No, You Can’t Buy Gas with Bitcoin
The idea was smattered all over the worthless cesspool of the internet…sorry, I mean Reddit…
“You can buy your gas with Bitcoin!”
Wow, what a concept! It seems to be the one thing that hasn’t directly happened yet (at least far as I know): a gas station that accepts Bitcoin either at the pump or at the front counter. While I’ll be the first to say I don’t see it happening anytime soon in most countries (I’m well aware you can do it in parts of Europe, and that Bitcoin gas pumps have been devised, but I don’t see any around)–certainly not en masse, anyway, which is crucial if you’re the nomadic type–there have been many that have made the claim that you can purchase gasoline through the use of gift cards.
How they claim that this works is slightly complicated, and for the interest of the Dark Android Project–which has the “side quest” of giving you the ability to purchase things anonymously–I thought it would be a fun experiment. So I went for it, and followed the incredibly jumbled advice that exists out there from various (obviously) keyboard warriors.
First I went to Gyft.com (or I suppose you could use eGifter). With my bitcoin (lower-case “b” when you’re talking about the currency, upper-case “B” when you’re talking about the technology, for those that don’t know) I bought two cards, just in case there were some kind of funny rules that would allow for one place to work and the other not to work. I bought a CVS card and a GameStop card, specifically, as both of those stores have a large selection of gift cards that you can buy within them, including Shell gift cards for gas.
So, I buy the gift cards, and I even printed out the gift cards just in case the cashiers were bugged out by having to scan a smartphone for a gift card (not everyone is as “with it” as Starbucks, after all, it’s not like it’s 2015 or anything). I go to CVS, and I grab a $25 Shell gift card for gas. I go to the cashier, and I’m instantly told she’s never seen anything like this before (FULL DISCLOSURE: I live in New Hampshire), but she tries to do the “buy a gift card with another gift card” trick for me, anyway. It doesn’t work. A manager then comes out to try and make it happen, but then on the printed gift card from Gyft.com, she reads (I failed to see it) that this Gyft.com gift card cannot be used to buy other gift cards from CVS. So there, total failure at CVS. You absolutely cannot buy a gift card with a gift card at CVS, even if a store manager tries to override the restriction (which, kindly, she did try).
Alright, so you can’t buy gas cards at CVS. Let’s try Plan B: Gamestop.
So I go to GameStop. Now, while some would see GameStop as incredibly antiquated in a our digital downloading world, I really love these places. I’ve always dealt with really cool staff, and have in the past even made great friends with fellow customers and staffers over our shared love of gaming and nerddom overall. Places that provide this degree of community are getting rarer by the minute, today, it seems. And I mention this because if anyone is going to help me “game the system” by buying a gas card with a gift card that I purchased with bitcoin, it’s going to be a gal or guy behind the counter at GameStop.
I begin to describe the trouble I had at CVS with buying a gift card with a gift card, and I tell the cashier that I’ve bought Steam gift cards, at least, at GameStop in the past and was wondering if there was some kind of change over whether or not you can buy gift cards with a gift card anymore. The cashier very quickly told me that there has been no change in policy, but that there are restrictions on which gift cards I can buy with a GameStop gift card. I can’t buy prepaid VISA or American Express gift cards (which would have been an option to buy gas with, even though they are often a pain in the ass to setup in my experience, which works against anonymity). I cannot buy PayPal reload cards (which would’ve been another option as I have a PayPal debit card that the reload could draw from, but not my first choice). And I absolutely cannot buy Shell gas gift cards with a GameStop gift card. I asked if this was just a deal in New Hampshire, and the cashier graciously showed me on the screen that it was universal GameStop policy to not allow customers to buy these types of gift cards with another gift card.
No go. I cannot buy a gas gift card at GameStop. And thus, via using Gyft.com and eGifter as all of the people on the bastion of truth and reality that is the internet are full of crap. And let’s be real clear here, it’s not like this is something that only applies to Gyft.com gift cards. When you purchase a gift card on that site, it becomes an official CVS or GameStop gift card from that point on. These are store and company policies.
And in the case of GameStop (CVS wouldn’t let you buy ANY gift cards with a gift card), it seems completely arbitrary. The fact that I can buy a Steam gift card and not a readily available Shell gas gift card is ridiculous. Clearly the system can allow for gift cards to be bought with another gift card, just those are off limits. If I were to get conspiritorial, I’d say this is a decision being made not by GameStop themselves, but by some higher-up organization (even if it were the DHS, I wouldn’t be shocked) that doesn’t want people being able to exist in an anonymous or “out of the system” fashion. And allowing people to buy prepaid credit cards or gas gift cards would make the potential for living like that all the greater.
So before a bunch of dolts start saying to me, “Well you could do this…yada yada yada!”, let me cover some of the other options that I’ve considered:
- eGifter and Gyft.com do not offer Walmart cards anymore, and when they did, they only did so for a very brief period of time. If you had a Walmart gift card, and the Walmart near you had a gas station attached to it (which many do) you’d be able to buy gas with bitcoin, it’s true. But I wonder if the reason those services can’t sell Walmart gift cards anymore is for the same “order from on high” that GameStop is under to not sell you certain gift cards. Just a theory.
- I’ve heard rumors that there are Target locations that have gas stations attached to them. But these seem to be so rare, it’s not really practical (especially if you travel a lot), and there also isn’t an easy search to find Targets that have gas stations. Also, I really can’t confirm that these exist at all. So unlike moron on the internet, I won’t speculate here.
- Amazon.com does not sell gas gift cards. Period. Even if they did, you’d have to wait two days to get the physical card, and that’s not a very practical thing to have to wait for if you’re in a pinch or emergency situation.
- Also, I went very much out of my way to insure that somehow these aren’t problems that only affect New Hampshire. They’re not, so don’t give me any crap about that. Other countries may vary, but what I describe here is a fact across the USA.
- Yes, there’s LocalBitcoins. You could use that to get cash, and then buy gas. But you can use LocalBitcoins to do anything, so no shit. But the purpose of my write-up is to debunk the notion of doing it with gift cards purchased with Bitcoin, and has nothing to do with using LocalBitcoins. Also, this will be a test to see if people actually read this article, or if they’re just the type of superficial dunce that just responds to the headline and says, “No, Brian, you fuckhead, you can do it with LocalBitcoins!” Yes, I know that. I said it right here.
- There are also some gas stations that let you buy and sell bitcoins for cash at an ATM-style machine. Again, these are very few and far between, and are likely being watched like hawks, and if they’re anything like Robocoin machines, they want pretty much everything but your soul when it comes to personal information to do the exchange.
- Yes, you can use Coinbase. But…no, I don’t need to respond to such nonsense.
- Obviously, you can try and do an exchange with someone at the counter at CVS or GameStop and say, “Hey, I’ll buy your groceries or game with my gift card if you give me the cash!”…but hold your horses. First off, most people don’t buy anything with cash anymore, or even carry it, so you’re likely not going to be able to get cash. And second, even if this was possible, you’d probably have to go through a few customers in line before you’d find one willing, and then you’d be attracting a lot of (potentially) undesired attention. People with food stamps pull this stuff off, and while I definitely empathize with those people, you have to ask yourself if you want to look that desperate.
So, for all intents and purposes, no, you can’t buy gas with bitcoin (minus LocalBitcoins or some kind of other local exchange). We have a real problem with a lot of people on Reddit–and the internet in general, really–that deal in theoreticals, and don’t actually “practice what they preach”. Another part of the reason I started the Dark Android Project was to do serious experimentation with the ideas of achieving decentralization, anonymity, privacy and security (what I call DAPS) in the present “Surveillance Society” that we live in that I talk about often on my tech podcast: Sovryn Tech. Again, as to why these seemingly arbitrary barriers between you being able to buy gift cards for gas with a bitcoin-bough gift card is open to a lot speculation, but it does seem to be uniformly implemented in the USA. And I can’t wait for someone to say that you can do this in Malaysia, but why the fuck would I go there? They banned Ultraman in that country! Fucking insane. Clearly not a place I’ll ever be driving through.
To be clear, I love Bitcoin, and it’s one of the rare technologies that makes Dark Android viable, and has amazing potential for personal freedom. And so, unlike other people that will just yap, in a few months I’ll give this all another shot because I consider the ability to buy gas with bitcoin to be important, and I’ll definitely update about it here or on my podcast. But for now…
Stop listening to the idiots on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and the internet at large.