What Are Fleet Cards?

Fleet cards are a type of payment card that allows businesses to manage expenses associated with the vehicles they own and operate. Fleet cards, also known as fuel cards, act just like charge cards and are provided by major oil and/or specialized credit companies. Businesses provide their personnel—namely transportation employees—with fleet cards for fuel, vehicle repairs, and maintenance.

How Fleet Cards Work

Fleet cards have been around in the United States since the 1980s, and are issued by companies to employees who use and operate corporate vehicles. The majority of companies that use fleet cards work in the transport industry. Fleet cards are commonly used by trucking companies as well as those that provide delivery and ridesharing services.

Fleet cards tend to be issued by a single company. This means cardholders can only use them at specific locations owned, operated, and franchised out by the issuer. Just like a regular payment card, fleet cards are embossed or laser-printed with details including the card number, expiry date (if applicable), company name and, in some cases, the name of the authorized user. Newer cards come with a microchip on the front along with a magnetic stripe on the back so they can be used at point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Businesses give these cards to their drivers and other employees who can use them instead of personal cards. This allows the card issuer to bill the company directly rather than the employee, who would have to file expense reports to be reimbursed at a later date. Card issuers generally issue companies a single bill that is itemized with individual charges by each authorized user. Just like charge cards, fleet cards are interest-free. That's because companies are required to pay the outstanding account balance in full by the due date.

Fleet card balances must be paid in full by the due date.

But unlike a corporate credit card—which can be used for a broad set of authorized purchases such as travel—fleet cards are designed to be used specifically for expenses related to managing vehicles. Fleet cards have also been a target for new fintech solutions in the payments industry with a number of fleet payment servicers innovating in this area of the transportation market.

Key Takeaways

  • Fleet cards allow businesses to manage expenses associated with the vehicles they own and operate.
  • Companies provide employees who operate corporate vehicles with fleet cards for fuel purchases, vehicle maintenance, and repairs.
  • Cards are commonly used by trucking, delivery, and ridesharing companies.
  • Fleet cards allow businesses to manage and budget for vehicle-related expenses without the additional hassle of administrating costly expense reports and reimbursements.

Benefits of Fleet Cards

As noted above, companies may issue fleet cards to employees who are authorized to use company vehicles rather than have each employee use a personal card. This reduces the administrative expenses associated with maintaining a reimbursement program to pay employees for the money they use on gas and vehicle maintenance. It also helps companies to review and manage itemized expenses for their equipment assets.

Fleet cards generally provide a level of oversight, allowing businesses to better manage their expenses, as well as identify cost-related trends. Business accountants may also use accounting analysis to adjust payment card limits and usage.

For example, a delivery business may issue a fleet card to each of its drivers to use to buy fuel and pay for maintenance. Since each fleet card is linked to an individual employee, the business is able to monitor how much each employee spends on his route and also create estimates for budgeting. If the company notices that a particular driver fills up their assigned vehicle more frequently than average, it may make a downward adjustment on the limit of the assigned card.

Examples of Fleet Cards

The vast majority of fleet cards are issued by major oil and gas companies like Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Texaco. Companies that use their cards are generally limited to using the locations of the card issuer.

But emerging payment technologies have been advancing to offer many new and innovative solutions across a variety of industries with the transportation industry particularly being a key target. Numerous service providers in transportation payments have been expanding. Fleetcor is a fleet card payment service provider offering corporate fleet card products. Some of its leading fleet card partnerships include MasterCard, FleetCards USA, The Fuelcard Company and Fuelman. Fleetcor also helps to simplify business accounting for transportation companies by partnering with businesses across the transportation industry for modern fleet payment solutions.