A new study found that drivers are paying 6 to 10 cents a gallon in hidden bank fees every time they gas up.
To make matters worse, the banks' "swipe" fee goes up inexorably with the price of gas, even though your bank is doing nothing extra to process your debit or credit card transaction.
These "swipe" fees are what your bank charges the store to process your transaction. You may not know about them, but the convenience-store owner does.
All kinds of card fees, including swipe fees, are set in secret by Visa and MasterCard. They have grown to be the owner's largest operating expense after labor - more than rent, more than utilities. Convenience stores paid more than $11 billion in card fees last year, a jump of almost 25 percent and an amount almost 90 percent greater than their profits.
"These fees have come to be a tremendous burden on convenience stories, most of which are run by small business people," said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores. "In many cases, the banks are profiting more from the sale of gas than our members."
As gas goes to $4 in some markets, the bank's average cut of swipe fees alone increases to 7 cents, if you pay with a debit card and up to 10 cents with a credit card.
You pay the extra money even if you pay cash because the credit card companies' rules push the merchant to pass along the costs to everyone, not just customers who pay with plastic.
The study also found that gas prices increased 80 percent between 2004 and 2011. Card fees rose 180 percent. In other words, even when gas prices level off, the bank fees continue to rise.
Because credit-card fees are fixed in secret by a duopoly of MasterCard and Visa, they always are on the increase, to the point where they are now the highest in the industrialized world.
Source: The National Association of Convenience Stores
See also: Save on Gas - Tips to Improve Mileage