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Fuel Card or Credit Card: Which is Right for Your Fleet?

17
June

With today’s gasoline prices, businesses are always looking for a way to save on fuel. Most major fuel brands in the United States now offer fuel cards; cards that work much like credit cards with some key differences. Both consumers and businesses should carefully consider whether a fuel card or a credit card is the right tool to help lower high fuel costs.

Fuel Cards for Fleets

Fuel cards offer many benefits to businesses that are managing fleets. Many of today’s fuel cards offer the benefit of being able to monitor and control spending, a valuable tool for businesses of all sizes. For example, BP’s fuel cards allow fleet managers to set limits by number of transactions per day or by gallons of gas per week or month, and Shell allows managers to restrict purchases to fuel only. In addition, fuel cards offer additional security against fraud for fleets. Many cards require drivers to provide an identification number when making purchases, which ensures that cards cannot be used by unauthorized personnel. Most cards also offer detailed reports on spending for each card.

Fuel cards offer excellent protections for businesses, but there are some downsides. Small businesses may not be able to take advantage of fuel rebates offered by fleet cards. ExxonMobil’s fleet card requires a 500 gallon minimum purchase per month in order for businesses to start receiving rebates. The BP fuel card that is aimed at small businesses does not offer a rebate at all, and the mid-sized business card requires a minimum purchase of 5000 gallons per month in order to avoid a $10 monthly fee. Also, most fuel cards only work within their brand, so drivers are restricted to one brand of gas stations. Thee interest rates on fuel cards are high, with most of them being variable rates. Many fuel cards also only offer a grace period on purchases if the balance is paid in full every month, making a fuel card a poor choice for any business that may need to carry a a balance on fuel purchases.

Credit Cards for Fleets

A business credit card may be a better solution for businesses with smaller fleets, or businesses who may not be able to pay their fuel balances in full every month. The Discover Business Card offers 2% cash back on the first $2000 in gasoline purchases each year, and 1% cash back on all subsequent gasoline purchases. The Bank of America Cash Rewards for Business card offers 3% back on gasoline purchases. Unlike fuel cards, there is no minimum purchase to begin receiving rebates for either card. A business credit card allows drivers to use gas stations most convenient to their routes, regardless of brand.

A business credit card may not be the right solution for every business. Like fuel cards, the interest rates on business credit cards are generally both variable, and high, making them a poor choice for any business that may need to carry a balance on fuel purchases. Business credit cards also do not offer the ability to restrict fleet spending, which may raise fuel costs. Detailed spending reports are also not available, though monthly statements detailing purchase locations and amounts are.

Saving Money

Fuel cards are the best money saving solution for medium to large businesses with sizable fleets. These are businesses that can easily meet the minimum amount of gallons per month required to take advantage of fuel rebates. The ability to monitor spending in detail and set spending controls mean that businesses may see reduced fraud and additional savings.

Business credit cards are a better choice for small businesses who may not be able to meet the minimum amount of gallons per month required by fuel cards to begin receiving rebates. Unlike fuel cards, business cards do not require a minimum purchase to start receiving rebates.

Both fuel cards and business credit cards can help businesses save money on fuel expenses. However, with the high interest rates on these cards, businesses will only see savings if they pay their balances in full every month.

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