Fuel Purchase Rebates for Pilots

AOPA changes its program, I go to BP.

For years, I’ve been using my AOPA MasterCard to purchase fuel at FBOs. At first, the program offered 3% rebate on all purchases at participating FBOs. Then that percentage jumped to 5%. Since it cost nothing for an FBO to participate, just about all of them did.

Among the participating FBOs were flight schools. I earned rebate dollars on all of my helicopter flight training. Since most flight schools also do maintenance, I also earned rebates on most of my helicopter maintenance and repairs. Now we’re talking big bucks. With an annual inspection costing $2,000 or more, 5% is a truly welcome discount.

The AOPA rebate program had two problems, as far as I was concerned:

  • Rebates were not automatic. You had to go to the MBNA Web site (later the BofA Web site) to indicate which transactions were eligible. Although they probably assumed you’d look up all the FBOs in their list, I never did. I just checked off all the transactions — after all, I only used the card to buy aviation-related things — and let them figure out what was eligible or not. It was a pain in the butt because it required a trip to the Web site each month. If you forgot, that was okay — you could always do it later. But it was an extra step just to get the money.
  • Rebates were limited to $250 per year. If you do the math, that means only $5,000 of purchases could earn the rebate. I’d easily reach the limit by September or October each year. A helicopter flight student could reach it in a month or two, depending on his schedule. It would have been nicer if there were no limit.

On the plus side, the rebates, once requested and verified, showed up on the following credit card statement as a reduction of the account balance. I liked to think about it as a fuel discount and that’s how I accounted for it in my accounting records — a reduction of fuel expenses.

Well, the AOPA MasterCard moved to BofA when BofA bought MBNA. (Sounds like alphabet soup.) And they — either AOPA or BofA — decided to change the program. They now have some kind of point system that you can use to buy merchandise. Or something like that. Frankly, I didn’t look into the details. I don’t want points. I want dollars. I want to reduce my operating expenses.

Meanwhile, when I switched my maintenance to Silver State in Mesa (at Williams Gateway airport), I discovered that BP, which the FBO there represents, had a 5% rebate credit card with no limit that applied a sliding scale rate to purchases: 5% of BP purchases (at airports or auto gas stations), 2% of travel and dining, and 1% of other expenditures. Since BP is relatively common around airports, I signed up for the card and got it. Now I use that for most of my aviation-related expenses.

Well, it turns out that this Rebate program isn’t quite as convenient as it could be, either. (I think that’s how they get you — make it such a pain in the butt that you don’t bother claiming the rebate.) In order to get the rebate I have to:

  1. Create an account on the Chase.com Web site. (A one-time deal.)
  2. Log into my account periodically.
  3. Navigate to the Claim My Rewards area, which isn’t exactly easy to find.
  4. Use a shopping cart to “buy” rewards using my earned points. The options are a $25 BP Card (costing 25 points) that can only be used at BP gas stations (like I want one of those), a $25 check (costing 25 points), or a donation to charity (costing 25 points). Of course, since you can only buy in increments of 25 points, you’ll always have a balance leftover.
  5. Wait for the check(s) to arrive.
  6. Take the check(s) to the bank and deposit them.

Obviously, this isn’t the best solution either. But it does reduce my operating costs, so I do get the desired end result.

What I should do is look for a good rebate card that works everywhere and doesn’t make you work to get the rebate dollars. I’m sure they’re out there, but since I really hate applying for and having credit cards, I haven’t looked for them. I guess that should go on my To Do list for this year, right after clean off my desk.

Any suggestions? Use the Comments feature to let us know.

2 thoughts on “Fuel Purchase Rebates for Pilots

  1. Hi Maria,

    The changeover of the AOPA rebate card is a bummer. Have you found any card that works better than BP. I’m looking for a replacement for AOPA that gives no hassle cash back, and works for aviation fuel and maintenance, etc. and also for automobile fuel. Thanks.

    Mike

  2. I’ve also been looking for a new card. Oddly enough, however, when I logged into my AOPA card’s account the other day, it still offered the option of getting a rebate. So I don’t know what’s going on.

    BP’s card is good for BP fuel (5% discount or rebate; I’m not sure), dining (3&), and other purchases (1%). I know that a lot of FBOs offer a discount if you buy fuel with their credit card. For example, an FBO at Lake Havasu is Chevron; you save 10 cents a gallon when you pay with a Chevron card. Gives me the idea of filling my helicopter with credit cards. Certainly not an ideal solution.

What do you think?