The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Small Business Fuel Cards

Written by Peter Keszegh

Fuel costs can really take up a huge chunk of your small business budget. As a business owner or marketer, you might be looking for smarter ways to spend your financial resources. Small business fuel cards can help you do just that – they make it easier to track your fuel spending and can even get you discounts!

Think you might need a fuel card? This guide will help you figure out if they're right for you and how to choose the best one. 

Small business fuel cards allow businesses to purchase related expenses

What are small business fuel cards?

Fuel cards act like specialized credit cards designed for purchasing fuel and sometimes other vehicle-related expenses. Unlike regular credit cards, they're made specifically for businesses with vehicles. Fuel card providers issue these cards, allowing businesses streamlined fuel purchases and detailed reports. 

How do fuel cards work?

Think of a fuel card as a charge card your employees can use at the pump. Each card often links to a specific vehicle or driver. With a driver identification number (sometimes a PIN), employees can easily pay for gas. Later, your business gets an itemized bill of all fuel purchases.

Benefits of using fuel cards

Small business fuel cards offer a surprising range of advantages:

  1. 1
    Cost control: Fuel cards can help you negotiate discounts on fuel prices. You also get detailed spending reports, making it easier to track fuel expenses for budgeting purposes.
  2. 2
    Convenience: Drivers don't have to worry about handling cash or reimbursements after fueling up, making payments easier.
  3. 3
    Security: Fuel cards often have fraud prevention features. You can set spending limits and alerts for unusual purchases, reducing unauthorized use.
  4. 4
    Tax simplification: Detailed fuel purchase records from the card provider make deductions and tax reporting simpler.

With the right fuel card, small businesses can gain tighter control over their fuel spending, saving both money and time.

Here’s how you can choose the right small business fuel card for you

Choosing a small business fuel card

Ready to make your decision? Here's how to find the perfect small business fuel card to match your company's needs.

Types of fuel cards available

Choosing the right small business fuel card depends on your specific needs. Here's a look at common types:

  1. 1
    Universal fuel cards: These are the most versatile, allowing use at a wide network of gas stations. This gives drivers great flexibility for fueling up, especially on long-distance trips.
  2. 2
    Fleet-specific cards: Designed for businesses with their own fuel storage or with fleets using a limited range of stations. These often offer more negotiation power for bulk fuel discounts, especially if your fuel consumption is high.
  3. 3
    Brand-specific cards: Tied to a particular gas station brand (e.g., Shell, BP). These can offer good discounts, but limit where your drivers can fuel up.  Consider this option if your drivers mostly use a preferred brand.
  4. 4
    Prepaid fuel cards: These work like debit cards, loaded with a set amount of money. They offer strong spending controls but might need frequent reloading. They're a good fit if you need strict spending limits and predictability. 

When choosing the right type of fuel card that’s best for you, consider these factors:

  • Fleet size: Do you have a handful of vehicles or a large fleet? Larger fleets might benefit more from fleet-specific cards.
  • Fueling locations: Do your drivers mostly fuel up locally or make long-distance trips? Universal cards offer more flexibility for varied routes.
  • Spending control needs: Do you want tight spending limits or more flexibility? Prepaid cards enforce strict spending. 
  • Additional features: Some cards offer roadside assistance programs, rewards, or more detailed reporting features. Factor these into your decision.

Fees and interest rates

While small business fuel cards can offer savings, it's important to understand the fees involved. These can impact the card's overall cost-effectiveness. Here's what to look for:

  1. 1
    Annual fees: Some cards have annual fees per card or per account. 
  2. 2
    Transaction fees: You might get charged a small fee per fuel transaction.
  3. 3
    Late payment fees: Just like credit cards, late payments can incur fees.
  4. 4
    Over-limit fees: Exceeding your card's credit limit may lead to additional charges.
  5. 5
    Interest rates: Some fuel cards work like credit cards, charging interest on unpaid balances. Interest rates can vary, making timely payments important.
  6. 6
    Other potential fees: Look out for fees on replacement cards, inactivity, or detailed reporting.

Fees can add up, so don't just focus on advertised discounts. Calculate the potential total cost based on your expected use:

  • How many vehicles will have cards? (Fees may be per-card)
  • How often will cards be used? (Impacts transaction fees)
  • How large is your average fuel purchase?
  • Do you expect to carry a balance? (Interest will apply)

Some fuel cards have no annual fees, low transaction fees, and no interest, since they don't function as credit lines. These are often preferred by businesses focused on controlling costs and avoiding interest payments.

Before choosing a small business fuel card, inquire about any flexibility with fees. Providers might waive certain fees or offer discounts depending on your fuel usage or contract length. Don’t feel intimidated to negotiate for the best possible terms – you deserve it!

Rewards programs and incentives

Many fuel card providers sweeten the deal with rewards programs and incentives.  These can offer additional value on top of fuel savings. Here's what you might find:

  1. 1
    Fuel discounts: Some cards offer direct discounts per gallon at the pump. These might be fixed or tiered, increasing as you spend more on fuel.
  2. 2
    Rewards points systems: Similar to credit card rewards, you accumulate points for each dollar spent on fuel. Points can then be redeemed for:
        2.1. Cashback or statement credits    
        2.2. Gift cards
        2.3. Air miles or travel points
  3. 3
    Business-related rewards: Specific cards cater to business needs with rewards like discounts towards office supplies, shipping, or software subscriptions.
  4. 4
    Sign-up bonuses: Some providers offer a point bonus or introductory discount when you sign up for their small business fuel card. 

When evaluating rewards, consider these factors:

  • Your spending patterns: Do you use a lot of fuel, making per-gallon discounts ideal? Or do you prefer the flexibility of points systems?
  • Your redemption preferences: Do you want travel rewards, or are statement credits more practical for your business?
  • Restrictions and fine print: Understand any limitations on how you can earn or redeem rewards. Some points systems might have expiration dates or blackout periods. 

While rewards can be a perk, prioritize factors like cost control (fees, discounts) when choosing your fuel card. Consider rewards as a bonus rather than the primary decision point. 

Here are some options for small business fuel cards

Top picks for small business fuel cards

With so many options, where do you start? Here are some top choices for small business fuel cards to simplify your decision.

WEX FlexCard

The WEX FlexCard focuses on simplicity and control. It's a charge card offering fuel discounts within a wide network. 

Let's break down the pros:

  • No fees: No annual, setup, or per-card fees make it budget-friendly. This translates to predictable costs for your business.
  • Decent fuel discounts: Offers a per-gallon rebate with potential savings across a large network of stations. Gives you flexibility in where you fuel up.
  • Control & flexibility: Allows you to set spending limits and alerts for each card. This customizable control helps to prevent overspending or unauthorized usage. Additionally, WEX allows you to carry a balance if needed, offering flexibility during fluctuating cash flow.
  • Accessible reporting: WEX provides convenient online access to spending reports and fuel usage data. This helps you make data-driven decisions to optimize your fuel budget. 

And here’s a con you might want to consider:

  • Credit check: Requires a credit check during the application process, so maintaining a good business credit score is important.

When it comes to reviews, an owner of a landscaping company who uses the WEX FlexCard described it as a "simple, straightforward card” that “[keeps their] fuel costs in check."

The WEX FlexCard is great for small businesses that:

  1. 1
    Want to simplify fuel spend tracking with basic discounts.
  2. 2
    Prioritize cost control through reporting features and spending limits.
  3. 3
    Have a good credit history and can pass the initial check.
  4. 4
    Value flexibility in fuel station choices, thanks to its wide acceptance network. 

Fuelman Fleet Card

Fuelman focuses on fleet management, offering potential bulk fuel discounts and in-depth spending control features.

Here are some pros:

  • Potential for deep discounts: Fuelman is known for potential savings at their network of stations, especially for businesses with large fleets and high fuel consumption.
  • Detailed reporting: Offers robust reporting with options for detailed data on fuel spending, driver behavior, and vehicle usage, giving you more insight into your fleet operations.
  • Fleet management features: Provides tools to set spending limits, restrict fuel purchases to specific types (i.e., fuel only), and limit transactions by time of day.
  • Maintenance network: While not as widespread as universal cards, Fuelman includes access to maintenance stations, which can be convenient for managing both repairs and fuel.

And here are some cons:

  • Limited station network: Acceptance is restricted to Fuelman-branded stations, so it's crucial your routes align with their locations.
  • Mixed customer reviews: Check recent online reviews, as user experiences with Fuelman's customer service vary.

A fleet manager for a distribution company says the Fuelman Fleet Card “saves [them] money,” but said it could “use more stations.”

An owner of a trucking business also said the discounts are “worth it” if your fuel use is high, but said the application process was “complex” and customer service “can be a bit slow.”

Fuelman might be ideal for your business if:

  1. 1
    Your drivers operate on routes with convenient Fuelman locations.
  2. 2
    Detailed control over driver spending and reporting is important for your business.
  3. 3
    You can negotiate favorable discounts based on large-scale fuel consumption.
  4. 4
    Having access to a network of maintenance stations is an added benefit. 

Shell Small Business Card

The Shell Small Business Card is a popular choice for its straightforward discounts and focus on Shell stations

Here's a breakdown of its pros:

  • Instant per-gallon discounts: Offers a straightforward discount per gallon right at the pump, making it simple to understand your savings.
  • Wide Shell network: Shell has one of the largest fuel station networks in the country, offering convenience and flexibility, especially if your drivers frequent Shell locations.
  • Accessible credit: Designed for businesses with fair or rebuilding credit, providing an option for those that might not qualify for traditional credit-based fuel cards.
  • Jiffy Lube discounts: Includes potential discounts at partnering Jiffy Lube locations, offering savings on vehicle maintenance costs as well.

And here are some cons to take note of:

  • Limited to Shell: Restricts fueling choices to only Shell stations, making it less ideal for businesses without convenient access.
  • Rewards are minimal: Doesn't have a complex rewards points system, focusing primarily on upfront fuel discounts. 

An owner of a delivery service said the Shell Small Business Card is a “no-brainer” if “you love Shell gas.” A startup founder said the card is a “good option when your credit is still growing,” even if it isn’t the cheapest fuel card out there.

This card might fit your needs best if:

  1. 1
    Your drivers already frequent Shell stations for convenient fueling.
  2. 2
    You prioritize simplicity and direct per-gallon discounts over complex rewards programs. 
  3. 3
    Your business has fair credit or is rebuilding your credit history
  4. 4
    Access to Jiffy Lube discounts is an added bonus for maintaining your fleet.

Divvy Fuel Card

Divvy offers more than just a fuel card. It integrates fuel spending into their broader expense management platform, providing enhanced control for businesses.

Here are some of the pros:

  • Integration with Divvy's platform: If you already use Divvy for expenses, adding fuel becomes seamless. All spending data consolidates for simplified tracking and budgeting.
  • Real-time control: Divvy allows you to set spending limits per card, create virtual cards for one-time purchases, and get spending alerts as they occur.
  • Rewards potential: Divvy offers a rewards program for all business spending, including fuel purchases, providing cashback opportunities.
  • Receipt capture: Drivers can easily upload fuel receipts through the Divvy app, streamlining expense reporting and record-keeping. 

And here are a few cons:

  • Monthly fees: Divvy plans come with subscription fees, adding to the cost of using their card services.
  • Creditworthiness and approvals: Your business needs good credit to qualify for the best benefits. 

A finance manager of a tech company vouched for the Divvy Fuel Card, which “makes managing both employee spending and fuel a breeze.”

Divvy is a strong contender if:

  1. 1
    You already use Divvy for expenses and want to consolidate fuel spending.
  2. 2
    Having real-time control and detailed reporting on fuel and other expenses is important to you.
  3. 3
    Your business has a solid credit history and can readily qualify.
  4. 4
    You're comfortable managing expenses through a tech-focused platform and aren't intimidated by the software. 
Here’s how you can apply for small business fuel cards

Small business fuel cards: How to apply

Now that you know some of the best choices for small business fuel cards, let's talk about how to actually get it:

Research and compare providers

  1. 1
    Evaluate providers: Focus on card types (universal, fleet-specific, brand-specific), acceptance locations, discounts, fees, and rewards that align with your needs. Compare options like the ones discussed earlier.
  2. 2
    Shortlist 2-3 cards: Choose providers that match your business size, fuel usage, and desired features. This allows you to compare terms directly.

Gather your information

Before starting the application process, have the following details ready:

  • Business information: Legal business name, years in operation, address, tax ID, contact details.
  • Financial information: Revenue, annual fuel spending estimates, bank account details. 
  • Driver information: Names of potential cardholders. You might need driver's license numbers for specific providers.
  • Credit check authorization: Be prepared to authorize a credit check, as many small business fuel cards require them. 

Start the application process

  1. 1
    Complete the online application or request a form: Most fuel card providers offer these options. Fill them out accurately, as this info speeds up the process.
  2. 2
    Submission and credit check: Once submitted, most providers conduct a credit check on your business.
  3. 3
    Approval process: If approved, you'll receive details on credit limits or spending amounts, as well as terms and conditions. Review these carefully before agreeing.
  4. 4
    Card production and delivery: Approved cards typically take a few business days for production and shipping. 

Setting up and using your cards

  • Activating your cards: Follow the provider's instructions for card activation. This often involves an online portal or phone call.
  • Setting spending limits: Many providers allow you to set customizable spending limits and usage alerts for each card. This helps control spending and prevent fraud.
  • Distributing to drivers: Give your drivers their assigned cards and provide clear instructions on usage, including fueling locations and reporting lost or stolen cards.
Here are some ways to get approved for small business fuel cards quickly

Tips for getting approved for a fuel card quickly

Waiting for a fuel card approval can disrupt your business plans. Here's how to improve your chances for easy approval business gas cards:

Strong credit history

Maintain a good business credit score.  Pay bills on time, keep credit utilization low, and resolve any outstanding credit issues. Fuel card providers view your credit history as an indicator of how responsibly you'll manage a credit line.

Demonstrate healthy financials

During the application, you might need to provide income statements or revenue projections. Presenting stable financials shows you can comfortably repay your fuel expenses and boosts your credibility.   

Choose the right card

Understand the different types of small business fuel cards. Look for ones that align with your credit profile, fuel usage patterns, and preferred station network.  Applying for the right fit increases your chances of approval.

Be prepared

Have all required documentation (business details, financial info, driver info) ready beforehand. This streamlines the application process, reduces delays, and demonstrates organization.

Additional tips: Easy approval business gas cards

  • Explore options upfront: Do your research early! Comparing providers and contacting them to pre-screen your business can save time compared to blanket applications.
  • Start with cards for fair credit: If your credit isn't perfect, focus on providers that specialize in easy approval business gas cards. These are designed for businesses still building credit.
  • Consider a secured option: A secured fuel card means putting down a deposit. The deposit often becomes your credit limit, reducing risk for providers and increasing approval chances, even with lower credit scores. 
  • Prepaid fuel cards: These function like debit cards. While they might not offer all the perks of credit-based fuel cards, they provide instant approval, allowing you to immediately start tracking spending.
  • Maintain communication: Ask questions and stay in touch with the fuel card provider during the process. This shows you're committed to getting the card and can clarify any requirements.

Keep in mind that every provider has its own approval timelines. While these strategies can improve your approval chances and speed things along, there are never guarantees. By putting your best foot forward, you can streamline the process and start reaping the benefits of a fuel card sooner rather than later.  

Final thoughts: Small business fuel cards

Choosing the right small business fuel card can help you track spending, negotiate discounts, and simplify your company's fuel expenses. Do your homework, pick the right card for your business, and start streamlining those fuel costs!

Read More Articles:

Unleashing Potential: IT Services Every Small Business Needs

How Small Business Consulting Can Transform Your Startup