Mumbai: Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank have launched their globally valid co-branded debit card, Smartfill, in association with Visa International.
Says Bharat Petroleum executive director (retail) S Krishnamurti: "We have been exploring the possibilities of introducing a co-branded debit card programme. Global experience tells us that debit cards are gradually emerging as a preferred mode of payment, even in developing countries like India. The key was to identify a strategic partner who could bring in the necessary expertise for leveraging the respective customer bases, resulting in a win-win situation for the alliance. Stanchart Bank, with its undoubtable leadership position, is an ideal partner for us to provide the best customer experience."
About the need to come up with a debit card like Smartfill despite having a successful prepaid Petrocard, which already has a million cardholders, S Ramesh, general manager (retail strategy), says: "The high growth rate in debit cards prompted us to add them to our portfolio."
There is a strong likelihood that the new debit card will cannibalise on Bharat Petroleum's existing Petrocard. But the company's marketing team seems to have decided that it is better to have your own debit card cannibalise on an existing pre-paid card than have its pre-paid card be cannibalised by rival companies' debit cards.
Santanu Mukherjee, country manager, South Asia, Visa International, highlights the importance of debit cards. He says, "Debit cards are the fastest-growing payment product in India today. This is primarily because they are available to anyone who has a bank account. The challenge for the industry is to educate and incentivise consumers to replace cash with payment using a debit card."
About the benefits of a debit card for "all involved" in its transactions, Mukherjee says: "For the bank the debit card is a low-cost delivery channel; for the customer it is his bank account in his pocket; for the shopkeeper it is a secure, convenient way of transacting; and for the government it reduces the cost of printing currency."
Smartfill will function as a debit-cum-ATM card, providing customers online access to their accounts while they shop or withdraw cash. They will be entitled to all Standard Chartered savings account (aXcess plus) benefits, which include four free cash withdrawals per month at nearly 5,500 VISA ATMs across India.
The new card can also be used to purchase goods and services at over 55,000 Visa merchant outlets in India and at over 12 million globally. The debit card allows customers to use it at over 8,10,000 ATMs worldwide for cash withdrawals and balance inquiries, providing them instant account access even as they travel abroad.
Smartfill allows customers to earn one reward point for every Rs125 spent on the debit card. It has a unique feature that all reward points earned, whether from buying fuel or from purchase of groceries, or from restaurant bills, shopping, and holiday and travel in India or overseas, can be accumulated and redeemed for free fuel at BPCL retail outlets.
Further, customers will get a transaction fee waiver (normally 2.5 per cent) on purchase of fuel at over 225 designated Bharat Petroleum outlets in 10 cities across India. There are also discounts up to 5 per cent for purchases at In-and-Out department stores located at Bharat Petroleum's petrol stations.