Fuel card giant Allstar has launched a payment card that offers a 2p per litre discount at certain service stations and heralds a new era for a company with big plans for 2016, as Paul Barker discovers
Allstar has long been the biggest fuel card network in the UK, with around 7600 petrol stations – i.e. most of them – accepting the payment card. But, as its bosses admit, the company has had its communication issues in recent times, and Pete Bridgen, UK boss of Allstar parent Fleetcor, sees the launch of the new Allstar One card as a chance to get back on track with customers.
“This is not to dismiss the old regime, but I’m hoping you’ve seen the change from something that was a little sleepy to something that’s more dynamic,” said Bridgen speaking at an event to launch the new card to a select group of customers. “Allstar went through a period of no communication that turned into negative communication. Now that’s been turned on its head and we are listening to customers and asking what is required.”
The launch of Allstar One is a culmination of more than four years of change since Fleetcor acquired Allstar at the end of 2011.
“Since we bought it outright we have completely reengineered the customer service and focus away from reactive, as it was when we bought it,” Bridgen continues. “We have also restructured the organisation to put the best managers in the best positions.”
The new card is effectively a process of combining the Allstar card with sister card brand Keyfuels, creating a product that will offer a 2p per litre discount on diesel at the 1780 designated Discount Diesel forecourts – the Keyfuels network – within the Allstar nationwide offering, which can be found via the company’s app. That app is due a revision by the end of this month, with Allstar addressing criticism about its stability in particular.
The company claims that 20% of fuel drawn on its current Allstar cards is at one of the Discount Diesel locations, so fleets will make an instant saving, and that will increase if, once the new card is rolled out, fleets ensure drivers are prioritising refuelling at one of the sites rather than at their regular fill-up point. The firm cited the latest AA Cost of Motoring report that put fuel cost at 28% of fleet operating costs, compared with 51% on standing charges such as lease cost or depreciation, and 21% on other running costs.
“Fuel cost really matters,” says Fleetcor UK’s vice-president of sales Tony Murtagh. “We can help you drive more savings. The key is to change that 20%, and if you move it to 35% then the savings escalate quickly.”
The firm confesses it won’t be able to offer the discount on petrol transactions at any point in the near future, citing the fact that 90% of its volume is on diesel, hence the ability to leverage scale.
The roll-out of new cards has begun, with a small number of customers having already piloted it. Although hesitant to put a timescale on the full switchover of 1.1 million cards, Bridgen says he “wouldn’t want it to go much beyond the end of the year”. He also says customers that are particularly keen to get onto Allstar One can talk to the provider about making it happen. “If we’ve got customers that want to do it quickly then we can look at that and try to make it work,” he says. “We can’t do it for everyone, but we’ll try and prioritise and do it for you in your timescale.”
It won’t be compulsory to switch to the new card, with Allstar happy to leave customers on what is being dubbed Allstar Classic if they wish, although there’s little benefit in doing so as there’s no additional charge for Allstar One; however, the same transaction fee still applies.
Depending on customer requirements, the Allstar One card can also be used for a variety of other services, including paying for the M6 Toll, as well as tie-ups with The AA, National Windscreens and ATS Euromaster, and saving up to 20% on service, maintenance and repair across the 300 garages signed up to the firm’s new initiative. Allstar’s Ecopoint CO2 monitoring and Business Mileage Monitor systems are both also offered.
Fleetcor seeks organic and acquisitional growth
The boss of Allstar parent Fleetcor has confirmed that the firm is looking for growth both in its existing businesses and through acquisition.
“We’re on the way to where we want it to be, progress is good; we’d like 10% year-on-year growth in revenues if we can and we’ll be close to that this year,” Fleetcor’s UK boss Pete Bridgen tells What Van? “I would think we’d want to be in a place where the number of customers is growing slightly but less than revenue. We won’t take on customers for the sake of customers or volume for the sake of volume. We’ll deliver what the customer requires.”
Fleetcor has grown through a consistent process of acquisition across the world, the most recent being the $3.45bn (£2.22bn) purchase of Comdata in America.
“We’d struggle to fund too many like that one,” exclaims Bridgen. “We are absolutely looking for acquisitions, we have people out there talking to potential acquisitions as and when they come up, but they have got to be complimentary to the Fleetcor dossier and help us to grow. We acquire a business and grow it organically.”
He says there are more opportunities in mainland Europe, and particularly in China and India, growing markets that are “gaps we’d like to fill”.
Fleetcor’s UK operation consists of the Allstar fuel card business it acquired from Arval for $304m (£195m) in December 2011, joining Keyfuels which is has owned since 2006 and The Fuelcard Company it took on in 2007, as well as service, maintenance and repair expert Epyx (October 2013) and a stake in telematics firm Masternaut since June 2014. Internationally, the firm operates in the Czech Republic, Holland, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, as well as Canada and its home US market.
To mobility, and beyond
Next year will see Allstar branch out further from its historic fuel card base with the launch of what is currently called Allstar Mobility.
Working on a Visa platform, the mobility card could potentially be used to pay for flights, trains, car rental, hotels and restaurants, as well as the traditional fuel offering.
“We will deliver mobility in a controlled way, so if you needed to be able to pay for just Premier Inn, for example, then we can work with Premier Inn so you can use the card there,” says Pete Bridgen, boss at Allstar parent company Fleetcor UK. “We’re asking what kind of mobility payments you want and we’ll work with you. If you want a certain type of parking or congestion charge, we can go away and make that work.”
Fleetcor has expertise in this area, describing its core international business as “a workforce payment solution leader”. Among various fuel offerings worldwide, it owns CLC Lodgings, a firm it claims is North America’s biggest provider of workforce lodging rates [[check]] across a network of thousands of hotels. It also owns Efectivale, Mexico’s leading provider of fuel and food card/voucher services, with a 10,000-business client base, and VB Servicos, a Brazilian public transport card that can be used on around 800 transportation agencies across the country.