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Would you pay for your fuel with an app?

You will soon be able to pay for liquid gold using your smartphone, thanks to a partnership in the UK between digital payment provider PayPal and oil giant Shell.

Motorists will be able to pull up at one of Shell’s petrol stations, load up the app, select the pump to be used for refuelling and then wait for the transaction to be authorised, at which point a receipt will be automatically sent to the phone so they can drive away knowing payment has been made.

The mobile payment function will be added to the existing Android and iOS Shell Motorist apps as part of an update. Payment will also be possible through the PayPal app at the ‘vast majority’ of Shell’s 1,000 petrol stations across the country.

Shell plans to offer app-based fuel payments to its invited Shell Drivers’ Club customers from April 2015 followed by a nationwide release later in the year, having undergone a ‘successful’ trial in 2013.

PayPal UKMobile commerce director Rob Harper said: “Today we’re announcing a UK first – we’ve created a simple and secure way to use your mobile phone to pay at the pump nationwide. 

“At PayPal, we’ve always believed people will use their mobile phones to pay if there’s a clear benefit. With today’s announcement, we’re offering drivers a faster way to fill up their car and pay, and get back on the road.” 

Benefit of the apps include allowing you to leave your wallet at home, whether on purpose or by accident, and avoiding the need to queue. If it catches on, it also means less time spent waiting behind fellow motorists if you do decide to buy a snack or coffee.

The downside is the fact someone still has to get out of the car and brave the elements to fill up. You could also argue it is a bad idea to encourage mobile phone use on a station forecourt and that ‘pay at pump’ alternatives do the same thing.

What do you think – a clever idea or a pointless solution to a non-existent problem?

Update: When asked about the safety implications, a Shell representative said: “It is safe to use a mobile phone from within a parked, stationary vehicle on a forecourt. As a result, this new payment solution is an in-vehicle only experience and in line with Shell’s current policy.

“Shell has also worked with the London Fire Brigade, their Primary Authority Partner, on this payment solution and its implications for mobile use on the forecourt. They’ve confirmed in-vehicle use is safe.”

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