Play Your Cards Right

Todd Dills | January 04, 2011

Comdata and similar fuel cards are available to independents looking to combine maximum fuel discounts with the accounting aspects of a debit card tied to a traditional bank account.

Howard Salmon finds the TCH fuel card useful.

For single-truck and other small fleets, says Comdata Product Executive Cory Sickles, the Comdata discount fuel network can be opted into for discounts over the cash price. “You will not pay the credit card price at a truck stop in our network,” he says.

As part of Mastercard’s Maestro point-of-sale network, all Comdata cards are useable anywhere the Maestro logo appears. “That allows [cardholders] to go to Target or Walmart,” says Sickles, as well as “anyone that would accept some kind of point-of-sale debit, ATMs.”

A similar product is the TCH fuel card. Independent Howard Salmon uses it for receiving payment from brokers, as well as debiting fuel purchases directly from it. Another is the FleetOne Truckers Advantage card for Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association members. Other than the fuel discounts, says Salmon, the TCH card carries no incentive, such as a cash-back program. If there were a debit fuel card with such a program, he says, “I’d have that for sure.”

Though fuel cards offer various discounts, such as for lodging and maintenance, to date none appears to offer cash-back or travel-reward programs like a credit card, though that may be coming. Many banks now offer debit card reward programs.

Fuel card resources

Comdata:

www.comdata.com

FleetOne Truckers Advantage:

www.truckersadvantage.com

TCH: www.tch.com



Bend plastic to your needs

Bankrate.com offers these tips for using credit cards in your business:

BUY ONLY WHAT’S NEEDED. Take a hard line on defining “need” and avoid using credit for things – like that flashy 22-inch chrome bumper – that are not essential for the business.

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY. Purchases should be “helping you make more money than you originally spent,” notes the website. If you can’t expect to bring in enough to cover the expense, don’t buy it. With certain expenditures, like wide single tires or an auxiliary power unit, the return on investment might take months, even years. Track your fuel economy and other performance indicators to determine the speed and amount of the payback.

PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM. If you can’t pay off monthly balances entirely, “pay as much down on your credit card balance as possible without hurting your business nest egg.” Paying at least twice the minimum should ensure your balance falls steadily.

BREAK THE HABIT. Once you’re established, “wean off the business credit card,” which can be as habit-forming as nicotine. Invest saved cash in a maintenance fund.



Comparing card benefits