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NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, Fall 2014

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Don’t look to a Shell, Chevron or Valero credit card to relieve the pressure of ever-rising gas prices. You can get the same rewards rate or better, without the hassles and limitations, with a great gas credit card.

The Nerds have crunched the numbers and compared more than 45 gas cards to find you the best deals for ongoing rates and signup bonuses. We’ll also give you the details behind the numbers, because these cards are notoriously tricky. Read on for NerdWallet’s take on the top cards’ rewards programs, bonuses, fees, perks and drawbacks.

NerdWallet’s Top Gas Credit Cards:

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom - $100 Cash Back Credit Card
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on Chase's
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The Chase Freedom is offering 5% cash back on gas in the first and third quarters of 2014, as part of its rotating bonus category series. Every quarter, you’re given a set of bonus areas in which you earn 5% back up to $1,500 spent that quarter, plus an unlimited 1% back elsewhere. The 2014 bonus schedule features gas twice:

  • Q1 (Jan. 1-March 31): Gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
  • Q2 (April 1-June 30): Restaurants and Lowe’s home improvement stores
  • Q3 (July 1-Sept. 30): Gas stations and Kohl’s
  • Q4 (Oct. 1-Dec. 31): Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores

Unlike with the PenFed card (see below), you don’t need to pay to join a credit union, and it comes with a signup bonus: Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The AmEx Blue Cash blows most gas cards away: It’s as simple as it is generous. It earns an unlimited 3% cash back on gas pumped anywhere in the United States — no station restrictions — as well as a full 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000 spent per year) and an unlimited 3% on department store purchases in the United States. It has an annual fee of $75 and comes with a signup bonus: Get 100 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $100 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period. With hard-hitting, easy-to-redeem rewards, the AmEx Blue Cash definitely stands out.

The other version of the card, the Blue Cash Everyday, has no annual fee and a bonus: Get 50 Reward Dollars, redeemable for a $50 statement credit, after you make $1,000 in purchases with your new Card in the first three months. Plus, get one year of Amazon Prime after you sign up for a new membership with your Card and meet the spending requirement in the same time period. It also has ongoing rewards of 3% on groceries (up to $6,000 annually) and 2% on U.S. gas and department stores, as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Typically, we think the Preferred is worthwhile because of its higher signup bonus and killer ongoing rewards rate. Keep in mind that not all merchants take AmEx, so you might want to carry a no-fee Visa or MasterCard as a backup if you go Blue.

PenFed Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa Signature

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card
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on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's
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The PenFed Platinum Rewards card offers one of the best gas rewards rates out there: 5 points per $1 spent at the pump. It doesn’t have a signup bonus, but it also doesn’t have an annual fee.

There are two significant downsides. You need really, really good-looking credit to qualify. PenFed has some pretty strict lending standards — which means you need beyond-excellent credit to qualify. Also, we’ve heard that PenFed Points are difficult to redeem at full value. (Note: PenFed is a credit union, which means you will need to make a small, one-time donation to Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association to join.)

  • Gas rewards: 5 points per $1
  • Additional rewards: 3 points per $1 on groceries, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
  • Rewards cap: None
  • Annual fee: None
  • Signup bonus: None

Gas credit cards with greater than 1% rewards at the pump

Credit Card Gas Reward Bonus Rate Dollars of Gas Spend That Qualify
American Express Costco TrueEarnings Business 4% $7,000 per year, then 1% rewards
Top pick for fuel and food Amex Blue Cash Preferred 3% No limit
Top pick if you have super-excellent credit PenFed Platinum Rewards 5% No limit
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards 3%, 5% with Plus account (obtained with use of a qualifying PenFed product) No limit
Top pick for no-fee cards Chase Freedom 5% during qualifying quarterly bonus periods $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter, two qualifying quarters
Discover it 5% during qualifying quarterly bonus period $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter, one qualifying quarter
American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass 3%* No limit
US Bank Business Edge Cash Rewards 3% No limit
Citibank AT&T Universal Business Rewards 3% No limit, but 100,000 total point limit per year.
American Express Hilton HHonors 2.5%* No limit
Chase Ink Cash and Classic 2% 2% on qualifying spending (gas and restaurants) of up to $25,000 per account year
Top pick if you fill up at Costco American Express Costco TrueEarnings 3% $4,000 in purchases per year, 1% thereafter
Nationwide Business Platinum Visa 3% No limit
Bank of America Cash Rewards for Business 3% Up to $250,000, then 1%
BankAmericard Cash Rewards 3% $1,500 per quarter limit on gas and groceries
Gulf 3% at Gulf No limit
Chase BP Visa ≤3% at BP Rewards limited to one fill-up and ≤20 gal.
Chevron and Texaco Credit Card 2.71%-5.42** at Chevron Requires that you spend $300/mo to earn $0.10 off per gallon, $1,000/mo to earn $0.20. Overall rewards capped at $300/yr.
Top pick for overall rewards Capital One Venture Rewards 2% No limit. Earns 2% on all purchases.
Citizens Bank Accelerator Rewards Platinum 2% (10% for first 90 days) No limit
Amex Blue Cash Everyday 2% No limit
Discover Business 2% Up to $2,000 in gas purchases each year
Discover Business Miles 2% Up to $5,000 in gas and travel purchases each year
Discover it for Students 5% during qualifying quarterly bonus period $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter, one qualifying quarter
Citi Dividend Platinum Select Possible 5% during quarterly bonus period, otherwise 1% Earn up to $300 in total rewards per year (which is $1,500 in qualified spending each quarter)
Citibank Dividend Platinum Select for College Students Possible 5% during quarterly bonus period, otherwise 1% Earn up to $300 in total rewards per year (which is $1,500 in qualified spending each quarter)
MINI Platinum 2% No limit
Quicken Rewards Visa 2% $2,000 per month between gas, groceries, pharmacies, and office supply
American Express Premier Rewards Gold 2% No limit
United MileagePlus Select 2% No limit
Fifth Third Real Life Rewards 2% No limit
WorldPoints Business Rewards 2% No limit
Ent Federal Credit Union Platinum Business Rewards 2% No limit
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard— Average Credit 2% No limit
Capital One Quicksilver 1.5% No limit
Shell Platinum MasterCard ∼1.5% at Shell Per-gallon discount on up to 100 gallons a month. Get 2% rewards with $500 spent and 100 gal purchased, otherwise far less.
Citi Hilton HHonors 1.5%* No limit
US Bank Harley-Davidson 2% No limit
Ace Rewards 2% No limit

*Based on our valuation of HHonors Points at 0.5 cents each

**Based on gas price of $3.69 per gallon

It’s not just about the rewards rate

The Costco Factor

  • Costco has cheap gasoline, but most gas card programs exclude wholesalers from their 2%-5% gas category reward rates, somewhere in the fine print.
  • In fact, it’s probably safe to assume that the only way to get more than 1% rewards pumping gas at Costco is with the Costco TrueEarnings card, or the Costco TrueEarnings Business card. The fine print on these cards explicitly states that Costco qualifies for the bonus reward rate.

Cheap Gas Stations, like ARCO

  • Gas stations such as ARCO in California often charge about 5%+ less than other gas stations, but only if you pay in cash. They accept debit cards at a surcharge. You should not pump with a 5% card at Shell if you are just as happy with ARCO gas which costs ~9% less.

Diesel, Airplane Fuel, Marine Fuel and Huge Gas Tanks

  • Many cards, such as the Shell card, only pay bonus gas reward rates for gasoline, not diesel fuel.
  • Many cards, including Shell and PenFed Platinum Cashback Rewards, don’t pay bonus gas reward rates for airplane or boat fuel.
  • Many cards have restrictions on the maximum number of gallons you can pump each time or the maximum you can spend each time. Make sure to check the fine print first!