Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gas Rewards Fuel Gift Card Sales

Grocers are finding that offering fuel rewards can boost loyalty, spend and gift card purchases.

According to AAA, consumers spend approximately 5-12 percent of their incomes buying gasoline, a consumable product with no lasting consumer value. It’s no surprise, then, that gas incentive programs have quickly become popular with consumers. 

These programs have expanded over the years in many retail locations with a focused message: Shop here and receive discounts on fuel. The programs are simple: The shopper gets points by shopping with a loyalty or rewards card. 

After a certain level of points or purchases is reached, the customer is eligible for a per-gallon discount at affiliated gas stations.The inclusion of gift cards has ramped up the appeal of the gas rewards program since shoppers can use their gift shopping to gain rewards for themselves, or as some savvy consumers have learned, they can buy gift cards for their own purchases and earn fuel rewards at the same time.

Benefits to the Grocery Retailer

When shoppers buy gift cards that participate in a gas rewards program, they tend to buy more gift cards, more often and for more occasions.

Gas Plus Gift Benefits All

In many cases, gift cards, sold at most grocery stores, qualify for points in fuel rewards programs. 

Blackhawk Network, a prepaid products company and a leader in third-party gift cards, decided to learn more about the consumers buying gift cards in these fuel reward programs. We conducted a research study and found that offering gift cards in a fuel program increases awareness of the gift card retail brands and creates higher brand recognition and new customers for the retailers with the gas rewards program. Retailers selling the cards and retailers where gift cards are redeemed benefit from incremental sales.

In March of 2012, we surveyed consumers across the United States about participation in gas rewards programs. In the initial sample of 1,472 people, one-third (33 percent) said they had participated in a gas rewards program. The 490 consumers who had participated in a gas rewards program were then asked questions regarding their purchasing and redemption of gift cards within the gas rewards program. 

The study showed that offering gift cards in a gas rewards program is beneficial to both the grocery store selling the gift cards and to the retailer where the gift cards are redeemed.

Ninety-two percent of consumers surveyed said they were likely to shop at grocery stores with gas rewards programs. Additionally, gas incentive programs tended to entice customers to shop more often, spend more and become loyal to that store.

For many (62 percent), the gas rewards program encouraged them to shop more often. Thirty-seven percent said they shop much more often at stores with a gas rewards program. And, 41 percent said theyspend more at retailers with gas rewards programs, with 11 percent saying they spend “considerably” more. 

Gas rewards also can convert shoppers to being “regular shoppers.” Eighty-eight percent said they definitely or might change stores to make the grocer with gas rewards their “regular” store.

Consumers also tended to think more positively about grocery stores with gas rewards programs. Sixty-five percent thought the grocery store with gas rewards was consumer-focused and creative, and 69 percent thought the store was innovative. Eighty-five percent thought the grocery store with gas rewards was keeping up with the competition.

Gift Card Buying

Gift cards are the No. 1 requested gift at winter holidays and are popular gifts year-round, according to the National Retail Federation. Our research showed that gas rewards influence shoppers in terms of where they choose to buy gift cards. Eighty-five percent said a gas rewards program was influential in deciding where to buy gift cards. Of those, 56 percent said it was “very” influential.

Fifty-nine percent said they bought more gift cards, 51 percent said they bought them more often and 48 percent said they bought them for more occasions compared to buying gift cards at a store without a gas rewards program. 

Over one-third of respondents said they had purchased six or more gift cards in the last year.

Some retailers that offer gift cards suspect that the increase in gift card sales is due to shoppers stocking up on gift cards through a gas rewards program then using the gift cards for their own shopping (as opposed to the traditional concept of giving the gift cards as gifts). 

We found that although some shoppers are purchasing gift cards for self-use, some are not. Two-thirds of respondents had purchased at least one gift card for their own use. However, rather than shoppers just using the gift card gas rewards program as a discounted form of payment, these self-users tended to spend more than the gift card’s value when they redeemed the gift cards they purchased for their own use. Most (90 percent) said they spent more than the gift card’s value on at least one occasion and almost half (49 percent) overspent all or most of the time.

Self-users also tended to redeem the gift cards to buy items they would not normally buy. Two-thirds (66 percent) said they purchased items they had not planned on buying but decided to buy (due to a gas rewards program). Fifty-seven percent bought a more expensive version of an item than they had planned on buying, but splurged due to the gas rewards.

With the current economic conditions, consumers are seeking out any new ways to stretch their dollars. Combining fuel rewards with grocery shopping is a natural combination and it’s especially effective when gift cards are on the list of purchases eligible to earn rewards. 

Retailers selling the cards as well as the retail issuers benefit from increased gift card sales and more lucrative redemptions.

* Republished with permission from Paybefore, as published November 2012.


Tammy Durston is senior director of research at Blackhawk Network, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based provider of prepaid and financial payments products. Her research helps guide Blackhawk’s strategy for its diverse product lines and geographies. She can be reached at


Paybefore™ is the leading provider of information to the prepaid industry. 

In Viewpoints, prepaid and emerging payment professionals share their perspectives on the industry. Paybefore endeavors to present many points of view to offer readers new insights and information. The opinions expressed in Viewpoints are not necessarily those of Paybefore.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Win a Meet & Greet with Magic Johnson at Prepaid Expo 2013

Have you seen the stellar line-up of keynotes headlining the Prepaid Expo next March? 

The six keynotes will tell you how they navigated disruptions currently faced by the prepaid industry– and won. With new competitors emerging in the prepaid landscape, price compression on the horizon and lingering regulatory scrutiny, it’s never been more important to leverage the experiences from others to position your prepaid program to win.

These keynotes are in addition to the 50+ sessions and workshops designed to help you grow and protect your prepaid business while tackling industry uncertainties. 

At Prepaid Expo 2013, you’ll be invigorated, inspired and galvanized to craft a strategic plan of action for 2013.  


Magic Johnson will share his experiences launching his prepaid card, The Magic Card, including the critical role prepaid plays for the under-served, why he’s not just a celebrity spokesperson, and why cash is no longer king.

Want to meet Magic? 

Register for Prepaid Expo by January 11th, and be entered to win a meet-n-greet opportunity with Magic at the Expo.

DECIPHER THE FUTURE - Sheryl Connelly 

Sheryl Connelly, Global Trends & Futuring Manager for Ford Motor Company, will tell you how to uncover insights about the future of your business in a meaningful way amidst fierce competition. 

You’ll walk away with a plan to bullet-proof your company against challenges on the horizon. She will also speak privately to executives to shape their future-forward strategies. Sign up for the Executive Agenda


Howard Putnam, Former CEO of Southwest Airlines, will lend his experience in winning corporate battles, including government scrutiny and bankruptcy. 

You’ll get guidance on improving the bottom line from a corporate leader who guided his company toward growth and increased profitability. 

He will also lead private working groups for prepaid executives on boosting margins amid competitive pressures. Sign up for the Executive Agenda.


Jay Heinrichs, Author of Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson Can teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, brings his mastery in persuasion to prepaid players who want to elevate prepaid’s reputation and influence within their organizations and to the outside world, including consumers and regulators. 

He will also host a private session for prepaid executives to hone their communications strategies. Sign up for the Executive Agenda.


Jessica Berlin, Social Media Manager at American Eagle Outfitters, offers her real-life perspective on using social media marketing strategy and campaigns for revenue generation across multiple platforms for three brands. 

A must-see for retailers and marketers.

Neil Howe, the demographer who coined to word “millennial,” will share his research into this key demographic group and how their attributes can be translated into prepaid product features. 

In the battle for millennials’ consumer power, he will share how you can capture their imagination.  

To see all the great sessions and speakers we have lined up for the Prepaid Expo next March, click here

* Mention your Prepaid Expo Blog VIP code to SAVE 10% off the standard and onsite rate: XU2648BLOG10
Phone: 888.670.8200 or 941.951.7885

If you are looking for a creative way to reach top-level decision-makers why not consider sponsoring a luncheon, cocktail party or refreshment break, or an Exhibit Booth? Take a virtual tour of the Exhibitor Floor Plan here.

For more information on sponsorship or exhibition opportunities, please contact Terri Sobol, at +1 646-895-7473 or email

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fixture or Fad – What’s YOUR Vision for Future of Payments?

Earlier this month, we reached out to some of our esteemed Prepaid Expo alumni to explore the future of prepaid and payments with us.

Here's what David Parker, Director, Polymath Consulting, foresees:


What’s your vision for the future of payments? 
How do you think NFC, EMV, mobile technologies, apps and wallets will impact prepaid?      

Mobile enablement – the access of your desired payment solution through mobile – is now a must-have.  On the other hand, payments through NFC off a phone will grow, but will remain a growing niche based on where you live, and who you are.  

What’s a fluke – and what will become a fixture?            

The vision of payments is one where I will still have a card, but it may also be contactless. Will I pay off my phone? Possibly, for some things such as transit. But the vast majority of my payments will be on the plastic card in my physical wallet for the next five years.  

Sure, online, I will have a nice one-click wallet solution backed up by my card of choice. But too many global mobile operators are blinkered and looking at closed-loop, agent-led solutions. They all quote M-PESA in Africa as a great example, but it had unique circumstances.  

Try naming five, or even one, other market globally where this model has over a 20% market share of payments.  What we are seeing is closed-loop wallet led solutions attaching prepaid cards to themselves for a variety of reasons:  Neteller, Skrill, Paypal, Hyperwallet and MPesa!

The challenge here that telcos need to consider how open and closed loop will sit side by side from the start, and not look to implement these solutions later on.  Only in this way can they ensure that the best solution is implemented on Day 1, not a mixture of systems bolted together later on. Is there a role for closed-loop models? Certainly. 

But, I would argue that open-loop is complementary to the closed-loop part. After all, a very large number of withdrawal requests from M-PESA small agents are rejected due to the agent not having available funds.

Meanwhile, the growth of Mobile POS is here to stay.  Post-Square, we have seen a number of other companies launching in Europe and more are planned for Africa. This growth in a merchant acceptance base will fly in the face of those that believe everything will be NFC and Mobile within a few years.  

In my view, the plastic in your wallet will be there for a long time, especially if you travel/do business across a large number of markets. While some  Mobile/NFC based solutions may gain traction in certain jurisdictions, the old piece of plastic - Mag Stripe or Chip and Pin – still has the widest acceptance of any digital format.    

What technology will consumers choose?           

Consumers will choose technology based on a number of factors. First is availability.  Many pieces of 'technology' are talked about, but in reality are only offered in a small number of locations/markets.  The exception to this is NFC, which we will continue to see increasingly rolled out not just in the first world but also in developing markets, such as Africa. (Note: the recent announcement of 1 million prepaid contactless MasterCard Cards in Kenya.)

So what will consumers choose to adopt? A mixture of what they are offered which adds real benefits to their lives, and has a real value-add proposition.  The easy answer is of course mobile, but only where specific value propositions are identified and offered.  

Sometimes these will only be for a small group of people.  The key to adoption by consumers is perceived value.  It is no good for a bank to say, “Wow look what we can do for you!”  It is all about what consumers value.

About the Author:

David Parker is Founder and Chief Executive Officer at U.K.-based, internationally working consulting and research firm, Polymath Consulting Ltd.   

Editor's Note: 

For 2013, Prepaid Expo is focused on the future of prepaid and payments. We want YOU to be a part of the conversation. Give us your answer – and we’ll publish the best submissions

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Evolution of the NYC MTA MetroCard?

Living in New York City, one would think that commuting within the metropolis, with one of the largest subway systems in the world, would have some sort of convenient, electronic method of paying for one’s fare. There isn’t. What New York City’s MTA, Metropolitan Transit Authority has is the prepaid functional MetroCard used for subway entry and bus fare.

For the general commuter, one can purchase the MetroCard in select locations such as certain local bodegas, MetroCard vending machines, and subway station booth agents. However for refilling options, the MetroCard can only be refilled in the vending machines and with subway booth agents, which are only usually situated in subway stations.

This is rather disadvantageous and frustrating for the commuter, especially those who need to take a bus frequently in order to transfer onto a connecting subway, not having much interaction with a booth agent or with a vending machine for MetroCard transactions.
Here the all too often not-present MTA Subway Station Booth
agent will assist you with your MetroCard needs.
(Source: NY Daily News)

One leading example of a good prepaid system utilized for commuting is the how the Octopus card is applied in the city of Hong Kong. Having frequented Hong Kong over the past few years, I have used this wondrous Octopus card for the Hong Kong MTR, the Mass Transit Railway, and buses.

For starters, one first pays upfront $150HKD for the card purchase from any Octopus card retailer, such as a subway station agent booths or local 7-Eleven. The $50HKD is practically a deposit-value computed into the card itself, while the additional $100HKD is valued for metro fare and miscellaneous use.

The miscellaneous use is what is so impressively versatile about the Octopus card that needs to be brought up, because it is not just limited to commuting purposes. The Octopus card can be used for normal day-to-day purchases at 7-Elevens, McDonalds, supermarkets, pharmacies, parking meters, vending machines, fast food outlets, and many other various Octopus partners. It is truly the universal prepaid method of purchasing in Hong Kong.

Seriously, it's that easy - just hover over it. (Source: WSJ)
The main reason why I am giddy to showcase the Octopus card transaction process is because on almost every Hong Kong block, there are two 7-Eleven stores, as well as one and a half Circle K convenient stores.

Of course, the actual amount of 7-Elevens is not to the exaggeration I have just stated, but the amount of 7-Eleven one abstractly notices in Hong Kong is outlandishly staggering that anyone having visited Hong Kong would agree with me of the convenience that 7-Eleven provides is too handy. This convenience extends to the ease of refilling one’s Octopus card, so that is pointless to worry about not having enough funds on one’s card, let alone for traveling purposes.

Just hover your Octopus Card
with at least $5 HKD over this machine,
an approving beep ensues, and voilĂ  
you've just bought your newspaper.
Another incredible feature that the Octopus card can offer is that it can be specifically personalized to utilize as an identification card. Just by the simplicity of waving an Octopus card above the card-reading machine, entering an apartment complex or parking a car in a garage complex never got so easy.

One does not need to awkwardly greet the doorman anymore, while make chitchat about how great the weather isn’t. Octopus cards have accountable for elevator floors access, for room access, and even been used for students to account for school attendance. The list of utilization of the Octopus card just goes on and on, furthermore it will keep growing.

Right now anyone living in New York City may have noticed that the number of 7-Elevens have been increasing. In fact, 7-Eleven have begun their initiative to ardently persuade local bodegas to convert their establishments into 7-Eleven franchisees in Manhattan, with a target of 134 stores by 2017.

Probably not directly correlated to establishing prepaid stations for a medium of monetary transaction, this growing trend of 7-Eleven openings could coincidentally be the first stages of New York City’s answer for the question of what could be better than the MetroCard. After all, the act of waving the card over a card reader is much more efficient than swiping a card that even a seasoned MetroCard user like myself, since my middle school days, may at times mis-swipe.
To see "Please swipe again"
or "Swipe card again at this turnstile"
is rather too normal.
(Source: Staten Island Live)

It is now up to a monetary transaction servicer to take that role in which Octopus has, in Hong Kong since 1997, and to establish itself as the sole middleman of it all. The potential retailing partners are there as the 7-Elevens are starting to pop up. In fact with the numerous amounts of Duane Reade pharmacies in Manhattan, there probably could be prepaid stations set up in those establishments as well. Let the battle of prepaid supremacy in New York City begin!


Chester Wai is a New Media Intern at IIR USA with a specialization in Economics, Cinema, and Cultural Studies. He may be reached at

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Prepaid Expo 2013: Agenda Now Available for Download!

The prepaid world has gotten more crowded – and complicated – lately. And the rapid-fire competitive innovation and lingering regulatory uncertainties show no signs of abating. With new players cropping up to take advantage of the great opportunities in payments, it’s critical that you stay ahead of the competition in the year ahead.

How does the Prepaid Expo help you do business? For 8 years, the Prepaid Expo has served as THE gathering for the prepaid and payments community. In 2013, we’re kicking everything up a notch, with MORE opportunities for networking and meetings, MORE sessions, and MORE solutions to the industry’s most pressing concerns.

Download the 2013 brochure now for full details. And if you register by Friday November 9th, you’ll save up to $800. This is the lowest price offered for the Expo!

What Are the Threats to Your Business? How Will You Flourish at this Critical Moment? All your burning questions will be answered at Prepaid Expo 2013.

Pre-Conference, start the Expo at a turbo-charged pace, with association meetings or workshops covering everything from the latest knowledge on mobile, security and fraud for veterans to the basics of prepaid programs for industry newcomers.

Day 1 dissects the Future of Prepaid in Payments, and how to capitalize on the evolution now.
Which technologies are fixtures or fads?
How will technological disruptors change the landscape of payments?
How do I bullet-proof my company for changes ahead?
How can I capture the imagination and spending power of techno-savvy millennials?

Day 2 hones in on tackling the biggest challenges to prepaid today and crafting solutions and actionable plans.
What’s in the regulatory pipeline, how can I clarify guidelines and what implementation will mean?
Amid downward pressures in pricing, how can I innovate my business model to improve my margins?
What causes churn in GPR, and how can I strengthen my relationship with customers?
How will I energize the gift card category and motivate brick-and-mortar employees to promote gift card sales?
Are contactless payments complementary or cannibalizing, and which technology will prevail?
Amid the mobile hype, which technology will compel consumers to change their payment preference?

Day 3 focuses on growing your business to the next level to maintain relevance through the payments evolution.
What are the opportunities I am missing, and how can I execute on them?
How can I handle infrastructure challenges when expanding my prepaid program globally, and which products make the most sense for which geographies?
What are the secrets to keeping a loyalty program top-of-mind when customers juggle an average of 11 loyalty memberships?
How can I reach the underserved and build a bridge to consumers who are wary of traditional banking or financial institutions?
What’s the B2B landscape, and how can incentives be tailored for maximum impact?

Register by Friday November 9th for Best Rates!

Download the agenda now for full details on all the sessions, speakers and opportunities to grow your business at the Expo. And make sure you register by Friday, November 9th to save up to $800. This is the lowest price offered for the Expo!

Phone: 888.670.8200 or 941.951.7885

* Mention your Prepaid Expo Blog VIP code to SAVE 10% off the standard and onsite rate: XU2648BLOG10

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Monday, November 5, 2012

What Happens to a Cashless Society During an Event Like Hurricane Sandy?

I was lucky enough to weather the superstorm that hit the East Coast last week, safely in my home with both heat and power but as friends and family came to by to take refuge with us, I started pondering the repercussions of Hurricane Sandy that were less immediate. 

Fallen tree on my block caused by
Hurricane Sandy. Weehawken, NJ

Friends who came by told us of the one wrinkled dollar bill that they managed to find to buy and share a cup of coffee from a couple selling coffee outside of their Indian Restaurant near Hoboken, NJ, one of the more harder hit areas. My brother texted me as he searched frantically for a gas station that still had gas to sell in lower Manhattan. He had cash but no place to spend it.

We were lucky enough to have a local Pathmark open near us but all of their refrigerated units were covered with tarp so we couldn't purchase any dairy, frozen goods, and even the fresh fruits and produce were no longer viable. At least they were still accepting credit cards and plastic, right? Those who had cash on hand were lucky -- when the power went out, so did the option to use other forms of payments. 

In fact, one report told of low income New York residents who had to survive the storm without teh ability to buy food with their Electronic Benefit Cards (EBT). Is the grid, is connectivity, the cloud, something we've taken for granted when reflecting on the future of money and alternative payments? 

What happens to a cashless society, where all payments are digital, when the power goes out? 

There seems to be a dichotomy emerging between a future that seems bright with rapid technological innovation and a society overwhelmingly fascinated with the end of the world, i.e., fictional apocalypses, crises, and doomsday scenarios. But when fear becomes a plaything, what happens when the unthinkable becomes real.

About the Author

Valerie M. Russo, Social Innovation Lead, Senior Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing.  Russo has worked in a variety of digital media roles at Hachette Book Group, Aol, and Thomson Reuters. She is a published poet and maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at Follow her @Literanista.  

Editor's Note:

Our thoughts go out to all of those affected by the storm.

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