Paying with credit? Could cost you more

July 11, 2008 4:28:45 PM PDT
Getting around in this country has never been more expensive. According to AAA, the national average price for one gallon of regular gasoline is $4.10. Houston is paying the least in the state at $3.93. With prices at historic highs, all of us look for the best deal before pulling in to fill up. But did you know the price on the marquee is sometimes not what you're really paying when you use a credit card? At one area Texaco station there are now three prices advertised for the same product. The reason is Zory Sheible.

Sheible explained, "When I first pulled up to the pump, I noticed that it said $4.01 and it really shocked me. I thought, 'Oh my God, is it really $4 today?' When I turned and looked at the marquee, it said $3.94 or $3.91."

Sheible says that was a few days ago and at the time she went inside to ask about the pricing problem.

She said, "I asked the manager, 'What's going on with the pump? It's displaying the wrong amount.' He said, 'It's not the wrong amount if you are paying by a credit card.'"

Not satisfied with that answer, Sheible says she started warning other drivers about the credit card price discrepancy.

"I stood outside in the heat and asked each and every one of them if they are paying with a credit card and they said yes. I said, 'You are paying more for gas,'" she recalled.

It turns out Sheible was right to complain. According to the Texas Attorney General's office, stores cannot charge customers a higher price because they are using a credit card, but the AG's office says it's perfectly OK to offer a cash discount.

Dan Parsons with the Houston Better Business Bureau said, "You may do a discount for cash, but you cannot impose a surcharge for credit cards. Stop and take a deep breath. Is it the same thing? It pretty much is. Where it becomes weird is the advertising."

Parsons says gas pricing complaints are coming in fast and furious these days because consumers are confused over discounts and advertised prices. When it comes to a service station's marquee, Parsons says the law requires the higher price to be displayed.

"In theory, the sign should be the worst case scenario, the highest price and everything from there discounted," he explained.

After Zory contacted Texaco, the sign changed. No one in the station wanted to talk to us about the sign issue. Sheible says these days she's getting gas at different station.

"They did lose a consumer," she told Eyewitness News.

We contacted Texaco about the issue. They say since the store is independently owned, it's up to the owner to make sure signs advertised the correct amounts.

Something else to remember -- you cannot be asked to make a minimum purchase on a credit card. In fact, stores requiring a minimum transaction are violating the terms of agreement with credit card companies.

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