Phillips 66 Warns of New Credit Card Scam

Chevron, CITGO rev up reward offers for summer

Carole Donoghue, Petroleum Editor

HOUSTON -- Summer is officially here, and with it come new rewards offers from refiners looking to lure consumers into their branded stores. But crooks don't take a vacation from crime, and officials at Phillips 66 are warning the company's marketers of a new credit-card scam now hitting its stations.

Phillips said a cashier at one of its stations received a nighttime call from a "customer" who said she needed to purchase phone cards over the telephone and proceeded to provide a full account number of an American Express card.

The "customer" said she regularly bought phone cards that way and that her son would come in and pick up the cards. The cashier began to manually enter the credit card number, at which point she was prompted to imprint the card. She then called the station manager, who declined the "customer's" request and said they would not process the transaction over the phone.

Some of their marketer's other stores had also been hit with the same request, according to the manager. Fortunately, the manual sale was not processed, said a Phillips 66 official.

Chevron and CITGO, meanwhile, are starting to promote new customer rewards offers. Like most of the new programs unveiled by refiners, however, the offers distinctly favor the banks' side of the transaction.

Chevron plans to revamp the reward structure for its Chevron and Texaco Visa cards in July in a move the company hopes will "promote more 'top-of-wallet' behavior among our cardholders."

Consumers can earn a 10-cents-per-gallon credit once they spend $300 to $999 on qualifying purchases of Chevron's network on any items except fuel--purchases at grocery, drug and hardware stores, restaurants, travel and any other non-fuel merchant that accepts Visa count toward rewards. Purchases of $1,000 or more qualify for a 20-cents-per-gallon kickback.

Customers see the fuel discounts once they have reached the qualifying amount when they fuel at a Chevron or Texaco station. Rewards are capped, however, at $300 in total fuel credits redeemed in any calendar year. Another limitation: Qualified spending resets at the beginning of each monthly billing period. Fuel credits are good for six months, however, and are automatically applied to card statements.

The new Chevron program is similar to one introduced by Shell in September last year that requires customers to charge at least $500 a month to their Shell MasterCard in order to qualify for discounts. The steep minimum purchase requirements--in Shell's case it replaced the company's 5% fuel discount offer--are aimed at lowering expenses for both the refiner and its card issuer. Banks found fuel discounts taking too big a bite out gasoline card profits as prices hit the $4-per-gallon mark.

Credit-card customers, however, will have to spend more in order to get a fuel reward. Chevron will tell consumers in direct mail pieces that they should consider using their co-branded Visa to make automatic payments on their regular bills if they fear they will not qualify for fuel credits on a monthly basis.

Citgo's new program, which will run June 1 through September 20, will reward customers with a $15 Citgo gift card once they make eight $20 or more purchases at a CITGO station, either in-store or at the pump using a Visa card.

The company said its "CITGO good rewards" program is "the highlight" of its advertising campaign this year, designed to increase traffic and sales at marketer stations. It will be promoted on cable TV and on Internet search sites.

To qualify, customers must register their Visa card at a special website,, and provide their mobile telephone number. Visa then tracks consumer purchases and sends text messages encouraging them to make additional purchases. Once the cardholder has earned a reward, he will receive a text message with a unique code and website link where they can redeem their gift card. They will have until November 22 to redeem the cards.

There are some catches, however. Visa debit-card users must choose the "credit" option when paying with their debit card and purchases made using a personal identification number (PIN) do not qualify. And, if a customer doesn't want to provide his mobile phone number or an email address, he or she won't get a discount. Further, CITGO acknowledges in a message to retailers that the consumer could be charged for the text messages they receive.

CITGO said it partnered with Visa on the promotion because Visa is the most popular payment method for consumers purchasing gasoline and "practically everything else." Approximately 67% of transactions are visa debit and credit cards, and 40% of those are made with a Visa, the company says. It cites NPD data as its source. "Additionally, the Visa real-time messaging platform reaches consumers at key times when they are most likely to purchase gasoline, reminding them to go to Citgo to earn their reward," CITGO said.

Effective July 1, CITGO will also introduce a 10-cent transaction fee on all first-time CITGO gift card activations. The fee will not apply top reloads of the card, stressed Mike Pooler, payment card operations manager in a message to CITGO marketers. The gift cards can be reloaded up to 999 times, he said.

"By encouraging consumers to reload their CITGO gift cards, your retailers can reduce their gift card transaction fees and help the environment by alleviating the amount of litter from gift cards being discarded after one-time use," he said.