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Credit Cards Can Cut the Cheddar You Spend on Gas

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Odysseas.Papadimitriou)
at 11:33AM Monday April 16, 2012
under Money Saving Tips

The price of gas sure does stink these days, but what are you gonna do about it?  While many will treat that as a rhetorical question, choosing simply to pay up and grumble as the national average price for regular gas creeps toward the $4.00 mark, others will take a more practical approach to the issue and look for ways to ease the financial burden.  You therefore have to wonder:  Can something as simple as a rewards credit card help weather the storm of rising gas prices?

Absolutely! The right gas credit card can save you upwards of 5% per gallon, which would basically be the equivalent of paying last year's prices.  The trick is finding the offer that best matches your lifestyle and spending habits.  

Types of gas credit cards

There are two general types of gas rewards cards:  1) station-specific credit cards and 2) generic gas rewards cards.

Station-specific credit cards, as you might guess, only provide savings on gas purchased at the chain of stations with which they are affiliated.  That means they're only useful to people who are brand-loyal in their gas consumption.  Generic gas rewards cards offer savings regardless of the station at which you fill up your tank, making them well-suited for those of us who get gas from whichever station is closest when the arrow ticks down to empty.

At this point, you may be wondering why anyone would limit themselves to a single gas station.  It's most likely due to either prices or a lack of choice.  Station-specific cards also tend to offer better rewards, but you should take this as neither a hard-and-fast rule, nor a reason to try to change your habits.  Unless you live in a major metropolitan area in which you are never very far from a few different major gas stations, such a change would likely go the way of your already-forgotten New Year's Resolutions.  Besides, as you'll see below, generic gas rewards cards can indeed play the role of the alpha dog, rather than the runt of the litter.

Without further ado, the best gas rewards credit cards – as chosen by Card Hub from over 1,000 offers – are:

Best station-specific gas rewards cards
  • Marathon Credit Card – Gives cardholders a $0.25-per-gallon rebate on Marathon gas during months in which total charges equal at least $1,000 (roughly 6.7% cash back at current prices), a $0.15-per-gallon rebate for spending between $500 and $999.99 (roughly 4% cash back), and a $0.05-per gallon rebate for spending less than $500 (roughly 1.3% cash back).  No annual fee.
  • ExxonMobil MasterCard – Offers a 15-cent-per-gallon rebate on each gallon of ExxonMobil gas (roughly 4% cash back) as well as rebates of up to 2% on all other purchases.  No annual fee.
Best generic gas rewards cards
  • Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Cash Rewards Credit Card - This is one of a few PenFed credit cards that offers 5% cash back on gas purchases at any station (must pay at the pump) in addition to 0.25% cash back on all other purchases.  PenFed membership is required (available for as little as $15).
  • Blue Cash Everyday from American Express – Provides 2% cash back at gas stations and department stores, 3% at supermarkets, and 1% on everything else.  This card also gives you a $100 bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months.  No annual fee.
  • TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express – Gives 3% cash back on annual gas purchases up to $3,000 (1% thereafter), 2% cash back on restaurant and travel-related purchases, and 1% on everything else.  No annual fee for Costco members.
Ways to boost your savings

That's not even the full extent of the savings available via a gas rewards credit card.  While the Shell Credit Card was not listed above due to the fact that you must spend at least $1,000 a month to get the same 15 cent-per-gallon rebate as the ExxonMobil Credit Card, Shell's partnerships with certain major grocery stores create an interesting savings opportunity.  For every $100 you spend at the likes of Giant and Kroger, you get 10 cents per gallon off of your next Shell fill up.  Combine that with the savings offered by a generic gas rewards card and your wallet just got a whole lot happier.

In addition, there are a number of cell phone apps out there that tell you where the cheapest gas is your area is.  This can obviously help people with generic gas rewards cards significantly, but it can also help the brand-loyal folks if there are multiple station franchises in the same general area.

Final thoughts

A gas rewards card isn't going to make the rising price of gas painless, but it will sure help.  You must simply be honest with yourself about your spending habits and get the card that best meets your needs.  What's more, all of the cards mentioned above require at least good credit for approval, so you should not apply unless you have the requisite credit standing for approval.

Odysseas Papadimitriou is CEO of credit card comparison website Card Hub.