Gas can be one of the larger expense when driving to a travel destination. While prices are at recent lows, drivers are still looking for ways to get rewarded for the fuel purchases in the form of reward points or cash back rebates. For this reason, many travel credit cards reward an average of 2 points per dollar spent on gasoline purchases. But, it is possible to find credit cards with higher reward rates.
If gas rewards are important to you, the minimum reward rate should be 2% from your credit card, although, any credit card will pay a minimum of 1%. For starters, the IHG Rewards hotel loyalty credit card, Ink Plus® Business Card, or the American Express Gold earn 2 reward points for every dollar spent at the pump. Both of these cards charge an annual fee but come with more luxurious perks than no-fee reward cards. For those who simply want cash back, two cards to consider are the Citi Double Cash (2% on all purchases paid on-time) or the Barclaycard Rewards with a 2% reward rate on gas, grocery, and utility purchases.
Better Than 2%
We have established the fact that it is possible to choose a travel or non-travel credit card that offers a baseline rate of 2%. But, it is very easy to do better. In fact, it’s possible to earn up to 5% cash back on all gas purchases. One thing you might notice though is that some of these credit cards can be “somewhat” exclusive and will require a one-time or annual membership fee to an organization to qualify for the rewards card.
These reward cards do not require you to belong to a particular bank or club to earn high rewards, as most other gas rewards cards do.
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
You can earn 3% gas rewards with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred along with 6% cash back (up to $6,000 in purchases) at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. New cardholders can also earn a $250 sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 and up to $200 cash back for $4,000 in eligible travel purchases made within the first 6 months. The one downside is that this card charges a $95 annual fee.
American Express also offers a no-fee version, Blue Cash Everyday Card, that pays 2% gas rewards, along with 3% on grocery purchases, 2% on department stores, and 1% on everything else. You can also earn a $150 statement credit after spending $500 within the first three months of card membership and can also earn up to $200 cash back when making $4,000 in travel purchases (5%) in the first six months.
The Amex Everyday & Citi ThankYou Premier
Both of these cards earn 3x on gas purchases, but the Amex Everyday Preferred requires 30 purchases first. in a billing period.
The Freedom & Discover it
The Chase Freedom and Discover it both have 5% quarterly rotating categories, and gas just happens to be a rotating category. 5% earning is capped at $1,500 in purchases each quarter, but that adds up, especially if you’re transferring your Freedom points to Ultimate Rewards.
Credit Union Rewards Cards (5%)
These two credit cards offer gas rewards of 5% and can be used worldwide. The only downside is that you need to meet certain eligibility standards to earn membership. If you are a retired or active military personnel, reside in the service area, employed by a qualifying employer, or relative to an eligible member, you can enjoy 5% cash back.
Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Platinum Visa
Some might balk at credit union offerings because members must meet certain eligibility requirements or limited physical branches. But, this doesn’t mean that you cannot use them primarily for an awesome credit card program. Fort Knox FCU pays 5% on gas rewards and 1% on all other purchases in the form of a monthly statement credit. The reward payout is similar to the Discover It or Chase Freedom credit cards that pay a 5% bonus on rotating spending categories and 1% on all other purchases. If fuel is one of your largest expenses, this can be a better offering because gas purchases constantly earn 5%.
To qualify for this card, non-members need to pay a one-time $15 fee (or $5 annually) by joining the American Consumer Council. $5 of the fee is used to purchase one share at Fort Knox FCU.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
The Pentagon FCU has similar eligibility requirement to Fort Knox FCU, but, federal government employees can join. There are two different gas rewards credit cards to choose from.
If you like earning points, this is possible with the Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card. You will earn 5 points per $1 spent at the pump, 3 points on supermarket purchases, and 1 point for everything else. Unredeemed points expire after 5 years. Also, the point redemption values are not as good as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Thank You Points.
Probably the best choice is the Platinum Cash Rewards Plus Visa Card that pays 5% cash back on gas purchases (0% on all remaining purchases) with a monthly statement credit and has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. To qualify for the 5% rate, you must have a current loan with PenFed or an active checking account with direct deposit ($250 minimum balance). If these requirements are not met, the reward rate drops to 3% and an annual fee of $25 is charged.
Warehouse Clubs (4%-5%)
Surprisingly, credit cards offered by wholesale buying clubs such as Costco or Sam’s Club not only offer discount prices for fuel but offer additional rewards to loyal members that also make purchases with the affiliated credit cards. In addition to gas rewards, these two credit cards also offer tiered rewards for other purchases as well. Of course, these cards might only make sense if you regularly make purchases from a warehouse club.
The Costco Anywhere Visa pays 4% cash back on the first $7,000 in gas purchases worldwide and 1% after that on. Users will not earn rewards from gas purchased at other warehouse clubs, supermarkets, or grocery stores. Reading the terms and conditions can be a little confusing as it mentions that rewards will not be earned at convenience stores (what virtually every non-Costco gas station is). Don’t be alarmed, you will almost certainly earn a reward when you “pay-at-the-pump.” Credit card companies have different classification codes for in-store purchases where you can also purchase drinks & lottery tickets and gas pump purchases where it is only possible to purchase gasoline or diesel. This is a general practice for all gas rewards credit cards.
In addition to 4% gas rewards, cardholders also earn 3$ cash back on restaurant & travel purchases, 2% on all other Costco purchases, and 1% on everything else. Between the tiered reward payout and no annual earnings cap on all rewards, this is the best warehouse club credit card available.
Sam’s Club MasterCard
It’s not uncommon for non-warehouse credit cards to not offer gas rewards at clubs such as Costco, Sam’s, or BJ’s. That problem is solved, at Sam’s Club at least, with the Sam’s Club MasterCard. Cardholders can earn 5% rewards on the first $6,000 in gas purchases each year and 1% after that. Gas rewards can be earned at Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart gas stations, in addition to most other gas stations in the United States and Puerto Rico. The “fine print” does mention that wholesale clubs other than Sam’s (i.e. BJ’s or Costco) and select supermarket gas stations are ineligible for the purchase rewards.
In addition to the 5% gas rewards, it’s also possible to earn 3% on dining and travel purchases, & 1% on all other purchases. Keep in mind that reward earnings are capped at $5,000 per calendar year. There also isn’t an annual fee & new cardholders can earn a $40 statement credit when making at least $100 in purchases on the day of account opening.
What About Gas Station Cards?
If you always purchase gas from a specific gas station brand, a branded gas station credit card can be a good option. For example, the ExxonMobil Smart Card rewards 6 cents per gallon and the Shell Drive for Five credit card knocks 5 cents off each gallon. If gas is $2 per gallon that is a rewards rate of approximately 2.5%, but only 1.6% when gas costs $3 per gallon. These reward rates are still better than several rewards cards, but the above options offer better payouts and are more flexible.
Of course, you can also buy gas station cards at an office supply store with this card and earn 5x points.
There is not a single “best” gas rewards credit card that fits the needs of every person. Most credit cards offer increased gas rewards as an incentive to attract or retain users that might already be using their products. For example, joining a credit union or warehouse club specifically to earn extra gas rewards might not be worth the hassle if you have a decent travel rewards card that earns 2% on gas purchases and higher payouts for travel purchases.
As a general observation, the credit cards with better gas rewards tend to reward shoppers who will also use the same credit card for grocery shopping, albeit some exceptions. To maximize gas rewards, it might make sense to select one of the recommended credit cards above to purchase “household staples” and use a travel card as your primary card for all other purchases.
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— Josh Patoka