CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Wow! 1.57€ for a gallon of gas, that’s cheap! Oh wait, that’s per liter. Do the math. Four liters per gallon. Mutter…carry the two…mumble. Yikes! That’s 6.28€ for a gallon and we haven’t even done the euro to dollar exchange! Suddenly, America’s climbing price for gasoline don’t seem so bad. To help ease the burden, those of us who are here under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are able to use a fuel card to get a reduced price on fuel.
This is a deal too good to pass up, in fact, on base it’s a deal that you can’t pass up. You will need a fuel card every time you fill up your tank at an AAFES station because your fuel card also acts as a ration card. So how do you get one? How do you use it? What do you do when you’re off base? You’ve come to the right place.
First things first, you will need to get a card before you fill your tank on base. Each AAFES station is equipped to help you. Look for a sign that says “Fuel Card Issuing Here.” As long as your name is on the title of the car, you can take care of getting the card (dependents rejoice!) that will be good for everyone listed on the title. One card is issued for each vehicle. Along with the card you will receive a folder for your card, insurance paperwork, and car registration. You will need to set a PIN for the card.
Each card is good for a limited amount of fuel per month depending on the size of your car. For example, our car is a small two-door coupe. We are allotted 400 gallons per month, which should always be more than enough. If you go over that amount in a month, you will need to pay taxed, economy fuel price in euro.
In addition to rationing fuel, the card acts as a value-added credit card to pay for the fuel. You may add money to your card at any register at the AAFEs shoppettes/ gas stations, (https://odin.aafes.com/esso), or by calling 0800-181-9945.
The cards are good at on-base AAFEs stations as well as Esso stations off-base. The price is set weekly and is broadcast on AFN. The card will only work in Germany, so plan ahead if you are driving outside of the country.
Your card will have an expiration date. You will be able to use the card until the expiration date or until your registration runs out. If either of these have passed, you will not be able to get fuel with your fuel card and will need to pay that higher euro economy price.
At the station, pump your fuel first. After pumping, bring your folder as well as ID to the station attendant, usually in a booth by the pumps. At AAFEs stations, you may choose to pay with the card or by another means. You will first swipe the fuel card to take the amount of fuel off your ration. If you would like to pay with the card as well, you will swipe again or pay by your other chosen method.
Note: Other than the shoppette on Ramstein AB, there are few/no diesel pumps at on-base stations.
At an Esso station, the procedure is the same, but you will need to use the card to pay for your purchase. You will also need the PIN for purchases off base. Of course, when you are pumping the fuel, the pump does not know you will be using the card, so the regular price will show. Don’t be too shocked!
Your fuel card will only work at an Esso stations off-base. If you drive up to a non-Esso station and try to use your card, you will be out of luck and paying full price. So it’s important to know where the Esso stations are when you are driving further away from areas with US military bases.
Don’t worry about finding an Esso station, there’s an app for that! I’m not kidding! There is an Esso Station finder application available on the iTunes app store.
Along the way, you might want to know how much fuel per month or money is left on your card. There’s no app for that, but there is a website (www.shopmyexchange.come/germanyfuelcard.htm). After you have picked up your card, you will be able to look it up in the site and check for amounts there. This website also has a list (it’s 8 pages long) of Esso stations.
You can obtain a fuel card for a rented vehicle or if you are TDY to Germany. For more information see the fuel card site (www.shopmyexchange.come/germanyfuelcard/faq.htm.). However, if you use a Power of Attorney to loan someone your car, he or she will not be able to use your fuel card.
If you exceed the amount of your ration card, or if your card is expired, you will need to pay the economy price. There is a one-time grace if you pump more fuel than the dollar amount loaded on your card at an Esso station. You will need to pay the balance another way and the oversight will not be allowed twice!
Now that your car is filled up, go forth and conquer Europe! Use the autobahn, check out the beautiful countryside and enjoy cheap(er) fuel!