NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, Spring 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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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 (January 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 – September 30): Gas stations and Kohl’s
  • Q4 (October 1 – December 31): Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores

Unlike with the PenFed card, you don’t need to pay to join a credit union, and it it comes with a signup bonus: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $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  - no station restrictions - as well as a full 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6k spent a year) and unlimited 3% on department store purchases. It pays out in cash, of course, pretty much the simplest form of rewards there is. It has a $75 annual fee and comes with a 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. signup bonus. With hard-hitting, easy-to-redeem rewards, the Amex Blue Cash stands out. The other version of the card, the Blue Cash Everyday, has no annual fee, a 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. bonus,and ongoing rewards of 3% on groceries (up to $6k annually) and 4% on gas/department stores. 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.

PenFed Credit Union Platinum Rewards Card

The PenFed Platinum Rewards card offers one of the best gas rewards rates out there: 5 points per $1 on gas through April 4th, 2014, and 3 per $1 thereafter. Though it has no signup bonus, it’s a no annual fee credit card.

There are two significant downsides. You need really, really, ridiculously good-looking credit to qualify. PenFed has some pretty strict lending standards – this 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 through December 31, 3 per $1 thereafter
  • Additional rewards: 3 points per $1 on groceries through December 31, 2 per $1 thereafter
  • 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 per Month of Gas Spend That Qualify

American Express Costco True Earnings Business 4% $500
Top pick for fuel and food
Amex Blue Cash Preferred
3% No set limit on gas rewards. Also get 3% at department stores and 6% on groceries (groceries up to $6,000 spent annually).
Top pick, if you have super-excellent credit
PenFed Platinum Rewards
3%*, 5%* through Dec 31 Also get 3% on groceries until Dec 31, 2% thereafter
PenFed Cash Rewards 3%, 5% through Oct statement close No Limit. However, base rewards rate is just 0.25%
Top pick for no-fee cards
Chase Freedom
3% average $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter
Discover More 3% average $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter
American Express Hilton Honors Surpass 3%** No Limit
US Bank FlexPerks Business 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 Honors 2.5%** No Limit
Chase Ink Cash and Classic 2% $25,000 in 2% bonus purchases/year
Amex Blue Cash Preferred 3% No Limit. Also get 3% at department stores and 6% on groceries.
Top pick, if you fill up at Costco
American Express Costco True Earnings
3% $4,000 in purchases/year, 1% thereafter
Nationwide Business Platinum Visa 3% No Limit
Bank of America Cash Rewards for Business 3% No Limit
Bank Americard 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 ≤20gal
Chevron and Texaco Credit Card 2.69%-5.28*** at Chevron Requires that you spend $300/mo to earn 2% rewards, $1,000/mo to earn 5% rewards. 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 3 months) No Limit
Amex Blue Cash Everyday 2% No Limit. Also get 2% at department stores and 3% on groceries.
Discover Business 2% $167
Discover Business Miles 2% $416.67 ($5,000 per year limit on double miles for gas & travel)
Discover Open Road 2% $250
Discover Student Open Road 2% $250
2% No Limit
Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards 2% No Limit
Citi Dividend Platinum Select 2% average $300 in rewards/year
Citibank Dividend Platinum Select for College Students 2% No Limit, but $300 total rewards limit per year.
MINI Platinum 2% No Limit
Quicken Rewards Visa 2% $2000 per month between Gas, Grocery, Pharmacy, Office Supply
American Express Premier Rewards Gold 2% No Limit
United Mileage Plus 2% (Double Miles at gas stations) No Limit
Fifth Third Bank Rewards 2% $500
WorldPoints Business Rewards 2% (2 Points per $1 at gas stations) No Limit
Cards offered via Elancard, including: Heartland Bank Platinum Business RewardsComerica Bank Business RewardsPlatinum Business Rewards from ENT Credit Union 2% No Limit
First National Bank of Omaha Graphite AmEx 2% None
First National Bank of Omaha AmEx 2% None
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard 2% None
First National Bank of Omaha Discover 2%, sort of If you spend exactly $13,750, you get 2% back on everything, if not, you get less.
Capital One Quicksilver 1.5% No Limit. Earns 1.5% back on all purchases
Shell Platinum MasterCard ∼1.5% at Shell Per-gallon discount on up to 100 gal a month. Get 2% rewards with $500 spent and 100gal purchased, otherwise far less.
Citi Hilton Honors 1.5%** No Limit

*PenFed Points used to be worth 1 cent each, but some of our readers say that PenFed is now devaluing those points significantly
**Based on our valuation of HHonors Points at 0.5 cents each
***Based on gas price of $3.79 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 True Earnings card, or the Costco True Earnings Business card. The fine print on these cards explicitly states that Costco qualifies for the bonus reward rate.
  • Card issuers that explicitly ban Costco gas from their “gas reward rate” include American Express, and Citibank.
  • Costco only accepts American Express.

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. Clearly, 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 (e.g. 75 gallons with the Amex Costco card), or with the maximum you can spend each time ($400 with the American Express Blue Cash card). Check the fine print first!
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