What are Fuel Cards? Fleet Cards For Your Business Explained

Euan Robb
Content Manager at Equals Money
min read
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What are fuel cards?

Fuel cards are a convenient and efficient payment system used by businesses to manage their company fuel expenses.

These specialised cards function as a cashless payment method for purchasing fuel and other related services, such as vehicle maintenance and repairs. Fuel cards are typically issued by fuel companies, financial institutions, or expense management providers, allowing businesses to track and control their travel expenditure and fuel spend. With several benefits, including enhanced security, no more petty cash, reduced administrative work, and detailed reporting capabilities, fuel cards have become an indispensable tool for businesses that have heavy fuel usage.

In this article, we will delve into the key features and advantages of fuel cards and alternatives, as well as explore how they can simplify commercial fleet management and streamline expense tracking.


How fuel cards work

Business fuel cards have become an increasingly popular tool for organisations to manage their fuel expenses.

These cards provide a convenient and efficient way for companies with a fleet of vehicles or employees that expense their mileage to control costs, track fuel consumption, and simplify the overall expense management and fuel purchase process. By enabling businesses to monitor fuel-related transactions in real time, fuel cards or alternative fuel card options offer greater control and visibility over fuel expenses, leading to improved efficiencies, financial visibility, and opportunities for potential savings.


Fuel cards vs. company credit cards

Fuel cards and traditional company credit cards are two distinct forms of payment, each with their own set of characteristics. The main differences between the two lie in their purpose and payment terms.

Fuel cards, as the name suggests, are specifically designed for travel expenses, particularly for the purchase of fuel. In contrast, company credit cards can be used for a wide range of expenses and purchases, not limited to travel or fuel-related transactions. However this is where fuel card alternatives such as prepaid expense cards come in, which allow for a wide range of expenses with specific and customisable controls for visibility and spending, enabling business to get the "best of both worlds".

Fuel cards offer a streamlined process when it comes to paying for business fuel. Compared to the traditional pay and reclaim method, where employees pay for fuel using their own money and then reclaim the expenses, fuel cards eliminate the need for employees to make out-of-pocket payments. With fuel cards, or prepaid alternatives, businesses have greater control and visibility over their fleet's fuel expenses, as all the transactions are recorded and easily auditable. This reduces the administrative burden of tracking and reimbursing multiple individual expenses, saving both time and effort for businesses.


Key differences between fuel cards and traditional payment methods

Fuel cards and traditional payment methods have several key differences that can greatly impact businesses and employees who frequently rely on fuel for their vehicles.

One major advantage of fuel cards is the ability to receive HMRC-compliant invoices. This eliminates the need for keeping track of and organising receipts, making it much easier to manage expenses for tax purposes. Additionally, fuel cards often come with the added benefit of discounts on vehicle servicing. This can help businesses save money on maintenance costs, as well as ensure that their vehicles are kept in optimal condition.

Another significant difference is the wider acceptance of fuel cards compared to traditional payment methods. Fuel cards are accepted at numerous fuel stations and often have partnerships with a wide network of suppliers. This eliminates the need for carrying large amounts of cash or relying on specific petrol stations for fuel. It provides flexibility and convenience for those who frequently travel or have various travel routes.

On the other hand, traditional payment methods (such as petty cash) may require individuals to keep receipts and manually track their fuel expenses. This can be time-consuming and increase the risk of losing vital documents. Additionally, traditional payment methods may not offer the same level of convenience and savings as fuel cards, as they often lack the benefits of HMRC-compliant invoices and discounts on vehicle servicing.

In summary, fuel cards offer numerous advantages over traditional payment methods. They provide a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage company fuel costs for businesses and employees alike.


Types of fuel cards

As mentioned, fuel cards, also known as fleet cards or gas cards, are a convenient and hassle-free way for businesses and individuals to manage their fuel expenses. Providing numerous benefits and advantages, fuel cards have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Understanding these different types and benefits of fuel cards can help businesses identify the most suitable option for their specific needs and ultimately maximise their control and visibility over their fuel costs and expenditure.


Overview of different types of fuel cards available

The market offers different types of fuel cards tailored to meet the varying needs of businesses. These include:

1. Branded fuel cards: Branded fuel cards are affiliated with specific petrol station groups, such as BP or Shell. They offer a larger network of petrol stations, ensuring nationwide coverage. These cards often come with additional benefits like loyalty reward schemes or discounted rates at partnered service providers.

2. Multi-network fuel cards: Multi-network fuel cards provide businesses with access to multiple fuel stations, giving fleet managers flexibility and convenience. These cards are cost-effective for businesses operating nationwide, as they eliminate the need for drivers to divert their routes in search of specific branded stations.

3. Business expense cards - fuel card alternatives: Prepaid expense cards provide a hassle-free way to pay for not only fuel and vehicle related expenses, but allow for a range of expenses employees would likely encounter when on work-related travels. With custom spending and transaction limits, ATM blocks, and a range of benefits such as cashback rewards, prepaid business expense cards are a convenient option for organisations with employees that routinely travel (by company car or by public transport) or for businesses that regularly deal with per diem expenses.

The best fleet fuel cards for a business depends on several factors such as location, fleet size, and business requirements. For instance, a small local business may find a branded fuel card from a specific petrol station chain more suitable, as it offers good coverage within their immediate vicinity. Conversely, a large enterprise with an extensive fleet operating nationwide would benefit from a multi-network fuel card, enabling drivers to conveniently refuel at different branded stations. However, many businesses of all shapes and sizes may find a more general expense management solution such as business expense cards or fuel card alternatives the best fit for their requirements. 

Considering business requirements is crucial when selecting a fuel card supplier, fuel card, or alternative, as some cards offer additional services and benefits. To determine the best fuel card, businesses should assess the options available based on pricing, petrol station coverage, and services offered, aligning them with their specific needs.


Equals Money: The ideal fuel card alternative

Equals Money provides an ideal fuel card solution for organisations to streamline fuel purchases without the use of petty cash or shared company cards:

- Better expense management: With real-time transaction data and customisable spending and transaction limits, businesses can monitor and manage their expenses with full transparency and total control. 

- Versatile spending: Unlike fuel cards restricted to petrol stations, Equals Money's prepaid cards can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted. This covers a range of expenses from fuel to per diem meals.

- Multi-currency: Spend across 20 different major currencies with prepaid cards from Equals Money, perfect for businesses that operate with a global footprint and require international travel.

- Digital wallet compatibility: Upload cards to employee's mobile devices for payments using Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay for easy transactions.

- Increase staff autonomy: With no individual credit checks for employees and unlimited instant-issue virtual cards, allow every member of your organisation to make fuel payments. Identity and residence verification may be required.

- Accountancy integration: Sync with your current accounting software (Xero) for hassle-free bookkeeping.

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About the author
Euan Robb
Small bio goes here where we talk about professional interests and predictions of where our industry goes.

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