How Many Fuel Cards? Explaining All the Different Types of Fuel Cards Available

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With more fuel card options available than ever before, fleet managers now have to make a complicated, and potentially costly decision. The Fuelcard Expert provides some tips to help you find the perfect fuel card for your business.

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There is nothing wrong with carrying multiple fuel cards, if these all carry discounts.

The world of fuel cards used to be straightforward. Customers were notified each Friday of their fixed nationwide price for the coming week. Drivers would refuel as necessary and, at the end of the week, out would go the invoice charging the previously notified price.

Fleet managers could also choose a supplier that offered no discounts, but charged a premium, on the basis that its product was widely accepted. This was always a red herring, but some fleet managers still accept that major brand filling stations are hard to find. Either way, it was a simple call: discount fuel or pump-price-plus.

Last year, things became more complicated as a third choice appeared. Now, fleet managers could choose discount fuel, pump-price-plus – or discount-plus, fuel that starts at a discount, but then has an extra charge on top. In reality, there was nothing complicated about it: the gauge started at £2, rather than zero. Whether the customer wanted 500 litres or just one, an extra £2 was added to the bill as a ‘network service fee’ or transaction charge.

This appeared to shock to some customers, who claimed not to have been informed properly about the pricing change. Whatever the rights and wrongs, many voted with their feet and switched suppliers.

This year, the waters have muddied again. A supplier has launched its first discount card, suggesting that customers carry it alongside their existing pump-price-plus card. The ensuing debate seems to have missed the point.

There is nothing wrong with carrying multiple fuel cards, if these all carry discounts. Discounts fluctuate, but saving £40 instead of £41 is hardly a problem. Cost and cashflow issues arise when drivers carry one discount card and one pump-price-plus card. The customer might save 4p per litre, but is more likely to pay full pump price, plus an extra transaction fee. The uncertainty prevents forward planning and means having to go through invoices later, line by line, to know who spent what, where and when.

It all boils down to refuelling at full retail price plus a premium, at discount price plus a premium... or just at a discount price. Believe it or not, some people find this difficult to work out.

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Steve Clarke
since: 12/2010
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