Does Esso Or Petro Canada Have The Better Contactless Payment App? Let’s Find Out!

Ever since the pandemic started, I’ve done my best to limit my contact with other human beings as much as possible. And that includes going to the gas station to fill up. Now sure could use my credit card at the pump to avoid interacting with other human beings. But cloning cards at gas pumps has been a thing for years. Thus I have tended to avoid that option. So when both Petro Canada and Esso came out with contactless payment apps, I jumped on them immediately. The idea behind these apps is simple:

  • You drive up to the gas pump
  • You open the app on your phone and pick the pump that you’re at
  • You pre-authorize the pump using a stored credit card or in my case Apple Pay
  • The pump activates and you can fill up your gas tank

But the question is which one is the better app. Let’s start with the Esso and their Speedpass+ app. The key features of this app are:

  • You can earn PC Optimum points on qualifying fills at the pump by linking a PC Optimum card to the app.
  • You can securely add Visa credit, MasterCard credit, American Express, and Esso and Mobil Gift Cards to the app as payment options. Or if you’re on Team iOS, you can also use Apple Pay which is how I use this app. If you’re on Team Android, Google Pay works too.
  • You can use the app to pay at the pump for fuel or fuel with a car wash
  • To save a few bucks, you can add a Price Privileges discount card to your Speedpass+ wallet and have it automatically used when you refuel.
  • You can get directions and navigate to the nearest Esso or Mobil station. 
  • You can view your transaction history to track your receipts and car wash codes in one convenient location. 

All of this works very well. Every time I have used the app to buy gas at the pump, or to buy gas at the pump along with a car wash, it works flawlessly. And if I ever wanted to use either my PC Optimum card or any of the Price Privileges cards in store, I can. Thus I don’t have to carry any physical cards with me which is a nice touch. The only criticism that I have is that if your Price Privileges discount cards runs out, the app doesn’t alert you to that. Esso should fix that as it is possible that you might have gone a couple of fill ups before you notice that the discount card is empty. Thus missing out on saving some money at the pump.

Now let’s go over to Petro Canada and their app for Android and iOS. It’s somewhat similar to the Speedpass+ app as its basic functionality covers most of the bullet points for the Esso app. However unlike the Speedpass+ app, you cannot have any discount cards (which Petro Canada calls Fuel Savings Rewards cards) used automatically when you pump gas despite being stored in the App. On top of that, you can’t use them in store either as they lack barcodes for the station staff to scan. However you can use your Petro Points card in store as that does have a bar code. Thus unlike the Speedpass+ app which allows you to have everything stored on your phone, the Petro Canada app forces you still to have physical cards if you want to get a discount. That’s a #fail. One thing that it does have the ability to redeem Petro Points inside the app for eGift Cards, gas discount cards and the like. Which is handy.

There’s one thing that I should point out that is a major red flag for me when it comes to the Petro Canada app. Unlike the Speedpass+ app which has worked flawlessly for me, the Petro Canada app on my iPhone has not always worked flawlessly. On three occasions when I have tried to fill up using it, I had the transaction cancelled on me. The first time it happened to me, I tried again with the same result. Thus forcing me to go inside the store and pay. Which of course defeats the purpose of this app.

I can see three reasons for this happening:

  • The more charitable side of me says that there’s some sort of bug with the app or with whatever is on the back end that is causing this.
  • The cynical side of me says that the station staff are purposefully cancelling transactions from this app so that they can get you into the store to buy something like a pop or a bag of chips so that they can make a few extra bucks off of you. I say that because every time this happened and I checked my Apple Pay transaction history, the transaction shows as being “refunded”. And in discussions with my bank and Apple, that suggests a human was behind this.
  • The really cynical side of me says that that the station staff might be hoping that you will use a physical card so that they can clone it or something similar. Which is really underhanded if that’s true.

I couldn’t tell you which of these is the reason why I have seen this behaviour. But I do have two other data points to share. The first time that this happened to me, I went into the store and asked for an explanation. They denied that they cancelled and said that my credit card was declined. I called him on it by showing the transaction history from Apple Pay which showed that purchase was “refunded” and then paid using the same card via Apple Pay and had that work with no issues. When I did that it visibly flustered the attendant. The second data point is that in the process of writing this story, I have heard of the same thing happening to other people using the Petro Canada app. Thus there’s clearly something going on here. Because if something like this happens once, it’s a fluke. If it happens twice or more, it’s a pattern. And if you hear the same thing happening to other people, it’s a cause for concern.

So, who has the better contactless payment app? I have to give the nod to Esso Speedpass+. In short, it works flawlessly, allows me not to have to carry physical cards around, and get discounts on gas in an almost seamless manner. Which is important given the current price of gas. And finally, unlike Petro Canada, I never get the perception that something shady might be going on when I try to purchase gas using the app and it fails to work.

As for Petro Canada, my suggestion to Petro Canada is to look at my feedback and improve your app accordingly to match the features that Speedpass+ offers. And you should also look at what your station staff might be doing as like I said earlier, cancelling transactions to force people to come into the store and then making up a story as to why the transaction was cancelled isn’t cool. Assuming of course that something underhanded is at play here. And even if this is a bug of some sort, it’s still doesn’t leave a positive impression on your customers. And that’s important because a good app experience can drive sales to you. But a bad app experience will drive sales away from you. And right now, the experience that I’ve had with both apps has driven me more towards buy fuel at Esso and away from buying fuel at Petro Canada.

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