Shell has today enabled a new pay at the pump system in the UK in partnership with PayPal.
Unlike older systems that integrate a card payment terminal, the Fill Up & Go system lets you use PayPal to complete the transaction through your smartphone.
Shell told us that the aim was to speed up the refuelling experience, meaning that you don't have to go to the counter to pay and queue behind those doing their shopping. The advantage of using an app over a card terminal on the pump is that there's no need for major hardware changes.
Instead, the new system integrates with the infrastructure at the Shell forecourt, alerting the controller inside that you've authorised a payment and letting the pump dispense your fuel.
The system is incredibly easy. All you have to do is open the app, select Fill Up & Go and follow the instructions. You scan a QR code at the pump and select how much fuel you want to use and that's it - you can then fill your car. Once finished, you drive away without having to talk to a human being.
This is a pre-authorisation process. If you select £20, the pump will only dispense up to £20, but if you only need £18.43 for example, that's what you'll be charged. If you're after a full tank, naturally you'll select £60 or £80 and fill as you normally would.
The amount you use is then deducted via PayPal, meaning you can spend direct from your bank account, via a card in PayPal Wallet, or from your PayPal balance. Yes, if you sell your bike on eBay, you can then use that cash to buy diesel.
We gave it a test on a Shell forecourt in London and it really couldn't be any simpler. It's fast and easy to see what's going on, with the app being quick to respond and guiding you through the process.
But what about not using smartphones when fuelling?
That's simple. This is an in-car experience. The idea is that you scan the large QR code through the window and then leave your phone in the car. We tried this, and from some distance the app had no problem recognising the QR code and completing the process - even through a closed window.
Shell told us that 50 per cent of customers still only go for fuel, and the idea is to reduce delays for people like taxi drivers, busy commuters or parents with children in the car. If you've a baby sleeping in a car seat, you don't have the worry of either leaving them in the car while you go inside, or waking them up to take them with you, so it's a win all round.
It's a slight change in approach naturally, but with mobile payment services on the increase, it makes perfect sense for Shell to offer this type of service.
The company told us that it had chosen to work with PayPal because it was a recognised and established payment service and wasn't tied to a single platform, offering wider flexibility across devices.
From Shell's point of view, getting people into the mindset of paying through an app is an important stepping stone. In the future, we can see how Apple Pay or Android Pay could be easily integrated into the same Shell Motorist app.
You can use the PayPal app directly if you wish, but the Shell Motorist app offers a richer experience, with a map showing forecourts supporting the service, as well as letting you register your loyalty card so you don't miss out on points. The app also collects your receipts, making accounting or expenses easy.