Oil Company Cards

The history of major oil company cards dates back to the 1920s when “courtesy” cards were introduced to encourage brand loyalty and repeat sales.  The commercial fleet card market grew rapidly in the 1900s as businesses moved toward retail fueling due to stiff new government regulations covering on-site fuel storage.  Today, the fuel card market shows signs of maturity, as oil companies have developed fuel card products tailored to the needs of both consumers and fleets of different sizes and vocations.

It is perhaps obvious why oil company cards are a popular payment method – convenience.  The majority of fleet operators simply use the card provided by the location where they fuel, and most of the time that station is less than a mile from their location.  Recognizing this, oil companies typically offer attractive reward programs to build customer loyalty.

Major oil companies offer two types of cards:  consumer credit cards and commercial fueling, or fleet cards.  Consumer credit cards are essentially the same as cards issued by department or other retail stores.  Cards may be issued to individuals (personal cards) or corporations (corporate cards).  Commercial fueling cards are issued exclusively to businesses.  These can be fuel only cards or include additional purchases such as maintenance and travel expenses.

The primary difference between consumer and commercial fueling cards is the billing statement format and features.  Consumer card statements typically provide the date, location, and amount of each transaction.  Commercial fueling card statements provide more detailed information that enables the fleet administrator to track expenses by driver and vehicle. 

Commercial fueling cards offered by the oil companies are typically either private label cards or co-branded cards.  Private label cards can be either single station cards or network cards, meaning that they may be used at all branded locations.  Co-branded cards typically also carry the name of a bank or network processor.  In addition to being branded, they also provide the feature of universal acceptance at a variety of retail locations.

Beyond convenience, cost and control are also important, particularly among larger fleets.  Type 2 fleet cards, which typically charge a fee, provide cost savings features, such as tax exempt reporting and accounting integration.  Many security options are also available to fleets including exception flags on reports, lockouts, and instantaneously voiding cards.  This combination of convenience, cost, and control has made oil company cards the most popular choice among fleets overall.