FreightWaves Ratings cuts through the noise of freight technology product reviews to make you a smarter buyer

What Is a Fuel Card & How Does It Work?

We all know truck drivers need to fuel up their big rigs regularly. While this may seem like a simple process, things can get complicated quickly, not to mention the number of receipts and paperwork involved. That’s where fuel cards come in. 

So what is a fuel card? A fuel card may seem just like any other debit or credit card, but it isn’t. It is a payment method used for diesel fuel and potentially other trucking-related expenses. Let’s get into some more details about how fuel cards work. 

How Do Fuel Cards Work?

Fuel cards work in basically the same way as a debit or credit card at the gas station. You can either swipe the card through the machine at the pump or take it inside to pay at the cashier.

What makes a fuel card different, though, is the features and benefits they provide the user. How fuel cards work is by creating a system of savings, security, and streamlining. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions after answering, “What is a fuel card?”

What Factors Do You Look for in Fuel Cards?

There are a few factors to look for in any fuel card, including:

  • Convenient locations: make sure the network of gas stations fits your business’s needs.
  • Online tools: these should allow for easier management and access to documents.
  • Efficient customer service: you need a company that is responsive and helpful.
  • Technology: apps should provide alerts and be iOS and Android compatible.

Other cards may provide more factors than those above, but these are the essentials.

Can Anyone Get a Fuel Card?

All businesses are eligible for fuel cards, regardless of the company’s size. It could be a trucking company with a fleet of 1,000 or a self-employed driver. However, it’s essential to know the minimum monthly spending amount on a fuel card to ensure you can exceed it. The minimum is usually around $500 to $1000, depending on the card. 

Can I Get a Fuel Card with Bad Credit?

Yes, it is possible to get a fuel card even if your business is struggling with credit checks or is still new and hasn’t had a chance to develop good credit yet. Your options may be much more limited, and what is available to you may not have as many features and benefits, but it is possible. 

Is Fuel Cheaper with a Fuel Card?

Yes! Fuel is substantially cheaper when you visit gas stations in your card’s fuel providers’ network. Savings can range anywhere from a few cents per gallon to over 50 cents per gallon. 

Can a Sole Trader Get a Fuel Card?

Yes, sole traders can get a fuel card. Many of the features and benefits will be the same as any other company, but so will the minimum monthly usage, so it’s something to keep in mind if you’re a sole trader or self-employed. 

Benefits of Fuel Cards

Now that there’s a clear understanding of how fuel cards work and who can use them let’s check out some of their benefits.

Security

This benefit is advantageous for larger companies. Whoever manages the cards can control who can use them, what they can buy, where they can buy from, and other security measures. This benefit also helps to minimize fraud and doesn’t require drivers to carry around a lot of cash. 

Savings

Depending on the card, there are many ways to save money besides fuel discounts, although this is usually the most substantial way to save. Many cards don’t charge transaction fees and help drivers find the cheapest fuel in their current location. Some cards will also offer discounts on maintenance and tires and provide some type of roadside assistance program. 

Visibility

Fuel cards are linked to online programs and mobile apps, so everything is instantly documented and easily visible to drivers and those managing the system. Every cent is accounted for, so there won’t be discrepancies at the end of a job or month-to-month.

Documentation

Fuel card software gives you easy access to International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reports, making your paperwork processes more streamlined and user-friendly. You can usually view and download reports online and access them anytime you need. 

What Is the Best Fuel Card to Have?

With all the different features and benefits various fuel cards provide, which ones are the best?

Fuelman

The Fuelman fuel card provides flexibility that most other cards don’t. There are different subscriptions for each of its card options, so each business can choose what works best for them. The cards have high-quality protections in place, offer roadside assistance and late payment forgiveness. Unfortunately, whichever card you choose, it will come with a monthly card fee.

Pilot Fleet Card

Also referred to as the Axle Fleet Card, this option works a little differently than the rest in that it gives you a percentage back rather than cents on the gallon. The card also offers flexible payment terms and has an extensive loyalty program. The major downside to this card is its limited network, as it only includes Pilot, Flying J, and One9 fuel stations.

Electronic Funds Source

The EFS fuel card has three different options depending on your company’s needs. Its cards are accepted at over 16,000 locations, and their top-tier card is a Mastercard, allowing users to make other purchases when necessary. These fuel cards can also collect additional data such as odometer metrics and truck telemetry. One disadvantage is if your fleet is less than 25 trucks, not as many perks are available to you.

Comdata

Comdata is a card that utilizes technology to its advantage with their FleetAdvance app that can help drivers quickly find the best fuel prices nearby. Another beneficial feature of this option is it gives details of cash prices at participating locations, which may end up giving drivers a chance to save if the price is right. One con for this card is that it charges both a monthly and per-transaction fee. 

Universal Premium Fleet Card

This fuel card is also a Mastercard, so companies can use it for other purchases when necessary. It works nearly everywhere and offers up to 5% off certain types of maintenance. They also provide performance analytics, fraud loss coverage, and help with creating fuel plans, something most competitors don’t have. This card is not recommended for smaller companies as its maximum savings are only available to those purchasing at least 30,000 gallons of gas.

The Future of Fuel Cards

As more and more businesses lessen their cash use, fuel cards will continue to be a viable option. They are an easy way for companies big and small to save money and track purchases all in one place. They allow truckers to quickly find the fuel they need and utilize technology to streamline data and documentation.  

For more information about fuel cards and everything else related to freight, subscribe to FreightWaves newsletters or check out our webinars, podcasts, videos, and more.