Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: BPCL's Petrocard loyalty scheme

December 2010 Update: I faced some inconvenience of late, as my petrocard was deactivated for not being regularly used. No communication was sent to me, toll free numbers and emails went unanswered and fuel station attendants were unable to help. Eventually I got in touch with one BPCL official in Bangalore, who offered to help. After a personal visit to their office in MG Road and another attempt, my card was finally reset and sent to me. Good to have that official respond promptly to my concerns.

---------------------Original post-----------------------------------------------

As a regular purchaser of fuel, I find BPCL's Petrocard loyalty program most useful, compared to loyalty schemes of other petroleum companies. This post gives a brief description of this card and associated loyalty program and also gives a quick comparison of royalty schemes by other fuel companies.

What is petrocard?
Patrocard is a smart card based loyalty program from Bharath Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). I'm using this card since past 8 years approximately. It costs Rs 250 as one time enrollment fee.

How it works?
User loads a predefined amount into the card- Rs 500 minimum and multiples of Rs 100 thereafter. Each time a user avails any of BPCL's services (buys fuel, lubricants or shops at their convenience store-In & Out), he/she can pay using petrocard, instead of cash. Purchase value is debited from the preloaded amount available on the card and appropriate loyalty points (called Petromiles) will be credited. Over a period petromile points get accumulated to a decent size and can be exchanged for some nice gifts.

Sample calculation: For Rs 100 spent on petrol, user gets 15 petromiles, for Rs 100 spent at In & Out user gets 100 petromiles. If you're spending Rs 1000 per month on fuel and Rs 500 on lubes+groceries at In & Out, you'd get about 600-700 points. This accumulates to about 7000 points per year, against which can exchange goods worth Rs 100-120 approx. (Rs.50 In & out cash coupen comes for 2995 points-check reqards showcase for latest options) Heavy spenders will be naturally earning more and will get to exchange better rewards.

1. Tiny drops make mighty ocean-Over a period of few years, points accumulated will be good enough to redeem some cool items. (Depends on your usage- As a moderate two wheeler user I could accumulate points to get gifts to the tune of Rs 100 per year approximately. Car users/family users will be able to get better rewards

2. The main reason I enrolled for this program initially was to save on change. The guy at the fuel station (petrol pump or bunk as it is better known as) used to fill only for Rs 99.68 or something when asked to fill for Rs 100. With petrocard, I used to pay them only 99.68 and not Rs.100. This is no more an issue as all dispensers have provision to feed exact amount/quantity, but back in 2002-2003 I could save some money this way.

3. Helps tracking your fuel expense. Email statements will be sent detailing your purchases and points-this helps keep track of how much you refuelled, where and when.

4. No need to carry cash. Credit card payments used to attract surcharges and Petrocard was best alternative.

How it helps BPCL?
Loyalty programs are primarily aimed at making a customer come back to one's outlet only (and not go to a competitor) With over 1.6 million members in past 10 years, BPCL's petrocard loyalty scheme has successfully achieved this primary objective of bonding and engaging with customers.
Interest free cash left in the card is some advance revenue for the company.
BPCL also has smartfleet program-an extended version of Petrocard program for corporate users and large fleet operators.

But also note:
* No interest is paid on the amount lying idle in the card
* Be sure to check if the fuel station accepts the card. Some stations, at times may not accept it-either due to faulty devices or other reasons
* There will be a temptation to refuel only at BPCL outlets, because of points one would be getting. If you're skipping a nearby fuel station of another company and driving extra distance to reach a BPCL outlet, fuel spent in driving those extra distance may not be worth the points gained.
* Sometimes paying by cash will be more convenient and time saving
* Only one redemption is allowed per month
* Not all retail outlets allow redemption-You'll have to drive to a few selected outlets where redemption is possible.
* I believe points earned expire after 3 years. So be sure to exchange your points for gifts within 3 years
* Can not be used for BPCL's LPG purchase/refill
* For a minimal user it may take abount two years to recover the initial amount spent on enrollment (Rs 250)

What options do other petroleum companies have to retain customers through loyalty program?
Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) also has a smart card based loyalty program. But unlike Petrocard, no money is stored in the card, but only points. I find their reward scheme considerably discouraging, compared to BPCL.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) has tied up with iMint for loyalty benefits. [Read detailed review of iMint card] But my observation is that very few number of outlets actually entertain iMint card. At most of the places you'll get abrupt reply that they don't swipe iMint. (This observation was valid when I tried my iMint card at several HPCL outlets in Delhi, Chennai, hyderabad and Bengaluru-things might have changed w.r.t time not sure).

Both IOCL and HPCL have several cobranded credit cards-I've not tried them-may be these cobranded credit cards offer better rewards than petrocard-not sure.

Don't think other lesser known fuel vendors-Shell and IBP have any loyalty schemes. Even if they have, it won't be viable for customers due to neglible number of outlets they have.

Gone are the days when there was an attitude-petrol is petrol wherever it is filled. Companies are trying hard to sell branded fuels for a premium. Significant efforts are being made to provide more services and convenience to the customers who come to tank up (ATMs, grocery stores,coffee shops, car wash and the likes) These add on services will have better profit margin than selling fuel. A Kannada article I wrote on this topic, which got published in Vijaya Karnataka in April 2003 can be >read here.

What loyalty program do you use? How useful you're finding them?

Similar product/Service reviews: mGinger * iMint * * Club Mahindra timeshare membership * Chennai times quotes me on fuel price hike *


hari said...

I spend Rs. 1500-2000 on petrol a month and then at the end of the year, you have a measly Rs. 100 or Rs. 200 credit with which to buy gifts??? That's a ridiculously low return for "loyalty".

No thanks... to any of these cheap loyalty programs.

Mridula said...

I said before go for a career that rewards your interest in research. Any plans for a good research based higher degree?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Yes, it is low, provided if you have a better alternative (some other loyalty programs which are better rewarding).

Else something is better than nothing. Unlike shopping or other loyalty programs which tempt you to spend unnecessarily, Fuel expenditure is something you can't avoid anyway.

Yes, there is some initial expenditure, inconvenience compared to paying in cash and so on. So depends from person to person.

let me think of it.

Supreetha said...

Citibank Indian Oil credit card is better in this regard. You will get 4 turbo points for every Rs 150 spent in IOC outlet(no surcharge) and 1 turbo point for every Rs. 150 in case of other purchases. Once your points reach 500, you can redeem them for Rs 500 worth of petrol.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

That's good. Someone spending 1500 per month on fuel gets approx Rs 500 worth free fuel per year.

But then, this comes in lieu of your credit card's reward program.

Petrocard users can swipe their credit card to load petrocard and reep benefits from petrocard as well as their credit card's reward scheme.

hari said...

Supreetha, did you do your math?

500 / 4 * 150 = Rs. 18,750

So you need to spend Rs. 18,750 on petrol before you can redeem Rs. 500.

That's a return of 2.66%

hari said...

Also Shrinidhi, I would like to add that fuel expenditure is not unavoidable if you can take a bus or a train.

These reward programs want to encourage/provide incentive to people to spend more on fuel by using their vehicles more often when they can use alternative transport, but people don't realize how low a return they are getting.

I just want people to realize how much they will have to spend before being able to "redeem" any prize or gift or whatever... the Oil companies are laughing all the way to their banks.

What I really detest is that they raise the cost of petrol and diesel and then insult customers by offering such ridiculously cheap "incentives".

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Its well and good if people stop buying fuel and use public transportation/cycle. I support that thought.
No point buying fuel for the sake of points-Don't think anyone does that. Just that when you have to buy fuel anyway, buying it with some reward points might be better than buying for nothing.

In any year if you're anyway spending 15-20k on fuel (again, will be great if you can save on that by using alternate options) why not treat yourself with a small gift instead of nothing?

hari said...

I know. If they actually gave 10% return I might consider it.

Some cheap gift at Rs. 200 or Rs. 300 a year doesn't exactly appeal to me.

And then again, the inconvenience of using the Petrocard and pre-paying the amount is another negative.

It looks really attractive, but what I am saying is that everybody must work out the economics and look at the actual benefits before falling for schemes like this.

Oil companies are no angels.. We know how much pressure they're exerting on the government to increase fuel prices. We should do nothing to support them or use their schemes which actually are insulting to customers in their return: around 2-3% when the actual fuel price increase is costing us much more, not just in fuel costs but in rising prices of food and essential commodities as well.

The Rs. 200-300 benefit you get hardly seems to matter before how much havoc the oil companies are playing in Indian economy at the moment.

Shrinidhi Hande said...


I understand your stand. But you're asking for 10% returns which a shopping mall loyalty scheme may give, but I don't think Oil Companies will have such a high margin to pass on the benefit to you.

Rajs said...

I was a very strong "loyal" user of BPCL Petro Card till an year back. But after I got cheated in the petrol station which I regularly visit, I started avoding BPCL altogether. The attendant was forcing me to buy "Speed Diesel" by stating that normal diesel is out of stock all the time. When I caught them red-handed one day of the cheating (he was filling diesel for another cab that came by), they tried to evade the issue.

The sad part is that BPCL actually noticed that I stopped using the card and sent me an email seeking the reasons. When I explained the reason to the manager by email, no response!

So much for the loyalty.


Smarry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, it is very common practice for fuel stations to try force sell branded fuels. I remember an Indian Oil outlet in Mumbai which was selling branded fuel only was forced to sell normal fuel after media and public agitation.

Outlets are often managed by agencies, so may not be fair to generalize. But BPCL could have at least responded to your communication.


Rohit Bhutani said...

shri nidhi ji by your comments i judge that u are the strong promoter of BPCL petrocard . this is not the case IOC too are much cautious about their programmes as they are doing road shows etc. better keep notice of that.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I'm not a promoter or anything. In my reviews I explain what I find good and what I find bad. Final judgment is readers' discretion.

I have indianoil card-but never got any communication from them. Have noticed them promoting Extramile and extra premium branded fuels, but not much on loyalty schemes (may be I missed them)

Rohit Bhutani said...

shrinidhi ji IOCL has done many xtra power road shows, organizing transporter meet telling them about the advatages of fleet card in metros and in main cities.

Rohit Bhutani said...

shri nidhi ji one more thing i want help from you if you have any paper on customer loyalty in oil companies only in retailing then please ,ail me at

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hi Rohit,
Nice to know you're from UPES. Will share the paper, if I come across any.

Rohit Bhutani said...

shri nidhi ji thank you for your response please send papaer if u find any.

Rohit Bhutani said...

shrinidhi ji plz help me i am preparing for company(IOCL) interview how should i proceed what areas should i work upon in order to get an edge plz guide me sir. waiting for your response eagerly.

Rohit Bhutani said...

shri nidhi ji can you incentives provided by BPCL petro card . why loyalty cards are loosing interest among people hardly people have these loyalty cards.

mohit said...

Heyy maan use your credit card to fill up the bpcl smart card.
So what u get now is
Rs 100 -150 loyalty from BPCL +
Credit card point royalty from the bank.

Enjoy both

Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your views and way of thinking, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Norman

Anonymous said...

very good post. i hold imint card already. i like Bp petrol bunk near my area, they never cheat. ioc n hp have not been good. i planned to buy petro card, but still in dilema between imint(hp) n petrocard (bpcl)

can u please suggest

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hope you cleared your IOCL interview. Its too difficult to give interview tips without knowing your background, post etc. Most of the tips are available on the net already.

Mohit, you can reload petrocard using credit card as well and still enjoy dual benefits

Have both...

Sunil Swarup,Advocate said...

From last one year the statment and rewards details were not sent to me.i have 65000 points ,but the dealer m/s hukum chand faquir chand,Agra told me that he is now not authorised for rewards.

Sunil Swarup,Advocate,27-A,old idgah colony,Agra.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

As far as I know points should be redeemed within 3 years of earning them..

Escalate to BP if local staff won't help...


Anonymous said...

hi, i am really imterested in petro card can somebody clear my doubts 1)can i load money into petro card using my credit cards 2) can i use multiple credit cards to upload money into petro card?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

You can use multiple cards to pay for petrocard

MANOJ said...