Business Fuel Cards: The Pros, Cons and Alternatives
Fuels cards have been a popular solution for Australian businesses with vehicle fleets or employees using their personal vehicles for work-related travel. When it comes to choosing fleet cards, many options are available. Before selecting a card for your business, it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons of business fuel cards and the new alternatives available in Australia. Here’s a short overview
How do business fuel cards work?
These cards work just like credit cards or debit cards that you can swipe at the pump or inside the petrol station to purchase fuel and other products or services available. The big difference is that these cards only work at certain stations, including the fuel brands or third parties issuing the cards or fuel stations in their network.
There’s a range of fuel cards to choose from based on the type of business and how the card will be used. These include:
Fleet fuel cards – these suit businesses with large vehicle fleets. They make life easier for fleet managers by helping them track and budget fuel spending and get fuel discounts with some brand stations.
Business fuel cards – these cards are suitable for small to medium businesses that need to give staff the ability to purchase fuel but don’t have large vehicle fleets. Having a business fuel card simplifies fuel purchasing for staff who no longer need to use a personal credit card and get reimbursed or use a company card and submit expense reports.
Prepaid fuel gift cards – with these cards, persons or businesses can purchase petrol or other products. Prepaid fuel cards can be useful for employees who rarely purchase fuel as part of their job.
Fuel card features to consider
With different features available, you’ll want to compare cards to see what could be best for your needs.
Which brand? Since branded cards can only be used at certain service stations (such as BP, 7-11 and Ampol) to purchase fuel, products and services such as car washes, you’ll want to consider if these stations suit your employees using the cards. For a large fleet that needs Australia-wide coverage, some brands might not be available in certain areas. If staff have to go out of their way to find the right station, it makes it harder to use the card. This defeats the purpose of using a fuel card when saving time is one of the reasons for using it.
Should you use a multi-brand card? If a single-brand card doesn’t work due to availability issues, multi-brand fuel cards could be the solution. For example, the Fleet Orange Card can be used at 11,000 fuel sites and other vendors in Australia, including some Coles Express and Shell stations.
What are the fees? Most fuel cards come with fees, usually in the form of monthly card fees ranging from $2 to $8 per month but don’t have any transaction fees.
Are rewards available? Yes, rewards such as Everyday Rewards, Fly Buys and Qantas Business Rewards are available with some cards. If rewards are important for you, check which rewards are available with the cards you are considering.
Is it a charge card or a credit card? Fuel cards in Australia are charge cards, not credit cards, so the balance must be paid off monthly. Small business owners looking for a cash flow boost by having the option to pay off the balance might want to use a credit card instead.
Pros and cons of using fuel cards for business
While there are a few good reasons to use a fuel card, there are also some shortcomings.
Manage and track expenses – with a fuel card, you get a statement summarising purchases and who made them.
Ease of use – fuel cards make it easy for employees to purchase fuel and related products and services.
Discounts – some fuel cards offer discounts on fuel purchases from 2 to 6 cents, depending on the card.
Rewards – businesses can earn rewards by earning points for fuel and other expenses.
Constrained to brands – if you have a branded or multi-branded fuel card, you’re limited to that brand’s fuel stations. This could pose a problem in some areas where the brand is unavailable.
Accounting integration – while a few fuel cards can be integrated with accounting programs such as Xero, most do not offer this feature.
Fees – monthly fees associated with fuel cards will add up over time.
Alternatives to business fuel cards and fleet cards
Standard business credit cards are an alternative to business fuel cards and fleet cards. The main drawbacks of using standard credit cards are the lack of control and expense management features.
A new breed of business credit cards makes it easy to control and manage expenses. Archa business credit cards, for example, can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted, so users don’t have limited choices when purchasing fuel. When employees need more than fuel or products from fuel stations, Archa makes it easy to control, track and record purchases.
Archa business credit cards provide many benefits beyond those available with fuel or fleet cards. With Archa, you can:
- Instantly issue cards to staff
- Easily set spending limits
- Get real-time visibility of all cards
- Effortlessly capture receipts
- Automatically match and reconcile receipts in Xero.