Fuel Cards vs Credit Cards

21/11/2019

With the fluctuating price of fuel starting to creep back up, you may be looking at ways to reduce your fuel costs. If your drivers are currently using a fleet credit card or paying cash for their fuel, have you thought about using fuel cards instead? 

Although they may seem similar to credit cards, it’s not always efficient to use a credit card for fleet usage. In fact, if you’ve been using a fleet credit card for fuel benefits, you may be missing out on several key benefits provided by fuel cards. Why not take a look at a side by side comparison to see which payment method is best for your business?

What is a Fuel Card?

A fuel card is used to pay for fuel, vehicle maintenance and expenses as permitted by the fleet manager. Typically, fuel cards are pre-paid cards or have an agreed spending limit. Find out how fuel cards work for employees in our recent blog post. Just like other cards, fuel cards can be used with a chip and pin mechanism. Read the pros and cons of fuel cards below, and also feel free to read our blog post on why a fuel card will save you money.

Advantages:

Easy Fuel Card Monitoring - Fuel cards allow you to collect detailed data about your fleet’s fuel usage. Most fuel card providers can compile this information in a series of reports that make managing the fuel efficiency of your business simple. It’s also possible to monitor fuel usage from card management software which is generally available as an online dashboard or app. This allows fleet managers to spot patterns and ways to streamline fuel efficiency and spend more effectively. Discover these five simple fuel card management features or find out how to review usage of fuel cards here.

Security Measures in Place - Fuel cards can be individually assigned to a driver or vehicle and allocated with a unique ID/PIN to reduce security risks. All fleet managers will have secure access to the account and will be able to freeze or cancel cards immediately if they are lost or stolen and reactivate or order new cards when needed.

Simple to Control Spend – Most fuel cards give you the option to limit purchases to just fuel. This will be beneficial for your accounts team as the invoice won’t need to be broken down or split. You’ll also rest assured your drivers aren’t using company funds to cover personal expenses.

No Credit Required - A pre-pay fuel account allows you to pre-load your fuel card with a set amount of litres. Look out for a Flexi-pay card from your fuel card provider. The Flexi-pay option ensures you have access to a fixed, commercially related diesel price, whilst remaining firmly in control of spending limits on the card.

Interest-Free and Clear Fees – Depending on your fuel card provider, you can secure a fuel card with a clear understanding of fees from the outset instead of hidden costs along the way. Most fuel card providers don’t charge interest either. We have an extensive blog post which outlines what to expect from industry fuel card fees, as well as a guide to helping you check whether hidden fuel card charges are ramping up your fuel card costs.

Discounts Available – Since fuel card companies control the price per litre for their fuel card customers, fuel card holders benefit from discounts on fuel which add up over time. Fuel card providers purchase significant amounts of fuel and are therefore highly valued by oil networks. This allows a more favourable rate which some fuel card companies endeavour to pass on to their customers.

Supermarket Points – With the supermarket fuel cards available, your fleet could also be collecting supermarket loyalty points every time they fill up at a supermarket. Find out more about what a supermarket fuel card is.

Reduced Administration Time - Fuel cards can drastically reduce time spent on administrative tasks like collecting receipts, sorting expense forms, or chasing employees for business mileage. If you choose carefully, your fuel card provider can send you a single, itemised HMRC-friendly and VAT approved invoice. We go into further detail in our blog post, which explains three time savers a fuel card provides.

Disadvantages:

Restricted to Business Use Only – Fuel card accounts can only be set up by businesses, so can’t be set up for personal use. Find out more about who can apply for fuel cards here.

Restricted Networks of Fuel Stations – Depending on which card you choose, you could be restricting your drivers to a particular network of fuel stations only. However, this isn’t the rule and there’s no reason you shouldn’t tailor your card to suit the networks you most need. If you’re wondering where fuel cards are accepted, you might find our blog post helpful.

Cost per Card – Most fuel card providers charge a one-time fee for each card to cover the cost of manufacturing, engraving and shipping.

Minimum Fuel Spend – Most fuel card providers will expect your fleet to be spending a minimum of £500-£1000 on fuel per month. If your fleet is spending less than this, it’s unlikely your business will benefit financially from having a fuel card account.

What is a Credit Card?

While most people know what a credit card is, not as many people are aware of how it differs from a fuel card. Unlike fuel cards, a credit card enables the user to pay for goods and services on the proviso that the cardholder pays the card issuer back the full amount, as well as other charges. Check out how using a credit card for fuel benefits businesses:

Advantages:

Boosted Business Credit Rating – Provided payments are timely, giving your drivers company credit cards for purchasing fuel can benefit your company in the long run by building a stellar credit rating.

Rewards Scheme – Using a company credit card for fuel will help your business be eligible for business-related perks such as business travel discounts.

Disadvantages:

Increased Administration Time – All receipts must be kept and invoicing with VAT is a longer process.

Less Secure - Credit cards are generally more susceptible to cloning and fraud, making them a potential liability if multiple company cards are being used around the country.

Fuel Discounts not Available – Because credit card companies are not purchasing fuel and reselling it, fuel discounts are not available through credit cards.

APR Rates and Interest may Vary – It can be tricky to get your head around credit card fees, especially if they change after a specific time period. Credit cards often come with hidden fees to be aware of.

If you wish to find out more about our range of fuel cards, please read our informative blog or try our comparison tool.