Balancing convenience with security in the fuel card industry

Fuel Card CSC Blogs

Data security is a chief concern in nearly every industry today.

Retailers sleep with one eye open, hoping to avoid the kind of breaches experienced by Target and TalkTalk. Healthcare organisations and financial services companies are constantly on guard against increasingly frequent hacking incidents. And no company wants to open itself up to kind of embarrassing, debilitating attack that put Sony offline and in the headlines in 2014.

The fuel card industry is no different. Major oil companies, retailers and merchants need to be able to securely accept a huge range of payment instruments, including their own and other partner fuel and loyalty cards. In an industry worth hundreds of billions per annum, in whatever currency you chose, the potential for fraud or misuse is significant.

Vendors know that protecting cardholder data is critical to the success of the business – and the brand. And as regulation and compliance demands grow more stringent, fuel card providers must adapt to changing legal frameworks, as well as myriad cybersecurity threats.

The industry may be unique in its types of exposure — the point of interaction (the fuel pump), the transaction method (card or mobile device), the end user (fleet manager, fuel company, etc.). But it can benefit from the same types of technologies (point-to-point encryption, the EMV microchip, tokenisation) –  that mitigate risk and protect customer data across transactions in other industries.  Let’s not forget that fuel cards are all about providing control of spend.

And this is getting easier as transactions are getting smarter. Driving this is something called dynamic authentication, in when each transaction incorporates unique information or a combination of information (passwords, fingerprints, geolocation data) that makes it virtually impossible to replicate. The fuel card industry is primed to adopt the technology that makes this level of security possible. Just think about the myriad of devices in a vehicle that can provide identifying information, many of which are still untapped.

It will be a great leap forward for the industry and its customers since, beyond protection, the biggest driver for this change is convenience.

Mobile payments, we know, are already here even if adoption is still at an early stage. In Europe, we know 14% to 20% of B2B companies in logistics transact online today. The total transaction value of mobile proximity payments (a mobile purchase made when the user is present or near the point of sale) is expected to grow to an amazing $141.21 billion Euros in 2019, up from $4.77 billion Euros in 2014.

According to this interesting report by the U.S. Federal Reserve, people choose mobile payments primarily for – wait for it – convenience. But the adoption of universal mobile transactions has been slowed by security concerns. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed by the Fed said they would use mobile payments if they trusted the security of the technology.  It’s, of course, not the only reason for the slow-ish uptake. But, it is one we can mitigate.

In recent years, our field has perfected best practices, processes and tools to make mobile transactions – and all transactions, really – safer. While the threat landscape is always evolving, we know now how to evolve with it.

It’s about building and maintaining a secure network; protecting cardholder data with encrypted transmissions; maintaining good security hygiene with anti-virus software; implementing strong access controls; regularly testing and monitoring networks; and maintaining an information security policy for employees and contractors.

The fuel card industry can be a leader in this space – and it’s time to make that happen. CSC is not doing this alone. We are working together with leading companies in acceptance, acquiring and issuing in both the fuel and non-fuel payments.

In this series of posts, I’m discussing transformations in the fuel card industry, drawing from my years of experience working with the industry and watching it change and shift. I’ll discuss the fundamental drivers and hopefully put to rest any fears that challenges are insurmountable. Far from it, they’re driving innovations that will open companies to a bright future. Join me in the discussion here or connect with me on LinkedIn. I look forward to engaging with you. 


Neil Brownlie CSC Blogs

Neil Brownlie has been at CSC since 2005 when he joined the company to head up sales for Cards and Payments in Asia, Middle East and Africa. He worked to introduce mobile payment solutions across the region, then in 2012, moved to Austria to lead the Fuel Card group and International sales. In 2014, he was appointed General Manager for Bulgaria. Outside of the office, he enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle, attending concerts and indulging in the good life – and wine – of Austria.


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Fuelling innovation in the fuel card industry

How to build a next-gen infrastructure for customer-focused finance

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