy with the pre-paid amount.  Most cars will refuel from totally empty for $75.
  6. If you do use less fuel than you pre-paid, simply go back to the pay office and obtain a credit for the unused amount.  Do not drive off hoping that the amount is automatically adjusted.
  7. Some attendants offer you just to leave the card in the pay office as security while you fuel up.  All you do is walk back after filling your rental car and authorize the exact amount.
  8. Word of caution, although rare, unscrupulous characters can use an unattended card for fraudulent purposes, so always consider either asking a friend to stay by the cash desk with your card in clear view or prepay with cash if you feel concerned.

Some other articles that you may be interested in!

Check Our ‘Driving in Florida Guide’ for Florida Driving Laws and Safety Advice
Check our Toll Charge Guide on how to avoid big fines