Fuel Cards

Pauline Hatch     

Designed for business use, fuel cards let you or your employees pay at the pump for work-related travel, instead of using cash or a business credit card. Business owners can easily set spending limits on employee cards. That includes limiting spending within certain categories, for example, fuel only, fuel and maintenance, or fuel and service station goods.

As you can see from the long list of fuel cards here, there are plenty of fuel card choices in Australia. Some fuel cards can only be used at specific service stations. Others can be used at multiple brands of servos across the country, and for maintenance and repairs through a partner program. Whether you're a sole trader who needs one fuel card or have an entire fleet of vehicles to cover, fuel cards have excellent business-focused benefits. You can get perks such as earning rewards points and discounts on fuel. Tracking fuel costs and reporting expenses at tax time is effortless. Let's take a quick look at each of the major fuel card options here in Australia to see how they operate and what they’ve got to offer.

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Fuel Cards in Australia

Your business - no matter what the size - could benefit from a fuel card with perks such as easy tracking of fuel and vehicle costs, discounts at the pump and exclusive offers from program partners.

No matter what kind of business you own, it can be hard to keep track of fuel costs on the road. Fuel cards are an alternative to cash and credit cards that help you manage fuel costs for yourself and your employees. It's also much easier to accurately track and report fuel and maintenance spending.

But that’s not all! Fuel cards have plenty of other benefits, the best being discounts on fuel and exclusive offers from program partners. Some fuel cards even earn rewards points, which can be stacked up and redeemed in well-known programs such as Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Fuel Card Benefits

What are the benefits of getting a fuel card? Let’s take a deep dive.

      ☛      Track Fuel Spending

Instead of relying on employees to pay for fuel with cash and hand in a receipt, fuel cards log all transactions on your account.

Not only do fuel cards streamline your accounting, they also highlight any discrepancies and show how much employees are spending and where.

      ☛      Reduce Expenses

All your on-road travel expenses are in one report, meaning you won't need to spend time and money sifting through piles of receipts each month to reimburse your employees. You can also limit spending by employees, so they can't buy and sneakily claim non-work items.

      ☛      Save on Fuel

Saving on fuel costs couldn't be more crucial for businesses today. Some fuel cards feature immediate discounts when you fill up, while others offer volume-based pricing after a certain period of time.

      ☛      Save on Servicing

Some fuel cards allow users to pay for servicing, maintenance and repairs through partner networks. Discounts and other offers can be part of the fuel card package.

      ☛      Earn Rewards

They're harder to come by, but there are fuel cards that earn rewards points. As an example, the BP Plus fuel card earns Qantas Points on fuel and service station spending.

      ☛      Less Hassle

Employees out on the road only need to swipe their fuel card when they fill up at the pump. For business owners, there's no need to collect receipts or reimburse employees to cover out-of-pocket costs.

      ☛      Less Opportunity for Fraud

Fuel cards can be set with a PIN that only the cardholder knows. Some cards may require number plate and odometer readings when filling up. They can be a safer way to pay, as well as reducing fraudulent spending from employees.

      ☛      Less Stress at Tax Time

Paying by cash and keeping receipts for fuel spending can be a nightmare come tax time. Even with a business credit card, it can take time to separate out the different types of spendingto accurately complete your return. Fuel cards simplify fuel and vehicle servicing spending by keeping the accounts completely separate.

      ☛      Detailed Reports

Your fuel card account report shows the details of each purchase, from the cost per kilometre for each employee to their fuel economy. A tool that analyses your on-road costs means you can make cost-effective adjustments for your business.

Fuel Card or Credit Card?

It's a great question! Both come with their own pros and cons. Do you really need a fuel card, or would a business credit card do the job just as well? Here are some important points.

Credit Cards

  • With a business credit card, you can provide each of your employees with access to credit, as needed.
  • You can track the spending of each cardholder, setting limits on or prohibiting certain types of spending. Individual credit limits can also be applied.
  • A business credit card can be used in person and online, within Australia and overseas, anywhere Visa, Mastercard or American Express is accepted.
  • Employees only need to carry one card, which can be used to cover all business expenses.
  • Annual fees and other business credit card costs may be tax deductible.
  • Business credit cards can earn rewards, which can be redeemed by the accountholder or as incentives for employees.
  • Business credit cards can also offer additional features, such as travel insurance and airport lounge access.
  • Depending on the type of card, a business card may act as a charge card or credit card. Charge cards and credit cards typically offer an interest-free period that can help with business cash flow.
  • Most business cards offer expense reporting and easy data exporting to accounting software.

 

Fuel Cards

  • Fuel cards can only be used to cover spending as specified by the type of card and the account. This may include fuel spending, service station spending, or servicing costs, within a limited range of service stations, service providers and retailers.
  • Depending on the type of card, fuel card users may benefit from discounts at the pumps.
  • Fuel cards may offer better spending controls than business cards.
  • Account reports allow for easy tracking on each employee's spending and provide data that could be used to make better business decisions.
  • Fuel cards make expense reporting easy by keeping fuel and other vehicle costs separate to other business items.
  • Some fuel cards provide the opportunity to earn rewards.

 

How to Compare Fuel Cards

Think your business could benefit from a fuel card? Here are some factors to think about as you compare your options.

      💡      Service Station Coverage

Think about how you and your employees will use the card. If you tend to only fill up at a specific service station chain, you could opt for a single-branded fuel card that suits. If your travel requirements are much broader and more random, a multi-branded fuel card may be a better option.

      💡      Discounts

While some fuel cards provide a specific discount on fuel costs, other cards vary the discount depending on other factors. For instance, the more fuel you buy, the more attractive your business is to the fuel card provider, which should translate to bigger discounts at the pumps. You may find that negotiating can get you a better rate, especially if you think your fuel-buying volume will grow.

      💡      Control

Find out what limits you can place on individual cardholder spending and the types of items they can buy. A customisable card could help you save money by deterring employees who would otherwise abuse their fuel expense accounts.

      💡      Security

Check what security features each fuel card offers. Look for a card that allows cardholders to set a PIN. Other security features to look out for include rego plate and odometer reading when filling up.

      💡      Fees

Fuel cards may charge an ongoing monthly fee. It could be a set fee per card, or it may be determined by the type of account and volume of fuel purchased. Obviously, you want to make sure the fees you pay to use the fuel card are outweighed by the discounts and other benefits you get in return.

      💡      Volume of your Fleet

Some fuel cards are better suited to sole traders and small to medium sized businesses, while others are designed to suit larger companies with much larger fleets. Look at the cost per card, which can add up on larger fleets and businesses that employ a high number of part-time workers.

      💡      Interest Free Periods

Fuel cards often come with an interest-free period on your transactions – much like a credit card – that can help you manage your cash flow. These interest-free periods can range from 14 to 51 days, so it’s worth checking what each card offers before you apply.

      💡      Rewards

Earning rewards points is a big perk for a fuel card. Take into account how many points you'll earn per dollar spent, any caps on points, and other fees and important info just as you would when comparing rewards credit cards.

      💡      Introductory Offers

Some fuel cards provide bonus intro offers to entice new cardholders. Offers can be a bigger discount on fuel costs over an introductory period, or taking home a chunk of bonus rewards points. Conditions may apply, such as a minimum fuel volume requirement, so check the terms before you sign up.

Can you use a fuel card to buy anything apart from fuel?

Unlike credit cards, fuel cards are limited to certain types of spending. You'll only be able to use your fuel card at participating service station locations and program partners. You can decide what limits to impose so the card can be used for fuel only, or for servicing and service station spending (if the card has that feature).

Can you get a fuel card for personal use?

Fuel cards are designed for business owners, which means you'll usually have to provide your ABN when you apply. If you want a fuel card for personal use, you could use a gift card, but it won't come with the same perks.

Can you cover your fuel card payment with a credit card?

Depending on the fuel card you choose, there could be a number of ways to pay your account. You may be able to pay with a credit card, but some transaction fees may apply. These costs might outweigh any discounts or perks you received from the fuel card in the first place.

Pauline Hatch

Pauline Hatch is a personal finance expert at Creditcard.com.au with 8 years of finance writing under her belt. She loves turning complex money concepts into simple, practical actions so you can win financially. You can ask Pauline any questions by submitting a comment below and get a personal reply.

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