Refuel with co-branded cards

Got large fuel bills? Use these cards to cut down your spends

Are you feeling the pinch of the consistent fuel price hikes? Here is a way to optimise your outgo towards filling your tank with petrol or diesel. Banks, in association with oil marketing companies (OMCs), offer co-branded credit cards with special benefits on your fuel spends.

Citibank, ICICI Bank and State Bank of India are the major players offering co-branded fuel cards. Citibank with the Indian Oil Corporation offers IndianOil Citi Platinum and Titanium cards. ICICI Bank offers three HPCL co-branded cards — ICICI Bank HPCL Coral Credit Card, HPCL Coral American Express Card, and ICICI Bank HPCL Platinum Credit Card. SBI has tied up with BPCL to offer BPCL SBI Card.

Benefits

These co-branded cards give benefits as either cash-back or incremental reward points that can be redeemed for future fuel purchases. For instance, Citibank’s IndianOil card gives you four turbo points for every ₹150 spent on fuel. One turbo point is equal to ₹1. Suppose you spend ₹30,000 a year on fuel. Citibank’s card will earn you 800 turbo points, which equals ₹800; this amount can be redeemed to fill 9.4 litres of petrol (at the current price of ₹85 per litre).

ICICI Bank offers 2.5 per cent cash-back on its co-branded fuel cards. However, the cash-back is capped at ₹100 a month, and the minimum transaction value should be ₹500. On non-fuel spends, ICICI Bank cards earn you two ‘PAYBACK’ points on every ₹100 spentl. HPCL Coral American Express Card will also give you six points on every ₹100 spent on fuel, in addition to the cash-back. Four points equal ₹1; these points can be redeemed for purchasing fuel.

The BPCL SBI Card will earn you 13 reward points for every ₹100 spent on fuel. Every four points will earn you a rupee .

Invariably, all the co-branded fuel cards waive off the 1 per cent fuel surcharge cost. However, this waiver is not applicable in the case of SBI and ICICI once your fuel expense exceeds ₹4,000.

The above benefits look attractive, but there is a catch. The fuel spend benefits can be redeemed only if these cards are swiped on the point-of-sale machines offered by the respective banks. That is, Citi’s IndianOil card has to be swiped in Citibank’s EDC (Electronic Data Capture) machine to get the four turbo points for every ₹150 spent on fuel. Else, this spending will be considered a normal transaction and will earn you only one turbo point for the ₹150. Citibank website has a list of Indian Oil outlets that have its EDC machines.

Similarly, ICICI Bank cards have to be swiped on ICICI Merchant Services swipe machines to get the 2.5 per cent cash-back. However, SBI has not explicitly specified any such restrictions. Even redeeming the points for future fuel purchases cannot be done at all retail outlets.

Apart from co-branded cards, Standard Chartered Bank’s Super Value Titanium Card is another option which gives 5 per cent cash-back on fuel spends across all fuel stations. But the minimum transaction value should be ₹750 and the maximum cash-back that can be obtained is ₹200 per month and ₹100 per transaction. Also, there is no option to waive off the annual fee of ₹750, unlike other co-branded cards.

There are also pre-paid cards like the one offered by Shell India, Shell Cash Card, which can be used only at Shell outlets. It can be obtained by paying an initial one-time fee of ₹50. It offers 0.5 per cent cash-back for a minimum fuel purchase of ₹500. Recharging this card is free only if done through cash or net banking. Additional charges are levied, as applicable, by the issuing bank if a credit/debit card is used.

The takeaway

Co-branded fuel cards give the most benefits for those who run up large fuel bills through the month. For two-wheeler riders, who are unlikely to meet the minimum transaction value on fuels, these cards will not make any difference. Those who commute to office in cars and refuel frequently would find these cards suitable.

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