What is a Fuel Card?
A fuel card is a card that your business provides you with in order to pay for fuel that you use for business purposes.
You might also use it for fuel that is used for personal travel, but this will have tax implications that we look at below. Unless you are using a pool car then you will find that you will usually end up using the fuel card for personal journeys as well as it is difficult to separate them in a fuel tank.
A fuel card is like a credit or debit card however what it can be used on is restricted to petrol or diesel. Some options can also be used for paying tolls or purchasing particular products from the forecourt though these are less common.
How do Fuel Cards Work?
Fuel cards work much in the same way as a credit or debit card using a chip and pin to make a payment at the petrol station.
Some require additional information, such as the registration or mileage to be entered as well, and so cannot always be used at the pump to pay before filling up.
Your employer might provide cards for individual drivers or specific vehicles for pool cars. They might also choose to place a daily spend cap on the card, though you should be notified of this when you are given the card to avoid overspending.
Types of Fuel Cards
There are a variety of different fuel cards available on the market but making the choice on which one you receive is usually made at a business level and your employer will advise you which one you will be given.
It’s important for you to know that there are different types of fuel cards and so not every petrol station will accept all kinds of fuel cards.
Considerations with a Fuel Card
Though there are benefits to taking a fuel card there are other factors that you need to consider.
Firstly, what fuel does your vehicle use? Fuel cards are currently only compatible with petrol or diesel models so if you have an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid that you predominantly use in its electric mode then a fuel card won't be as useful for you. For more information on the different fuel types click here.
You’ll need to look at the fuel card that your business offers and the locations it is accepted at. Not all fuel stations accept all fuel cards, and you should check there are appropriate stations in your area. For some fuel cards, such as those which provide reduced rates via bunker sites, the location of sites can be spread out and more difficult to reach when you’re running low on fuel.
You’ll need to think about how a fuel card will be used, if your business will restrict how this is used and whether that will be manageable for you, for example if you prefer to top up when your fuel dips below a quarter tank but there’s a £30 limit on how much you can spend in one day on the car then this might not work.
The biggest consideration though is the tax implications of having a fuel card. Just like you need to pay benefit in kind (BIK) tax for the use of a company car for personal travel you will need to pay for fuel that is available for personal journeys.
As fuel is an essential element for running the engine we know it can be nigh on impossible to separate the fuel that is purchased by the business and fuel you’ve purchased yourself so that your employer only pays for business journeys. This can be a complex process to unravel when it comes to making expense claims or working out when to use the fuel card which is why some companies choose to allow their drivers to use the company fuel card for any fill up of a company vehicle and then they and the driver pay tax on the fuel used for personal trips.
We’ve got a detailed guide here that looks at how company fuel tax works and how it will be calculated for you.
Using a Fuel Card
When you’re using a fuel card we’ve got a few tips to help make filling up a little smoother for you.
Before using the pump make sure that the petrol station accepts the fuel card type you have, especially if it is a station you have not used before.
For some fuel cards you will need your registration and current mileage at the till for the cashier to be able to process the transaction. We advise making a note of these before you head in to pay so that you’re not running about to get them.
If the fuel card you’re using is assigned to a particular vehicle then we also advise ensuring you know the pin for it as well before you head to the checkout.
Should I Take a Fuel Card?
Ultimately you will need to weigh up the pros and cons explored above for fuel cards to decide whether it will be beneficial for you.
Every driver is different and so their driving habits and needs will also be different which is why we cannot give a blanket yes or no answer to this question. However, we can provide you with some general guideline questions to help you decide whether it will be beneficial.
- How are you or your employer currently paying for fuel in your vehicle?
- What fuel card are you being offered?
- Is it one accepted at local fuel stations?
- How many business journeys do you do?
- Do you currently pay company fuel tax?
- If not, what would your expected fuel tax rate be? (Find out more here.)
- Does your company place restrictions on the use of the card?
Driver Fuel Card FAQs
Am I Eligible for a Fuel Card?
This will depend on your employer and whether or not they offer fuel cards. If they do provide fuel cards they may not be available to all employees and be issued based on their eligibility criteria.
We advise talking to your fleet management team to learn more about your business' fuel card policy.
Who Can Use a Fuel Card?
Again this will depend on your company's fuel card policy. However, if you have been issued a fuel card to use then you should also be aware of any additional restrictions there may be. Some fuel cards require you to enter the registration details or the garage to check this against the car that is being filled up so you will not be able to use the fuel card on alternative vehicles.
How to Apply for a Fuel Card
The process for drivers applying for a fuel card will be different based on the card provider your business is with and the individual business' policy so we recommend speaking to your fleet management team to confirm how your fuel card application works.
If your company vehicles are managed by Wessex Fleet then get in touch with us and we'll be able to advise on the application process for you.
How Will a Fuel Card Benefit You?
There are many benefits to taking out a fuel card including:
- Less work in submitting fuel receipts or claiming expenses
- Cheaper fuel prices depending on the card
- Less worry about the cost of fuel
- No waiting for repayment from the business
Can a Fuel Card be Declined?
There are a few circumstances when your fuel card may not be accepted that you should be aware of though these are rare and unlikely to occur. The first is if you go to a service station that does not accept the fuel card you have. If you are at a garage you have not used before then we would recommend checking with them that they accept your card before
Which Type of Fuel Card is Right for You?
Unfortunately, most drivers will not have the choice on what fuel card they use as this is a decision made at a business level. However, if your company offers multiple fuel cards then you might be able to choose from these which is the best one for you.
There are a few things we advise that you ask yourself when deciding on the best fuel card which include "Is this card accepted by my local fuel stations?" and "How easy is it to use this fuel card (ie are there a number of steps like adding your mileage or registration)?"