With South African motorists looking ahead to another possible petrol price hike in November, there’s growing desperation to save as much as one can when filling up.
South Africa has seen fuel prices balloon to insane levels in 2022, hitting a record high of R26.74 per litre for petrol 95 in July before slowly coming down in subsequent months.
Diesel drivers have had it far worse, however, with the brief reprieve experienced in August and September starting to reverse, with a small bump in price in October, and a significant R1.50 increase on the cards for November.
Banking groups in South Africa have long offered fuel rewards as an added bonus to their various loyalty programmes, but they stepped up their offerings in 2022 amid the rising fuel prices.
In many cases, fuel rewards were doubled, with the likes of Standard Bank offering a new way to earn more, while other instances – like FNB’s eBucks – added more value altogether.
But with the changes come many more hoops to jump through, and the added complexity can be off-putting to consumers.
A huge caveat to most of the fuel rewards offered by banks is that they are based on a per-litre calculation and not on actual spending. This means that savings (in rands) do not fluctuate with fuel prices, forcing consumers to jump through those additional hoops to take advantage of any additional savings.
The exceptions are Absa and Discovery Bank’s programmes, which are based on rands spent at the pump – but these, too, come with clauses.
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.
We found that if you are willing to navigate the complexities of earning rules and reward tiers, FNB and Standard Bank offer the biggest savings on fuel.
For the rewards calculations, we used a 55 litre petrol tank, which at the current rate of R22.36 per litre (petrol 95), would cost R1,230 to fill.
Capitec partners 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.
This can be doubled to a saving of 40 cents per litre on “Live Better Day” – the 10th of every month.
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 20 cents 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 R1,230 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you R11.00 back (R22.00 on Live Better Day). The normal V+ reward would be R8.25.
Nedbank has tied its Greenbacks rewards to BP service stations, where swiping a Greenbacks-linked card will get customers a ‘guaranteed’ 50c cash back per litre. This reward has doubled since the start of the year.
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.
- Spending R1,230 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you R27.50 back in rewards.
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.
Working on Discovery Drive, this fuel reward does not have a cap, and a client can earn between 5% and 50% back on fuel purchases. However, the programme is deeply complex, with the maximum of 50% only available to Classic and Purple clients. Essential clients are capped at 25%.
To qualify for the maximum reward, clients need to use Discovery’s points system, which includes various checks and allocations tied to driving habits. For this comparison, we’ve used the Discovery Bank-linked reward, not the wider Discovery package.
- Spending R1,230 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’s eBucks fuel rewards have gone through significant changes over the last year or so, 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 10 cents 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.
Until the end of December, FNB is adding an extra R2.00 to the fuel rewards if customers pay using a virtual card, adding another layer of complexity to the reward.
A Premier customer earning at reward tier 1 would usually get a return of 10 cents per litre; if they qualify for double-up, this would jump to 20 cents per litre. However, if this customer pays with a virtual card, the reward would be R2.10 per litre or R2.20 per litre, doubled up, delivering significant savings.
- Spending R1,230 to fill a 55 litre tank using this reward would give you the equivalent of between R5.50 and R550 back in eBucks, depending on rewards tier and other qualifiers. For Aspire account holders, the range is R33.00 and R176.00.
Standard Bank uCount
Standard Bank offers fuel rewards at Astron (formerly 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.
Following the fuel price hikes of 2022, the bank also offered a double-reward route for customers, as long as they fill up exclusively at Astron, have more Standard Bank products, and spend R500 at Marko.
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 R2 cents per litre. Credit card users start at 30 cents per litre, up to R5 per litre at tier 5. These values are doubled if the aforementioned criteria are met.
The fuel spend cap for rewards is R2,500.
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 R1,230 to fill a 55 litre tank would give you between R11.00 and R550.00, depending on card type and rewards tier.
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 R1,230 to fill a 55 litre tank would give you between R6.15 and R369, depending on card type and rewards tier – or a flat R1.85 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||Ts and Cs|
|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, 40c per litre on the 10th of every month||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 R10.00 per litre for Premier, Private or Private Wealth. Between 60c per litre and R3.20 per litre for Aspire.||Capped at R2,000 earn per month|
Double up and virtual card requirements need to be met
|Nedbank||BP||50c per litre||Requires Card Swiper activation|
|Standard Bank||Astron (Caltex)||Between 20c per litre and R10.00 per litre||Capped at R1,000 earned per month|
Double up requirements need to be met
The graph below outlines how much a customer can expect to save on any given rewards programme, filling up a 55-litre tank for R1,230. It also indicated what portion of the overall price is ‘given back’ through the rewards.
Read: Here is the expected petrol price for November – and it’s not good news