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Swipe for fuel


THESE DAYS, all you need to do is swipe a card to fill in fuel. No, we are not talking about the credit card, but the pre-paid card.

Pre-paid cards for filling in fuel, like the Petro Card of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), have become immensely popular with the public.

A customer who joins BPCL's loyalty programme by making a one-time payment of Rs. 250 is issued a Petro Card. It is a pre-paid debit card and can be used to fill in fuel from any BPCL outlet in the country. The customer pays the money to the dealer and this amount is `loaded' or transferred to his Petro Card account. Fuel worth a minimum of Rs. 500 can be `loaded' each time. This card can then be used to fill in fuel till the amount is exhausted. Each time the card is swiped for filling fuel, the amount in the bill is debited from the card.

When the customer makes the payment through a credit card, it attracts a surcharge on the amount indicated in the bill. On the other hand, no surcharge is added while using a Petro Card for the same. Moreover, each time the card is used to fill in fuel, the consumer gets bonus points or `petro miles', which he can exchange for attractive gifts.

"The Petro Card was introduced to reward our loyal customers and also to ensure that they stay with us. The feedback has been excellent and we already have 20,000 Petro Card holders in the city. We also run promotional schemes, under which Petro Card users are given higher bonus points," says a BPCL official.

BPCL officials point out that the Petro Card scheme, launched on an experimental basis at Chennai in 1999, now has almost one million members countrywide. Today, it is one of the most successful `loyalty' programmes in the market. One of the key factors in its success has been the provision of `card reader machines' at almost 70 per cent of its outlets across the country to enable the use of the Petro Card.

The BPCL dealer at Kaudiar says that nearly 80,000 litres of the total fuel sale daily at his outlet is through the Petro Card. New members are signing up on a regular basis. During Onam last year, the company had organised a promotional scheme for 15 days, and this had attracted many new customers.

Consumers can also avail themselves of a five per cent discount by using the Petro Card to shop at `In and Out' convenience stores of BPCL.

While the Petro Card is meant for owner-drivers, there is also the Fleet Card for those who run car rental services. The card is loaded with a microchip and all the card reader machines at `Pure for Sure' (PFS) outlets are networked to a central server. This would enable the company to upgrade it and add more utility services in the future, says a BPCL official.

While BPCL has taken an early lead in the market, other oil companies are also offering loyalty programmes to consumers. The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has a special programme to reward those customers who buy fuel with money and Hindustan Petroleum (HP) has its own card, `HP Smart 1', on which `reward' points can be converted to free fuel. However, both schemes are yet to be launched in the city.

C.M.

Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar

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