Cash and credit cards have long been the traditional methods of helping drivers cover road-related expenses like gas and vehicle fleet maintenance. But they come with some major limitations.
For starters, they lack custom spending controls and the ability to monitor performance with valuable mileage data. Plus, they require manual expense reports and may not include access to the best fuel prices.
Discounts and Rewards
A fuel card is a payment option to control what drivers purchase at the pump. They can be designated to a specific driver or vehicle and have unique IDs/PINs to help prevent employee theft or fraud at the pump. Cards can also be tracked and canceled as needed to limit unnecessary spending. Additionally, fuel cards can offer perks and discounts for purchasing gas within their network, similar to airline mileage programs.
Compared to cash or credit cards, the most significant benefit of fuel cards is their ease of use. The best fuel credit cards are designed to streamline purchasing fuel for fleet vehicles. The most popular fuel card options are easy to learn and use and can be implemented in just a few days.
They provide expanded tools to protect against misuse by allowing businesses to set customized limits on total spending, geographic areas, and time of day. Moreover, some fuel cards can also be re-issued or revoked instantly to protect against theft and fraud. Fuel cards can also be configured to upload fuel purchase data near-instantly, drastically simplifying expense reporting and IFTA record keeping.
Many traditional payment methods don’t offer these features, which can be a major drawback for business owners. In addition, these methods often don’t give drivers the performance information they need to optimize their driving habits or identify maintenance issues. Fuel cards can fix this problem by offering mileage tracking and analytical tools that improve fleet efficiency.
Access to Commercial Fuel Sites
When choosing a fuel card, look for one not restricted to a single gas station brand. This ensures the card can be used anywhere in the country. It also means you can reap unavailable rewards and benefits with co-branded cards.
Branded cards offer rebates on fuel purchases, but they are typically limited to a particular gas station chain and require a certain number of gallons to receive the full rebate. A company that issues a fleet card offers access to a large network of partner stations and provides real-time purchase transaction data on online accounts that correspond to each card.
This provides valuable insights into how a fleet operates and can help optimize performance. In addition, it eliminates the need to collect paper receipts and saves time on expense reporting.
Some fleet cards have a low annual fee and provide employee cards at no additional cost. Others have a higher fee but provide additional perks like a vehicle purchase protection policy, roadside assistance, and an introductory bonus offer. When selecting a card, consider how much you’ll spend on fuel and whether the benefits will offset the annual fee. Also, ensure the card has features that allow you to control how and when drivers use the card. For example, some cards let you set day and time restrictions on specific cards so they can only be used during business hours.
Compared to more traditional payment methods like cash or company credit cards, fuel cards offer several important benefits for fleets. These include preventing fraud, eliminating manual expense report processes, and monitoring performance by capturing mileage data.
Unlike traditional payment methods, most fuel cards have built-in security features such as transaction limits and expiration dates. Additionally, most fuel card programs have a dedicated customer service team available to assist in case of a problem. In addition, many fleet fuel card providers are moving beyond magnetic strip technology and using smart chips to offer even more security through more enforceable fueling limits.
Additionally, because they are designed for fleet use, most fuel cards also have additional business features. These may include automatic expense tracking and documentation that makes International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) record keeping easier.
Additionally, some fuel cards offer cost savings and rebates for fuel purchases within their network of truck stops. These discounts and rewards can significantly offset the cost of fueling.
Fuel card providers tend to have more security and fraud protection layers than traditional credit cards. These include PIN authentication, driver identification, and a variety of other methods. Fuel cards are also associated with a specific account that only allows funds to be spent on fuel and transportation-related expenses, which helps limit potential fraud.
Fleet fuel cards are typically simpler to monitor and manage than cash or credit cards. They allow businesses to track where and when fuel was purchased, which vehicle was used, and other important purchase information. This provides valuable insight into expense reporting, budgeting, tax season, etc. This is an advantage that credit cards cannot offer.
Using a fuel card allows businesses to take advantage of rewards and benefits such as fuel surcharge waivers and accelerated reward points. These incentives can be a big benefit to businesses with significant fuel expenses. However, most fuel cards are co-branded with a certain fuel retailer. This means you’ll only receive the benefits if you buy fuel at their partner locations, not all retailers.
In addition to discounts and convenience, fuel cards provide business owners with real-time insight into their expenses. This can help them make informed purchasing decisions and cut operational inefficiency and costs. Better spending controls that save just a few dollars in misuse per month can add up to thousands of dollars in savings for a year.