Fuel cards are nothing new. Like other loyalty cards, they were invented many years ago by gas station and travel centre chains as a way of building customer loyalty and - quite simply - selling more petrol. As a reward, these companies offered discounts and other benefits to their card-holding customers. Trucking companies, who inevitably use a lot more fuel than the average individual, quickly realised that fuel cards would be a fantastic way for them to save large amounts of money on fuel. On top of this, the cards could be used as a security mechanism to monitor and control truck drivers’ expenses throughout their journeys. Nowadays, fuel cards are offered not only by individual gas stations or chains but also by various national and specialised brands. Most of these companies offer discounts and prepayment options across a wide range of retail partners. Saving money on fuel is not the only benefit of fuel cards though, as we’ll see below.
What exactly is a fuel card?
A fuel card, sometimes known as a fleet card, is a payment card that looks and works like a credit card. They’re used by drivers of commercial vehicles to pay for fuel at petrol stations. Fleet cards can also be used to pay for vehicle maintenance and expenses, depending on the brand and individual business rules.
Who offers fuel cards?
Fuel cards are offered by oil companies like Shell, Chevron, Petromiralles and Exxonmobil, energy companies like Repsol, and other companies specialising in fuel card or other related services like Edenred, Petrol Plus Region, Fuelman, Copec, and Andamur.
Important variables to consider when buying a fuel card
Fixed Price vs Pump Price:
Some fuel cards allow you to pay a fixed price (across the whole country) for fuel, whereas pump price cards allow users to fill up at more locations, but you have to pay the pump price. It’s essentially a trade-off between paying less and having fewer fuel station options, or paying more to take your pick of a wide range of fuel station options.
Branded or non-branded
The choice here very much depends on the type of driving your fleet will be doing. For instance, if your fleet’s journeys are mainly local, a supermarket card may be better than a fuel brand card because of better fuel station access. On the other hand, if your fleet’s journeys span the whole country or even beyond borders, then a more general fuel brand card with retail partnerships across different regions may be preferable.
As above, choosing your fuel card coverage level depends entirely on whether your fleet’s journeys are local, regional and/or national:
If your fleet travels within one local area, you need to choose a fuel card that corresponds with the fuel stations there. That’s why going with a local supermarket card may be better than picking a big brand whose stations are located further away, which in the end would reduce your savings and driver flexibility too.
If your truckers travel at the regional level, perhaps covering several towns and cities, then you need a fuel card that comes with a strong regional fuel network. This may mean checking the service stations that are prevalent in the area before choosing a card or checking if the big brand you’re considering has retail partnerships across the whole region.
For national travel, you need a fuel card that will be accepted across a huge range of fuel stations nationwide. This will mean less route deviation and greater overall savings. Fuel cards that also cover expenses, such as food, may also be a good option for this sort of travel as drivers are more likely to need to make additional purchases.
Unsurprisingly, there are different fuel cards for different fuels. This means that you need to consider what kind of fuel your fleet or truck uses - petrol, diesel, or a mix of the two - before buying.
Some fuel cards come with the capacity to limit additional expenses. Either cards can be restricted only to fuel (most often the case) or, if you have a multi-coverage card, they can allow other purchases such as hotels and food adapted to your business’s needs. Depending on your fleet activities, you should choose the card that will bring the utmost convenience for your drivers and your business.
The 3 Key Benefits of Fuel Cards
One of the main benefits of fuel cards is that they often give you discounts on fuel in exchange for the fact that you are a loyal customer and agree to only use certain service stations. Fuel discounts can, of course, vary greatly but even tiny discounts on each tank fill-up should save your business thousands of euros over time. Nowadays with the introduction of real-time data gathering, many fuel card providers are offering regular updates on fuel prices across the country. This means that drivers can find the lowest priced fuel near them during their journeys.
Fuel cards also offer savings on products other than fuel too. Depending on the fuel card you opt for, your business may also be able to access discounts on maintenance, tires, repairs, document scanning, lodging, food and drink and other common fleet expenses.
Added Security and control
Fuel cards can give fleet managers real-time, comprehensive and convenient updates about driver spending, allowing them to budget better and set purchase limits. Having access to total overviews of fuel card spending also helps fleet managers to prevent fraud. Indeed, a fuel card is effectively a safeguard against drivers engaging in fraudulent activity while purchasing fuel and other services on the road.
Flexibility and Convenience
Fuel cards offer drivers massive flexibility in terms of choosing fuel stations as they can be used, often with sizeable discounts, across numerous retailers nationwide. As noted above, they also give drivers access to information about where the nearest, cheapest fuel station is located. This can save your business a lot of money overall as drivers use less fuel searching for appropriate fuel stations and avoid paying the more expensive pump price. Many fuel cards offer other services as well, such as tracking International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reporting and even paying drivers. This can save fleet managers and other administrative staff huge amounts of time and allow them to focus on higher-value tasks, improving operational efficiency and slashing costs.
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