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Andy Allen's blog: Fuel cards vs credit cards

Date: 08 September 2017

Managing cash flow is a key part of a fleet managers job, and fuel cards and credit cards give businesses a way to pay any travel expenses needed to keep their fleets moving. But which one is right for you and your business?

The main benefit of a fuel card is that is geared specifically to manage expenses occurred on a forecourt. As well as fuel, drivers can be authorised to use the car wash and buy things in the shop, giving fleet managers control - and flexibility - over what their drivers are spending the company's money on and how they're spending it.

Because it's a specialist tool, fuel cards offer consolidated invoicing. In order to reclaim VAT, a company has to keep hold of its receipts. But a pay and reclaim service or a company credit card might not supply all of the necessary data on your invoice.

While the receipt issued at the till when a fuel card is used isn't actually a VAT receipt, providers can consolidate those transactions so the invoice produced at the end of the week, fortnight or month becomes the VAT receipt.

That means fleet managers don't have to rely on drivers totting up expenses and handing in receipts to process VAT reclaim submission. Some tools allow managers to enter a fuel card invoice and it will summarise all the VAT drivers have spent across an entire fleet, freeing up a lot of time.

Security is another big concern for fleet managers. Both credit cards and fuel cards have a PIN code, but fuel cards allow managers to authorise, suspend or change these PINs remotely, giving fleet managers greater control. BP fuel cards can also be tied into odometer readings whenever a fuel card is used, giving accurate MPG figures based on the amount of fuel going into a vehicle.

Another advantage of being a specialist tool is the ability to offer discounts at the pump. Buying fuel via a credit card or cash means paying the on-the-pump rate. But a fuel card can be set to a price agreed between fuel provider and its client - something that can offer significant discounts to fleets.

Ultimately, when drivers need fuel they can buy it using a credit card OR a fuel card. But fleet managers often prefer the security and fleet-specific management tools that fuel cards bring, particularly because they need far more than a simple payment instrument. They need data, expense control at the pump, and the ability to track key fuel expenses. Fuel cards give them all that, while also saving money and time spent on admin.