When on the road, it is vital that drivers have a way to cover business expenses, including paying for fuel and affording necessary repairs. Two of the most convenient payment solutions available to drivers are fuel cards and traditional credit cards.
But which solution is the better option? Benzinga is glad you asked. Whether you are a fleet owner looking to maximize your spending control or you are a driver who needs a reliable payment option, this guide is for you. Below is a comparison between gas cards and credit cards.
What Is a Fuel Card?
Fuel cards are exactly what they sound like. They are cards that are designed to be used exclusively for the purchase of fuel and fuel alone. Modern fuel cards can be used to purchase all types of fuel, including diesel fuel.
A prime example of other types of fuel that fuel cards can be used for is 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 attempt to buy fuel with a gas card, they will have to input some very basic information at the pump. Most commonly, they will need to provide a vehicle or employee number, if one has been assigned, as well as the truck’s mileage. These details 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, a user number, or any other pertinent information. All they have to do is swipe their card, pump their fuel, and get back on the road.
While this sounds incredibly convenient from the driver’s perspective, credit cards do have some downsides. The biggest concern in the eyes of fleet owners or managers is that credit cards provide virtually zero pre-purchase spending control.
With credit cards, drivers are also not limited to the purchase of fuel and nothing else either. They can use the card to cover other work-related expenses, like repairs or truck stop fees. Unfortunately, unscrupulous drivers can also use credit cards to pay for their personal expenses.
Comparing Fuel Cards and Credit Cards
In order to help you choose between fuel cards and credit cards, certain distinctions between the two payment solutions have been highlighted below.
Fuel cards can be assigned to a vehicle and a driver. When using this approach, drivers must enter their employee ID number or the 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, but that is a discussion for another time.
Conversely, credit cards cannot be assigned to specific vehicles or drivers. They will simply bear your company’s name and they can be used to purchase just about anything. The fuel card is the clear winner.
Everyone likes saving money, especially transportation business owners and drivers. In light of that, it only seemed 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, these perks are rarely significant enough to lead to major cost reductions. On the other hand, 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 said rules, you can maintain a fair amount of spending control. However, documenting and monitoring spending patterns will be quite challenging.
This is because credit cards will be used to cover a multitude of different business expenses. Fuel cards, on the other hand, yield superior spending control. Not only do these payment solutions limit your drivers to purchasing fuel only, but they can also provide a mechanism that can be used to track data, such as vehicle mileage and monthly fuel expenses per driver.
This data can optimize your fleet management capabilities and make life a whole lot easier for the accountants tasked with filing IFTA taxes. Sounds like another win for fuel cards.
Getting approved for a high-limit business credit card can be challenging, especially if you have accumulated some major loans or other debt. Convincing a financial institution to issue you enough cards for your entire fleet of drivers will be 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 as well. Thus far, fuel cards are 4-0 when stacked up against credit cards.
Both credit cards and fuel cards allow you to track spending. The difference is that the former does not provide any data on vehicle mileage or which truck the card is assigned to. You can only achieve this level of tracking by using fuel cards, which is win number five for fuel cards.
Fuel cards and the management systems associated with them provide trucking companies with a significant amount of data that they can use 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 very little in the way of actionable data. Business credit card statements closely resemble the statements sent to everyday consumers. They simply contain a larger volume of transactions and typically have a much 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.
Finding the Perfect Fit
There is no question that fuel cards are the better option from the perspective of both fleet owners and drivers. Now, all you have to do is decide which fuel card you want to apply for.
There are several excellent options out there, which is why it’s recommended that you compare a few different solutions to see which one best fits the needs of your business. If you would like to learn more about fuel cards, fleet management, and the like, browse FreightWaves Ratings’ articles and reviews.
Generally speaking, it is better to have a fuel card as these cards provide greater spending control and purchase tracking capabilities than credit cards.
Fuel cards are similar to credit cards only in terms of their appearance. Otherwise, they are quite different. Fuel cards can only be used to purchase fuel. Plus, they can be assigned to a specific driver or vehicle as well.
If you obtain a fuel card, keep the balance at healthy thresholds and make payments on time, you can build your credit with a fuel card.