Whether you’re a start-up or growing business, a fuel card can provide a range of benefits. What if you’ve never used or set one up though, where do you start, what should you think about?
Imagine you’re walking out onto a dealership forecourt. There’s eye-catching offers and glossy bodywork in every direction but you’re not choosing cars; you’re choosing cards. Fuel cards. You’ve got a massive choice and the challenge is finding the one that delivers absolutely everything you need. Certain cards will try to turn your head with big name branding and others will try to seduce you with their promises of unrivalled performance but ultimately, you want to walk away knowing you’ve got the best card at the best deal for your business.
So how do you become fuel card savvy? Well this simple guide will give you some key pointers from the experts and help make sure the card in your wallet delivers for your business.
Is a fuel card right for you?
The first thing to ask yourself is do you actually need a fuel card? If you’re running your own business using one vehicle in a small working area, fuel cards may not offer any actual benefits and could actually cost you more than just paying at the pump. If you’re confident that a fuel card could be right for you then it’s time to start looking at and comparing what’s out there.
The first thing to be aware of is there are a lots of people offering fuel cards, some brands you’ll instantly recognise, others, maybe not so much but every card will have different benefits and suit different types of businesses.
Be aware of the different types of fuel card
This is probably the most complex part of fuel cards and it’s important you understand it to make a considered choice.
Fixed Price vs Pump Price
As the name would suggest some fuel cards allow your drivers to pay a fixed price, nationally, for fuel; this helps to control fuel costs. Pump price cards generally allow users to fill up at more locations, but the price paid is what’s seen at the pump; this leaves businesses open to fluctuations in fuel prices at the pump and high charges on motorways and trunk roads.
Branded or non-branded
Choosing between a branded or non-branded fuel card very much depends on the type of driving your fleet will be doing. If journeys are mainly local, a supermarket card may be better than a fuel brand card due to fuel station access.
The options vary here and you need to think about how you travel for your business. Local, regional and national fuel cards all have their advantages.
If you operate in a town or city it’s important to think of the fuel stations in your area. There’s no advantage of choosing a branded card if there’s only a few stations as you may have to go out of your way to fill up, minimizing your savings and flexibility.
If you are a local plumber, for example, where you don’t know where your next call out might be then having a strong regional fuel network is a benefit. Check if certain branded service stations are located in your area before you commit to a card.
If your business takes you the length and breadth of the country a fuel card accepted across a wide network can ensure less route deviation. You might also want to consider a card which allows you and your employees to purchase other items, such as food.
If you’re a small or growing business, the chances are your fleet isn’t huge, but you should still consider the types of vehicles which you need a fuel card for. You may only have one van running on diesel, or you may have a number of sales people out on the road, either way thinking about the type of vehicles and how they are driven will influence which fuel card is right for you.
Do you use petrol and diesel, just petrol or just diesel? Different businesses have different needs and you should be aware that you can get petrol cards, diesel cards and mixed fuel cards.
One of the key benefits of fuel cards is the ability to restrict what is purchased. Cards can be restricted to fuel or can be tailored in some cases to allow you to pay for other business expenses such as hotels and food. This helps to reduce the time employees spend filling out expenses forms.
Like most products, fuel cards will offer extra benefits to entice you in, like breakdown cover, so like with every aspect of the card make sure that will benefit your business.
It’s important to check more than the cost of the fuel, in some cases there will be failed payment fees, charges for paper invoices and card protection. Some cards will also charge a nominal annual fee so check that you’re happy that the benefits outweigh the costs.
If you use a combination of cash and business expense cards you’ll know it can generate a serious amount of receipts at the end of the month.
This can be a time-consuming and laborious process, which can result in more hours being spent on unnecessary admin than the job itself. A fuel card helps you consolidate all fuel use onto one account which makes it easier to manage and saves you time on tax returns and VAT recovery.
So you’re ready to choose
You’ve gone through all the things to look out for and you’ve chosen the card that you’re confident delivers everything you need.
But just hold your horsepower, the key to fuel cards though is to remember that like your business, they never stand still. Over time your business may evolve, you may employ more staff, use new vehicles or even change the nature of your business entirely.
So if you want to get maximum performance it’s important to keep reviewing how it’s performing and if it’s still meeting the needs of your business. In lots of cases businesses stick to the same card even though their requirements might have changed since they initially chose it, meaning it’s no longer delivering the performance they initially chose it for.
Many people think it’s too much hassle to switch or keep constantly looking at alternative options when actually it only takes a matter of minutes to check to see if there is a card that could be bettered suited to their needs now.
Get the best value
By comparing business fuel cards you can find the one that offers the best value for your requirements.
Fuel cards offer different benefits
Some fuel cards offer HMRC-compliant invoices meaning no need to keep receipts, some offer discounts on vehicle servicing and repairs whilst others are more widely accepted so it’s important you find the one that’s right for you.
Weigh up your options
The best way to find the right card for your business is to compare the specific benefits and then you can choose the right business fuel card for you.