Searching for fuel cards for business but not sure which features are the most important? We can help.
Not all business fuel cards are created equal, and many fleet managers wonder how they can be sure they’re getting what they need to keep their operation on the road to success.
In this article, we discuss which features to look for — both from an operation and administration point of view — so that you can choose the fuel cards for business that benefit everyone involved.
Features To Look For In Fuel Cards For Business
1) Open Loop
One of the most important features to look for in fuel cards for business is whether or not they are part of an open-loop network or a closed-loop network.
A card that is part of a closed-loop network can only be used at certain locations, such as gas stations associated with a particular oil company (e.g., BP, Shell, Marathon).
Many legacy cards issued by those companies have closed-loop networks and can only be used to purchase fuel from stations that bear their name.
A card that is part of an open-loop network has no such restrictions and can be used anywhere that payment methods such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
Before you make a choice, keep in mind that not all fuel cards for business are part of an open-loop network. Be sure you do your research and identify the ones that are before you sign up.
Doing so will give your drivers the ability to use the payment method wherever and whenever they need to while they’re on the road.
2) Fuel Discounts
Top-tier fuel cards for business will often offer a per-gallon rebate on all gas and diesel purchased using their card.
The rebate may only be one or two cents per gallon, but when you multiply that by the number of times your drivers fill up and the number of gallons of fuel your fleet uses every day, the benefits can really start to add up.
As bad actors continue to devise new methods to gain access to your accounts, security becomes one of the more important features to look for in fuel cards for business.
Modern cards ensure that only authorized individuals can make purchases through the use of two security components: the EMV chip and the secondary security verification.
The EMV chip (which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) is a tiny microprocessor embedded in the plastic itself that generates a unique code every time someone uses the card to make a purchase.
The unique code is only valid for a single transaction and cannot be used again for any future transaction.
So, if an unauthorized individual records a transaction and attempts to use the information to buy something else, the system will deny payment for that purchase.
Secondary Security Verification
Secondary security verification (or SSV) is common on many email and online accounts (it’s the code the system sends that you then have to enter into your device to prove that it’s actually you).
Top-tier fuel cards for business use a similar form of SSV, only it runs in the opposite direction.
This type of reverse SSV requires that, before making a purchase, the cardholder has to send a text from a specific linked cell phone number (typically the cardholder’s) in order to activate the card.
A reverse SSV like this makes it nearly impossible for a thief to use a stolen card because they won’t have the means (both the card and the phone) nor the know-how to turn it on.
4) Individual Card Control
Spending is not a one-size-fits-all activity, and you may need to authorize larger purchases for some drivers and smaller purchases for other drivers.
To help in this regard, some fuel cards for business come with individual card control.
This feature allows those in the office to control every aspect of spending for one card or all cards, and gives them the power to:
- Set expense limits based on the location of the vehicle
- Set expense limits based on the size of the vehicle’s fuel tank
- Limit spending by day of the week
- Set caps on transaction amounts
- Restrict purchases to fuel only
- Add additional expense categories (e.g., maintenance and parking)
- Restrict spending by time of day
All of this gives you the control you need to reduce the costs associated with managing a fleet.
5) Assignment And Distribution
Some fuel cards for business allow you to order as many cards as you need to outfit your fleet without having to print the driver’s name directly on the plastic.
Instead, you can assign a certain card to a certain driver (or a certain fleet vehicle) via the software on your computer.
You can then hand out the cards when you make assignments or put the cards directly in the vehicle glove box for whichever driver uses the vehicle that day.
This simple assignment and distribution makes it easy to get cards where they need to be in a variety of situations (e.g., when a vehicle is retired or when drivers need to be reassigned).
6) Fee Structure
Some fuel cards for business will hit you with a long list of fees that can actually make using their services counterproductive.
Be sure to read the fine print and be on the lookout for such fees and charges as:
- Transaction fees
- Credit-risk fees
- Out-of-network fees
- Per-gallon service charges
- Electronic payment processing charge
- Check processing charge
- Phone-payment charge
- Higher late charges for balances above a certain level
- High subscription and use charges
- Extended network pricing
- Setup charges
- Program maintenance charges
- Research charges
Choose a card with a clear fee structure so you know what charges you’re going to see on your statement each month.
7) Payment Terms
Don’t overlook the payment terms of the cards you investigate because they can have a profound impact on your bottom line.
Look for terms that fit the way you do business and that optimize company cash flow without detracting from other essential needs.
For example, depending on how you run your business, you may want to look for a card that allows you to make payments every 30 days rather than every 14 (or even seven) days.
Frequent payment deadlines like these can put significant restrictions on the cash your company has available for other expenses, thus making it more difficult to succeed.
8) Customer Service
As you investigate the various fuel cards for business, don’t restrict your research to the main features (e.g., security, discounts, and fee structure).
Dig deep into the company itself by testing out the customer service to see if they:
- Understand the fleet business and what it takes to succeed
- Provide easy ways to get in touch (e.g., text, email, and phone)
- Allow you to connect on your terms, not the other way around
- Give you answers when you need them
- Respond quickly when you ask a question or have a problem
- Deliver personalized service any and every time
- Do everything they can to reduce or remove issues that can hold your business back
- Don’t transfer you through an endless phone tree to get to the right person
In many ways, the customer service department will function like a business partner so you want to be sure they’re going to make things easier before bringing them on board.
9) Automated Receipt Collection
The automated receipt collection feature of some modern fuel cards for business allows you to set the system so that, when an employee makes a purchase, you receive a digital record of the transaction.
In some cases, you can then set the software to match that digital receipt to your monthly statement and even reconcile the numbers automatically.
This feature alone can help save your accounting team hours of tedious paperwork.
Choose The Right Fuel Cards For Your Business
Choosing the right fuel cards for business is worth all the time, effort, and research you put into it. Coast can help make the process easier.
The Coast fleet and fuel card provides all of the features mentioned above (and more) and can put you in the right position to take your fleet management activities to a new level of simplicity, organization, and control.
To learn more about how Coast can have a positive impact on your bottom line and help your fleet-based business run more smoothly and efficiently, visit CoastPay.com today.