How Fuel Cards Work
Fuel cards are fairly straightforward for your drivers to use. They work similar to a regular bank card and your drivers will also be given a pin number to ensure the card cannot be used by others if misplaced.
Some cards will also require additional information such as the registration number and current mileage that the cashier will need to input before they can process the transaction.
Depending on whether it is for an individual’s company car or a pool car you might choose to assign a fuel card to a particular individual or vehicle. The main impact you will see from whichever method of assignment you choose is how you track fuel use, whether this is by the vehicle or the individual. For companies with several pool vehicles that are used by multiple drivers this will require more thought when making the decision than those who have one dedicated driver in their own specific company vehicle.
The fuel card company will record the amount spent on each card and put it onto the account you have with them which will then be charged back to the business within the agreed credit period. Some cards will invoice accounts weekly and others will invoice monthly, the invoice period is something you’ll want to consider as depending on the size of your fleet it can have a pretty substantial impact on your cashflow during the month.
Types of Fuel Cards
There are a number of different types of fuel cards available on the market and it's important that you consider the options as they do vary.
Not only will this affect where your drivers can fill up but also where they can do so, the price you’re paying for fuel, and additional services they can offer you.
The best option for your business will depend on where in the country your business is located and whether your drivers are travelling locally or nationally, your fleet size and vehicle make up, and your individual business fuel needs.
If you are looking to start a fuel card scheme then you’ll also want to consider how long you will need this for as we know many businesses are gradually transitioning their fleets to EVs in time for the 2030 new vehicle sale restrictions.
At Wessex Fleet we can manage fuel cards for you and we currently work with a number of providers, though our two preferred providers are currently Allstar and Fuel Genie and can help advise you on what would be the best option for your business if you get in touch with us on 01722 322 888.
Business Benefits of Fuel Cards
There are a number of reasons that offering fuel cards to your employees will be beneficial for your business.
Fuel cards cost little to set up and depending on the card you opt for you will not need to pay many fees for administration of the service.
This relatively small outlay can save you money in a number of other areas.
Some fuel cards will offer you discounts on fuel at particular stations or access to bunker sites where drivers will be able to purchase fuel at much cheaper rates.
It reduces the time your drivers and fleet managers speed on gathering multiple fuel receipts, completing expense forms, managing these and comparing them to driver time sheets and driving habits. It also mitigates the risk of fuel receipts being lost or misplaced which leads to the business being unable to reclaim VAT and has fuel tax implications for the driver.
Record of All Transactions
Using fuel cards means all your fuel transactions will be collated on one account, making it easy for you to view your fuel spending, streamlining the VAT reclaim process, and produce easy to read reports to spot areas of inefficient fuel usage.
Being able to see which vehicles or drivers are spending more on fuel than others can highlight mechanical issues with the vehicle that require looking at or the potential for more training on efficient driving for some drivers. This in turn can help save you more money as they fill up less.
Several fuel cards offer you online software that goes beyond reporting and allows you to manage your fuel card accounts from a mobile device with actionable data on spending, mpg for your vehicles, and driver habits.
Using a fuel card can help alleviate the pressure on the business’ finances as the credit period can be weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly so that you make regular and expected payments for the fuel used by all your drivers rather than irregular payments across the entire month as drivers fill up as and when needed using company cards or having one larger hit when expenses for the cost of fuel they have purchased but used for business travel are paid out.
This can also help your business with budget planning as you can estimate the cost of fuel at regular intervals.
Improved Driver Experience
Not only does having a fuel card scheme make it easier for your fleet team to manage but it also makes filling up easier for drivers.
We’ve already mentioned the easier reporting on their fuel transactions and depending on your individual company’s internal policy may remove the need for them to keep and pass on fuel receipts.
It can also remove the need for them to complete expense forms, which can be complex and time consuming for drivers – especially if they’re not done promptly.
If your drivers would previously pay for fuel using their own card and then claiming the cost back from work via expense forms, then they may have had some personal cashflow concerns depending on their fuel consumption. Using a fuel card will remove this potential worry as well as be less of a security risk if they were previously paying in cash.
A lot of modern fuel card providers also offer their clients mapping or locator tools so drivers can find their nearest petrol station when running low, plan longer routes with convenient stopping points and much more. This again makes it much easier for your drivers.
We briefly mentioned above that carrying a large amount of cash to pay for petrol can be a security risk for your drivers, fuel cards will remove the risk of theft or the money being lost and unrecoverable.
Most fuel cards will have the security measure of a pin number that drivers will need to enter in order to make a payment and some have the additional step of needing the registration number, which not only prevents an external thief from using the card but also reduces the risk of it being used by drivers on personal vehicles.
The limited products a fuel card can be used on will also reduce the potential for the card to be misused by drivers in a way that a company credit or debit card does not.
Top Five Reasons to Offer Your Drivers Fuel Cards
1. Employees will have a reliable method of payment with them when on the roads
2. Convenient for drivers and administrators to keep an account of transactions
3. Minimised risk of misuse compared to other payment methods
4. More manageable and structured payments for fuel bills
5. Reporting functions allow you to spot areas of concern and act quickly on them
Considerations with Fuel Cards
Though there are many benefits to offering fuel cards there are a few aspects of them that you’ll want to consider.
The first thing you want to think about is whether fuel cards are the best option for your fleet. You’ll maybe want to consider other options available to provide your drivers with fuel, such as claiming fuel costs back via expenses or company credit cards, and whether these are viable for you.
You should be aware that some fuel cards may have charges associated with using and managing fuel accounts. These include:
- Annual card charges
- Network service fees
- Replacement card charges
- Convenience charges
- Changing of details fee
- Invoicing fee
- Direct debit admin fee
- Risk-based fee
When looking at available fuel cards it’s important to find out whether the options you are considering have any of these charges and if they do whether the other services they provide are worth it for your business.
You’ll also want to consider the best method of payment for your business, how regularly you will want to make payments and what impact this will have on your finances. We’ve mentioned that it helps in terms if reducing the number of payments the business is making for fuel but the flip side of this is that the payments will be larger. We’ve got a more detailed section on payments below.
Paying for a Fuel Card
This section will look at some of the associated costs of having a fuel card system and how you'll actually pay for the fuel.
Fuel Card Rates
Fuel cards fall into two categories of prices when paying for fuel: pump related prices and fixed weekly prices.
Pump price is simply the price shown at the pump that your driver is using to fill up. This price can fluctuate daily depending on the market.
The benefit of opting for a card that offers pump price is that drivers can use it across a wider network, giving them greater flexibility on where they can fill up.
A fixed price card will set the rate you pay for fuel at a weekly rate that remains the same throughout the week even if the price at the pump rises. This means you will know what you’re being charged for fuel and allow you to budget based on this. Fixed weekly rates are often cheaper than the price at the pump which can save your business money, though they are not accepted at as wide a network of fuel garages.
The option you select will depend on; the size of your business, the fuel type needed, where you are based and your drivers will be filling up, how much fuel you use and many other factors.
Paying for Fuel
Depending on the fuel card you opt for you can receive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly invoices for the fuel and other authorised purchased across all your fuel cards in the billing period.
You will then need to pay the invoice, which most businesses find is easiest to do by having a direct debit set up from their business account.