There are several types of fuel cards available, but they all fall into two main categories: fuel cards with which you pay for fuel at pump prices, and those that allow you to buy fuel at discount prices. Which type is best for your company will depend on your fleet of vehicles and the type of driving and routes they generally take. We will first take a look in-depth at discount type fuel cards.
Discount Fuel Cards: How do they work?
Discount fuel cards (also referred to as ‘commercial fuel cards’) allow the holder to buy petrol or diesel fuel at a discounted price. They work in the same way as bunker and commercial fuel cards. The supplier purchases fuel at wholesale prices and so is able to sell to fuel card holders at a discount. Savings can be several pence per litre.
A discount fuel cards company will allocate each vehicle or driver in your company a chip and PIN style card which they can use to pay for fuel at service stations on the supplier's network. Your company will then be invoiced on a weekly or monthly basis for fuel bought.
These type of fuel cards provide a convenient and practically cost-free way of mitigating a company’s fuel spend. While discount fuel cards may not be able to remove the certainty of rising fuel prices, they can hold it off for a little while and help you use less.
Discount Fuel Card Types
Bunker Fuel Cards
Bunker fuel cards allow drivers to buy fuel at wholesale prices. The supplier purchases fuel, generally diesel, in bulk and stores it at stations belonging to its network of ‘bunkered’ sites. This means that they can sell the fuel at prices considerably cheaper than pump prices, often several pence per litre cheaper. Another advantage of bunker cards is that the prices are fixed on a weekly basis so your business will know exactly how much it is paying for fuel that week.
There are far fewer bunker sites in the UK than there are filling stations. Typically diesel bunker fuel cards can be used at up to 400 sites. This means that they are really only appropriate for transport, haulage and logistics businesses that use specific routes that include bunker site locations.
As well as purchasing bunkered fuel at fixed prices, some bunker cards allow businesses to bunker their own fuels, in other words they purchase fuel in bulk through their own accounting system and store it at bunker sites. The bunker fuel card gives their drivers access to the fuel that is already owned by their company. Typically this applies only to heavy users who typically use more than 50,000 litres a month.
Most bunker cards can also be used at regular filling stations, but the full pump price is charged and there is also a surcharge.
Petrol Bunker Cards
While most bunker cards are used for the purchase of wholesale diesel, some are used to purchase wholesale petrol. The same model as above applies: the supplier buys wholesale petrol in bulk, stores it at its bunker sites, and sells it to fuel card members at discounted prices.
The most popular bunkered petrol cards are:
- Keyfuels Fleet Card - Over 1,300 bunker sites throughout the UK and the cards are accepted at an additional 1,200 retail forecourts (where you pay sign price). Fixed weekly petrol prices on contract or ‘Pay As You Go’ basis. 24/7 online account management with fuel usage analysis. Smart restrictions to prevent fraud through setting fill-up maximums. No extra charges.
- Texaco Fastfuel Card - Over 1,750 sites UK wide. Fixed weekly petrol price. 24/7 online account management with fuel usage analysis. No up-front payments, interest free credit. Motorway coverage. Can be used on other service station products (snacks, drinks etc.).
- UK Fuel Cards - Over 650 sites in the UK. Fixed weekly petrol price. 24/7 online account management with fuel usage analysis. Dedicated account manager. 28 days interest free credit.
The benefits of discounted fuel cards vary between suppliers but can include any if not all of the benefits that retail fuel cards offer including reductions in fuel price, admin costs, leakage and improvements in cash flow, tax efficiency, fuel efficiency and the possibility of rewards and loyalty bonuses.
Retail Fuel Cards
Retail fuel cards have a much wider network of service stations at which you can use the card and will allow your drivers to purchase fuel at retail filling stations that belong to the specific network. The prices charged are current pump prices though some fuel card providers charge an additional transaction fee.
Different providers have differently sized networks. Some are extensive and cover around 90% of all filling stations, while others are more restricted, for instance just covering the forecourts of specific supermarkets.
The primary benefits of retail fuel cards are more concerned with administrative efficiency and security than with saving on fuel costs though the size of the networks along with the inclusion of cheaper filling stations such as supermarkets provides the opportunity of shopping around for the cheapest prices. The benefits of retail fuel cards and a list of popular cards are described in detail in our article ‘fuel card benefits for business fleets’.
Popular Retail Fuel Cards
- BP Plus – The BP retail petrol card, as you’d expect, provides extensive coverage with over 3,000 participating stations. Online account management allows you to put in place anti-fraud measures and you get fleet management reports. Nectar points are awarded with fuel purchases. Single VAT approved invoice.
- TOTALCARD – Over 3,000 sites. Online account management with anti-fraud measures and reporting tools. Can be used on the M6 toll road. VAT approved invoices. Up to 6 weeks interest free credit (subject to status).
- Arval Allstar – The BNP Paribas petrol card is accepted at all service stations including supermarkets, and provides an online tool for finding the cheapest nearby outlet. The usual online reporting and VAT approved invoices are provided. Enhanced security features for fraud prevention. Like having a petrol credit card without the huge APR – the only charge is £12 per annum per petrol card. 14 days interest free credit.
Discount Fuel Card Suppliers: What to look for?
Finding the right fuel card for your fleet or your business can be challenging. It is advisable to compare as many discount fuel cards providers as possible to find the best fit for your company. Often this will come down to factors like where the suppliers’ sites are located, how extensive their network is and how long they allow for payment. Do watch out for standing charges or set-up fees and deposits. The information we have provided on this website is designed to help you make the best choice, but if you would like more detailed information please fill in the web form and you will receive up to four quotations from suppliers that are most appropriate for your business.
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