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Comparing the Common Types of Fuel Card Programs for Owner-Operators

Kim Diggs

December 26, 2023

It’s no secret that you, as an owner-operator, can better manage your spending and save on fuel with the right fuel card program. But, what factors should you consider when making a decision?

This is your road map for choosing the right diesel fuel card your trucking business. Whether you’re a seasoned owner-operator trying to minimize fuel costs or just getting started in the trucking industry, this blog can provide some answers.

Comparing the Common Types of Fuel Card Programs for Owner-Operators

The cost of fuel is one of your largest expenses, and selecting the wrong trucker fuel card for you can result in less savings and add more work to your plate. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the right fuel card.

Know Your Fuel Usage

Think about your usual driving routes and your refueling stops. Make sure the card you use gives competitive discounts and covers the locations of your preferred fueling network. Don’t be surprised if you can save more at other locations with the right program.

Know Your Trucking Lanes

Due to familiarity or client demand, owner-operators frequently choose specific routes. Make sure the fuel card network is compatible with the trucking lanes you use when evaluating choices. It can help you save time and money to have gas stations accessible along your usual routes. Also, consider whether the fuel card provides services like aid with with route planning, which can help you plan your travels to maximize fuel efficiency.

Understand Fuel Program Terms

Programs for trucking fuel cards have a range of terms and conditions. Before committing to a card, read and understand them. Take note of:

  • Discounts, Discounts, Discounts: There are many reasons to have a fuel card, but there is none more important than keeping as much of your money as possible. With so many programs out there, it’s important to know which ones can save you the most money.
  • Charges and Exclusions: With potential savings, also comes the potential for additional fees that can eat up those discounts. Look at the programs fees and any other charges, taking note of any monthly or transactional costs. Don’t just consider the discounts when choosing a fuel card. Make sure you understand the total costs associated, or you may not get the full savings you expect.
  • Credit Terms: You can charge fuel costs and make payments later with certain fuel card systems that operate through a line of credit. Some are prefunded, which means you have to put money on the card before you can use it. Select the option that best suits your spending habits and business needs.

Prepaid (Cash-Secured) vs. Credit Fuel Cards

Prepaid and credit cards are the two main types of trucking fuel cards. Every kind has pros and cons to take into account. Here are some important things to think about:

Prepaid Trucking Fuel Cards

  • Higher Acceptance Rate: As the name suggests, prepaid cards are preloaded with funds to use for fuel. Because there is no line of credit with this program, it can be an easy way to get started saving – just by putting your money onto the card and using it at the truck stop!
  • Budget Control: By loading a certain amount onto the card, you can control your fuel costs and keep your spending within your means.
  • Limited Credit: Because prepaid cards don’t depend on credit, they don’t help you establish a credit history.

Fuel Credit Cards for Truckers

Like regular credit cards, fuel cards let you charge for diesel, and in some cases, any other purchase, and pay the remaining amount at a later time. The following are some things to remember:

  • Credit Check: Fuel credit card approval is based on your business’ credit worthiness. The amount approved is also subject to other factors, such as years in business, payment history and the financial provider issuing the line of credit.
  • Terms of Payment: Credit cards give you flexibility when it comes to paying for fuel, but you will need to use caution while spending to keep your balance low and prevent paying interest. Failure to pay on time can lead to your card being shut off.
  • Credit Building: Over time, successful, consistent payment of fuel credit can help raise your business credit score.

Fee Schedules and Limits

It’s essential to understand the fuel card program’s fees and limitations if you want to properly manage your spending. Consider the following typical costs and limits:

  • Monthly Fees: The use of certain fuel card programs is subject to a monthly fee. To determine which program is the most economical, compare these prices across various programs.
  • Transaction Fees: Determine whether there are any fees associated with each fuel purchase. Excessive transaction costs can easily mount up and hurt your profit margin.
  • Fees for ATM Withdrawals: Be mindful of any fees that may apply if you want to use your fuel card to make cash advances at ATMs.
  • Purchase Limits for Fuel: Find out if there are fuel purchase limits on the card, either daily or monthly. Make sure these restrictions meet your operating requirements.

Fuel Card Benefits for Owner-Operators

After choosing the ideal fuel card program, you’ll be able to take advantage of a number of advantages that will help your owner-operator business.

Fuel Savings

The possibility of major fuel savings is one of the main benefits of utilizing a fuel card. Taking advantage of the discounts, rebates or points offered by many fuel card programs allows you to keep more of your hard-earned cash.

Expense Management

Your statements for fuel card purchases can be quite helpful when creating a budget, filing taxes, and monitoring trends in spending.

Finding the right trucking fuel card for you is a major step toward cost control, increased profitability and operational efficiency for your business as an owner-operator.

As you make your evaluation, consider the fuel card options with the company you factor with. Discover your options with Triumph.