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Fleet Management

Fueling Success: Upgrading Fleet Spend Management with Smart Fuel Cards

Originally published
Originally published: 6/1/2024

In the HVACR industry, reliable transportation is essential. Well-run fleets empower technicians to respond quickly to service calls, an important part of maintaining customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

But keeping these fleets running effectively can be expensive, and managing and tracking purchases like fuel can be time-consuming. Employees need the ability to pay for essential purchases, but without careful monitoring, this can lead to mistakes, mismanagement, or even fraud. 

Fortunately, new technology provides solutions that streamline payment processes and improve expense tracking, making fleet spend management easier and more effective than ever. If you haven’t explored new offerings in this area, including smart fuel cards, you’re likely spending too much time and money when managing your fleet. Here’s how smart fuel cards help boost your security, provide data accuracy, and integrate with your existing tools – boosting your bottom line along the way.

The Problem with Traditional Fuel Cards

Traditional fuel cards have been a mainstay in fleet management for decades, but they come with significant drawbacks. They often don’t connect to other fleet tools, like telematics systems. They can be lost or stolen, as can the personal identification numbers (PINs) they rely on. They also often use magnetic stripe technology, which can be “skimmed” with illegal devices installed on fuel pumps or point-of-sale terminals. Bad actors can use these devices to capture data that can be used to replicate the cards and steal from victims.   

The repercussions are serious: A study commissioned by Shell shows that 57% of fleet managers believe fuel-related fraud is a major concern, and two out of five drivers have witnessed fraudulent activities firsthand. Even without fraud, simply following up on expenses costs both time and money; one study found that, on average, processing just one expense report takes 20 minutes and costs $58.

Introducing Smart Fuel Cards

Designed to meet the needs of modern fleet management, smart fuel cards are an innovative alternative to traditional cards. They incorporate advanced technologies that streamline expense tracking and enhance security while allowing technicians the independence they need to work efficiently. 

In particular, upgrades in security, integrations, and data accuracy are revolutionizing the ways businesses manage their fleets.

Enhanced security through card and software upgrades

With a modern card platform, fleet managers can add the employee’s mobile phone and other identifying information and assign it to their card within the fleet card’s software portal. This means that the card is useless unless the employee has checked in via their mobile device. This also effectively means that if the card is stolen or picked up off the street, it cannot be used or skimmed. These cards also utilize chip technology, which significantly reduces the risk of skimming and cloning.

When used in conjunction with telematics applications, smart fuel cards can also alert managers to irregular fuel consumption patterns. If employees fill up too much, fuel at unapproved gas stations, or spend outside of geofencing boundaries, automated alerts will let you know.

By enabling fleet managers to set spending limits, restrict where, when, and how often cards can be used, and specify the types of purchases permitted, fuel management cards reduce mismanagement and save money.

Automated processes through software integrations

Older fuel cards weren’t always built to handle real-time transaction reporting, or connections to other software. Smart fuel cards provide more than just a payment method. By seamlessly connecting with standard software applications, these cards let HVACR companies automate time-consuming processes and collect more accurate data.

Detailed purchase data can be easily imported into accounting software such as QuickBooks, for example, for better accounting and more accurate job costing. Integration with fleet management software and telematics applications allows managers to automatically import fuel transactions, enable more accurate vehicle tracking and routing, and block transactions that happen away from company vehicles. 

Easier, more accurate data collection

Collecting data manually is both time-consuming and susceptible to error. But with a smart fuel card, managers or accounting personnel can match card usage accurately to the correct driver and vehicle, allowing administrators to correctly categorize transactions and spot any potential card misuse. 

By passing identifying data through the SMS on driver phones, the driver no longer has to memorize a vehicle code and can check in at the pump through their own phone. With the workflow on an employee’s mobile device, the system automatically captures which card is being used and matches it to the right driver and vehicle, then applies the correct spending rules.

Managers can get more accurate odometer readings and tie fuel usage data to specific users and vehicles. This level of transparency helps them quickly identify discrepancies or unusual patterns that may indicate fraudulent activities.

Fast, accurate data also provides better visibility into expenses, fuel usage, vehicle performance, and more. These insights help HVACR companies identify inefficiencies and make more accurate predictions about job costs and budgets.

Key Features to Look for in Smart Fuel Cards

When selecting smart fuel cards for your HVACR company, it’s important to choose one with features that make life easier for both fleet managers and technicians. Look for the following capabilities:

    Flexibility to cover expenses beyond just fuel
    Real-time alerts and the ability to block transactions
    Integration with telematics, fleet management, and accounting systems
    Ability to set spending and purchase category limits
    Rewards such as discounts or cash back

With advanced features like these, smart fuel cards reduce costs, simplify reporting, and enable better decision-making. Even better, they save time and make life easier for managers and technicians alike. With improved safeguards and optimized workflows in place, you can focus on delivering quality service and driving business growth.

Daniel Simon is the CEO and founder of Coast, a modern fleet card and expense management platform that helps companies govern their fuel and fleet spending. To learn more about smart fuel cards, visit

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