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.
There are several reasons your debit card may be declined at the pump. For example, you may not have met the authorization requirements, you my have entered the wrong zip code or the station's payment system may be down.
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.
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.
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.
With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.