We compared fuel rewards at South Africa’s biggest banks as pump prices hit record highs

South Africa’s fuel prices have hit record highs in November, with analysts expecting a worsening economic scenario in the coming months.

The recently announced record fuel price hikes will further put a strain on the pockets of consumers who are looking to recover following a tough couple of months. From November 2021, consumers will pay close to R20 per litre of fuel as the price of petrol will rise by R1.21 whilst diesel will increase by R1.48.

As more South Africans get back to work following the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – and with no government intervention to bring relief in sight – many motorists will be looking for ways to ease the blow of high pump prices.

All of South Africa’s major retail banks have entered into rewards partnerships with service stations, giving their customers cashback or points as a reward for filling up with preferred brands.

Banking customers who have been reaping rewards with First National Bank’s eBucks programme over the years would be most familiar with the concept – with Capitec and Nedbank customers the latest to be introduced to the structure.

“Fuel is one of the popular spend categories among our individual middle-income and affluent customers. As a result, we are encouraging the 1.75 million FNB and RMB Private Bank customers who qualify to earn fuel rewards at Engen every month to capitalise on their rewards to help them weather the tough financial times,” said Raj Makanjee, FNB Retail chief executive.

“In the last 12 months, our customers have earned and spent in excess of R450 million in eBucks fuel rewards at Engen, and we are constantly looking for ways to enable even more customers to earn fuel rewards.”

Through eBucks, FNB and RMB Private Bank customers can earn up to R8 per litre back in eBucks when they spend at Engen on vehicles financed through WesBank that are uploaded on the nav»Car functionality on the FNB App.

In addition, qualifying customers can also redeem a breakfast or burger voucher from Wimpy at participating Engen 1Stops to make their travel less costly, through their FNB or RMB Private Bank app.

For those planning on air travel, qualifying FNB and RMB Private Bank customers can also enjoy from 5% to 40% discounts on all local flights booked via eBucks Travel between 15 October until 15 November 2021.

Reward programmes from the big banks are often complex in nature – with different customers falling into different tiers with different rewards levels – or come with terms and conditions that mask important caveats.

Most fuel rewards offered by banks are based on a per-litre calculation, and not on actual spending. This ensures that savings (in rands) do not fluctuate with fuel prices. The exception to this is Absa and Discovery Bank’s programmes, which are based on rands spent at the pump.

BusinessTech delved into these programmes looking at fuel rewards in particular, while all the information was sourced from the banks, with publicly-available documentation and information. For the rewards calculations, we used a 55 litre petrol tank, which at the current rate of R19.58 per litre, would cost R1,075 to fill.


Capitec

Capitec announced in February that it would partner with Shell service stations to give customers cash-back when they fill up using a linked Shell V+ rewards card.

The rewards work by swiping a V+ card and paying with a Capitec card for fuel or at Shell Select – this nets customers a 20 cents per litre ‘cash back’ on fuel and 0.5% cash back on selected items.

There are a few caveats, however: in-store cash-back excludes purchases on tobacco, phone cards, lubricants, car wash and municipal services – while all the cash is loaded onto the V+ wallet, which can only be used to make purchases at Shell itself.

Other limits include the cash-back expiring after 12 months, with no way to withdraw the money in cash.

While the 20c per litre reward is exclusive to Capitec customers, the normal V+ reward is 15c per litre, regardless of the bank card used. This does not ‘stack’ if you are a Capitec customer – meaning the actual reward is simply 5 cents per litre more than what you would usually receive using the V+ rewards card with Shell.

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you R11.00 back. The normal V+ reward would be R8.25.

Nedbank Greenbacks

Nedbank has tied its Greenbacks rewards to BP service stations, where swiping a Greenbacks-linked card will get customers a ‘guaranteed’ 25c cash back per litre.

It does not involve loyalty tiers or complex qualifying conditions, but does require the Card Swiper package.

Card Swiper is free for activated Greenbacks accounts on Optimum, Savvy Plus Gold, Savvy Bundle and Nedbank Professional Banking accounts – but for all other accounts, it costs R24 per month.

A Nedbank customer not using one of these accounts would need to spend around R1,500 – or the equivalent of 96 litres of their fuel type – every month to ‘break even’.

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you R13.75 back in rewards.

Discovery Bank 

Discovery Bank’s reward programme, Vitality Money, offers fuel rewards at select Shell and BP service stations. Discovery’s earn rules for fuel rewards are opaque and not easy to track down outside the claim of “up to 20% back on fuel purchases”.

However, an ‘internal use’ document published online for use by brokers, does provide some insight into how this is structured.

According to the document, the Vitality Money fuel rewards work on top of Discovery’s Vitality Drive rewards programme, which offers up to 50% back in fuel purchases. Ostensibly, you could get up to 70% back on fuel purchases, if you’re willing to navigate the complexities of Discovery’s ‘behavioural’ model of rewards.

Focusing only on the Vitality Money portion of the reward, Discovery awards a maximum of 2 Discovery Miles for every R1 spent on fuel. This only kicks in on fuel purchases over R75, with a monthly cap of R1,000.

A top-level Vitality Money member can thus earn a maximum of 2,000 Miles this way – the equivalent of R200 back. Shell’s and Pick n Pay’s (BP) fuel rewards work on top of this, if not replaced by Discovery Drive.

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you R200 back in rewards. At the current fuel price, a full tank would exceed the R1,000 cap.

FNB eBucks

FNB’s eBucks fuel rewards have gone through a significant change in 2021, effectively splitting the rewards into two groups.

The first group is the Aspire Current Account – the account that replaced the old ‘gold’ accounts in June. If you are using this account, you can earn a maximum of R150 back in eBucks every month when you swipe your qualifying FNB Aspire card at Engen.

The earn rate for this reward is 60 cents per litre. Using FNB’s double-up eBucks reward – quarterly – this can be as high as R1.20 a litre, if you manage to jump through all the requisite hoops.

For FNB Premier, Private and Private Wealth account holders, the old system of earning up to R4.00 a litre at Engen service stations still stands. This can be increased to R8.00 per litre if all other conditions are met – specifically, having WesBank vehicle finance, a car registered on its Nav app, and all fuel purchases for a quarter being made at Engen.

The basic earning level for eBucks fuel rewards for these accounts is 10c per litre, which could in theory be doubled up to 20 cents if the other requirements are met.

On top of the complexity of navigating the eBucks earn rules, the bank also applies limits to how much you can be rewarded through fuel spend. Fuel rewards cannot be more than 20% of total rewards earned in a month, or more than R2,000 – whichever cap you hit first.

Rewards are also limited to Engen, and payment at the forecourt only, with no eBucks earned at any other service station. Quickshop purchases are considered general purchases, not part of fuel rewards – this includes if you pay for your fuel at the Quickshop tills, instead of the forecourt.

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you the equivalent of between R5.50 and R440 in eBucks, depending on rewards tier and other qualifiers. For Aspire account holders, the range is R33.00 and R66.00.

Standard Bank uCount

Standard Bank offers fuel rewards at Astron (Caltex), tied to its uCount rewards programme.

Like FNB and Absa, the level of fuel reward with Standard Bank’s uCount depends on which reward level customers are at.

For the full benefit of R5 per litre, a customer would need to be at reward level 5, which includes the qualifier of having to spend a minimum of R20,000 per ‘cycle’, using a Standard Bank credit card.

Nevertheless, the ‘cash back’ earn rate starts at 20 cents per litre for debit card users at tier 1, climbing to 50 cents per litre. Credit card users start at 35 cents per litre, up to R5 per litre at tier 5.

The fuel rewards apply only to fuel and oil purchases and exclude all other payments at Astron. The reward earning is also capped at R1,000.

Another caveat is the annual fee to join uCount – R365 per year. This is roughly R30 a month, so a tier 1 debit card customer would have to spend the equivalent of at least 150 litres a month to cut even (or 6 litres for a tier 5 credit card customer).

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank would give you between R11.00 and R275.00, depending on card type and rewards tier.

Absa Rewards

Absa’s fuel rewards are for customers who fill up at Sasol – where they can receive up to 30% back on fuel purchases, depending on their rewards score, and what card they’re using.

Debit card users earn between 0.5% and 4.5% back, while credit card users start at 1.00% and can get all the way to 30% if they max out their reward level (800 points+).

The rewards are also not exclusively tied to fuel, but apply to any purchases made at Sasol – excluding bill payments, pre-paid airtime, and electricity and lotto purchases.

Absa’s rewards are capped, however, and only apply to the first R3,000 spent at Sasol – so a top-scoring customer can’t get more than R900 back a month.

The bank still rewards customers if they fill up at other stations, though this is at a flat rate of 0.15% cash-back.

  • Spending R1,075 to fill a 55 litre tank would give you between R5.38 and R322.50, depending on card type and rewards tier – or a flat R1.61 at fuel stations other than Sasol.

The table below outlines how the rewards work, and the limits and limitations that apply:

Bank Service Station Reward Limits
Absa Sasol Between 0.5% and 30% back in cash Applies to first R3,000 spent at Sasol in a month
Capitec Shell 20c per litre Rewards can only be spent at Shell
Discovery Bank BP and Shell 2 points per R1.00 spent – “up to 20% back” Capped at R1,000 spend per month
FNB Engen Between 10c per litre and R4.00 per litre for Premier, Private or Private Wealth.
Between 60c per litre and R1.20 per litre for Aspire.
Capped at R2,000 earn per month
Nedbank BP 25c per litre Requires Card Swiper activation at R24 per month
Standard Bank Astron (Caltex) Between 20c per litre and R5.00 per litre Capped at R1,000 earned per month, requires uCount at R365 per year


Read: It’s time to change how South Africa’s petrol price is calculated

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We compared fuel rewards at South Africa’s biggest banks as pump prices hit record highs