AAFES Has the ‘Wright’ Stuff

The economic downturn is pushing many chains to re-evaluate payment-provider contracts to ensure that they are accepting credit-card products that will streamline front-end operations, cut costs and deliver the highest level of customer service. The objective is the same for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which is currently remediating its point-of-sale systems to accept a new credit card at all base-located gas stations.

AAFES, Dallas, has been accepting the Voyager fleet card for 10 years. The relationship was established when the U.S. General Services Administration entered into a contract with the card provider. (The GSA procures and delivers products and services to the government’s different divisions.)

The fleet card was assigned to specific drivers across the GSA and the Department of Defense who use the card as tender at dedicated gas stations and convenience store locations within Army and Air Force bases in the continental United States.

Based on the benefits it provided, the Wright Express card is now the exclusive fleet card used across AAFES gas stations and convenience stores, explained Andre Ziemann, controller, AAFES.

Members of the military police, motor pools and any soldier involved in a government vehicle department will receive the new fleet card. It will be accepted at 215 fuel-driven AAFES locations on all continental U.S. military bases.

The WEX fleet card has pre-determined limits, including what specific products drivers can charge using the card. Currently, this merchandise includes fuel and any vehicle maintenance products, such as windshield wipers, oil and antifreeze.

Card transactions are expected to account for approximately $25 million in annual sales, Ziemann reported.

“The card will work exactly the same as the Voyager card,” he said. “However, the new tender is forcing us to revamp our POS systems to accept the WEX card.”

AAFES recently modified the code on its POS units provided by SAP Triversity, from SAP, Newtown Square, Pa., to create an interim two-pass system that will allow its gas stations to process the new cards and reconcile payments with WEX.

Cards are swiped through Verifone payment terminals at POS. Account numbers are also manually entered into the cash register. (Cashiers at some gas stations can swipe the card directly into a scanner integrated into the unit’s PC.)

Data is transmitted to AAFES’ credit provider for WEX payments. The provider authorizes the user and approves the transaction. Then on a nightly basis, all card transactions are manually bundled and mailed to the credit provider, which reimburses AAFES.

AAFES is currently modifying the code on all POS units to eliminate the two-pass system and enable its back-end accounting systems to electronically reconcile payments directly with WEX. Then users can swipe cards directly through the POS terminal, which will electronically authorize transactions. Each night, AAFES can poll POS units for WEX transactions, which will be compiled into an electronic file and transmitted to WEX for reimbursement.

AAFES expects this functionality to be available by the fall.