Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes “Cashing In,” a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
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Dear Cashing In,
Our company is looking to get a credit card for gas purchases that has the name of the employee on the card and offers cash rewards for gas purchases. We have a small fleet of eight vehicles. What would be a good card to get? — Joanne
When you’re starting a small business, it’s tempting to treat fuel expenses like everything else: just have the employees submit receipts or, if they’re driving their own vehicles, pay them mileage.
But if you have a business that has grown to the point of having its own fleet and multiple drivers, it makes sense to pay closer attention to the cost of your fleet. And a big part of that cost is fuel expenses. A lot of people rack up rewards using personal credit cards, so why not do the same with corporate cards you can use to buy gas?
The truth is that it is a little more complicated when you have employees, but there are still ways to cut costs and earn rewards.
One major consideration is what kind of card you need. There are different kinds of cards that a company’s drivers can use at the gas pump, and they offer different levels of data and control regarding purchases.
To most of us, the most familiar would be a credit card that works similarly to the personal cards in our wallets. Many issuers offer corporate cards that can be issued to individual employees, and many of these can offer cash-back rewards.
Examples include Capital One Spark Cash for Business ($95 annual fee, waived first year; 2 percent cash back on purchases; extra employee cards at no charge), the Chase Ink Cash Business Card (no annual fee, 2 percent cash back at gas stations, employee cards at no charge) and the American Express SimplyCash Business credit card (no annual fee; 3 percent back on any category, including gas stations, that you select; employee cards at no charge).
In addition to business cards such as those, you might also examine cards offered by gas station chains, which typically provide fuel discounts and sometimes feature controls such as purchase limits you set by day and time or by type of purchase (fuel only). That can help crack down on the practice of employees buying Snickers bars and Big Gulps at convenience stores and having them disguised on monthly statements as fuel purchases.
Of course, you are more limited in where you buy gas with these cards. Examples here include the Shell Fleet Plus Card (no annual fee, up to 6 cents per gallon discount depending on volume purchased) and the BP Business Solutions fuel program (no annual fee, up to 6 cents per gallon discount based on volume).
A third option is a fleet card, which blends the wide acceptance of a corporate credit card with the controls and data of a gas station card. Some of the issuers in this category include Fuelman, WEX and Global-Fleet. They offer different kinds of cards with different discounts and reporting based on a business’s need. They say the enhanced reporting can help you spot and correct anomalies, such as one driver who routinely gets the worst gas mileage.
Joanne, there is no shortage of options out there for your business. It sounds as though you should assess your needs, look at the options and make a decision that could translate into significant savings for your company.
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