As an owner of a fleet of vans, trucks or other vehicles, saving where you can is paramount. Fuel and maintenance costs are a top priority for drivers or owners of the fleet. Luckily, there are many options to address both of these costs and reporting can be available on a daily, weekly and monthly cycle. Comprehensive and timely reporting can be critical to the overall success of the business and can be automatically provided with the use of fleet fuel cards.
What Are Fleet Fuel Cards
A fleet card, or also referred to as a fuel card, is a payment card that can be used for fuel at gas stations along with some vehicle maintenance costs. Most function similarly to a charge or credit card. As a bonus, fleet cards can often provide comprehensive reports that are available in real-time which allows fleet owners to have this critical information at their fingertips in an instant.
Fleets cards are commonly issued by either an oil-brand company, such as Shell, or companies that specialize in providing cards, such as WEX. We will discuss both routes, weighing their benefits and drawbacks.
How Fleet Fuel Cards Work
The functionality of the fleet fuel card is similar to using a credit card at the pump. There may be additional information needed during the card authorization, such as the input of a unit number, current vehicle mileage or a driver number. This additional information may be set by the fleet owner as a means of generating additional reporting metrics or general tracking purposes.
Benefits of Fleet Fuel Cards
The two major benefits of fuel cards are the savings at the pump, also known as wholesale pricing, and the ease of obtaining reports related to the card’s usage in real-time. These cards also allow limits to be set on employee cards such as the amount of fuel that can be purchased per transaction, per day and per week. This gives the card owner full control on how the card can and can’t be used. This is a secure feature to have versus using credit cards.
Who Fleet Fuel Cards Are For
Fleet fuel cards are designed for businesses of all sizes. Small companies that may have two to five trucks such as plumbing, electrical or roofing companies to full-scale national operations with hundreds or thousands of vans can benefit from fleet fuel cards.
Fleet fuel cards are generally advised for companies that purchase in excess of 1,000 gallons of fuel per month. This is typically when discounts and rebates will start to kick in or accelerate. If purchasing less than this, business credit cards with bonuses on fuel may be a better option.
Network Coverage for Fleet Fuel Cards
Selecting a fuel card may seem as simple as knowing what you’ll save at the pump, but having sufficient network coverage should be a key consideration as well. The same logic can be applied when choosing a cell phone provider based on coverage in a specific area. It wouldn’t be practical to have high savings on a fuel card if the network in which you can use the card doesn’t align with where you need it to.
While there are plenty of options when it comes to deciding on a card, we’ll be covering some of the popular and high-benefit cards that could be considered for use within the U.S. It’s worthwhile to invest some time into researching cards that are along your typical driving routes, but here is a great place to start.
Best Fleet Fuel Card Providers
We start at WEX due to their universally large network, covering 95% of U.S. fuel stations and 45,000 service stations. While WEX offers over 70+ different fleet cards, the simplest is the WEX FlexCard. With a $0.03 per gallon rebate and no annual, card or setup fee, this card is a rewarding option. Brands associated within the WEX network include 76, BP, ExxonMobil, Sunoco and more.
Automatic accounting, customizable report options and spending controls from either online or mobile via the WEX Connect app (available on Android and iOS) make WEX a popular choice among business owners. Also worth mentioning is the ability to carry a balance month to month. While this will come at a cost of having to pay interest on a balance, it provides peace of mind when cash flow may be tight.
Another universal card comes from Fuelman. While offering a number of fleet cards, we’ll cover the recommended Fuelman Simple Saver Plus card. This card offers $0.10 off per gallon at Pilot, Speedway and Kwik Trip locations and $0.02 at other Fuelman locations. This could allow for substantial savings when many gallons are purchased from their 50,000+ station network.
The downside is a per card fee of $8 per month but that is waived for the first six months. Detailed fuel and tax reporting, 24/7 roadside assistance, fraud monitoring and business identity protections are included. Also offered is a $50 annual loyalty bonus which partially offsets the monthly fee.
While Comdata offers a smaller universal network of 8,000+ locations, the Comdata Fleet Card does offer a $0.10 per gallon discount at Pilot and Flying J locations. Their program also offers FleetAdvance, a tool displaying the best fuel prices in an area, which can help improve purchasing decisions. Comdata OneLooks offers a powerful analytics tool for more effective management.
There is a $5 per card monthly fee after incurring a one-time $50 account setup fee. While there are fees, the Comdata Fleet Card is a part of a national tire discount program, offering savings of up to 65% on tires and retreads at over 3,000 locations, which is handy for mid to large fleets. This could easily cover the card fees.
Our first brand-specific card comes from ExxonMobil, which is the ExxonMobil Business Fleet card. This card offers a tier-based rebate program, offering up to $0.06 per gallon back when purchasing fuel from Exxon or Mobil.
This card offers real-time alerts such as when drivers spend more than an allotted amount, valuable when managing expenses. It also comes with the ability to set spending limits to combat budget-busting. Reports offer insights into items such as which drivers are refueling and where they’re refueling, confirming mileage at each fill-up and miles per gallon reporting.
With over 11,500 Exxon and Mobil locations, this is one of the largest brand networks. While this card is for exclusive use at Exxon or Mobil, there is an upgraded universal version that can be used within WEX’s network, but the premium rebate would still only apply to Exxon and Mobil fuel purchases.
The Sunoco Suntrak® Card offers a fueling option within the 5,000-strong Sunoco network. With no setup, card or annual fees, this card offers rebates up to $0.06 per gallon based on the number of gallons purchased. This card often comes with a short promotional offer, netting $0.25 per gallon rebate for the first 60 days.
The Sunoco Card comes with what you expect with fleet cards, including employee spend limits, real-time alerts, reporting and access to your account both online and mobile. Similar to ExxonMobil, there is a universal Sunoco fleet card option, to expand the usability of the card.
With acceptance at over 13,000 Shell stations, the Shell Fleet Plus Card makes it easy to save up to $0.06 per gallon based on the amount purchased. This card comes with no monthly, annual or card fees. It does offer controls such as when and who may make purchases as well as for how much.
Shell also has a partnership with Jiffy Lube, offering 15% off on oil changes and other preventive services. This is a handy perk given the amount of miles that are potentially put on your fleet.
With Savings up to $0.06 per gallon on fuel purchases at BP or Amoco branded locations, it is easy to understand the appeal of the BP Business Solutions Plus or the BP Business Solutions Mastercard. The former is designed for the small to medium-sized fleet and is accepted exclusively at around 7,500 BP and Amoco locations. The full Mastercard version can be used at more than 175,000 fueling locations, as the vast majority of gas stations will accept Mastercard.
Controls come in the form of use limits by day, week or month. Other security measures include requiring driver ID and odometer readings along with ease of deactivating lost or stolen cards online or via phone.
Both options charge a $10 monthly account fee (waived if 5,000+ gallons of fuel per month purchased) and can be used like a credit card, offering peace of mind if cash flow is tight at times vs a charge card where the balance is due in full each month. Expect to pay interest if opting to carry a balance month to month.
The biggest takeaway in choosing a fleet fuel card is to place a primary focus on the region in which your fleet is operating. While it may be easy to jump for the highest discount, it serves little value if you cannot take advantage of it.
If operating in a small region, the station-specific cards may make more sense given availability in the area. For those with coast to coast driving needs, the universal cards may make more sense. Overall, there is a lot to consider. The region, discounts, fee structure, controls and back-end reporting should all weigh in on what ultimately works best for you.