Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we think about contact with high-touch surfaces and face-to-face transactions, U.S. gas stations were embracing contactless solutions for motorists.
Long a target for scammers, who used credit card skimmers to steal drivers’ information, U.S. gas stations were in the process of upgrading their pumps to handle EMV technology based on new smart chips in credit cards which offer convenient contactless payment solutions.
Shift to EMV Tech Forces Pump Payment Upgrades
While most retailers had to switch to EMV technology by 2015 – or risk being on the hook for fraudulent credit card activity – U.S. gas retailers originally had until October 2020, to make the change because of the time and cost associated with upgrading each pump.
Credit card retailers granted U.S. gas stations a delay in implementing the EMV technology until April 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A bonus for motorists is that many gas stations used EMV upgrades as a chance to add other contactless technology to their pumps.
“With all card schemes on board with the new April 2021 deadline for EMV compliance, fuel and convenience retailers can get more out of their automated fuel dispenser (AFD) equipment upgrade projects by adding on the most modern payments technology,” said Transactions Network Services in a Yahoo Finance article.
Evolution of Contactless Solutions at Gas Stations
Pre-COVID 19, U.S. gas stations were making the transition to more contactless solutions for their customers with Chevron becoming the first official Apple Pay partner in 2016.
Mobil, the first U.S. gas retailer to introduce pay at the pump in 1986, offered motorists the first mobile payment option in 1997 with its Speedpass key tag. By 2015 ExxonMobil was allowing customers a contactless pump and pay solution on their smartphones.
On the eve of the pandemic, motorists were looking for ways to utilize contactless solutions with, according to PaySafe.com:
- 61 percent saying they prefer to shop in places that accept contactless payments.
- 84 percent saying paying with their smartphone or smartwatch is more convenient than using cash.
With U.S. consumers quickly moving to chip-enabled credit cards, gas stations will still playing catch-up with only 300 of Chevron’s 8,000 gas stations able to accept mobile payments pre-COVID.
Motorists Have New “Waze” for Contactless Payment
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the move to contact payment solutions for U.S. gas stations with smartphone driving app Waze introduced a nationwide rollout of its Fuel Payments integration with ExxonMobil and Shell last summer.
Motorists using Waze in the U.S. now have the ability for contactless payments at participating gas stations using the app.
“Waze is committed to continuing to help businesses leverage innovative technology to adapt, evolve, and engage with customers. We’re thrilled to help advertisers leverage contactless payments, beginning with two leaders in the fuel industry, ExxonMobil and Shell,” said Waze US Country Manager Andrew Kandel. “We’re proud to be collaborating with them, alongside our community, to bring this feature to life for drivers and businesses, as they adjust to the changing landscape.”
Drivers pulling into participating Exxon, Mobil or Shell stations will see a notification on the Waze app when they come to a complete stop, prompting them a contactless payment option which is integrated with each brand’s loyalty rewards program.
Eric Carmichael, Americas Fuels Marketing Manager for ExxonMobil: “Now that secure contactless payments are more important than ever, we look forward to providing the Waze community their best fueling experience.”
Iris Hill, US Marketing Technology Manager for Shell: “In the current environment, we understand that our customers may wish to limit interactions and touchpoints during their fueling experience.”
Smartphone Point and Play at the Pump
While ExxonMobil was already offering contactless solutions via their smartphone app, Apple Pay, the Waze traffic app and Amazon’s “Alexa Pay for Gas” program, the energy giant rolled out a new two-in-one contactless payment solution last fall.
The company announced that more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations in the U.S. will have a new smartphone “point and play” option at the pump using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and QR codes.
Drivers will be able to tap their smartphone on the QR code sticker or use their smartphone camera to scan the QR code to select their fuel grade and pay via Apple Pay, Google Pay or the ExxonMobil Rewards+ app.
U.S. Gas Stations Get Creative with Contactless Solutions
It is more than just “pump and pay” as the convenience store industry has been rapidly adding other creative contactless solutions since the start of the pandemic.
In just the past year we have seen:
- AgeVisor added a contactless ID scanner which allows convenience stores to scan and read driver’s licenses without the merchant having to physically touch them.
- 7-11 customers in Utah can skip the line and checkout their in-store items with a mobile smartphone app.
- Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores announced new outside and inside contactless payment options including: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, tap-and-go credit card payment, and new in-store smart terminals that cut checkout time in half.
Some convenience store retailers, such as Alltown Fresh, started offering customers several contactless solutions such as:
- Fresh Crates: Groceries and other necessities that can be ordered 24 hours in advance and picked up.
- Meal Prep: Preassembled meal kits that can be ordered each day by noon and picked up by 5 p.m.
- Curbside Pickup: Call ahead and order items that are brought directly to the motorists’ car by employees.
- Delivery: Partnering with delivery services to bring food, beverage, and other items directly to the consumer.
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