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Fuel credit cards are specially designed cards usually co-branded with retailers such as Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. These cards offer certain privileges for refuelling vehicles at the partner stations or fuel pumps and are best suited for those who use their vehicles considerably for commuting as it can help them save a significant amount on fuel expenses. Most of the fuel cards in India are based on the concept of a rewards model, wherein you can earn points every time you refuel and redeem the accumulated points later to get a certain quantity of fuel for free.

“For instance, Citi IndianOil credit card offers four Turbo Points per 150 spent at authorized Indian Oil outlets, and the redemption value of one Turbo Point is 1. It means that if you spend 10,000 on fuel, you will earn 267 Turbo Points equivalent to 267 at Indian Oil outlets. Besides, you can also earn points on other purchases, with extra points offered on groceries and supermarket spending," said Sachin Vasudeva, associate director and head of credit cards at Paisabazaar.com.

 

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How they work

Credit card issuers tie up with specific fuel retailers that allow accelerated reward points on refueling expenses, alongside the facility of fuel surcharge waivers at the partner outlets. Credit card issuers also allow you to redeem the reward points or fuel points at the refueling stations.

Raj Khosla, founder and managing director, MyMoneyMantra.com, explains, “Considering an annual run of the car at 15,000 km and an average fuel economy of 10 km/litre in a metro such as Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, a consumer would be required to buy 1,500 litres of petrol. At a price of around 95.41 for a litre of petrol in Delhi, you will spend 1,43,115 on purchasing 1,500 litres of petrol in a year."

“With a monthly fuel purchase of more than 12,000, you can comfortably accumulate reward points with a cash value of up to 3,800; this translates into free fuel of a little over 40 litres in a year. The cumulative benefits on fuel cards will be higher after factoring in the surcharge waivers and other clubbed perks."

Advantages

Fuel credit cards are helpful when you spend significant amounts on fuel. These cards handsomely reward you for your fuel expenses along with basic earnings in other categories. Using these cards, you can earn reward points and redeem them to avail free fuel. You will also save in the form of a fuel surcharge waiver. If you are loyal to a specific fuel provider, co-branded cards can be a good choice as they offer extra privileges with partner brands. Welcome bonus and milestone bonus add to the overall value of fuel cards.

Adhil Shetty, chief executive officer, BankBazaar.com, said, “The facility of accelerated reward points is the major highlight of a fuel card as you can earn accelerated reward points of up to 5% on fuel purchases. 1% fuel surcharge waiver results in sizeable savings. However, some card issuers have an upper ceiling on the total quantum of waivers every month." Moreover, there is no restriction on using these cards to purchase fuel alone. You earn a good number of reward points even when you make purchases at apparel or department stores.

Limitations

Fuel credit cards provide rewards on fuel purchases and usually have low fees that get waived off on a minimum purchase. Therefore, it makes sense to consider a fuel credit card if you commute to work or regularly drive long distances.

Shetty said that the card issuers generally have predefined limits on the accelerated reward points and surcharge waivers every month. Customers with higher spending on fuel will be subject to limited benefits, irrespective of their total expenses. “Further, the facility of fuel surcharge waiver and accelerated reward points is only available at the partner fuel retailer. You won’t receive reward points on non-partner fuel retailers," added Shetty.

Hence, you must know that most fuel cards tend to be co-branded, and the best benefits may be available only if you use that brand of fuel.

Paisabazaar.com’s Vasudeva said, “Fuel cards are largely limited to provide benefits only on fuel spends, so you may not get significant rewards for other spends. You should not consider fuel cards if you want to save on the fuel expenses only as an additional benefit, and would like rewards on another spend as well."

Things to keep in mind

You must regularly monitor your spending habits. For instance, if you are a sparse driver or use public transport a lot, your expenses may not be enough to merit a fuel credit card. Further, check the list of petrol pumps to redeem the rewards. If they are too few or far between or even not available on your usual routes, then you may not be able to utilize the rewards in the right way at the right time.

While choosing a fuel credit card, you must consider its annual fee, reward rate, terms and conditions of redemption, co-branded benefits, and what it offers apart from fuel.

Shetty said, “If your fuel card has a high joining fee and annual charges, it will eat into your savings. If the minimum spends for a fee waiver is higher than your usual spending, then you would end up spending more on your card than any actual saving."

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