Discounts on fuel and loyalty reward points included with credit card use are proving especially attractive to small and medium-sized businesses, according to market analyst Datamonitor.
The organisation has produced a report highlighting the strong growth of the use of credit cards compared to fuel cards across Europe.
However, UK fuel card suppliers claim the domestic picture is very different to the pan-European state of affairs.
Recently, credit cards have been offering discounts on fuel. For example, the Tesco business credit card offers a 2p per litre reduction on petrol and diesel purchased with the card at the supermarket chain’s 408 UK service stations.
Other advantages can include savings through multi-retailer loyalty schemes, such as the Nectar business card from American Express, and management reporting services for overall card expenditure.
Datamonitor’s forecourts analyst Ricky Hill said: ‘Although fuel cards come out on top in terms of providing fuel discounts and specialist reporting services, their usage is largely restricted to service stations and discounts are generally limited to petrol, diesel and fuel-related products.
‘Over the last few years the number of commercial cards across Europe has increased year-on-year at a rate of 5% above that of fuel cards. The main reasons companies cited are that they believe their business to be too small to warrant a fuel card and that they find credit cards are extremely practical because they can be used for all purchases.’
Helen Martin, head of fuel products at fleet and fuel management company Arval which supplies the Allstar fuel card, said: ‘The UK is a considerably different market from many European countries.
‘Our own research suggests that growth in commercial credit cards is much slower, due to the fact that comprehensive fuel network coverage can be obtained from an alternative source.’
…but fuel cards are a safer initiative
FUEL card suppliers say a recent spate of filling station scams across England show that fuel cards are a safer alternative to credit cards.
Some 200 filling stations were targeted in a multi-million pound credit card ‘skimming’ operation, allegedly masterminded by Tamil Tiger terrorists to fund its independence battle with the Sri Lankan government. Millions of pounds were stolen from credit and debit cards after owners used them to pay for goods at filling stations where ‘skimming’ equipment had been fitted.
Helen Martin, head of fuel products at Arval, said: ‘The good news for fleets and drivers equipped with a fuel card is that they do not hold any personal banking details and therefore cannot be used to access personal bank accounts.
‘Fuel cards cannot be used at any cashpoint machine or to obtain cash in any way. They operate on a restricted network of retailers and can only be used to buy fuel and vehicle-related purchases.’