Competition is fierce in the fuel card market with a number of new launches over the past year, so it’s time to review whether the deal you signed up for is still the best.
Until recently, if you wanted a fuel card that was accepted at the majority of filling stations, including supermarket forecourts, you had one choice: Allstar.
But in March this year credit card giant Barclaycard entered the £6.5 billion fuel card market, teaming up with mileage capture provider The Miles Consultancy (TMC) to launch Fuel+.
It hopes to appeal to Allstar customers that have been dissatisfied with its decision to charge an administration fee for every transaction.
The Fuel+ card is accepted by all filling stations that take Visa cards – more than 8,000 in the UK – and can also be used overseas.
The convenience this offers drivers, combined with TMC’s micro audit, are the key reasons to consider Fuel+, according to John Bostock, accounts development director global commercial payments at Barclaycard Business Solutions.
TMC’s audit takes data from the card and its own mileage capture portal and uses it to identify issues in usage and mileage claims.
Thirty companies that trialled the system saw savings of up to 25% on their fuel spend. All have continued to use the card.
TMC charges £3 per month per card, but guarantees to refund twice that amount if a customer doesn’t make a saving in the first year compared to its current arrangement.
“We’re seeing huge interest,” says Bostock. “Our pipeline of prospects has quadrupled in the past three months.”
Fuel+ was recently added to the Government fuel card framework, operated by the Crown Commercial Service, which should generate interest in the public sector.
Jo Hammonds, asset manager at Mears Group, which has a fleet of 5,000 vehicles, is among the fleet operators interested in Fuel+ as network coverage is a key factor for him.
“We already have a business relationship with Barclaycard and the fuel card proposition looks very interesting,” he says.
Hammonds currently uses Allstar and its new charging structure has prompted him to shop around.
He says TMC’s fee is not dissimilar to Allstar’s, but the savings guarantee offered by TMC makes it a “win-win”.
However, he is waiting for a proposal from Allstar before deciding whether to switch.
Allstar has launched two new products in the past nine months: a supermarket-only card and the Allstar Premier Programme, which combines the Allstar and Allstar Discount Diesel cards. It also offers its Business Mileage Monitor software to all new customers free of charge.
The Allstar Premier Programme is proving popular, according to Meryl Gilbert, director – corporate and third-party field sales, at Allstar.
She argues that Allstar, which is owned by FleetCor, can “tick the box for most fleets because of the FleetCor family”.
As well as single and dual card offerings with Allstar, FleetCor has a multi-card offering with the Fuelcard Company.
There are other new entrants to the fuel card market for fleet operators to consider.
Specialist oil trading company Portland launched its fixed price fuel card in March. Unlike other providers, it gives customers the chance to fix the price of fuel for up to a year rather than using a weekly fixed price.
Some companies with thousands of vehicles already take this approach as it offers budgeting certainty. Portland has made this option available to all fleet sizes.
The drawback is that if the price drops significantly from the figure a fleet has fixed at, it will lose money. Conversely, if fuel prices rise, the fleet will gain.
Fleetmate, another recent launch, offers wide network coverage but at a fixed price, unlike Allstar and Fuel+ which are both pump price cards.
The UK’s first charity fuel card, which makes a donation to charity for every litre of fuel purchased, was launched by Professional Charity Services last month.
Other fleet suppliers have diversified into the fuel card market. Both RAC and Kwik Fit launched fuel cards last year, with the latter making a range of services available to purchase on the card.
Consider trialling fuel cards
Before deciding to switch, it is worth considering trialling different fuel card providers.
Fuelmate is offering a three-month free trial including fuel analysis of all company car users.
“Trialling a new card (and supplier) against your existing one lets you see if your current provider is giving you the best deal,” says Jonny Vintis, manager of Fuelmate. It is also keeps your current provider “on its toes”, he adds.
Portland is offering a one-month trial rather than the full 12 months fixed price.
Bostock says there is little point trialling the Fuel+ card as it is a Visa card and there are no acceptance issues. However, he does recommend a desktop trial.
If a potential customer gives TMC its existing fuel card data, it will perform an audit within a week to identify
If you want to compare pump price and fixed price fuel cards it might be worth conducting a trial as Cheshire Constabulary and Morrison Utility Services did.
Tony Raymond, project manager at Morrison Utility Services, says: “We ran a programme for three years comparing a weekly fixed price card against a pump price card. We tracked both prices and found that broadly in the south the fixed price was cheaper but in the north we were paying more because the pump prices were cheaper.”
The savings in the south were not enough to justify a switch to the fixed price card.
Before starting a trial, identify what your needs are such as whether national coverage is essential, the level of reporting needed, whether you want drivers to only purchase fuel with the card, or if payment terms are important to your company. Also consider security, such as chip and pin.
Always check the small print
Fleets should take into account the various charges from different providers and their terms and conditions.
TMC warns fleet operators to check the small print carefully as some contracts make customers liable for purchases made up to two days after they report a card lost or stolen.
Vintis adds: “Will you be given a fair price? Will you be looked after properly should something go wrong? These are the main issues, not the card itself.”
A trial of three to six months should give a fleet operator the opportunity to see how a new provider handles issues such as missing cards, as well as providing enough data to compare prices and reporting.
When comparing prices, a fleet should bear in mind how far a driver might have to travel to fill up.
Whichever card a fleet opts for, driver behaviour – both in terms of how efficiently they drive and where they fill up – shouldn’t be overlooked. Raymond says: “Your biggest saving is from your driver – your 7-12% fuel savings – not your 2ppl off the price of fuel, welcome saving that it is.”
Read on to compare cards...