With fleet business operations experiencing rapid growth, it’s no surprise that fleet owners and managers are looking for ways to manage fuel expenses. After all, fuel is the most significant contributor to your overall cost and directly impacts business profitability. You have solutions like fuel and credit cards that make fuel transactions easier and faster.
Fuel cards offer more efficient solutions so far as monitoring and control of fuel expenses are concerned. If you think it is just like debit or credit cards used for purchasing fuel, then you are mistaken. Fuel cards can do much more than that. It helps you keep track of purchase frequency and prices and prevent unauthorized expenses by setting limits for spending.
In this article, we will help you understand why are fuel cards more beneficial to the fleets than credit cards so that you can determine the best one suited for your needs.
What are Fuel Cards, And How Do They Work?
As the name suggests, fuel cards allow you to buy fuel and vehicle-related merchandise, such as car wash and lubricants, and for maintenance charges. You can purchase gas at a discounted rate at selected locations, per the terms between the issuing enterprise and the pumping stations.
But above all, these cards offer a convenient way to manage your company’s fuel expenses which can help you yield savings most effectively. The most significant feature of this card is that it enables you to keep track of fuel expenses and any unnecessary purchases, which forms the basis of many strategic decisions toward profitability.
A fuel card provides a simple way to pay and track your transactions. It links to your account, and the fuel’s price is charged to the account when you swipe the card at the pumping station. The card records every transaction detail and maintains the cumulative cost of fuel purchases for your reference. You can access the purchase information online through the web portal or the mobile app as soon as the driver buys it.
What are Credit cards, And How Do They Work?
Credit cards can be a convenient alternative to cash transactions, especially from fleet/truck drivers’ perspectives. But as a fleet manager, you have to think otherwise. It would help if you had spending control on credit cards.
Truckers can use the credit card for purposes other than fuel purchases and personal expenses. Unfortunately, you have limited options to restrict unauthorized and excessive spending. Therefore, using a credit card for fleet utilization may only sometimes be advantageous.
Comparison Between Fuel Card And Credit Cards
Fuel and credit cards are primarily used for payment, avoiding the hassle of handling cash. But apart from these similarities, they differ significantly in their use and functionalities. Therefore, it is essential to understand the differences between the two to make an informed decision about selecting the right one for your business. The below table highlights the differences between fuel cards and credit cards:
|Fuel Cards||Credit Cards|
|Increased security and prevention of fuel card fraud with fuel cards linked to driver and vehicle||No facility to merge credit cards to specific vehicles or drivers|
|The use is restricted to the purchase of fuel and associated products and services only||It allows the purchase of anything, both fuel and non-fuel|
|Discounts on fuel prices are available||No provision for availing discounts|
|Receive alerts on excess spending, unauthorized purchase, or fuel theft||No such alert system is available|
Benefits Offered By Fuel Card For Fleets
Convenient to Use
- Fuel cards help avoid typical problems associated with conventional fuel payments.
- No need to handle cash, eliminating issues related to cash handling.
- Fuel management systems can maintain records of fuel purchases for easy reference.
- Fuel cards support comprehensive network coverage, making purchasing and monitoring faster.
- Fleet cards offer better security and fraud prevention features that help you keep your funds safe from overspending or misuse.
- You assign a fuel card to a particular driver or car with a unique ID or PIN that tracks the card operations and reduces security risks.
- You receive alerts in your system that allows you to identify the concerned vehicle and driver initiating the fuel purchase.
- Fuel cards help you track mileage and diesel costs and take measures to improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicles.
- If the card is stolen or misused, you can instantly deactivate it and restore it afterward as required.
- Fuel cards allow fixing transaction limits to restrict overconsumption and unauthorized purchase.
- You get a clear idea of how much fuel each of your drivers spends regularly and how to deal with the additional expenses.
- You can synchronize the cards with an account that only has enough funds for fuel and transportation-related expenses.
- You can set the cards for a predetermined quantity of fuel purchases using a prepaid account to maintain a good command over your budgetary expenses.
- Fuel cards limit drivers from purchasing only fuel and related items, making tracking much more manageable.
- Fuel cards allow you to monitor patterns in spending more efficiently and help you make informed decisions.
- You can ensure that all the transactions are authentic and your company funds are not misused.
- Fuel cards can help you stay up-to-date about purchases by triggering an alert or notification. This information makes it easier for you to have better expense tracking and control.
- You can integrate your fuel card with the GPS-enabled fleet management system to access automated reports.
- Fuel cards provide reports with data accuracy without any guesswork or manual intervention.
- Fuel cards allow set-up monitoring systems to get daily, weekly, or monthly reports on fuel consumption.
- These reports help to monitor whether drivers are overspending or using company money for other purposes and restrict unapproved expenses.
- The companion app lets you download statements and check transactions conveniently by tracking the time and location of the purchase, the type and quantity, and other relevant details.
Data Access and Easy IFTA Calculation
- With fuel card integration, you can set up a system for customized reporting to track transaction details as per requirement.
- It provides access to data that help you gain insights about overall fleet usage, invoices, and fuel costs.
- The database becomes a significant resource for your accounting purpose and reduces administrative costs for recording and bookkeeping.
- Fuel card integration helps the accounting team handle a large amount of data and saves considerable time in your IFTA tax calculation and submission.
Limitations of Credit Cards
You have got some insights about fuel cards and the benefits they offer. Although credit cards can be a secure and convenient payment mode, they come with other limitations, especially when looking for the reliable transaction and monitoring solutions to control expenses. Here, we have highlighted the limitations of credit cards in terms of satisfying your fuel management needs.
With credit cards, there is no way to track different transactions a driver does, so it is harder to reconcile purchases and prevent unauthorized spending.
Credit cards allow drivers to purchase any items on credit, and there is virtually no means to control spending.
Credit cards provide some information about transactions but only contain actionable data. Hence, there needs to be more scope to set spending limits and streamline the fuel purchase process.
There is no restriction over fuel-specific purchases, which means drivers can use the credit card for purposes other than fuel purchases and personal expenses.
How To Choose the Suitable Fuel Card?
The fuel card market is growing with more demand from fleet operators. Many companies provide feature-rich fuel cards, so you choose one that offers the most significant benefits for your fleet business.
Fuel cards offer many tangible benefits in managing operations and optimizing costs in fleet operations. We recommend you analyze the factors while looking for an ideal card and select the one that best serves your purpose. Let us discuss the factors influencing the choice of a suitable card for the fleet.
- Some payment cards are suitable to operate only in a small region. If your trucks move within a limited zone, the ideal and most cost-effective solution will be the card fitted for that territory.
- If your trucks require traveling long distances across borders, select cards with better coverage areas and acceptability across a wide range of pumping stations.
- Fuel cards also guide you in finding the best service facilities and other points on your route.
Quality of Fuel
- Fuel cards generally provide mixed-type fuels, and you can select cards that would provide you with branded petrol or gas as per your choice.
- For local movements, a non-branded fuel card can be a better option.
- Fuel cards offer the flexibility of choosing a card considering the type of vehicle, fuel brand, and pricing advantages.
Availability of Discounts
- Fuel cards offering better discounts would be preferable, giving your business the best cost advantage.
- The discount amount and clauses may vary between companies, which becomes a point of consideration while selecting a card.
- There are options to avail discounts at the time of purchase, or you can opt for a rebate on the total monthly purchase value.
- Fuel cards allow purchasing various fuel-related products and services, including spare parts, repairs, and maintenance costs.
- The cards also offer loyalty points accrued for every transaction with redemption facilities.
- The unique features of fuel cards guide you to locate near pumping stations and other facilities while driving on a route.
Fuel Card or Credit Card: What Do You Prefer?
Online transaction is no longer a choice; it has become essential to our lives. People use credit cards to make quick and easy payments, even without an adequate fund balance. But, when choosing an option, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages.
Fuel cards offer more advantages than credit cards for your fleet business as you are trying to manage fuel costs with efficient monitoring and control. Fuel cards give you greater visibility over the drivers’ purchases, with data that provides valuable insights for tracking and reporting.
These cards are also more secure than credit cards and less vulnerable to fraud. As a bonus, fuel cards often come with discounts to help you save on fuel costs.
Your choice between fuel and credit cards is vital for your fleet business. A fuel card offers significant refueling and payment processing convenience and can provide multiple financial benefits. It also helps maintain better control over your operations while providing you with crucial data to help manage fuel costs, optimize routes, and maintain reasonable budgets.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can fuel cards be used for personal fuel expenses?
Ans. Fuel cards are not allowed to be used for personal fuel expenses. Fuel cards can be used only to keep company vehicles running, and these are the criteria for applying for and using a fuel card.
2. Is it cheaper to use a fuel card?
Ans. Many fuel cards offer discounts on fuel based on your volume of purchase. Some fuel cards allow loyalty points to accrue that can be redeemed later. These options make the fuel cost cheaper while using fuel cards.
3. What is the primary difference between a credit card and a fuel card?
Ans. The main difference between credit cards and fuel cards is that with credit cards, you can purchase an extensive range of products and services, whereas fuel cards allow the purchase of only fuel and fuel-related items and services.
4. Can a fuel card be used as a prepaid card?
Ans. Yes, there are options where you can use the card in prepaid mode to plan expenses and restrict overspending on fuel for specific vehicles assigned to drivers.
James Johnson is a former truck driver who now works as a writer, specializing in the trucking industry. With over 15 years of experience on the road, James has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. His writing focuses on issues such as safety, regulation, and the latest industry trends. His work has been featured in several trucking publications and he has received recognition for his contributions to the industry. In his free time, James still enjoys being around trucks and often attends truck shows and other industry events.