There’s no shortage of apps that help people find cheap gas these days, but apps that let you pay for it? And ones that give you a discount for doing it? Sign me up. The Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner reports that regional gas station/convenience store chain Cumberland Farms has done just that with their new SmartPay app, which in addition to letting users pay without leaving their seats, offers them a $.05 cent/gallon discount.
Here’s how it all goes down: once a driver signs in with a PayPal account, they can pull into a supported Cumberland Farms location and fire up the iOS/Android app or the mobile website. From there, the app uses the device’s GPS to hone in on their gas station, though failing that users can also input the station number. After punching in their pump number, voila — their gas charges are sent to PayPal, and users get an email receipt.
Ready for the bummer? The pilot program is currently live at 50 gas stations in Massachusetts for now, though Cumberland Farms CIO Dave Banks hopes to get the company’s 600 stations across the East Coast and Florida tricked out in the future.
The app is novel and all, but what really gets me is the discount — the margins on fill-ups can be pretty thin, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see a company dip prices like that. If we dig a bit deeper though, the reasoning becomes a bit more clear — according to Innovation Economy, Cumberland Farms approached Boston-based startup Fig Card about integrating their mobile payment tech into local gas stations. Fig Card was subsequently snapped up by PayPal last April, and they’ve apparently being working on it since. As it turns out, PayPal is actually the one funding that nifty discount in order to drive awareness around the app, and Banks says it could potentially reach as high as $0.10 off per gallon.
Cumberland Farms isn’t the first company to try a mobile payments model — apparently, a chain of gas stations called Murphy’s started letting people pay for their gas via text message late last year. It worked, technically, but the onboarding process seemed like a real pain in the rear. PayPal and Cumberland Farms have touched on what seems like a pretty frictionless way to make this payment model work (and a way to incentivize it), now all we need is for every gas station in the country to start doing it.