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Fleet cards 101: What is a fleet card?

July 8, 2024

If you own a small business or help run a large business, it’s likely you’re expected to regularly make small decisions on the fly. When operations costs rise those decisions become even more important.

If you have a crew out in the field who drive company vehicles – say you’re a plumber, an electrician, a moving company, a fuel delivery company, or an important player in the national supply chain, your management decisions can sometimes be even more impactful. It’s likely you’re out there in the field as well orchestrating your business from afar. As truck drivers, workers, and technicians who represent you go out into the world, likely problems are being thrown at you that you have to solve in the middle of your busy work day. This is whether you have two or three vans or trucks, or a fleet of thousands of vehicles delivering products throughout the nation. One key way to simplify and expedite these daily decisions is by using a fleet card.

Explore further with our “What is a Fleet Card?” Infographic.

How does a fleet card work?

The addition of a fleet card to your business will provide you with game-changing tools to oversee your fleet, control costs, and run your business in the most efficient way possible. Whether you have a small crew or are overseeing hundreds of vehicles, fleet cards help you save time and money by letting you:

  • Put guardrails around employee spending
  • Identify potential fraud or misuse
  • Automatically track purchases online
  • Access detailed reports
  • Drive a stronger bottom line for your company

Below, you’ll find what we consider our “Fleet Cards 101,” a guide to understanding the benefits and uses of fleet cards in your business model.

Fleet Cards 101

What does a fuel card do?

A strong fleet card will drive your business forward by providing advantages and opportunities to become more efficient and smarter in how you manage your company’s fuel expenses.

How do I save money managing a fleet?

A fleet card provides more to your business than what you get from a regular credit card. Fleet cards give businesses of all sizes tools to manage fuel expenses and reduce risks involved in fuel payment, all in one place.

With many of the highest caliber fleet cards, you have the potential to take advantage of the following:

  • Rebates/savings
  • Fuel expense tracking
  • Acceptance at a large number of locations
  • Security/help reducing misuse 
  • Spending controls 
  • Automatic reporting/no paperwork
  • Online and mobile account access
  • Tools to create estimates for budgeting by linking expenses to individual users

Can I use my fuel card for other purchases?

Fleet cards can be used for maintenance at accepting locations, and certain product types in convenience stores, but most fleet cards’ primary use is for fuel. Unlike corporate credit cards, which can be used on a broad range of expenses, fleet cards are usually only used for vehicle expenses. With WEX fleet cards you do have the option to provide your drivers with additional purchasing options through the WEX Edge program. With the WEX Edge savings network, you can receive discounts on ancillary items like tires, cellular service, hotel stays, and more.

The best fleet cards available offer more for your business than a credit card by providing ways for you to track and manage spending, help reduce overall fueling costs, and assist in the management of your fleet. You always know who spends what, when, and where.

Fleet cards are safer to use than cash because they are protected and provide security for your dollars in a way cash cannot. Cash is hard to track, easily lost or stolen and isn’t very safe or secure. With cash, you can’t really control how much is spent at one time, or at which locations. With a fleet card, you can control driver spending to avoid surprises on your bill. All you do is set the spending limits that work best for your business.

Where can I use my fleet card?

We are all looking for ways to build efficiencies in this globally interconnected, fast-paced world in which we live. A tool that is convenient, effective and that simplifies a complicated process can play a crucial role in edging out the competition, while making the lives of workers and management easier.

The convenience of universal cards that can be used virtually anywhere

“Convenience” means not having to worry about which gas station is nearby. This is one of the many benefits of a universal fleet card. “Universal” fleet cards are accepted at virtually any U.S. gas station—up to 95% of them. You get the flexibility to fuel wherever you need to, without having to drive out of your way to find the right gas station. (Just remember, you only get rebates at the issuing brand.) WEX’s Universal fleet card is accepted at 95% of all retail fuel locations, and at 45,000 maintenance locations, making it a great choice in a fleet card.

The convenience of contactless payment: time savings, security, protection against lost or stolen cards and/or skimmers

Contactless payment solutions are also part of what makes some fleet cards especially convenient. Contactless payment:

  • Reduces the time your drivers have to spend at the pump
  • Increases security
  • Protects against lost or stolen cards
  • Protects against skimmers

WEX’s DriverDash app, which works at participating U.S. Exxon and Shell locations, is the perfect example of a fleet card that offers a safe and reliable method of contactless payment. DriverDash provides mobile fleet card payment at the pump and is linked to your fleet card account. DriverDash offers contactless payment, so drivers don’t have to touch a pump, enter a store, or pass a card back and forth.

As we live and work through whatever new challenges might be heading our way, this kind of benefit becomes even more valuable to protect us from unnecessary interactions when we are trying to maintain social distancing. The contactless payment provided by DriverDash creates a more smooth and secure exchange for your drivers and helps your company run more efficiently.

How do I use my fleet card?

The best fleet cards give you instant access to a variety of reports, to view online or download to your bookkeeping software. Some fleet cards will show you details like who the driver is, what fuel grade is being purchased, and what the sales tax is for every purchase. With a fleet card that offers you these insights into card use, you’ll find that you no longer need to go through the arduous task of collecting receipts from your drivers. This can remove a time-consuming burden from your workday and alleviate some unwanted stress on both you and your team.

Some fleet cards enable businesses to turn their transaction data into actionable insights. By choosing a provider that offers you additional tools to analyze fleet performance and fueling trends, you can strategize where the least expensive fuel can be purchased. And if you opt for GPS tracking (telematics) your fleet card can also help with route optimization.

Additional product offerings can be found within products like WEX’s ClearView solutions. This tool allows fuel consumption to be reviewed in easy-to-understand charts and graphs, alerting business owners to potential spending spikes or irregular spending patterns. For example, if a vehicle is using more fuel than necessary, analytics from ClearView can signal that a vehicle is in need of service (or that a driver needs additional training).

When fleet card companies offer these additional services, you will find that your job managing your fleet becomes streamlined and provides you with more time in your day to further expand and fine-tune your business.

Does a fleet card help me save on fuel expenses?

Fleet cards often allow fleet managers to save on fuel expenses. Most fleet cards offer fuel rebates, so you can save a few cents per gallon at the issuing brand. (This means if you get a fleet card from brand X, you get rebates only on fuel purchased at brand X locations.) The more you and your employees drive, the more savings add up. They appear as a credit on your invoice.

With a discount program like WEX EDGE, which you automatically get when you sign up for a WEX fuel card, you can take advantage of discounts on tires and hotels that are applied at the point of sale.

Can I get tools to manage my fleet with my gas card?

What tools should I look for in a fleet card?

Businesses should seek cards that come with powerful fuel management tools and mobile apps that can be used to find opportunities to help reduce spending and help identify purchasing anomalies and misuse.

WEX’s Fleet SmartHub mobile app is an example of this type of service that can be found with certain fleet cards. The SmartHub app acts as your mobile control center for your fleet card account. WEX Fleet SmartHub gives business managers access to their account information anytime and anywhere, which helps them improve efficiencies, reduce late fees, gain valuable insights, and control unauthorized driver spending.

Can I manage my drivers with a fleet card?

The best fleet cards require drivers to enter identifying information for every purchase, like a PIN number and current odometer reading. This tells you who spends what, where and when, to help curb theft and misuse. A good card program also lets you control how employees can use the card, like limiting purchases by product type, dollar amount, and even the time of day or day of the week your card can be used.

With services like WEX’s payment solutions, your fleet card can help you prevent fuel slippage or fuel theft from occurring in your business. The security of knowing who spends what, identifying employee theft, and being able to cancel lost or stolen cards, will help give you great peace of mind as you manage your business going forward.

What is the best fuel card for small business?

The best fleet cards allow you to know where the money goes:

  • See who spends what, where, and when
  • Capture detailed information for every purchase
  • Use simple online and mobile tools

The best fleet cards help you keep an eye on spending:

  • Limit use by amount, time of day, product, and more
  • Set spending limits by employee or card
  • Driver PIN authorization to help curb misuse

The best fleet cards give you access to quick and easy analytics:

  • Automatic fuel accounting and expense tracking
  • No need to collect employee fuel receipts
  • Easy one-click reporting

The best fleet cards give you access to your account wherever you go:

On the road? Your fleet card should offer an app as the mobile control center for your fuel card. With this app you should be able to:

  • Look up driver IDs
  • View and filter transactions
  • Make or schedule payments
  • Know your available credit
  • Cancel lost or stolen cards
  • Spot potential misuse

Does it make sense to get a fleet card for my small business?

We hope this article has helped you better understand what a fleet card is and how it can help you manage your fleet expenses. We’ve designed WEX fleet cards and the tools that come with your fleet card to give you access to ways to best manage your business and save money, and we continue to innovate to bring more value to them each year. 

All fleet cards are not the same, and different types of fuel cards suit the needs of different kinds and sizes of businesses. View WEX’s fleet card comparison chart to see which fleet fuel card is right for you. 

If you’re ready to get your fleet of drivers a gas card, learn how in this step by step outline.

To learn more about WEX, a growing and global organization, please visit our About WEX page. 

Editorial note: This article was originally published on October 16, 2019, and has been updated for this publication.

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