The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Pros and Cons of Using a Fuel Card vs. a Corporate Card for Fleet Fuel Expenses

The days of paper expense reports for employee reimbursement are gone; companies are looking to automate. Fleet managers have a number of choices in providing their drivers with a fuel payment solution.

May 2011, by Staff

Depending on the type of controls desired, fleet managers can decide if a corporate card or a fuel fleet card is better for their drivers. Both card options will provide an overall reduction in administration. One advantage of a corporate card is allowing the driver to carry a single card for all business expenses. However, a fleet fuel card allows for better fuel spend control and data.
Depending on the type of controls desired, fleet managers can decide if a corporate card or a fuel fleet card is better for their drivers. Both card options will provide an overall reduction in administration. One advantage of a corporate card is allowing the driver to carry a single card for all business expenses. However, a fleet fuel card allows for better fuel spend control and data.

At A Glance

Corporate and fleet fuel cards offer different advantages:

● Corporate cards offer the convenience of a single supplier and one card.

● Fleet fuel cards offer key Level III transaction data.

● Corporate card platforms are usually credit cards, and tend to be more susceptible to fraud than fleet-specific cards.

● Fleet fuel cards provide fleet-related Point of Sale (POS) security and controls.

It's déjà vu all over again, as the famous American philosopher Yogi Berra once said; much like in 2008, fuel prices are rising, fleet budgets are in jeopardy, and fleet managers are scrambling to contain costs. Addressing the problem, many companies have turned to fleet fuel cards, which give them control, data, and convenience. Others, however, are considering purchasing corporate credit cards as an alternative. Here, we will address the pros and cons of using a fuel card versus a corporate card for fuel expenses.

The first step in such an analysis is to review the various forms these fleet fuel cards take and comment on each:

● Branded. Use of a particular fuel brand - oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Sunoco.

● Universal. Wright Express, U.S. Bank Voyager, Comdata, and others provide nearly universal coverage, Level III data, and online reporting tools.

● Cardkey. Private fuel locations accessible only to cardholders.

● Merchant-branded cards. Retail fuel merchant chains, such as convenience stores (Quik Trip, Circle K, Thornton's, etc.), that partner with a fuel card provider for both private label and universal cards.

Fleet fuel cards can provide some of the following advantages:

● Universal coverage.

● In-network discounts (branded cards).

● Security (cardkey).

● Fraud protection.

● Controls at the pump.

● Centralized billing.

● Rebates/discounts.

● Level III data (and the cost reporting this data facilitates).

● Online account and expense management.

These products have been developed specifically for fleet applications; they provide the driver convenience, security and control, and data that fleet managers need to manage this largest of fleet variable costs.

Advantages of Corporate/Purchasing Cards

Corporate credit cards have been around longer than fleet fuel cards and provide some advantages as well:

● Single-card solution. Drivers can use commercial credit cards for all travel needs, from vehicle expense to travel to entertainment.

● Universal purchasing coverage. Accepted wherever major credit cards are accepted.

● Purchase controls.

● Rebates for a wide variety of spend.

Corporate cards provide the company with data as well, but the data set is geared more toward purchasing and travel/entertainment (T&E) needs than for fleet; so are card controls. From a fleet perspective, this creates disadvantages:

● Lack of fuel Level III data: odometer capture, fuel type, cost per unit, vehicle data, etc.

● Lack of critical fleet fuel reporting capabilities, e.g., miles per gallon, cost per mile.

● "Lumping" fleet fuel cost data with other expense data.

Addressing Driver Convenience

Corporate and universal fleet fuel cards are convenient for drivers to use; the closed networks of fleet fuel cards provide better than 90-percent coverage, and corporate cards are accepted anywhere credit cards can be used. In both cases, drivers will be able to buy fuel when they need it, at the next merchant they see. Some fuel cards don't provide universal coverage (merchant cards, cardkey programs, etc.); however, when used by a regional or local fleet, coverage can be adequate. The effectiveness of a fuel card program is more a function of geography than size. Smaller fleets that cover a large geographic area are better served by a universal fuel card program or a corporate card.

A personal identification number (PIN) at Point of Sale (POS) locations provides added security for fleet fuel card users - security that corporate cards don't generally offer.

Driver convenience is a primary criterion in deciding whether to use a fuel or corporate card program; every mile a driver must travel to find an accepting merchant can cost the company 50 cents or more.

Increasing Company Vehicle Policy Compliance

Compliance with a company's fleet policy can be enhanced with a fuel card program. POS controls offered by many fuel cards can limit how much, how often, and what drivers can buy. Merchants can be "locked out." Not only is this a boon to vehicle policy compliance, but the more that can be controlled at the pump, the less data mining and reporting the fleet manager must do.

Corporate cards can also provide limits, but they are seldom "fleet oriented." Dollar limits, product code limits, and merchant lockout can help, but lack of PIN capabilities and that critical Level III data is a major disadvantage in using corporate cards for fleet fuel purchases.

Reducing Overall Administrative Time

Certainly, both card options will provide an overall reduction in administration. Any process that automates what may have formerly been a manual task will do so.

For example, if employee expenses were previously reimbursed via an expense report - requiring the submission of receipts, auditing, and the issuance of checks - either solution will automate the process, and thus reduce administration. The advantage that a corporate card brings to this process is that it provides a one-card solution; that is, whether it is fuel, airline tickets, customer entertainment, or office supplies, one card will provide payment. Using a fleet fuel card for fuel and a corporate card for other purchasing and T&E expenses requires the driver to carry two cards and the company to audit and process two bills.

Is this enough of an advantage to consider a corporate card for fleet fuel? Probably not. The lack of fleet-specific card controls, security, and critical Level III data (led by odometer readings) will affect many other aspects of tracking and analyzing fleet expense (no odometer capture = no cost per mile averages for any other fleet expenses).

Improving Program/Driver Service

Both fleet fuel card programs and corporate card programs offer their customers toll-free, 24/7 service. Reporting cards lost or stolen, disputing charges, and getting help for use is generally fast and simple, and systems are user-­identification and password secure.

Both programs also offer online account and expense management, access to reporting, transaction information, new card ordering, and other tasks. Once again, though, using a fleet fuel card requires the use of two different systems and two different help lines.

Another important consideration is fraud. Corporate card programs use credit card platforms (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express). These cards are generally more susceptible to fraud of all types (use of stolen cards and card numbers, so-called "white card" fraud, or cloning, etc.) than are fleet fuel cards, many of which use closed merchant networks and proprietary platforms.

Ensuring Careful Analysis

Strictly as payment solutions, either program is acceptable; when drivers need fuel, they can buy fuel. However, fleet managers need far more than a simple payment instrument. They need data, controls at the pump (that are geared toward fleet expense control), and the ability to track key fuel expenses. Corporate cards don't offer these key features. They do, however, offer the convenience of leveraging spend in one card, one supplier, and one system for program administration.

Can fleet fuel expense be properly managed when the fleet manager doesn't know what kind of fuel is purchased, how many gallons are pumped in a single transaction, or what the odometer readings are? Not really; key fleet cost ratios such as miles per gallon and cents per mile are lost when a corporate card is used. As with any supplier decision, fleet managers need to balance the various pros and cons of the alternatives to arrive at the best solution.

On the next page is a list of fuel card providers. 

Fuel Card Providers: 

Company / Contact

Main Phone / Fleet Phone

Online Account Management

# of States w/ Sites / Stations

Fueling Base Price or Method

# of Card-Lock Sites (unattended)

# of Total Sites / Stations

Comdata Corp.
Greg Koren

(800) 266-3282 x 4835


Pump price, discounts; cost/retail less options, better of; fixed price



Fleet Cards USA
Paul Citarella

(800) 633-3271


Retail, pump price, and cost plus

Varies by product

Varies by product

Fleet One, LLC
Michael Thompson

(866) 517-2537


Cash price, cost plus, pump minus



Robin Gregg

(800) 383-5626


Retail w/ rebates, pump price, cash back, cost plus, and wholesale-based



Pacific Pride Services LLC
Greg Iverson

(503) 371-0732


Cost Plus (OPIS Based)



U.S. Bank Voyager Fleet Systems

(800) 987-6591

All 50 States + Puerto Rico

Pump price, less negotiated discounts



Wright Express Corp.

Richard Stecklair

(207) 773-8171; (800) 395-0812

All 50 States + Puerto Rico

Pump price, less negotiated discounts



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  1. 1. Hana Crume [ June 30, 2011 @ 12:08PM ]

    Thanks for getting the conversation started on how to decide what kind of spend program is appropriate for your company. I wanted to speak to several generalities above which may differ from company to company.
    It’s important to recognize that cards can be set up to offer both fuel and corporate card needs. Most fuel cards offer more advanced fuel reporting than do normal corporate cards, and corporate cards offer the convenience of tracking all expenses in one place. There is no need to think of these programs as completely separate. There are many ways to integrate your spend programs to take advantage of running both fleet and corporate cards through one solution. Additionally, payment industry leaders, such as Comdata, offer corporate cards that include advanced fuel tracking and reporting – sometimes even more advanced than competitor’s fuel cards. These features mean the difference in selecting one card company over another, so it’s crucial to ask these questions before making your decision.
    Alternatively, some businesses prefer to keep their fleet and corporate spend separate – you do not need separate cards for this, as the article suggests. Several processors allow you to use one card but separate your fleet and business spend by the controls you choose to place on each.
    When you are researching what kind of fleet card program to use, be sure to ask about the specifics of your card program’s goals– the article above leads readers to believe that corporate cards do not offer advanced fuel reporting and that corporate cards are more exposed to fraud risks than fleet cards. In most cases, neither of these statements are true, and both are examples of questions you should ask as you decide which partner to use for your fleet and corporate spend. The bottom line is that you should look for a partner who is established in the industry, offers advanced reporting and security features, and is widely accepted for the convenience of your drivers.

  2. 2. Phillip Jansen [ January 12, 2014 @ 03:14PM ]

    I am interested in trying to stop some fraud I recently notice with COMDATA..

  3. 3. Phillip Griffin [ February 04, 2014 @ 11:46PM ]

    I found this article very helpful. However as my company grows I am trying to find a way to combine and cut costs. Our company is growing from a LTL to more FTL which means more over the road cost such as tolls. In the past we have used Ryder and Penske as they have loactions close to our home base and we fuel with them and they just bill us monthly. However now that we are doing more over the road hauls I am finding that our drivers are going as far as an hour out of route just to get fuel at either Ryder or Penske. I have looked into a company called PrePass, and based on my research it seems that they handle fuel cards, toll passes, and wieght station passes all in one. Has anyone used or heard anything about this company before?

  4. 4. Arturo [ February 24, 2014 @ 12:50PM ]

    I love prepass for weight stations and tolls but I am also looking for a fuel card as we have just bought two trailers and no longer going to be leased on to a different company. I have been looking into fleet one, comdata, and Tcheck. Out of all of them I am really liking Comdata.

  5. 5. Unknown [ February 28, 2014 @ 11:34AM ]

    Ok, used Wex fleet card for the first time today. I had to drive 1 hour 17 mins out if my way to find a station that accepted the card. Wex has an app to find the stations but the first 2 in the app were no longer open. I drove a total of 42 miles in the opposite direction than I was headed to get gas. What a waste if time and money. I suggest, if you drive in rural areas for work, stick with a card with the Visa or MasterCard logo which allows for fueling up at most places. I passed 16 gas stations along the way today. then once I got gas, I had to back track the way I drove to get gas.

  6. 6. Cw [ June 30, 2014 @ 02:49PM ]

    Mastercard is more widely accepted than visa. If you dont mind daily billing, theres wex, but you can be challenged finding a fuel stop. Worse is fuelman, though they have weekly billing. Comdata is widely accepted. If you are running a small fleet with trusted drivers (what other kind do you hire..) use a credit card. I am a tiny o/o and use discover first and third weeks. And mastercard 2nd and 4th weeks. But you could carry a dutch oil card, Phillip, marathon... you got ur pick.

  7. 7. Brian [ August 07, 2014 @ 09:53AM ]

    I hate Wex. They charge insane late fees and have been moving the payment date up. I believe that it is a deliberate attempt to get more fee income.

  8. 8. Rafael Grey [ September 19, 2014 @ 08:34AM ]

    DO NOT USE FLEETCOR – Chevron and Texaco as well as Fuelman, are operated by Fleetcor. Here is the reason why I say to stay clear away from that company:
    Against the advice of one of my drivers, I tried fleecor’s Chevron and Texaco Mastercard program about 1 ½ years ago. It was a headache. Someone from Fuelman called I switched, but that too was a worse headache. Let me tell you why. They are the same company – FLEETCOR. Fleetcor is a FEE DRIVEN company and a rip-off. Just Google Fleetcor business complaints to see for yourself. I wish I had prior to doing business with them.
    They deliberately delay posting your payments, just so that they can charge you humongous late fees. I found out too late what many people in the industry already know about this company. Their sales people do not tell you about their fees. They tell you they have no fees, but we see little fees for this and that, that we do not understand and we had a $550 late fee when we paid the bill on line the day prior to the due date. This company has been or is being sued by its customers for its practices, from what I hear. A friend of mine in Washington State said when he got his bill, the amount for the fuel was more than the station’s per gallon price. They will tell you that you don't have to keep your receipts, but don't listen to them. Keep your receipts so you can compare the station's cost and what they bill you.

    Another friend, a fleet director for a trucking company, also told me that they had a whopping $4300 late fee and had to pay it because they shut off his cards with his drivers on the road. He said he fought back and got it waived as a onetime courtesy. He said two months later, they paid their bill on line two days prior to the due date and the company deliberately posted it the day after the due date and charged them over $4700 in late fees. They went with Voyager and are so happy.

    Stay away from Fleetcor. I am not sure of all the companies that are under their umbrella, but I know Fuelman and Chevron are their cards. Speaking of the Chevron, I never saved a penny with them. You see, the sales people never tell you that you have to spend about $3800 to $4000 before you get $.01 off the pump price. That is deception. It is a horrible program and the Feds should look into that company. I also tried Voyager's MasterCard fuel card program and have been using it for 9 months now and I must say, I am a satisfied customer and no longer have the Fleetcor headache.

  9. 9. Rafael Grey [ September 19, 2014 @ 08:41AM ]

    Before you try Chevron and Texaco, read some of Fleetcor complaints

    Even their employees don't have anything good to say about the company:

  10. 10. Cameron Stephenson [ September 22, 2015 @ 11:41AM ]

    Hey Rafael, maybe you didn't know this but the Voyager card is also owned by the company Fleetcor. Also, all the fees you were charged were clearly stated in the terms and conditions packet you received up approval but you probably never read it. You should always read the conditions before you use anything

  11. 11. Duane [ November 13, 2015 @ 03:33PM ]

    We just discovered that Thomas Petroleum has been over-charging us again. We told them about a year ago that we would find another fleet system to use if they did it again. They charged us more than was shown on the pump and ten percent (10%) more than the Maverik station a block away.

    One advantage of a corporate card is that you at least pay only what is on the pump and you can go to whoever is the least expensive in the area.

    Can anyone recommend a fleet program for the Mountain West that will not gouge us every chance they get?

  12. 12. George Walsh [ January 10, 2016 @ 10:51AM ]

    Voyager is actually owned by US Bank, not FleetCor.

  13. 13. Unknown [ April 22, 2016 @ 07:42AM ]

    We have been using the Universal Fleet Card from Fleet Core for almost a year and we are billed bi-weekly. Their website is dated a day ahead so if you try to pay the bill on the last day you are already "late" on your payment. On top of that, we cannot get a clear answer from them as far as how long it takes before they process payment. Someone says 2 days another says 5 days. So if I pay them "on time", 2 days before payment is due, it'll be considered late because they haven't processed my payment yet. (So when is the actual due date?) On top of that, at some point we were placed on some list based off of our credit and are now being charged $3.00 for every time we even get gas. We were never informed and would never have signed up for the cards if we knew we'd be charged $3.00 just to swipe the card. We have been charged more money in late fees then we even spend on gas. It's outrageous.


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