600,000 Kiwis are taking advantage of this money hack –
are you one of them?

600,000 Kiwis are taking advantage of this money hack – are you one of them?

Recently I heard a story about a turkey who fills up his car with $40 worth of petrol, hangs up the pump, pays for it inside, then immediately fills up with another $40 and goes back in and pays for that too. He reckons he’s getting a better deal by hacking the AA Smartfuel system. There was much eye rolling and sighing at this seemingly silly caper.

But it turns out this turkey is one of 600,000 Kiwis (not turkeys) who know how to maximise the AA Smartfuel system and discounts – and they all do more or less what he does. You know how they always ask you at BP or Caltex, “Redeem or save?” There’s a very good reason. So we sat down with AA spokesman Liam Baldwin to find out why.

The main idea, says Liam, is to accumulate your discount on the minimum, but redeem it on the maximum. “Paying for $40 worth of fuel entitles you to a discount per litre, say 6c per litre,” Liam explains. “You can either take that discount on the spot and pay 6c less per litre you’ve just put into your car, or you can save the discount and redeem it later on more fuel. Essentially, you can either take your 6c per litre discount now on the $40, or you can save it take the discount later on a full tank, which might cost you, say, $120.”

In very simplistic terms, let’s say petrol costs you $2 per litre and you just filled up 20 litres to kick you over the $40 threshold. If you take your 6c per litre discount now on $40, you’ve saved $1.20. But if you get that same 6c discount on a tank of 50 litres at $100, you’ve saved $3 – an extra $1.80. Couple that with the additional 6c per litre discount you’d get with the second fill – I’ll do the maths for you, it’s 12c – you’ll actually save $6.

If this all sounds like too much bother, cool your engine for a second. I downloaded the app and checked out my Smartfuel discounts over time – the loyalty system has been going for about five years, says Liam – and I’ve saved a total of $431! That’s huge. And I’ve made that saving without ever accumulating my discount.

You can also take the loyalty scheme one step further and combine it with your Countdown shopping. So long as you spend more than $100 at Countdown within the calendar week, you’ll qualify for a further 3c per litre discount (be aware that if you opt for this, you’ll forgo getting the Countdown rewards vouchers you used to get), and $200 qualifies for a 6c per litre discount. And if you download the app, it’s easy to switch between the rewards programmes depending on how much you’re spending (i.e. you can opt to get the Countdown vouchers rather than the fuel discount, if you’re regularly falling short of the $100 minimum spend). (There’s even more advice on the AA website about saving money through Smartfuel.)

All in all, Smartfuel has been a massive success for the AA. “We’ve seen a 25% increase in monthly unique users and we’ve got one million people using the card each calendar month, which makes us the most active loyalty programme in New Zealand,” says Liam. “We’re saving Kiwis $65 million each year through fuel discounts, and that’s huge.

“It’s real money and it satisfies our need for instant gratification – you don’t have to wait to reap the rewards, but if you’re patient you can save even more.”

And finally, a wee tip for those who’ve been zipping in and out to pay twice for each of their $40 fill ups. “There’s actually no need to walk inside in between fills,” says Liam. “Just hang up the nozzle and pump again – then pay for both inside.”

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