Credit Card Gas Limits
Here’s an interesting phenomenon: rising gas costs have pushed up a lot of legitimate transactions to the “anti-fraud” ceiling.
Security is a trade-off, and now the ceiling is annoying more and more legitimate gas purchasers. But to me the real question is: does this ceiling have any actual security purpose?
In general, credit card fraudsters like making gas purchases because the system is automated: no signature is required, and there’s no need to interact with any other person. In fact, buying gas is the most common way a fraudster tests that a recently stolen card is valid. The anti-fraud ceiling doesn’t actually prevent any of this, but limits the amount of money at risk.
But so what? How many perps are actually trying to get more gas than is permitted? Are credit-card-stealing miscreants also swiping cars with enormous gas tanks, or merely filling up the passenger cars they regularly drive? I’d love to know how many times, prior to the run-up in gas prices, a triggered cutoff actually coincided with a subsequent report of a stolen card. And what’s the effect of a ceiling, apart from a gas shut-off? Surely the smart criminals know about smurfing, if they need more gas than the ceiling will allow.
The Visa spokesperson said, “We get more calls, questions, when gas prices increase.” He/she didn’t say: “We make more calls to see if fraud is occurring.” So the only inquiries made may be in the cases where fraud isn’t occurring.