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By W.B. King
NEW YORK -- If climbing gas prices weren't enough to frustrate consumers, motorists with large vehicles using credit cards to fill up at the pump are faced with a per transaction limit of $75.
"Credit card costs which are already exorbitant would be higher if we raised our limits due to higher fees and more charge backs," Tom Robinson, president of Rotten Robbie, a 34-station chain based in San Jose, told CSNews Online. "With that said, we are considering raising the limits at our Rotten Robbie locations because the existing limits are such an inconvenience to our customers."
Motorists owning SUVs are hit hardest by this issue although as prices continue to rise more consumers could be impacted. Presently, if the threshold is reached, customers must complete a second transaction at the pump in order to finish filling. Another less convenient solution requires the credit card to be swiped twice or the entire transaction to be handled by an attendant.
Busy customers aren't pleased with the situation, explained Robinson. "In general they are frustrated," he told CSNews Online. "Some think our pumps are stupid or worse; some think we are stupid or worse and that we are customer unfriendly, while others vent their frustrations to our employees." Due to recent media coverage, Robinson said, "Some, but very few, blame the credit card companies for this situation."
While Visa raised its pump limit from $50 in April, the new metric $75 has not kept pace with price increases. With an average SUV tank holding approximately 25 gallons, a fill up at $4 dollars a gallon is $100. The average Winnebago's tank hold upwards of 60 gallons equaling roughly $240 a fill up.
"The credit card companies continue to pump out half-truths and verbal shell games making it appear that the retailer is the problem, but it is simply not true. The issue is chargebacks, specifically Reason Code 96, the rule that allows credit card companies to deny payment on fueling amounts over $75," Jeff Lenard, vice president of NACS, told CSNews Online. "The credit card companies wrote these rules, force retailers to abide by them, and do everything they can to make sure that retailers can't see these rules in full."
Visa spokesman Paul Wilke told USA Today "It's the merchants' decision to limit purchases. Customers always have the option of paying with the card at the cash register." MasterCard spokesman Tristan Jordan told the paper that the $75 limit "ensures merchants and customers are protected from fraud."
While CSNews Online could not reach QuikTrip for comment as of presstime, USA Today reported that the Tulsa-based retailer recently raised it transaction price to $100. Vice President Paula Cotten told the paper that many customers, especially small-business owners, want that number increased.
While Lenard could not comment on QuikTrip's decision, he explained that credit card fees are the industry's number one issue.
"There are a multitude of concerns that retailers have expressed to the credit card companies and the standard response has typically been 'If you don't like our rules, don't accept our cards' and then some standard line about how the credit card system is one of the greatest innovations for the 20th century," he told CSNews Online. "And that is true but we are well into the 21st century and have not seen meaningful change reflecting technology advances in decades."
When asked if he feels the credit card companies will address industry concerns in a meaningful manner, Robinson responded: "I have no idea what the credit card companies will do regarding limits. Their responsiveness has been less than impressive in their dealings with merchants."