Paying for fuel using a stored payment method through your smartphone and the store’s app is an amazingly convenient concept. Drive up, link your phone and the pump, pick your payment method, and fuel up. In under 5 minutes, your fuel tank is full and you’re on your way and you never touched a payment card or walked more than a few feet.
Many stores offering fuel pay with an app let customers add a credit or debit card, PayPal, and Apple Pay to app-stored payment methods. Some have taken it one step further and allowed customers to link their bank account directly, skipping the middleman (aka credit card company), and allowing real-time access to fund withdrawals.
For retailers, that ACH/debit card connection is a huge cost-saver eliminating at least 1.5% in credit card interchange fees.
Theory Versus Reality
Paying for fuel via an app is incredibly convenient until it isn’t. Speaking from personal experience, I would love to use this feature. But, alas, of almost all of the apps I’ve tried, it is incredibly time-consuming to set up and I haven’t had success using them.
In the name of research, I tested several convenience store apps. For those that offered, I added my ACH payment information. For all of those that I entered my bank information, it took many, many minutes to input tons of my personal information, just short of my firstborn’s name. After I submitted the information, it took 3 days for my bank to match up with the retail app. During that time, I forgot I downloaded some apps and a half-dozen emails from the company nudged me along to complete the setup.
Once it was set, I took one of the apps on the road to use it. Maybe I’m just unlucky and have experienced a station having technical difficulties, despite having ample marketing information telling me it would work. That app has never worked for me inside or outside of their store after several tries on several different days. I have since given up and stopped trying. I really would love the fuel discount and because I tried to use it and wasn’t able to get it, I ended up spending more than I would have liked on fuel that month and that entire experience has left a salty taste in my mouth.
The U.S. Banking System is Complicated
Banking in the U.S. is very different than much of the rest of the world. Retailer credit card fees are many times higher than the rest of the world, especially in the convenience industry that sees some of the highest rates in the country.
Here in the U.S., we still hand our credit card to restaurant servers who take them away to a mysterious place deep in the bowels of the location and return minutes later with paper receipts that need signatures (also something the rest of the world doesn’t do). We still insert our credit cards into fuel pumps when paying for fuel. And, we still use paper checks whereas most Europeans have only seen that in the movies.
Last, we have an incredibly antiquated, though much-improved in the last few years, system for linking bank accounts to businesses for direct payments and deposits. This last process is known as ACH (Automated Clearing House) and has thankfully sped up from what used to take 3-5 days to electronically verify information to just 1-2 days. Anyone who has created a PayPal or Venmo link to their bank knows this process.
But, technological advances by some companies like Stripe allow for real-time linking direct to bank accounts. My goodness, that is so much easier than typing my bank routing and account numbers into an app! Not to mention, I don’t know those 9 and 12-digit numbers off the top of my head so it saves time searching for where I wrote them down, digging out my checkbook, or logging in and copying and pasting.
One little mistake and the whole 2-day verification process breaks and I would have to start over. So much easier to just enter my credit card information or better yet, just use my actual card and skip the whole app altogether.
What If Paying for Fuel Could Be Easier?
What if there was an app that I could download and quickly set up my ACH payment while at the gas pump to pay not only fuel, but in-store purchases as well? What if there was an app that could do this entire bank payment setup in 5 or 6 steps rather than the traditional dozen-plus? What if I didn’t need to give away a hacker’s dream amount of data to authenticate myself?
Stay tuned, in the coming days, I’m going to share a story about a fuel and store pay app that customers in search of real convenience and retailers in search of happy customers and lower operational costs are going to love!
About Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specializing in the convenience and foodservice industries. The proprietary, cloud-based technology platform allows retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a process called the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers’ activities in real-time across digital and media channels.
Liquid Barcodes loyalty platform is powering loyalty programs for industry leaders across several global markets, by offering unique subscription, mobile payment, machine learning, personalization, gamification, loyalty, and other capabilities.
Learn more about Liquid Barcodes at LiquidBarcodes.com.
About the Author
Carolyn Schnare, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes
Carolyn Schnare has been involved with the convenience retailing industry for two decades with extensive knowledge of customer engagement and marketing, sustainability, and community outreach. Prior to Liquid Barcodes, Schnare worked at NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) in a variety of roles from event production to membership and host and producer of the popular industry podcast, Convenience Matters. Schnare currently co-anchors the popular Shop Talk LIVE! video series for the Global Convenience Store Focus media company.