Fleet cards, or fleet fuel cards, are used to maintain company vehicles and help businesses manage fleet-related expenses. Fleet cards are best for businesses with two or more vehicles and use between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons per month. You may also want to consider fleet cards to earn discounts on eligible vehicle-related purchases.
As an excellent alternative to a fleet fuel card, business owners can use small business credit cards, like the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card. You can get employee cards at no additional cost, set spending limits, and earn 2% cash back on purchases up to $50,000.
What a Fleet Card Is
A fleet card, similar to a small business fuel card, is used by businesses for the fuel, repair, and maintenance of company vehicles. They feature discounts with participating gas stations, mechanics, and maintenance facilities. Fleet cards are designed for businesses that use two or more company vehicles and between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons per month.
How a Fleet Card Works
When a company opens a fleet fuel card account, it’s able to issue individual fleet cards to its drivers. Employees charge all vehicle-related expenses to their fleet cards, and the business pays the overall outstanding balance. Although employees are never liable, business owners can protect themselves by setting card spend limits and purchase restrictions to ensure cards are used responsibly.
Fleet cards offer “in-network” gas stations and maintenance facilities that cardholders can choose. Mobile apps are provided to help drivers locate these gas stations and facilities. It’s typical to find fleet cards that have over 170,000 available gas stations and an equal amount of repair and maintenance choices.
Similar to most small business credit cards, fleet cards are normally considered “joint liability,” meaning the liability is shared between the company and the small business owner. Some fleet cards, however, allow for business-only liability if certain criteria are met, such as years in business and annual revenue. When you apply jointly, you can expect both your business credit and personal credit to be considered in your approval decision.
If a fleet card doesn’t seem right for your business spending needs, consider a small business credit card. Compare the best business credit cards to help find a card that best fits your business.
Who a Fleet Card Is Right For
A fleet credit card is best for those who are looking to manage their fleet expenses but may not want to use a prepaid business card. Made available to businesses that regularly use two or more company vehicles, this option is excellent for companies that drive often and want to earn discounts.
Fleet fuel cards are right for:
- Businesses with commercial vehicles: This financing option is an excellent choice for small businesses that use commercial vehicles regularly. Some companies that fall into this category include delivery, transportation, and construction companies.
- Smaller companies: This can benefit companies of smaller sizes as it opens up an additional line of credit to help balance expenses. For example, it makes it easier to separate your fleet expenses from your office supplies, which can ensure you don’t use too much credit from one card.
- Business with employee card needs: Fleet fuel cards allow business owners or fleet managers to set spending limits and track purchases in real-time. This helps mitigate any risk related to irresponsible employee spending or financial wrongdoings.
- Trucking companies: Fleet cards are used across several trucking companies regardless of their fleet size. In addition to fleet cards, trucking companies can also take advantage of trucking business loans and semi-truck financing.
Those business owners who have trucking companies and are looking to protect their fleet should consider getting semi-truck insurance. This will help cover the commercial truck drivers, and all drivers need at least liability insurance that covers injuries or damage to other parties when the driver is at fault.
Fleet Card Features at a Glance
Fleet Card Costs
The three main costs of fuel gas cards are interest rates, card fees, and late fees. Unlike small business credit cards, it’s not typical for fleet gas cards to have an introductory APR period. Each fleet fuel card generally carries a monthly cost between $0 and $10. Monthly costs are waived if the account reaches certain monthly gallon thresholds, typically between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons.
The costs that are typically associated with a fleet card are:
- Regular APR: 15% – 20%
- Monthly Cost: $0 – $10 per card, sometimes waived depending on card provider
- Minimum Late Fee: $50 to $75
A fleet card can either act as a regular credit card or as a charge card. If it is a credit card, any unpaid balances will accrue interest until repaid. However, if it’s a charge card, any unpaid balances will be hit with a late fee because it’s required to repay charge cards in full every month.
Fleet Card Repayment Terms
Fleet cards can work like a credit card or a charge card, which changes their repayment terms drastically. First, fleet credit cards have similar repayment terms to that of a small business gas card and will accrue interest on any balances that are unpaid. Fleet charge cards, on the other hand, must be paid off in full every billing cycle, and any unpaid balances will be hit with a late fee.
The repayment terms of a fleet credit card and charge card are:
- Fleet Credit Card: Depending on the card and provider, they can either be billed on a bi-monthly or monthly basis. Any balances that are unpaid will accrue interest.
- Fleet Charge Card: All charge cards are required to be paid off in full at the end of every billing cycle. Any unpaid balances will accrue late fees until they are repaid.
When it comes to who is liable for these payments, the liability is typically held jointly between the business and the owner who opened the corporate account. Fleet cards won’t show up on someone’s personal credit report. However, if a business fails to repay the amount, the business owner, or whomever provided a personal guarantee, is required to pay and is held liable.
Fleet Card Discounts & Rewards
One of the biggest benefits of a fleet credit card is the opportunity to earn discounts and maximize your rewards on gas and vehicle purchases. These purchases range from gasoline, repairs, and maintenance costs associated with your fleet. Depending on the card and provider, it’s typical for cardholders to earn anywhere between $0.03 and $0.10 per gallon. These earnings are either given as discounts at the pump or rewards that appear as a cash-back rewards credit on your credit statement.
Fleet Card Purchase Restrictions
Fleet cards, similar to fuel cards and employee business cards, give account holders the ability to restrict and control employee spending. This helps fleet managers ensure that their employees are using their cards responsibly.
For example, fleet managers are able to set both monthly and daily spending limits for each individual card to ensure employees don’t use them irresponsibly. Once an employee’s card reaches a daily or monthly limit, they won’t be able to use it for any purchases. This helps fleet managers take control and have their entire fleet’s expenses under their control.
Fleet Card Providers
There are several fleet credit card providers to choose from, and making a decision on which is best for your business can be difficult. It’s common for major gas stations to offer their own branded fleet cards. You can generally inquire about one of their cards online or by visiting a physical gas station.
Top Fleet Card Providers
|Fleet Card Providers||Best for|
|ExxonMobil||Existing ExxonMobil customers who want to earn rebates up to $0.06 per gallon|
|Fuelman||Businesses with larger fleets that want to earn up to $0.10 per gallon|
|ARCO||Companies that want to earn $0.10 per gallon for the first six months|
Three of the most common fleet credit card providers are:
ExxonMobil Business Fleet Card
The ExxonMobil Business Fleet Card is best for businesses that only pump fuel at Exxon or Mobil stations. With this fleet card, account holders can earn between $0.01 and $0.06, depending on their monthly gas usage. ExxonMobil also offers the Fleet National Card, which gives a company’s fleet the ability to use their cards at branded and non-branded stations.
Fuelman Commercial Advantage Fleet Card
The Fuelman Commercial Advantage Fleet Card is best for businesses with larger fleets and that want to save up to $0.10 per gallon on both unleaded and diesel fuel. This Fuelman card is accepted at 50,000 stations and 20,000 maintenance locations in the Fuelman network. You can find Fuelman locations by using their site locator on their website.
ARCO Business Solutions Mastercard
The ARCO Business Solutions Mastercard is best for businesses looking for a single card solution that provides cost management and want to earn $0.10 per gallon for the first six months at over 1,500 participating ARCO locations. This fleet card is also accepted at any gas stations that accept Mastercard.
When a Fleet Card Is the Right Choice
Fleet credit cards help business owners manage and track their company’s gas and vehicle-related expenses. Regardless of whether you run a construction company, delivery service, florist, or bakery, a fleet fuel card account might be beneficial. When deciding if a fleet card is right for you, it’s important to ask yourself specific questions to help evaluate if it fits your business’ needs.
Some questions to ask yourself when you’re considering a fleet credit card are:
- Are you looking for an alternative to employee gas reimbursements?
- Do you require more robust data analysis for your fleet usage?
- Do you have the cash flow to cover bi-monthly or monthly credit card payments?
When considering if a fleet credit card is right you, if you answered “yes” to the questions above, then your company is a good candidate. Most fleet credit cards carry a monthly cost of $10, which some providers waive if you use between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons per month. However, if you use less than 1,000 gallons per month, you’ll need to rely on a card without a monthly fee or a small business gas card.
Benefits of Fleet Fuel Cards
There are several different benefits fleets can receive from the use of fleet fuel cards. The four primary benefits of a fleet fuel card include reporting and analytics, cost savings, streamlined expense reporting, and using GPS built into the card apps. This can help business owners take control of their gas-related purchases and earn money back when their employees swipe their cards.
The four primary benefits of a fleet fuel card are:
1. Robust Reporting & Analytics
The biggest benefit of a fleet fuel card is the reporting that the account provides. Business owners and fleet managers have access to in-depth reporting and analytics that show credit card transactions in real-time. These reports can be used to increase driver efficiency and accountability.
Some things fleet fuel card reporting shows are:
- Per Card Usage: Business owners can see card usage on a per card basis.
- Overall Usage: Business owners can look at the overall usage of the fleet.
- Odometer Analytics: Fleet fuel cards use odometer prompting to track mileage, cost per mile, and miles per gallon. There are also mileage tracker apps that can help fleet managers with this.
For example, cardholders have driver IDs that they enter at a gas pump before filling up. A prompt then appears on the gas pump’s screen asking for the vehicle’s odometer reading. Each time a driver fills up, the odometer is tracked. From the account dashboard, a business owner or fleet manager can see how each vehicle performs in terms of miles per gallon and cost per mile.
2. Increased Cost Savings
Fleet cards only allow authorized purchases at participating gas stations, mechanics, and other repair-related services. At these participating locations, fleets can earn discounts and rebates on their purchases. These expenses can be limited by the amount or frequency of transactions through the central dashboard, saving the company money.
Some typical fleet fuel card discounts you can expect are:
- Gas Discounts: $0.03 to $0.10 per gallon per card
- Vehicle-Related Discounts: 10% to 15% on tires, repairs, and maintenance costs
What’s more, restrictions can even be placed on the specific type of fuel. For example, if you manage a fleet of diesel trucks, you can limit gas purchases to diesel only. This mitigates the opportunity for employees to use corporate fleet gas cards for personal use. However, if you have a driver who needs to make an unexpected purchase, you also have the ability to change what they’re authorized to purchase on the fly.
3. Streamlined Expense Management Process
Some companies will still require their employees to submit an expense report, but often fleet cards come with systems that make this more efficient and allow for more robust and automatic expense management. Businesses will need to have a policy regarding how they want their employees to handle this, including when expense reports and receipts are required.
We were able to sit down and talk about time savings with Danielle Piper Bloom, Marketing Manager of P-Fleet, who said:
“All companies that cross state lines with their vehicles have to file an IFTA Report, which evaluates the taxes spent in each state. This can be one of the largest hassles fleets face, as they have to gather receipts from every state they have visited. However, with a fleet card, they can automatically generate their IFTA reports and save a ton of work for their accounting team.”
4. Integrated GPS Systems
Additionally, with the provided fleet fuel card app, there’s no time wasted driving around looking for a gas station or repair shop. Instead, drivers can rely on GPS to find all of their vehicle-related needs. Further, most GPS systems show the gas prices of each available station, saving the fleet money, too.
How a Fleet Card Differs from a Small Business Gas Card
Small business gas cards are similar to fleet cards in that they’re offered by the same oil and gas providers and usually have the same “in-network” gas stations. However, they differ in cost, where you can use each card, the discounts and rewards they offer, and the liability they both require.
The four major differences of a fleet credit card and small business gas card are:
1. Fees & APR
The majority of small business gas cards generally don’t carry a monthly fee. However, a select number of small business gas cards carry a one-time setup, typically around $40. While the fees on small business gas cards are less, they offer smaller discounts when compared to a fleet fuel card alternative.
Small business gas cards generally have a higher APR and can carry balances from month to month, which are subject to interest charges. Fleet cards, on the other hand, can either act as a credit card (APR between 15% and 20%) or a charge card. If they act as a charge card, they’re required to be paid off in full and can be penalized by late fees if this requirement isn’t met.
2. Purchase Restrictions
Some small business gas cards can be used for purchases unrelated to vehicle upkeep and maintenance. Other small business gas cards limit purchases to gas stations and convenience stores only. This is in contrast to fleet cards, all of which allow for the purchase of fuel, repairs, and maintenance. However, both give you the ability to place restrictions on how your cardholders are able to use the card.
3. Discounts & Rewards
Small business gas cards offer discounts and rewards on gas purchases. However, the discount rate is usually around $0.03 per gallon, which is lower than the discounts on a fleet credit card. Small business gas cards also sometimes offer extra discounts for any purchases unrelated to gas.
General small business credit cards are also an option if you’re looking for fuel savings. While they aren’t specific to gas, there are small business credit cards that offer 2x points for gas purchases as well as cash rewards. By using different guides like our buyer’s guide on the best small business credit cards, you can determine if a small business credit card is right for you.
4. Type of Liability
Most fleet cards, depending on the provider and specific agreement, are tied to the master account holder—the business owner. The business owner personally guarantees the card and is liable if their business fails to repay the debt obligations. However, in a few instances, some cards offer joint liability between the business and the individual cardholder. This means the individual would be held liable to pay off the debt.
Pros & Cons of a Fleet Card
Business fleet gas cards provide businesses with the ability to request multiple employee cards specifically for fleet-related purchases. They’re especially beneficial for earning discounts, tracking employee spending, and accessing reporting. However, there’s no introductory APR period, there are purchase restrictions, and you can only earn discounts at specific locations.
The pros and cons of a fleet credit card are:
Pros of a Fleet Card
The pros of a fleet credit card are:
- Discount and reward opportunities: Small businesses and cardholders will have the opportunity to save and earn cash back on gas and vehicle-related purchases. This is beneficial for those using 1,000 to 5,000 gallons per month across their account.
- Manage employee spending: Fleet credit cards give the business owner the ability to track and control their employee spending limits.
- Real-time reporting: Small business owners, officers, and fleet managers are able to see in-depth reporting and analytics that show credit card transactions in real-time.
Cons of a Fleet Card
The cons of a fleet credit card are:
- No introductory APR: Unlike some small business credit cards, there are no introductory APR periods. This means this is not a good financing option for those looking to carry a balance. In some cases, fleet cards may act as charge cards, and their balances are required to be paid in full each month.
- Rewards only at participating locations: Although there are roughly 170,000 locations that accept these cards, not all of them participate in rewards programs. It’s important to check where you can earn rewards when considering the right card for your business.
- Purchase restrictions: Fleet credit cards can only be used for gas, repair, and maintenance costs. Cardholders won’t be able to use these cards as a regular small business credit card, so spending categories are limited.
Alternatives to a Fleet Card
Fleet credit cards help small business owners manage fleet-related expenses and issue employees cards. If your business needs capital for other expenses, you will need to consider an alternative. Some of the most common alternatives include a small business gas card or credit card, prepaid card, corporate card, or a P-Card.
Some alternative options to fleet credit cards for small business are:
Small Business Gas Card
Small business gas cards help businesses manage a small number of regularly used company vehicles. They provide businesses with things such as card limits, online expense tracking, and discounts on gas. Company gas cards are another excellent option to help you gain control of your fuel expenses.
Small Business Credit Card
Small business credit cards are a beneficial financing option for business that need access to capital, but have little to no revenue. The best credit cards offer high reward payouts, specific rewards categories, and low introductory and ongoing APRs.
Prepaid Business Credit Card
A prepaid business credit card help business owners manage employee expenses and typically have lower qualifications than a regular credit card. Bento for Business, for example, lets business owners preload funds onto employee debit cards, set spend limits, and allow only fleet-related purchases.
Corporate Credit Card
Corporate credit cards typically have lower fees, cash rebates, and sometimes no personal liability. They are best for growing small businesses with $4 million in annual revenue, good business credit, at least 15 cardholders, and annual credit card expenses of $250,000+.
A P-Card is similar to a corporate credit card, but it allows goods and services to be procured outside of the traditional purchasing process. While a P-Card generally is a more efficient way to purchase certain goods and services, they typically act as charge cards and are required to be paid off in full every month.
The Bottom Line
Fleet cards help businesses finance their fuel and maintenance expenses. A corporate fleet credit card account is a good option for businesses that use between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons per month. Also, anyone who manages a fleet and wants better reporting, costs savings, and time savings might find a fleet fuel card beneficial.
A great alternative would be a small business credit card like the American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card, which offers 2% cash back on purchases up to $50,000. With a small business credit card, you don’t have any fuel usage requirements, you get employee cards for free, and you can set employee spend limits.