Cards for fleet fueling are sometimes referred to as fuel credit cards, gas cards, fuelcards or fleet cards. Although descriptions vary, the purpose is the same: help businesses manage diesel and gas purchases. By providing access to convenient locations, reducing unauthorized spend by drivers and allowing expenses to be easily tracked, cards are an essential tool for many fleets and businesses. Below we summarize the pros and cons of different card types.
Universal cards, such as Voyager or WEX, are popular options for companies that value convenience for drivers. With access to over 90% of all fuel locations in the U.S., drivers can easily find gas or diesel when they need to fill up. These cards provide purchase controls to limit fueling by time of day, day of the week, number of transactions and spend per day, week or month. Level III data is captured at 99.5% of sites so that you know the card number, dollar amount, gallons, fuel type, date, time and location for each purchase. Discounts are often limited to the largest fleets and may include fees, so check your customer terms and conditions carefully.
Fuel credit cards are affiliated with vendors like Visa or MasterCard and are often issued by companies like ComData, Fleetcor or US Bank. Unlike traditional credit cards, purchases can be restricted to gas stations and other merchant codes. While purchase controls are present, they normally can't be adjusted with the same specificity as the controls on universal or cardlock cards. In addition, 5-10% of fuel sites lack the technology to capture Level III data and provide consistent purchase controls that are often essential for effective fleet management.
Many major oil companies offer co-branded cards with a rebate or discount at their own gas stations. However, because these cards are intended to drive traffic to their own brands, the number of sites available to customers can be less than other options. Discounts or rebates are often capped up to a certain dollar amount, limited to a set number of gallons or only available during the first few months after a customer signs up. Carefully review the fine print on rebates and discounts before applying. Purchase controls should be similar to universal cards but can vary significantly among card providers.
The Commercial Fueling Network (CFN) and Pacific Pride are the two largest cardlock networks in the U.S. with sites designed to accommodate commercial vehicles. Sites are often conveniently located near major freeways and within metro areas and include features like high-speed fueling and satellite pumps so that drivers can refuel quickly. Many fleet managers prefer these card options because of the potential discounts as well as the industry-leading controls that can limit purchases by vehicle tank capacity, fuel product (e.g., diesel only) and time/day. These cards also include an optional add-on for drivers to access 57,000 retail gas stations and truck stops. However, discounts and hard restrictions on fuel type generally do not apply to these optional retail sites.
OTR cards are typically accepted at truck stops across the U.S. These cards are ideal for companies in long-haul trucking because the larger tank capacity of trucks extends their range, so being limited to fewer sites is less of a problem than it might be for other fleets. Truck stops are generally located near major highways and provide easy truck access for convenient fueling. Various driver services and site amenities are common, including truck parking, showers, lounges and restaurants. OTR cards can offer fuel discounts but might include transaction fees, so companies should carefully review both items. In addition, these cards normally have lower credit limits and shorter billing terms than other options might offer.
Any company that operates vehicles can benefit from a card program. However certain industries, like trucking and construction, have specific needs that might be best met by cards different than what other businesses might use. Below are some recommendations for which cards might be a fit for different fleets.
In addition to potential discounts, IFTA filing and ELD reporting support, card vendors might also offer apps that allow truck drivers to search for essential amenities, including gas stations designed for larger vehicles, car washes and 24-hour services.
For trucking companies that operate across the U.S., we recommend an OTR card which provides access to truck stops and driver services. Some fleets can travel to remote areas without any truck stops nearby. In these cases, a universal card might be a better fit.
If your company has equipment that uses off-road diesel, it is essential to have a card that can identify your off-road (or dyed diesel) purchases from other purchases. With the CFN card, you can purchase off-road diesel at many cardlock locations. Off-road fuel reports then make it easy to submit your tax refund for those gallons that were not exempt at the time of purchase but still qualify.
The best option for construction companies depends on where your company operates and your type of equipment. Because job locations can vary, many companies prefer a universal card like Voyager or WEX. However, if you’re located on the west coast, a CFN card with retail acceptance might provide valuable discounts and access to off-road diesel while providing acceptable coverage.
Companies across industries with fleets of vehicles and drivers can benefit from a card program. It enables fleet managers to implement controls to prevent employee misuse and set alerts to catch any suspect activity. Commercial businesses that should consider a card program include manufacturing, retailers, landscape maintenance, distribution, moving, home repair and agriculture, among others.
Because needs can vary greatly by industry, it's difficult to pinpoint a single card option without knowing location, routes, fleet size, control needs and whether the main priority is convenience or discounts. For that reason, we recommend contacting a specialist to help identify the best fit.
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