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Pumping you up on fuel rules

By STEPH EDINGTON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 23, 2013

Living in Europe means you’ll have a few extra steps to take when refueling your vehicle. Knowing the rules regarding tax-free fuel and rations will ensure that you continue to purchase discounted fuel at the current tax-free price arranged between the U.S. government and your host country.

Prices at the pump

Fuel in Europe is heavily taxed compared to the States and can be twice as expensive. Luckily, active-duty servicemembers, their dependents, contractors and Department of Defense civilians are eligible for discounted fuel prices through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service fuel-ration program (specifics vary per country). Regardless of where you are stationed in Europe, there are a few things to consider before you pull up to the pump.

Sign up to pump

After you buy a car or your vehicle arrives from overseas shipment, you have 30 days to register it and apply for the fuel-ration program, or you could lose ration privileges. Rental cars require a separate fuel ration application and card than your POV. Ration amounts for rental cars will be based on the time left on the rental contract, up to one month. A new application is required every 30 days for long-term rental cars.

Who can pump

Your fuel ration is specific to you, as the sponsor, and your license plate(s). Your dependents are authorized to use your account, which is opened under your Social Security number for all vehicles registered to you, and your ration allowance. Only vehicles that are registered to you can receive reduced-rate fuel. If you or your dependents are caught fueling a non-authorized vehicle, or a non-authorized person is caught trying to fuel any vehicle using your fuel-ration account, punitive action may be taken against you.

Every time you fuel your car, be sure to present the proper identification and documentation showing you are entitled to purchase fuel at a reduced rate (per the specifics of your country’s AAFES fuel-ration program), or you will have to pay the local economy's prices. Even if you aren’t asked for every form of identification or paperwork every time you fuel up, don’t become complacent. The attendant has the right to ask for all the necessary documents, and if you can’t produce them, they can deny your transaction and you will be forced to pay the economy price for your fuel. Keep all documents valid, including registration and IDs pertaining to the fuel-ration program, to continue receiving the reduced price.

You can authorize someone else to drive your vehicle through a special power of attorney, but that person is not authorized to use your fuel-ration allowance. If you deploy and have no dependents, you may add an ID cardholder as an authorized driver to your vehicle registration; he/she is eligible to drive your vehicle and use your fuel-ration allowance. To do that, go with the additional driver to your local vehicle registration office and take your current registration and a copy of your deployment orders. You must pay the fee to reregister your vehicle, even if the current registration is not expired.

What to pump

Your ration is specific to the type of fuel your car takes. Diesel cards for privately own vehicles are coded to allow purchase of only diesel fuel. POV gas cards are coded to allow purchase of only regular, super or super-plus fuel. Using the card to purchase a type of fuel other than that which is authorized will result in being charged the full local economy's price for the fuel.

How much to pump

Buying more than your allotted fuel ration will result in having to pay economy prices. To verify how much your fuel ration is, go to https://odin.aafes.com/esso/Default.aspx to log into your account. You will need the sponsor’s Social Security number and license plate number for the Esso account. Diesel may not be available at all on-post Exchange gas stations. If you go over your rationed amount when fueling your vehicle on post, you will be charged the economy price for all fuel exceeding your ration. If you go over your rationed allowance off post, you will have to pay for the entire transaction in the local currency at the economy price, not just the fuel amount exceeding your ration.

Where to pump

Your fuel-ration account will work only in the country where it was issued. Even though AAFES oversees the U.S. fuel-rationing program, each host nation in Europe has its own procedures and program. However, if you are on temporary duty or on leave to another host nation that has a fuel-rationing program, you may be able to take your official TDY or leave paperwork to a U.S. forces installation in that country and temporarily sign up for that country’s tax-free fuel program for the duration of your stay. Call ahead to the office that authorizes rationed fuel for visitors to check for eligibility. This will likely be the military police (Army), security forces (Air Force) or rationed product control (Navy).

Knowing these rules can save you a lot of cash and hassle, and ensure that you can always get where you need to go in your new country of residence.

For more information about the AAFES fuel-ration system in the country you are stationed in, pick up a Stars and Stripes Road Guide to keep in your vehicle. The Road Guide is filled with useful information to get you on the road and keep you safe.

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Want more great articles and advice for living in Europe?
Check out the digital version of the Stripes Welcome to Europe Guide online: http://www.stripes.com/special-pubs/welcome-to-europe

Need your own copy of the Stripes Welcome to Europe Guide?
Order yours at the Stripes Store: http://www.stripesstore.com/welcometoeuropeguide.aspx

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