By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
With fuel prices approaching record highs in May, customers were thinking carefully about where they stop for gas and are paying more attention to rewards programs that offer cents-off fuel gallons purchased. Convenience store chains are responding with updated gasoline rewards programs in a race to offer customers the best deal.
At presstime, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz was the latest retail chain to announce an aggressive new loyalty program, rewarding customers with discounts at the pump. As part of the program, customers don’t even have to wait to accrue points to get their prize. Shoppers simply sign up for and then swipe their MySheez card at the Sheetz pumps for an instant three cents per gallon rollback. No additional purchase required, and points aren’t involved. The program is now rolling out in Pennsylvania after tests in its Ohio and North Carolina stores. Between 40% and 80% of customers in the test markets signed up for cards.
The Loyalty Advantage
One state away in New York, NOCO Express teamed with AAA Western to launch a fuel savings and rewards program for western New York AAA members. The “AAA & NOCO Fuel Advantage” saves motorists three cents per gallon of gas when they swipe their AAA membership card at participating NOCO Express stations. While filling up, AAA members also earn reward points redeemable for free NOCO Express gift cards. The program rolled out May 2, and in less than two weeks the number of customers using a AAA card at NOCO Express pumps had reached five digits, which the company didn’t expect to break until at least the end of May.
“You’re seeing more companies coming out with loyalty programs on a daily basis,” said Henry Bays, general manager of NOCO Express, which operates more than 30 stations. “I think one of the most difficult things is getting your membership base up within the program in order to justify your investment. That’s where AAA has helped. They have a large base of members already, so by signing AAA, we were able to populate our loyalty base with an excess of 800,000 members.”
Coalition-based loyalty programs between non-competing entities is a major trend that is growing within the industry. Shell is one company that has been leading the effort. Already Shell has partnered with grocery chains, including Kroger, Bi-Lo, Stop & Shop, Winn-Dixie, Ralphs and Giant to offer gas savings with grocery rewards points.
For every $50 in qualified purchases customers spend at participating supermarkets, they can earn a five-cent per gallon discount on fuel–up to 20 gallons. The more customers spend the greater the discount they can earn.
Other companies are using gas discounts as an incentive for customers to register for their chain’s card. In April, Parker’s Convenience Stores increased the discount it offers to customers who purchase fuel using its PumpPal Club debit card from 10 cents to 15 cents a gallon at 19 Savannah, Ga., area stores after a three cent-per-gallon tax increase went into effect. Parker’s introduced the debit card program at its stores in January to entice customers to pay with debit as opposed to credit cards, which have higher swipe fees.
ExxonMobil is also running a promotion through June 30, offering 15 cents off per gallon of fuel purchased with a registered Speedpass account. Customers gain savings on up to 100 gallons of fuel, or $15, in the form of rebates on the credit or debit card accounts linked to their Speedpass devices. Registration and enrollment in the program are free.