Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Defeat gas pump skimmers with payment apps

John Egan

If you’re like me, you may be a bit freaked out about skimmers at gas pumps stealing our credit card information.

These devices continue to pop up at gas stations from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. Thieves install them inside or outside card readers at gas pumps to snatch data from the magnetic stripes on cards and use that data to produce counterfeit credit cards.

I’ve got good news for you, though: I’ve figured out a way to circumvent skimmer scams, at least at some gas stations. All you need is your smartphone.

With an app, your card never goes in pump’s card reader

ExxonMobil Speedpass appAfter recently pulling up to an ExxonMobil pump at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Austin, Texas, I was eager to test the ExxonMobil Speedpass+ app I’d downloaded on my iPhone.

With a few taps on the phone screen, I was able to select a pump number, authorize the pump to dispense gas, and select Apple Pay to cover the gas purchase with my American Express Platinum card.

Some online reviewers complain that the Speedpass+ app is glitchy, but my first experience with the app went off without a hitch.

The biggest benefit was I didn’t have to swipe or insert a payment card – and, thereby, avoided having my card data stolen via a skimmer.

In addition, I saved 10 cents a gallon by paying with the app during a special promotional period.

How the ExxonMobil payment app works

The app enables you to pay with any major credit card or debit card, an ExxonMobil personal credit card, a checking account, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Through the app, you can even apply for an ExxonMobil card (issued by Citibank).

Even more impressive: The free app – which is offered through the Apple and Google Play app stores – can be connected to certain Ford vehicles equipped with Sync 3 technology or to an Apple Watch.

Branded apps from gas retailers such as ExxonMobil are gaining ground. A 2017 study  by Market Force Information found 41 percent of U.S consumers reported using at least one of these apps, up from 33 percent a year earlier.

However, a lot of the branded apps don’t offer mobile payment capabilities.

Payment apps as a defense against skimmers

Shell appExxonMobil isn’t the only payment-enabled app from a gas retailer, though. Shell’s app allows a customer to pay for gas with an eligible Chase Visa card via Chase Pay.

The app is available from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

Oh, and Chase Pay users can earn 35 cents per gallon in Fuel Perks savings after your first 5-gallon fill-up at Shell. Just set up the Chase Pay app and add your Shell Fuel Rewards account. The offer ends Dec. 31, 2018.

An online search turned up no other major gas retailers whose apps offer mobile payment functionality.

I’m guessing (and hoping) that other gas retailers will soon catch up with ExxonMobil and Shell in terms of mobile payments. Doing so would add fuel to the effort to combat skimming.

See related: Gas pump and ATM skimmers: How to spot and avoid them, 6 ways to reduce your risk of skimmer fraud, The new card skimming is called ‘shimming’, Bluesnarfing: the newest card fraud at gas pumps and ATMs

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