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Fuel card vs. credit card: which one is best?

As a fleet manager or business owner, one priority is ensuring that over-the-road drivers can access funds to cover expenses like fuel. The most pragmatic way to empower your drivers is to issue each of them a payment card. But should you issue fuel cards or credit cards to your drivers? 

Take a closer look at both to decide which payment solution is best for your fleet. 

What is a fuel card?

Fuel cards are exactly what they sound like: cards designed to buy fuel and fuel alone. Modern fuel cards can be used to purchase all types of fuel, including diesel. 

Fuel cards can also be used for reefer fuel, which is the type of fuel used to power refrigeration systems on temperature-controlled trailers. It powers several other pieces of equipment as well. 

When drivers buy fuel with a gas card, they enter basic information at the pump. This may include vehicle or employee numbers, and vehicle mileage. Capturing details like these can improve spending control. 

What is a credit card?

Credit cards can be used to purchase fuel as well. However, drivers will not be required to input their vehicle mileage, user number or additional information. All they have to do is swipe their card, pump the fuel and get back on the road. 

While this sounds convenient from the driver’s perspective, credit cards have downsides. The biggest concern in the eyes of fleet owners or managers is that they offer virtually no prepurchase spending control. 

Drivers can use credit cards to cover other work-related expenses, like repairs or truck stop fees. Unscrupulous drivers can also use them to pay for personal expenses. 

Comparing fuel cards and credit cards

Before you choose between fuel cards and credit cards, consider these factors:

Vehicle assignment

Fuel cards can be assigned to a vehicle and a driver. When using this approach, drivers must enter their employee ID number or vehicle number into the gas pump’s interface before they can purchase fuel. 

Tracking the vehicle’s mileage and diesel costs will help you gauge your fleet’s fuel efficiency. From there, you can take steps to increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicles. 

Credit cards can be used to buy just about anything, not just fuel, which makes it harder to reconcile purchases and prevent unauthorized spending. The fuel card is the clear winner.

Savings

Everyone likes saving money, especially transportation business owners and drivers. In light of that, it’s logical to include a money savings category in this head-to-head matchup.

Once again, fuel cards win the day. While most credit card providers offer some form of rewards program, the perks are rarely significant enough to lead to major cost reductions. Using fuel cards allows your drivers to access fuel discounts at major truck stops and gas stations. 

Tighter spending control

If you set clear rules for using credit cards and your drivers follow those rules, you can maintain a fair amount of spending control. However, documenting and monitoring spending patterns will be challenging.

Credit cards will be used to cover a multitude of different business expenses. Fuel cards, on the other hand, yield superior spending control. These payment solutions limit drivers to purchasing fuel only, and provide a means of tracking data like vehicle mileage and monthly fuel expenses per driver. 

This enables you to optimize your fleet management capabilities and makes life easier for accountants tasked with filing IFTA taxes. Sounds like another win for fuel cards.

Approval odds

Getting approved for a high-limit business credit card can be challenging, especially if you’ve accumulated major loans or other debt. Convincing a financial institution to issue you enough cards for an entire driver fleet is an even taller task.

Comparatively, your odds of getting approved for fuel cards are much higher. The process of applying for gas cards is faster as well. It goes without saying that fuel cards win this category. Thus far, fuel cards are 4-0 when stacked up against credit cards.

Tracking 

Both credit cards and fuel cards allow you to track spending. The difference is that the former does not capture vehicle mileage or fuel consumption information. You can only achieve this level of tracking by using fuel cards, which is win number five for fuel cards.

Data

Fuel cards and the management systems associated with them provide trucking companies with a significant amount of data. This, in turn, can be used to enhance fleet management. 

Smaller companies with only a handful of trucks and limited technological resources will be especially appreciative of the data-gathering capabilities of fuel cards. Companies that use them can gain valuable insights into fuel spending patterns and make changes to reduce total costs. 

Credit cards provide little in the way of actionable data. Business credit card statements closely resemble the statements sent to everyday consumers with a larger volume of transactions and higher spending threshold. 

As such, fuel cards are undefeated in this head-to-head match-up. They are the clear solution for fleet owners interested in saving money, improving spending control and streamlining the fuel purchasing process. 

Maximize spending control with fuel cards

For most trucking companies, fuel cards are the better option. Not only do they build credit, but they also give you better control over your drivers’ spending habits. If you choose to, you can authorize drivers to make nonfuel purchases with their gas cards. 

Most credit cards don’t afford you the same level of control over buying habits, which means that drivers might use these cards for unauthorized purchases. 

If you need a way to distribute funds more efficiently to drivers while keeping spending in check, fuel cards are a great option. 

FAQ

Is it better to have a fuel card or credit card?

Fuel cards tend to provide more perks than credit cards, including fuel discounts and industry-specific expense monitoring tools. Additionally, fuel cards can be used for other sorts of trucker purchases, making them the better option for most trucking companies.

Are fuel cards like credit cards?

Fuel cards are similar to credit cards. The card issuer will cover the initial cost of the purchase and charge you interest on the purchase amount. You can pay the invoice in full or make smaller installment payments as long as you adhere to the issuer’s minimum payment requirements. 

Will a fuel card build credit?

Yes, a fuel card will build your business credit, provided you make payments on time.

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Save on Fuel and Maintenance with the Motive Fleet Card.

Monitor your fleet's spending with real time reports. Get discounts on fuel, maintenance, and with zero fees. Easily customize your spending restrictions to boost security and reduce unauthorized use.

Save on Fuel and Maintenance with the Motive Fleet Card.

Monitor your fleet's spending with real time reports. Get discounts on fuel, maintenance, and with zero fees. Easily customize your spending restrictions to boost security and reduce unauthorized use.