What is a Fuel Card?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
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  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2019
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Also known as a fleet card, a fuel card looks and works similarly to a credit card, but it is primarily used for the purchase of diesel, gasoline, or other fuels. In some cases, these cards can also be used to pay for repairs and regular maintenance on the vehicle they are assigned to. A fuel card is normally owned by the fleet manager, and a separate card is given to each driver. This card can give the fleet owner detailed reports on how, when, and where the card was used, which helps to reduce and catch fraudulent activities. While today’s fuel cards use modern technology based on credit cards, fuel cards were not always so convenient, fraud-proof, or sturdy.

A fuel card virtually eliminates fraud on the driver’s behalf with detailed reports and restrictions. Without a fuel card, a driver would be expected to use a debit or credit card, cash, or check either from herself or the fleet owner. These options are open to all kinds of fraudulent activities. For example, if the driver purchased fuel at a gas station but also went inside the store and added a meal to the total bill, there might be no way to tell which part of the purchase was food and which part of the purchase should be reimbursed by the company.


Besides extra security, a major benefit of fuel cards is the ability to acquire discounted fuel. This is especially true if the fleet owner decides to issue a fuel card that works only with one fuel company. The discount given to small fleets is usually not as great as the ones given to fleets with thousands of vehicles that regularly need to be fueled up.

Fuel cards have been around since the 1960s, but they were time consuming and more vulnerable to fraud when first introduced. Making a purchase with a fuel card required showing the card and giving a cashier the driver’s name and company information. When computers became popular, both the credit card and fuel card adopted a magnetic stripe for a card reader to scan and authorize. Since then, fuel cards have become more and more secure, with fleet owners gaining the ability to see purchases in real time and restrict purchases to certain days or certain times of the day. In addition, the cards themselves have become sturdier as manufacturers realized frequent use rendered the card too worn to read.


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Post 1

I wish I worked for a company that provided fuel cards. They barely pay decent mileage rates! It would be very nice for the company to pay my fuel expenses. Not many places do anymore, unless it's a trucking company, and even then, I think the driver can only submit so much fuel on an expense account.

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