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:
- 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
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
|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 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|
|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 Rewards, Comerica Bank Business Rewards, Platinum 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!