Your company has decided to get its first fleet fuel card, or perhaps you are tired of your current vendor. How do you go about shopping for the right fuel card?

There are many different fleet fuel cards out there, but like most things not everything is created equal. On the surface for most people they all look the same and all work the same. But do they?

When looking for a fleet fuel card, the first thing to do is determine what kind of card you need. There are cards that work better for over-the-road truck fleets. The card is used at truckstops such as Pilot, Travel Centers of America, etc. The king in this area is Comdata. They were the first to market in that area and control about 70 percent of that market segment.

The other area is what is considered retail fueling. These would be your more typical retail locations like BP, Chevron, etc. The maker in this market is Wright Express (WEX). They made their business from small fleets that needed controlled spending at retail fuel locations.

These two fleet fuel cards aren't the only ones in the market; you might have heard of FleetOne, Voyager, EFS, T-Chek,, and Fuelman, to name a few. A few have connections with MasterCard, which makes those cards more flexible and more widely accepted.

What you want the fleet fuel card to provide to you is information about your fuel transactions and controls over your fuel spend. When speaking with these companies, it is important to find out what they have to offer to you on their fleet card.

The other areas to which you want to pay close attention are the fees the fuel card company is going to charge you each month. Will it be a flat monthly fee per card, a transaction fee when you fuel, an account fee or do they have high late fee charges or charges to process your invoices? Another area of cost is what they will charge the vendor that accepts their fleet fuel card. The higher the fees the fuel card provider charges the vendor in transaction fees the less likely it is that you will be able to negotiate a discount.

Think of the fleet fuel cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express as far as cost. If you currently use one of these cards for buying things other than fuel, not all merchants accept American Express. It is not that they don't like AMEX, they don't like the higher transaction fees that they charge them.

The same holds true for your fleet fuel card. Certain cards like Voyager and WEX have higher transaction fees than other cards like Fuelman and Comdata. If you go to your retail fuel location and ask for a discount, the difference for them to accept one card instead of the other might be six cents a gallon or more. They just don't have that much profit margin, and you will pay the full retail price.

Another thing to consider: several fuel companies have fuel discounts built into their card so you might get a penny to five cents off. Review and check their list of accepting locations to determine if they are logistically a good fit for your operation. The best advice is to review at least three different companies to see what they have to offer. In summary look for:

• Best acceptance for your operation, retail or over-the-road (truckstops).

• Research the different cards out there. Just because they are the biggest doesn't mean they are the best for you.

• What controls do they have available on the card to control theft?

• How much are the transaction fees for all involved?

• What kind of discount fuel network do they have?

Here is a quick reference to a few of the fuel card companies' websites:;;;;;; these should give you a good start. Are you fueling good today? We are.

Glen Sokolis is president of Sokolis Group, a nationwide fuel management and fuel consulting company, You can reach him at [email protected] or (267) 482-6160.

Previous installments of "Friday Fuel:"
* "Successful Fuel Management Program Equals Discipline", 9-11-09
* "Who's Watching Your Fuel Program," 9-18-09
* "Fleet Fuel Margins: Are You Paying Too Much?" 9-25-09
* "How Do You Audit Your Fleet Fuel Invoices?" 10-2-09
* "Fleet Fuel Price Negotiating: Details, Details", 10-9-09
* "Mobile On-Site Fueling", 10-16-09
* "The Bees Are Still Buzzing: Handling Fuel on a Daily Basis", 10-23-09