U.S. Consumers Prefer Fuel Savings Over Cash-Back Rewards

Excentus-Ipsos report reveals steady increase in fuel loyalty program memberships.

Fuel savings continues to be in high demand among U.S. customers.

According to a new report released by loyalty marketing and technology firm Excentus Corp., U.S. consumers have ranked fuel savings as their preferred loyalty currency over cash-back rewards for the third year in a row.

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Findings from “The Road to Rewards 2017” indicate that fuel savings, a currency that helps consumers save on the price of gas, have become a more attractive and valuable rewards currency, as 39% of consumers prefer fuel savings whereas only 35% prefer cash-back on credit cards.

“This report illustrates – among other findings – that consumers place immense value on savings at the pump, perceiving those savings as equivalent to cash,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO, Excentus. “For brands and retailers, this means that cents-per-gallon fuel savings are the currency most likely to increase frequency, customer interactions and new revenue opportunities.”

Based on an Ipsos study of consumer attitudes and behaviors toward loyalty programs and the currency that powers them, “The Road to Rewards 2017” explores the types of rewards and programs consumers engage with most, what currencies they value, which approaches can influence their behavior, and what motivates their loyalty. The study found that the ability for loyalty programs to influence customer behavior is on the rise, with 36% of consumers—compared to 26% in 2016—shopping more frequently at stores where they can earn fuel savings.

The data also shows that programs with a fuel savings currency have been steadily increasing. Memberships in fuel loyalty programs have risen 10% in the past two years, with 64% of Americans participating in a program that helps them save on the cost of gas. Up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type in the U.S. has enjoyed comparable growth in this time span.

For brands, retailers and convenience stores, the insights from “The Road to Rewards 2017” present new opportunities to generate revenue and engage customers by adopting a fuel savings currency:

20% of consumers reported shopping specifically at stores where they can earn rewards that help them save on the cost of fuel, and 22% will shop exclusively at a convenience store where they are a loyalty program member;

Fuel savings (30%) have also surpassed cash-back (29%) as the rewards currency with the highest consumer engagement, with consumers earning and redeeming fuel savings every few weeks or monthly;

31% of consumers (up 20% from last year) are using their loyalty program’s mobile app to manage their rewards, including redemption—by far the largest jump of any channel.

The data also found that consumers want to save on fuel regardless of gas prices: 73% stated it is important to earn rewards that save on fuel when the price of gas rises, and 58% echoed the identical sentiment when the price of gas falls. This demonstrates that gas prices remain top-of-mind even in a stable economy and consumers look to their loyalty programs to save money and add value to their everyday transactions.

“Fuel is a predictable, consistent and repeated expense, and discounts at the pump have a direct impact on consumers’ wallets,” continued Logsdon. “The unique relationship consumers have with this commodity makes fuel savings a near universal and highly relevant reward currency.”

Download “The Road to Rewards 2017” to get the full report.