Canadian Credit Cards may not be welcome at US Gas Pumps

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  UPDATED - February, 2014

A number of southeastern US gas stations will not accept non-USA credit cards (i.e., Visa and Mastercards issued in other countries) for gas purchases at their gas pumps    . . .   

   . . .    if you do not have a US credit card billing address with a 5 digit US zip code - you cannot start pumping.

 
Instead, you must go inside the gas station store and either, surrender your card (not a good idea in these days of "identity theft" - it may also invalidate your Bank credit card agreement) or, pre-authorize a specific dollar amount to be pumped.

Good News - the end of this problem is in sight. By October, 2017, all U.S. gas stations will be required to have chip credit card readers installed at their gas pumps. Chip credit cards (whether Canadian or European) will then be able to turn on a U.S. gas pump using just the card's PIN number. No zip code will be required. See point 4 below, for more information.

In the meantime, this embargo represents a particular problem to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian snowbirds traveling to Florida each winter. It also affects other non-US visitors from countries such as Germany or the UK, two of Florida's biggest "fly-drive" holiday tourist markets.

In previous years, we have attempted (with reader input) to maintain a list of gas stations on this website. which do or do not accept Canadian credit cards. The response has not been great and in view of the work this required, we have decided to drop it.

Here are some "work-around" solutions you might wish to try:


1. A Canadian Zip Code - A number of readers have contacted me to suggest entering "00000," "11111," "12345" or "99999" (depending upon gas brand). All claim that these work at their southern destinations.

When tested, we have found these to be regional brand specific. There is no continuity in this solution and when you drive into a station away from your home base, you really do not know whether you are going to be able to actuate the pump or not with your card, using these phony numbers.

Canadian Master Card holders may have more luck. Recently, several folk who use MC have written to me to say that by extracting the numbers from their postal code and adding two zeros to the end to create a 5 digit number, seems to work with some consistency.

For example, my postal code is L5G  4N9. My created "zip code" would then be "54900." Try it it may work.

Good News - in the past four months (Nov - Feb, 2014), many more readers have reported to us that this does work with reasonable consistency on their drives south. It's worth trying if you have a Master Card.

Visa card holders may also wish to try this.


2. Contact your Canadian bank branch before you leave - According to some of our readers, different banks may have different solutions. They all seem to be aware of the "U.S. gas pump" problem.

For example, a Bank of Montreal Master Card customer said her bank was able to put her U.S. destination on her card record as a secondary address, thereby providing her with her destination zip code for gas pump validatrion. She used her card with no problem for the duration of her Florida trip.


3. Canadian Debit Card (for certain Canadian banks only) - Suitable for short term visitors to Florida - this works but may involves a Canadian bank transaction cost.

Most major U.S. gasoline vendors are partnered with NYCE - one of the leading ATM networks in the United States. Recently, several Canadian financial institutions became members of the NYCE network; their debit cards are now acceptable for initiating purchases at the pumps of these partnered gas vendors. Debit cards do not require a zip code for at-the-pump authorization; instead they require your 4-digit personal identification number (PIN) issued by your bank.

The Canadian financial institutions issuing debit cards acceptable on the NYCE network are: ATB Financial, Desjardins, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust. Additional institutions may be added from time to time. For an updated list, visit: http://www.nyce.net/consumers/canadian/canadian_banks/index.htm.

A list of U.S. gas companies partnered with NYCE include: 7-Eleven, Amoco, BP, Chevron, Citgo, Exxon, Gulf, Hess, Mobil, RaceTrac, Shell, Sunoco and Texaco. For a complete list of gas companies and other organizations accepting Canadian NYCE partnered debit cards, visit: http://www.nyce.net/consumers/retailerlist/popularretailers/index.htm.

NYCE maintains a useful information website for Canadians at: http://www.nyce.net/consumers/canadian/index.htm

Look for the red and white "NYCE" symbol in the "Cards Accepted" panel on the gas pump.

NYCE does not charge for this service but in a recent test using a Scotiabank debit card in Florida, we noted that Scotiabank applied a C$1.50 service charge to our account for each transaction.

Further, all our Scotiabank debit card gas charges were applied to our C$ chequing account with the Bank's applicable U.S. exchange rate added, even though we maintain a Scotiabank U.S. chequing account. We were unable to arrange to have a Scotiabank U.S. debit card or have the charges directed to our Scotiabank US$ account.


4. Chip Credit Cards with a PIN - Chip cards (also known as EMV* cards) similar to those used in Canada and Europe would provide the perfect answer to the credit card gas pump problem since chip cards only require a 4 digit Personal Identification Number (PIN - not a zip code) to initiate a gas pump. Because your information is stored in an embedded computer chip rather than an easy-to-duplicate magnetic strip, they are much more effective at combating credit card fraud.
(*Note: named after the technology developers - Europay, MasterCard and Visa)

The U.S. credit card industry has rolled out a timeline for introducing these cards, with the onus to convert to the required "chip card" reader equipment falling on retailers and merchants' shoulders.

As an incentive to convert their equipment on time, the card companies will shift the responsibility for reimbursing card fraud victims, from the card companies to retailers/merchants according to the following conversion timetable . . .

  • October, 2015 - consumer retailers/merchant - stores and offices, etc.
  • October, 2016 - ATM machines
  • October, 2017 - gas station automatic fuel pumps.
Any retailer/merchant not complying with the conversion timetable will be responsible for any monies lost by a consumer due to the fraudulent use of a consumer's card or its encoded information, while patronizing the business.

So we finally have a date when Canadian Chip credit cards without a billing zip code will be acceptable at U.S. gas pumps.

We are reasonably sure that all the major gas companies will comply and have their gas pump readers converted by October, 2017 ... their exposure to fraudulent loss is too great!