If your business has vans, lorries or your team drives, then a fuel card is a good way for your business to manage, track and pay for fuel. For a small business, for example a plumbing company with a couple of vans or a florist with a small van, if you or your team are driving for business you might find a fuel card can save you on the cost of petrol or diesel – as well as providing management reports to track usage.
As a side benefit, fuel cards can give you an indication of how your vehicles are being used and where your staff are filling up with petrol – though it’s not real-time tracking so for this read our article on real-time vehicle tracking systems.
There are plenty of competing fuel card providers in the UK market so we’ve looked at these to find five that offer benefits for a small business owner.
Why use a fuel card?
A fuel card is a payment card that allows you to pay for fuel at the pump. Fuel cards can be used to buy petrol, diesel, even an oil change and some repairs. You can use it to pay for any product sold by a participating retailer, including petrol stations, convenience stores, car washes, and other retail outlets.
What about electric vehicles?
The move to EV (electric vehicles) is a growing trend for businesses, especially given EV government grants and business tax incentives. Most of the fuel card providers offer tools and support to help use their technology to move your fleet to hybrid or electric. For example, Allstar offers a combined fuel and electric card to cover costs of filling up or charging up – and even offer a homecharge solution.
Can I save money with a fuel card?
Sometimes, yes you can save money. Most fuel cards offer discounted prices on diesel and on non-fuel services such as an oil change or some servicing items.
Can a small business use fuel cards?
A business fuel card can be a good way to save money when your drivers are buying fuel for a business van, car or lorry and, by using the management report data, it can help you better understand your vehicle’s efficiency.
Using a fuel card is exactly the same as a credit card with chip and PIN or contactless technology. If you issue each of your drivers with a fuel card you avoid the bother of staff claiming fuel on expenses and the admin overhead in dealing with this – instead, it’s managed through one central account and you can monitor how each driver is using the card. And if you’re a sole trader or self-employed and use a fuel card, it’s an effective way of separating out your business from personal expenses and keeping your receipts and business driving costs separate to simplify tax returns.
Five of the best fuel cards for small business
We’ve looked at the market – and there are plenty of suppliers in the UK – and narrowed down to five fuel card providers that meet our requirements of offering a real business benefit to your small business.
- Allstar Fuel Card
- Texaco Fast Fuel Card
- UK Fuels Fleet One
- Esso Card
1. Allstar Fuel Card
Find out more: Allstarcard.co.uk
Allstar offers a range of fuel cards and combination fuel-electric cards. Its Supermarket+ Fuel Card is accepted in over 3,000 supermarket and the big four supermarket brands which sell discounted petrol and diesel. It’s a good solution for local fleets that are always going to be driving near a supermarket.
It also offers its main Allstar One Fuel Card that’s accepted in over 90% of all petrol stations and offers up to 8 pence discount off the price of diesel. Your drivers get an app for their smartphone to help find the nearest outlet and back at the office there are tools to simplify the VAT returns for qualifying purchases.
Find out more: Fuelgenie.co.uk
FuelGenie has two cards – both allow you to buy fuel at supermarket petrol stations, so are great for local drivers, and if you go for the FuelGenie+ Fuel Card you’ll also be able to shop in over 2,200 petrol stations through its collaboration with Shell where you’ll get discounted petrol at up to 3 pence off per litre – as well as access to supermarkets; note that there’s a monthly fee for the FuelGenie+ card.
The cards can be used to pay for fuel at the pump just as you would with your debit or credit card and easy to use when you fill up with fuel. And you can collect supermarket reward points or Shell reward points when you fill up.
The cards focus on fuel so there isn’t a push on EV or other services, but its a UK-based organisation that’s a good choice for a small business.
Find out more: Texaco.co.uk
The Texaco Fast Fuel Card that’s aimed at smaller business owners and small fleets – it’s limited to buying fuel, oil and car washes and you can purchase these at over 2,000 Texaco petrol stations in the UK (you can also shop at over 1,200 BP petrol stations). There are no card charges, so it’s an effective way of bringing management control to your drivers’ spend.
There is a Business Fuel Card, aimed at larger fleets – it has more flexibility on qualifying purchases but does incur a surcharge if you’re using BP petrol stations.
Texaco has a household name and 2,000 sites around the UK that’s particularly useful for businesses that operate outside the city or in rural areas.
Find out more: ukfuels.co.uk
UK Fuels is one of the biggest independent card suppliers in the UK with its own range of fuel cards as well as providing cards for Esso, Shell and BP. Its cards are accepted in over 7,200 petrol stations in the UK including Esso, Shell, BP and in supermarkets.
The business behind UK Fuels, Radius, offers a number of related services including telematics to help with vehicle tracking systems, and business car insurance.
The main ukfuels.co.uk website offers a card comparison service so you can look at the benefits of different cards and see which might work best for you depending on your driving profile: local driving, national driving or European driving.
5. Esso Card
Find out more: Essocard.com
Esso offers a couple of cards – its Esso National Fuel Card covers the UK and it has a similar card for European drivers. The National card lets you buy fuel at over 3,600 petrol stations across the UK covering Esso, BP and Shell stations and the European card can be used at over 11,000 petrol stations.
When buying Synergy-branded fuel, you’ll get a discount that’s dependent on your plan and as well as fuel the card lets your driver buy related products such as oil, AdBlue and car washes.
Like all the cards, this one is used like a normal debit or credit card with a PIN – but is also linked to the driver and to the vehicle, so it can’t be used by a different driver to fill up another car or van.
The admin side includes tools to help monitor and manage spending across your fleet – it’ll help with HMRC VAT returns and provide itemised receipts for any accounting requirements.
Benefits for a small business
If your small business uses cars or vans, then a fuel card could be a good way to save time in managing receipts, expenses claims and bring management reporting to your vehicle operations. With some cards, you’ll also get a discount on diesel prices as well as being able to access lower-priced supermarket petrol stations.
Here are some of the main benefits for a small business in using a fuel card:
- Fuel cards are linked to a driver and a vehicle, protecting your business from misuse of funds filling up other cars and vans
- You’ll get admin tools to help you monitor and manage fuel costs and save time with VAT returns and receipts
- If you’re using electric vehicles, multi-fuel cards cover petrol, diesel and electric charging
- Your staff don’t need to claim fuel purchases on expenses saving their cash and you admin time
- With the right choice of card, you can earn reward points from supermarket or fuel brand.
- Several cards offer discounted diesel prices, even on small business cards.
- Cards can be used to buy related driving goods and services, typically this covers oil, AdBlue, car washes and some servicing. A couple of the cards provide priority breakdown support – though this is normally for larger fleets.
Can I get a fuel card for any small business?
It’s straightforward to apply and will help you save money on your gas, diesel, and motor oil needs. The best part is that most businesses don’t have to pay any interest or fees on the funds they put into these cards.
How much does a small business need to pay for a fuel card?
The exact amount varies by state, but generally speaking, the annual membership fee can range from £100-£200 per year. There may also be an activation fee of around £20-£30, depending on where you live in the country, as well as other additional charges related to using your card (such as late fees). These costs are usually capped at around £500 annually if applicable, so there are no hidden costs here.
What is FMS?
Fuel cards are great if you have a fleet of vehicles, but they could be better for smaller businesses with just one or two cars. Instead of paying thousands of dollars in annual fees, consider running your fleet management system (FMS). With an FMS, you can track maintenance schedules and ensure that the drivers have put enough fuel in all vehicles when needed. It’s also much more accessible than keeping track of all those receipts.
How can I apply for a fuel card?
You can apply for a fuel card through a quick and easy process in the UK. Submit your personal information, business details, bank account details, and fleet information on the supplier’s online website.
The supplier team will go through a routine credit check and provide you with the card after confirming that the information is authentic.
There are a lot of different fuel cards on the market – some are aimed at large fleet operators, some at international fleets and some provide great benefits for smaller businesses in the UK. We’ve looked five of the best for UK small business owners and this article outline the advantages they bring – from discounted diesel prices to security and management reporting.
Whichever card you choose, they all provide a real time saver when managing the operating costs of your cars and vans as well as helping save time and effort on the finance side when you’re sorting out VAT receipts for your HMRC filing process.