Connected cards

From the October 2021 print edition

Are you wondering how to pay for gasoline, fuel or electric recharge for your fleet? Are you looking
to control costs, avoid misuse or worse, fraud? The market offers solutions and, with technology, more control.

Not long ago, fleet managers used credit cards or fuel cards from petroleum distributors to pay for expenses, with little paper slips as control. Control was manual and it took time to figure out what was going on. Credit card providers recognized the need for more sophisticated controls and expense reports. Fleet management providers reacted to this need. So, here’s an overview of products out there and the technology available.

Fleet needs vary so you can choose to take one card option, two or even more. Your fleet management card provider is the best source to help you choose what fits your needs. All these options are great and utilize recent technology.

Suppliers can provide card services related to their products. They offer reports, analysis and
so on. They can limit the number of transactions placed on cards. You can also benefit from fuel rebates depending on the volume of your transactions. Some suppliers work with fleet management providers to give customers one contact point for fuel and repairs.

Using cards at public electric recharging stations is a bit different, but options are catching up with rising demand. The major difference is the connection between stations and fleet management providers, or with the reporting for your fleet. The stations have their own cards for transactions and accept credit cards with open MCC (merchant category codes). The advantage of a dedicated card to a unique supplier is flexibility, depending on usage. Electric recharging providers are resolving this issue, and many have fixed it.

Consider this product carefully if your operating route is established with no day-to-day modifications. If you don’t know where your vehicle will travel, look at other options.

Some fleet providers offer their own card dedicated to a vehicle. The provider is the one collecting the information for reports.

You can add garage repairs and get a global view of your fleet. It’s part of a series of services they provide. It is also adapted to the combined technology of GPS, which I’ll address later.

Fleet management providers can also offer credit cards such as Mastercard or Visa. The card is attached to a specific vehicle using its asset number or fleet number (printed on the card). Also, you can block MCC. For example, you can choose with your provider only the codes related to service stations. Then, if someone tries to pay for an expensive lunch, the card will be rejected. You can also set limits per transaction and the number of transactions per day and adapt it to each type of vehicle.

These transactions are built into the report of your choice and have tap and chip technology. Credit cards also offer fraud protection in collaboration with fleet management providers. You pay your service provider while they own the credit card. They collect the rebate from the card supplier. This is a great option, again with a bonus if you use GPS.

Procurement cards
Mastercard and Visa are the leaders in procurement cards. The difference if you use your own P-Card is that, for the reporting of the MCC codes management, you deal directly with your supplier. You can assign a card to a vehicle with the same restrictions on MCC transaction limits. The advantage is, if you combine your P-Card and fleet card, you benefit from the volume return from your provider.

These days fleet providers, collaborating with credit card providers, give you lots of information. It’s quick, accurate and attached to specific vehicles. But GPS is changing the way you monitor, control and reduce costs. A GPS system can track down a vehicle. But today’s providers take things one step further. In those vehicles, the GPS can connect to the onboard diagnostics and the vehicle computer figures out the amount of information available. Users have information about speed, stop-and-go patterns, driver behaviour and the use of fuel. This information is nice, but where do credit cards fit in?

Fleet management companies and GPS providers have access to lots of information and can connect it. Fleet providers have the credit card information like how many litres charged, the cost and the location of each transaction. GPS providers have each vehicles’ location information. With both organizations connected to each other, you can produce a report showing that your vehicle was at the service station shown on the credit card report.

Such reports can monitor for discrepancies – for example, if the card is used in Kingston, Ontario but the vehicle was in Belleville. Or, if litres don’t match tank capacity, you get an alarm. You can select service station that drivers to go to, which ones to avoid, and control that through geofencing.

Various products now exist that you can adapt to your needs. Speak with suppliers, because they’re your best bet in finding a solution that suits you.

Mario Gionet is a fleet professional and consultant who recently retired as CBC-Radio-Canada’s fleet manager. Reach him at [email protected]