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Fuel card companies can use nasty tactics: what to watch out for

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This guide outlines the underhanded tactics some fuel card companies use, and what you should watch out for before and after you sign up.

We all know about predatory credit cards, and we are aware of the ways that utilities tier their prices to hide their unfair rates, but what about fuel card companies? What sorts of tricks are they pulling on hard-working small businesses and unsupecting people?

Sneaky fuel card company tactics to beware of

This guide covers some of the consumer-unfriendly things that seemingly legitimate fuel card companies pull, and what you should watch out for. 

Misleading Verbal Communication

This is a trick as old as time. You are promised the earth by the rep, but when the paperwork is finally over and the pull-out period is ended, all the ugly lies are exposed. Hidden fees appear, hidden restrictions appear, and suddenly you notice your card doesn’t work in the places you were promised it would.

The Trial Period

This low-brow trick could warrant an e-book’s worth of explaining because there are many ways that a trial period can exploit an unsuspecting customer. The fair rates, the low fees, the preferential treatment, suddenly it starts to evaporate after the trial period is over and you are locked into a contract. 

Low Starting Rates

This is often tied in with some sort of trial period too. You are given a very low rate and it seems great. You go about your business for five months and everything is amazing. Then, month six comes along and your low starting rate is replaced by an ugly rate, nasty fees, and unexpected restrictions. The sad part is that the low starting rate is often what you see on comparison websites, which tricks you into thinking one company is better than the others because it seems the cheapest.

The Request For a Review 

A company treats you very well for the first few months. They have low introductory rates, the customer support answers questions quickly, you get your cards quickly, and you may even earn some of the rewards. You keep getting nagged for a review on a website like TrustPilot, so you submit one because you are happy. The reason you are nag so much near the beginning is that you are inside their loss-leader period. Once you are an established customer and your positive reviews are long forgotten, they start cranking up the fees and gouging you to make as much profit as they can before your contract ends.

Unfair Costs for Breaking Your Contract

In some cases, you can just break your contract or stop using the cards until your account expires. In other cases, if you do not use the cards enough, then you are charged a fee. If you wish to break your contract early, you are charged a massive fee.

You Don’t Use ‘Enough’ Fuel

The rates you are shown on fuel card comparison sites are the rates you get if you use a certain amount of fuel during a certain period. If you do not buy enough during a certain period of time, then you do not get your discounts or your rewards. The worst companies will have very unfair limits and period restrictions that no small business could possibly hope to achieve.

Rewards That Expire

This is a common trick in many industries, especially in the credit card industry. You are offered prizes and rewards for earning points. The trouble is that you cannot earn enough before the points or rewards expire. You are forced to either cash in your reward points now for something small and useless, or you overspend on fuel to get the rewards before they or your points expire.

Very Small Reward Window

This is something that favors the bigger spender. On the surface, it looks like a good deal because you get a discount or reward points for achieving modest amounts of spending. The only problem is that the periods in which you may earn these rewards are very small. Similar to your points expiring, your ability to earn the reward expires, and then they move onto another reward and you have to start working towards that one instead.

Poor Quality Customer Support

This may not seem like anything relating to a scam or poor business practice, but it can easily be used to cheat you out of a good deal. Typically, you sign up for a card that you have to pay for, but you don’t have to pay if you buy enough fuel with them. You try the free trial period but decide it is not for you. However, to stop your subscription rolling over into a paid one, you have to call customer support and cancel your account. The trouble is that customer support leaves you on hold or simply doesn’t allow you to quit the account quickly enough.

Poor Admin Support

You sign up for the cards, but you do not want things like “Ecopoint” or “Zero Liability,” but months later you notice your rewards are awful because your online paperless-work shows that you ticked those boxes when you didn’t. So, you call to complain and have them removed from your card contract, but the customer support team messes you around for weeks because they are told to keep your account no matter what.

Hanging Up When You Try to Quit

This one is related to the last dirty fuel card company trick in the paragraph above. Their telephone staff are penalized for losing clients, so the staff do whatever it takes to stop you from canceling your cards. This includes everything from putting you on hold for hours to hanging up on you like the call was accidentally dropped. If they cannot convince you to stay with the company or cannot convince you with other deals and incentives, then they find a way to make you go away, even if it means giving you incorrect advice by telling you to email the company with your request to leave.

Negative reviews are a great information source

We all know that when we shop for any sort of service, we should search out negative reviews because anybody can fake a bunch of positive ones. However, some review sites offer far deeper insights than they first appear.

When somebody feels robbed or scammed by a company, in many cases they will go online to vent about issues. In some cases, these people will detail exactly how the company “Screwed them over” and it makes for very good reading. Some reviews will detail the sorts of shady dealings and poor quality service that some fuel card companies offer.

In truth, these are just a few ways that fuel card companies may cheat you out of rewards, and the fact is that they can do it because fuel card companies are becoming just as easy to set up as credit card companies, pre-payment card companies, and financial app companies. Once a good name is tarnished enough, and once the company has made its money, it closes down and comes back six months later with a new name and a big list of offers for new customers. Some fuel cards offer very good rewards, discounts, and perks, but you have to be very wary of the fuel card companies that are just out to make a quick profit.

 

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