For many fleets, the primary purpose of a fuel card has always been to ensure that drivers can fill-up at the best possible price in the most straightforward way.
But fuel card providers are now offering their customers an increasing range of add-on services.
Some are working with third parties to provide card holders with either ease of payment or best value when it comes to costs linked to tolls, hotels and service, maintenance and repair (SMR), among other options.
In short, many see their future role to be that of a ‘mobility service provider’, rather than simply a conduit for fuel payments.
Paul Jackson, managing director of fuel card and mileage expense management company The Miles Consultancy (TMC), places the rapid evolution of fuel cards’ add-on functions in context.
“From my perspective, there are two angles when it comes to the added value fuel cards are now providing,” he says.
“One is undoubtedly enabling drivers to pay for more things with the fuel card such as tolls, hotels and tyres.
“The other is the next logical step: enhancing businesses’ capacity to manage their all-round mobility costs by linking purchase data to other information, such as mileage, destinations, sales and service.”
Peter Bridgen, managing director at Allstar, sees an important shift taking place.
“While fuel site network size is still a critical factor in the decision-making process for most fleets, there’s no doubt that there has been a shift in recent years where businesses and fleet managers want more from their fuel cards,” he says.
“Just like in other industries, the fleet and fuel card market is evolving at a rapid rate. It can allow specified non-fuel purchases or it can be locked down to fuel and lubricants only.
“So fleets can optionally provide drivers with more convenience without surrendering control over what they can buy with the cards. From a procurement perspective, added-value fuel cards address the issue of what employees can buy while travelling.
“But from the fleet and financial management perspective, the key questions are where, when and why. Unless you can capture that data you are unable to use it to drive value for the business.”
Jenny Powley, sales director of corporate business at RAC Business, agrees that while the evolving functionality of fuel cards “undoubtedly” brings benefits to fleet managers, their primary function – as a means to manage fuel consumption – should not be overlooked.
“Fuel cards are an efficient and money-saving way of managing the cost of a fleet,” she says.
“They save on admin costs and time, while also controlling where drivers are able to fill up.
“But the humble fuel card is changing and fleet managers are now able to get a number of other value added services.
“Our RAC Business Club, for instance, is a free fuel management tool that’s available to fuel card customers.
“It’s an online portal that allows fleet managers to log important details about vehicles and drivers, helping them keep track of servicing information, MOTs and tax.”
Powley adds that the RAC Business Club fuel card also offers members exclusive leasing deals with Lex Autolease and discounts on motoring related products at the RAC online shop.
Bridgen says Allstar has partnered with National Windscreens to offer glass repair and replacement, and has also teamed up with The AA and ATS Euromaster to offer national breakdown assistance and tyre replacement services.
“In addition to these business partnerships, it’s also now possible to make M6 toll payments on our fuel cards,” he adds.
“Another groundbreaking solution that is now making a significant impact to our customers’ bottom line is our recently launched SMR offering, as an additional service.
“With SMR, customers simply use their Allstar card to pay for their vehicle servicing, which can be used at more than 9,000 garages nationwide.
“They can save up to 20% off the retail price depending on the level of labour or parts involved.”
When the SMR services were added in April, Bridgen expected take-up to be good among Allstar’s 35,000 customers, but no figures are available at the moment.
“Along with the cost savings, these added value services are designed to reduce valuable admin time and the hassle of pay and reclaim for drivers,” says Bridgen.
“All services paid for on your card are itemised on Allstar’s consolidated HMRC -approved invoice.”