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
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.