If you run a small business that operates vehicles, there’s a lot to think about and a TON of details to manage. By using a fuel card, you can make things a lot easier.
What’s a Fuel Card?
A fuel card allows business owners to report and control fuel and maintenance expenses. It can be used as a payment card for petrol, diesel and other fuels at petrol stations. These cards can also be used to pay for other vehicle operating expenses such as repairs, maintenance and roadside assistance. Thanks to comprehensive reporting, many fuel cards allow business owners to receive real time reports, stay informed of all business expenses and manage vehicle taxes.
There are many fuel card options out there, each with their own features and benefits. In this guide, we’ll compare the options to help you choose the card that’s right for your business.
Benefits for Small Businesses in Australia
Fuel can be one of the biggest expenses for your company. If your fleet consumes a lot of fuel, a fuel card can offer volume discounts. You’ll be able to batch your fuel purchases and get volume based pricing after a certain period. Over the long run, this can add up to significant savings.
Also, just knowing how much fuel your vehicles consume monthly and being able to see every transaction can help you to optimise costs. You’ll be able to track trends and plan ahead for the future.
When your drivers are paying cash for their fuel, there’s a chance they will forget the receipt. When fuel is purchased on a fuel card, it is logged into a digital statement and you can quickly and easily see what your drivers are spending.
When fuel costs are clearly documented on an automatic statement, there’s no need to go through a pile of crumpled receipts to figure out what to reimburse your team. This data capture is one of the most important aspects of fuel card programs.
Fuel cards will save on administrative expenses, as there is no need to go through piles of receipts at the end of the month. Also, you’ll receive a full report so you can track which drivers are buying fuel, how much they are buying and where they are buying it. This will help you to spot any vehicles that are using excessive fuel and look into the issue.
You’ll be able to immediately see all fuel payments, so you’ll spot any fraudulent spending right away and take the appropriate action. Fuel cards can be set to have a PIN code that only drivers know, adding another level of security. Fuel cards also have other security mechanisms, such as number plate and odometer readings every time they are filled. This way, fuel cards are a lot more secure than credit cards.
No Need to Reimburse Drivers
The old method of managing fuel expenses was to have employees pay fuel costs up front, then reimburse them. This involves a lot of paperwork and processing time and leaves the employee out of pocket while they wait. This can be frustrating for the employee and requires a lot of extra work for your accounting staff. A fuel card eliminates the need for employees to use their own cash to pay at the pumps.
Just a simple statement with your fuel expenses at the end of the month isn’t enough. In order to manage your fleet as efficiently as possible, it’s important to know more details – such as fuel economy, cost per kilometre, etc. Many of the popular fuel cards come with fuel management reports that will provide you with this information. You’ll get a detailed reading of everything you need to know about your fleet, so that you can perform an analysis and make better decisions.
Best Fuel Card for Tradies
If you’re a tradie such as an electrician, builder or plumber – you’ll likely have a fleet of 1-5 vehicles. Your team is on the road nearly every day, getting from job to job. Having a fuel card is important, so that your workforce (who are likely young apprentices) can get to each job without a problem.
Managing paperwork for fuel costs becomes increasingly complicated the more employees and vehicles you have. A multi-branded fuel card such as Motorpass can be used for all vehicle-related expenses, so it saves a lot of money, time and paperwork.
What we like about Motorpass:
- Accepted at over 93% of service stations, it’s the 2nd most widely accepted fuel card in Australia
- Use at over 5,400 non-fuel shops such as Ultratune & Beaurepaires
- Generate fully itemised reports with separate GST and non-GST items
- Details such as vehicle ID, driver ID and odometer readings are captured for better fleet management
Need to know:
- There are a number of fees with this card that can add up quickly
- The card cannot be combined with other loyalty programs
1% Off On Total Fuel
Best Fuel Card for Transport & Logistics – Caltex StarCard
In the transport and logistics industry, time is critical so fleet managers are always looking for ways to streamline operations. A great option for this is the Caltex Star Card. The Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Australia has negotiated an exclusive deal with Caltex that will provide huge savings.
Also, this card makes it easy to manage a large fleet of transport trucks online with the myCaltex dashboard. A user-friendly interface makes it possible to track vehicle spending and maintenance.
What we like about Caltex Star Card:
- 4 cents per litre including GST off the pump price for diesel fuel at 200+ Caltex National Truck Network locations
- Earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points, which can be awarded to staff as incentives or used to cover corporate travel costs
- Services & Repairs add-on for $2 per month, per vehicle will give you up to 15% in savings on certain brands and services
- No transaction fees
Need to know:
- Limited to only Caltex stations, so if your drivers are in a location without one, it can’t be used
- All extra services incur monthly fees
200+ Caltex National Truck Stops
Best Fuel Card for Retail & Sales – Shell CardPlus
If you run a retail business and your sales consultants are on the road visiting clients, a fuel card can help them manage expenses easily. However, it can offer a lot of other benefits for your roving sales fleet too.
Look for a card that can be used for other expenses on the road, such as car wash and roadside assistance. With everything rolled into one card, you can make sure that life on the road goes as smoothly as possible for your team.
What we like about Shell CardPlus:
- Accepted at over 1,200 sites Australia wide
- Earn Flybuys points at Shell Coles Express sites
- Rated #1 by Canstar Blue for Customer Satisfaction
Need to know:
- Option to receive paper statements can be expensive
- One of the higher card fees at $5.00 per card card per month
#1 Customer Satisfaction by Canstar Blue
Most Widely Accepted Fuel Card – Fleet Card
What if your fleet travels far and wide and you never know which station will be nearby when they need to fuel up?
FleetCard is the most widely accepted fuel card in Australia. It can be used at 90% of fuel sties in Australia – a network of nearly 6,000 multi-branded fuel sites. It is also accepted at 6,000+ non-fuel partners such as repair centres and motor dealerships across Australia.
The wide acceptance of this card makes it the number one choice for large organisations where the convenience is a priority. Plus, large fleets will be able to negotiate a volume discount.
FleetCard also makes it easier to manage your business by offering one consolidate tax invoice for all transactions.
What we like about FleetCard:
- Up to 51 days interest free credit that will improve business cashflow
- Non-fuel partner network includes tyres, servicing, parts, and more
- Promotional period discounts of 6c per litre at Shell and Coles Express stations
Need to know:
- Transaction fees if you are using a non-Shell branded fuel station
- The option to receive paper statements can be expensive
- Has one of the higher card fees at $5.00 per card per month
Save 6c per Litre at Shell Stations
BONUS: Credit Cards with Fuel Benefits
A common question that often pops up is whether using a corporate credit card rather than a fuel card for your fleet is better? Depending on the credit card you choose, it’s certainly something to consider. After all, any arrangement that allows you to receive rewards for the necessary costs of running your business is always a plus!
Here’s a quick comparison to consider:
|Credit Cards||Fuel Cards|
|Allow your drivers to carry only one card for all their business expenses||Specifically designed for purchasing fuel for a fleet, rather than a credit card designed for entertainment purchases|
|The card will be accepted almost everywhere||Offer better fuel spending controls|
|Credit cards can offer rebates for a wide variety of expenses||Often provides reports with helpful data, such as fuel type, cost per unit, vehicle data, etc|
|If you use a credit card that offers frequent flyer miles, you can use those miles to cover your holidays, or offer trips as incentives for your team||Can provide information such as cost per km, km per litre. This information helps you to better manage fleet expenses|
|Can offer additional features such as travel insurance and interest-free periods||Fleet fuel costs are kept separate rather than lumped together with other expense data|
|Corporate card programs can be susceptible to fraud and cloning than fleet fuel cards, which used closed merchant networks||Fuel card offers you more control and allows you to impose spending limits|
Let’s take a look at a few options for credit cards that offer lots of points when you use them to fuel up your fleet.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
This credit card keeps it simple and offers straightforward uncapped earnings of two frequent flyer points for every dollar spent on petrol. These frequent flyer miles can be earned with a host of airlines, including Qantas, Virgin Australia Velocity, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and more.
The card comes with a $195 annual fee, which is offset by a $200 travel credit. Also, you can get up to 4 additional cards with no extra annual fees, making this a serious option for small fleets.
What we like about the AMEX Platinum Edge Credit Card:
- Eligible for the AMEX Local Champion program, which allows you to earn extra frequent flyer points on the places your fleet visits the most
- Complimentary travel insurance is included
- 55 days interest free on purchases
Need to know:
- Balance transfer fee of 1%
- Relatively high standard purchase rate of 20.74% p.a.
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
David Jones American Express
This credit card offers you up to 2.25 frequent flyer points for every dollar you spend at petrol stations. There is a Platinum version of this card that gives you the ability to earn more points when you use it at David Jones, but charges a significantly higher annual fee. If you’re choosing the card for its fuel reward benefits, this may not be worth it as you’ll be using it at the pumps and not at the mall.
What we like about David Jones American Express:
- Highest earn rate of Qantas Points on the market – 2.25 Qantas points for every dollar spent
- Bonus 10,000 Qantas Points when you spend with the card outside of David Jones three times within the first month
- Additional cards have an annual fee of $0 the first year, then $29 per year afterwards (much cheaper than the typical $5 per card per month fee from fuel providers)
Need to know:
- As a credit card it only offers 44 days interest free period on purchases, while most other cards offer up to 55 days
- Has a relatively high standard purchase rate of 20.74% p.a.
American Express Business Explorer Credit Card
The American Express Business Explorer Credit Card offers a solid everyday earning rate of 2 points per dollar spent on most transactions. You can reward your clients, your employees and yourself – or even pay off the card balance with the Membership Rewards points.
You’ll receive 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $100,000 on the card every 12 months. You can add up to 99 supplementary cards at no additional cost – so this is an option you can scale up even if you have a decent sized fleet.
What we like about the American Express Business Explorer Credit Card:
- There are no points caps on what you can earn with this card and points do not expire
- The card included complimentary travel insurance that covers you, your family and any card members
- Receive 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 within three months
- A low interest rate of 16.99% on purchases
Need to know:
- High annual fee of $295, however can be deducted as a business expense
- Not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard
American Express Business Explorer
What to Think About When Choosing a Small Business Fuel Card
Fuel Station Coverage
The coverage of your network is really important. Choose the fuel card that includes areas where your fleet will be travelling. If your fleet almost always fuels up with a specific brand, it’s a good idea to see if that service station has its own fuel card that will match your fleets habits.
If your drivers often get fuel from multiple petrol stations, it will be a better option to get a multi-branded card.
If the card offers rewards such as frequent flyer points, will you actually use the rewards? This should factor into the decision, as you want to make sure the rewards are attractive and you will make the most of them.
It’s important to know that existing rewards cannot be stacked with fuel cards. For example, you can’t earn Velocity Points when using a fuel card at BP stations.
Look for a fuel card with security features such as a PIN code. These features make a fuel card a lot more secure than a corporate credit card, which can be susceptible to cloning and fraud.
The more fuel you use, the more attractive your business is to fuel companies. Make sure you shop around and negotiate. For example if you think your fuel purchasing volumes will grow, make sure you mention this as it may help you lock in a better rate.
How does the fuel card allow you to limit the purchases your employees make? Will you be able to customise how the card is used, so that you can avoid employees abusing the company card? This can be a useful feature if you want to be able to keep tabs on the spending of the fleet. Many companies have lost a significant amount of money to employees abusing fuel expense accounts.
Take a look at the fees the fuel card charges. Most will charge a monthly fee per card, but there are also no-fee cards available. Look closely at the fees compared to the benefits the card offers and see which is offering you the most value.
Volume of Your Fleet
Some cards are better suited to large teams of multiple drivers, while others are suited to small businesses of only a handful of employees. For example, some fuel cards will charge a fee for every unique card, which can add up if you have multiple part-time employees on your team.
Interest Free Periods
Another factor to consider is the period of time you can wait before paying off your fuel card account, without having to pay interest. They range from as little as 14 days or as many as 51 days. A longer payment period can help you with business cash flow and you can also settle your monthly fuel card balance with a business credit card to take advantage of a further interest free period while earning points.
Operate Your Fleet Like Clockwork With Fuel Cards
We’ve peeked under the hood of some of Australia’s most popular fuel card deals – to help you make the right choice. Each card has its own benefits and applications. There are also business credit cards that can offer you rewards. While these are different than fuel cards and don’t offer detailed reporting – they can have their own advantages.
Don’t forget to look closely at the fine print and make sure you have a clear understanding of annual fees, fees at the pump and the additional charges.
Ultimately – the only person who can decide which fuel card is right for your business is YOU. After all, no one knows your fleet better than you do. The right fuel card deal will be seamless for your team to use, will save you money and will give you the data you need to grow your business.