NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards of 2016 - NerdWallet
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NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards of 2016

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NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, 2015

Gas prices have retreated from their dizzying climb of recent years, but fuel is still a major budget category for many households. Whether you commute to work by car or enjoy weekend road trips, you may be looking for ways to reduce your pain at the pump.

You can probably do better than the branded gas cards offered by the Chevrons and Sunocos of the world. Instead, the Nerds recommend these credit cards for their stellar rewards on gas station purchases.

Best for bonus categories (tie)

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus 5% cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Qualify with Good credit

Cons

  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers

APR

  • APR: 14.24-23.24% Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and select grocery stores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Annual fee of $0. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending in quarterly rotating bonus categories, including gas, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Introductory APR of 0% for 15 Months on purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24-23.24% Variable. 3% foreign transaction fee.

Benefits of the Chase Freedom®:

  • Rotating bonus categories include grocery stores, restaurants and, yes, gas stations.
  • During the months when gas station purchases receive a 5% bonus (the first quarter in 2016; last year, it was the third quarter), the bonus isn’t just limited to the gas pump. So go ahead and get a soda and a bag of chips in the mini mart.
  • There’s a great sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Drawbacks of the Chase Freedom®:

  • The  Chase Freedom® used to be an even better card for people who buy a lot of gas. In the past, gas was a bonus category in two different quarters each year. Now it’s been reduced to one quarter. Still a great deal, but for half as much time as before.
  • Forgot to activate your bonus category? You won’t get that 5% cash back — just the standard 1% you’re getting on everything else.
  • Because of the foreign transaction fee, we’d suggest leaving this card at home the next time you travel outside the U.S.

Bottom line:

The  Chase Freedom® is one of our favorite cards. If you don’t mind keeping track of changing bonus categories, it can be a solid way to earn cash back on common everyday purchases, including gas. For best results, though, we’d suggest coupling it with the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer. That way, you might earn that juicy 5% cash back during two quarters each year.

Best for bonus categories (tie)

Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Apply Now on Discover's secure website

Pros

  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
  • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

Bonus Offer

We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months

APR

  • APR: 11.24% – 23.24% Variable*
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $101 cash back, we'll double it to $202—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, home improvement stores and more -up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR* on balance transfers for 18 months—then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.24% – 23.24%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • Freeze It℠ on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.* Plus get 100% U.S.-based service.
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.*
  • No annual fee.* No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • Click "Apply Now". *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other information.

Annual fee of $0. Earn 5% back on rotating bonus categories, up to $1,500 in spending, and 1% back on all other purchases. Introductory APR of 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.24% – 23.24% Variable. No foreign transaction fees.

Benefits of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • Like the  Chase Freedom®, you’ll earn the princely sum of 5% cash back on gas station purchases during one quarter of the year (the first quarter in 2016.)
  • In your first year of membership, you’ll actually be earning 10% back on bonus category purchases because Discover doubles your rewards for 12 months after you become a cardholder. Getting 10% back on gas for a year could significantly reduce your commuting costs.
  • If you want to transfer debt from another card, the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer has a nice long introductory APR period: 0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.24% – 23.24% Variable.

Drawbacks of the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer:

  • There are no foreign transaction fees, but it can be hard to find a merchant who accepts Discover in some international destinations.
  • Again, you have to keep track of the bonus categories and activate them each quarter.

Bottom line:

Another NerdWallet favorite, the Discover it®- 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer is a great card for people who want to maximize their cash back and don’t mind changing bonus categories every three months. The doubled cash back in the first year makes this card hard to top. If you really want to reduce your fuel spending, pair this with the  Chase Freedom® so you can have two quarters per year earning higher rewards on gas.

Best for cash back

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure website

Pros

  • Leading cash back rewards for groceries
  • Sign-up bonus
  • 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Has annual fee - but if you spend more than $27/week the rewards offset the fees
  • American Express isn’t accepted at as many merchants as Visa or MasterCard

Bonus Offer

Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.

Annual Fee

$75

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months

APR

  • APR: 13.24%-22.24% Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.49%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
  • Earn Cash Back: 6% U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 3% U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, you can start earning cash back. No rotating reward categories. No enrollment required.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Cash back is earned only on eligible purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.24% to 22.24%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

Annual fee of $75. Earn an unlimited 3% cash back on gas station purchases, 6% back on up to $6,000 worth of grocery store purchases per year, and 1% back on all other purchases. Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 15 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.24%-22.24% Variable. Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit. 

Benefits of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • Earning an unlimited 3% back on gas station purchases year round is pretty hard to beat.
  • You won’t have to keep track of rotating bonus categories.
  • You’ll also get 6% back at grocery stores on up to $6,000 in spending a year. That’s $500 per month in spending — enough for most smaller households.

Drawbacks of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:

  • Paying an annual fee of $75 is not ideal. If you prefer a card without an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has lower rewards at gas stations (2%) but an annual fee of $0.
  • Larger families will likely hit the spending cap on grocery rewards. After that, they’ll only early 1%.
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard, so if you like to carry only one credit card, this probably isn’t your best bet.

Bottom line:

This card’s rewards structure is unusually generous to people who spend a lot on gas. We especially like that it’s unlimited, so even if you’re a salesperson with a multistate territory or if you’re dating someone in the next time zone, you’ll be able to fill your tank all year long without getting bumped down to a lower rewards rate. If you drive a lot, the annual fee may be worth it. If not, consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or one of the bonus category cards instead.

Best credit union gas card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Apply Now on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Bonus Offer

None

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • Min APR: 9.99%, Variable
  • Max APR: 17.99%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 5 points on gas purchases at the pump
  • Earn 3 points on supermarket Purchases
  • Earn 1 point on All Other Purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

The annual fee is $0. Earn 5 points per dollar spent at the pump, 3 points per dollar spent at supermarkets, and 1 point per dollar on all other spending. 

Benefits of the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card:

  • The annual fee is $0.
  • PenFed points are valued at a 1 cent each, so earning 5 points per dollar on gas purchases effectively means earning 5% back on gas.
  • There’s no cap on how much you spend on gas at the 5 points per dollar rewards rate.

Drawbacks of the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card:

  • You need excellent credit to qualify for this card.
  • You have to be a member of PenFed Credit Union. Ways to become eligible:
    • Be a member of the United States military
    • Be an employee of the United States government or other qualifying organization
    • Be an employee of or belong to a qualifying organization or association
    • Live or work at an eligible location
    • Be a relative or housemate to someone who is eligible
    • Make a one-time donation to Voices for America’s Troops ($14) or the National Military Family Association ($15).
  • PenFed points expire after 5 years, and redemption options are somewhat limited.
  • PenFed specifies that the higher rewards rate is for gas purchases made at the pump, so gas station convenience store purchases are excluded.

Bottom line:

Earning 5% back on gas all year, with no limit, is pretty appealing. That’s why the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card makes this list, in spite of the inconvenience of joining the credit union and the fact that applicants without excellent credit may be turned away. If you drive a lot and don’t mind the hassle of redeeming for gift cards instead of cash, this card will put the highest rewards back in your pocket after you fill your tank.

Last updated January 15, 2016.

Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.shark Daniel Shark

    Penfed platinum rewards doesn’t seem to be offering the 25000 point sign up bonus anymore. Hopefully it will return, but I’m not optimistic.

  • http://twitter.com/callmefil fil

    Which have greater value 5% or 5 points for gas? Because penfed changed it up on some cards of theirs.

  • jim

    FYI, Pentagon Federal Platinum Rewards also gives 3% at the grocery store and 1% on everything else, all uncapped. Point values are $1=1pt. I would also contend that their reward redemption is equal to or better than the competition. For example, a $50 prepaid reward card is 5000 points. I’ve had this card for almost a year now. It is hands down one of the best programs available, but you are absolutely correct about their lending standards.

  • Aer O’Head

    I play the “cash rewards card game” and do a review of my cards every couple of months. In reviewing my American Express Blue Card Everyday, I noticed some webpages said “SELECT US department stores” and I wondered exactly which ones. It took me half an hour to find that info. So, if anyone else ponders the same question, you need to go to this page — americanexpress.com/rewards-info — and then click on the link “department stores.” That will bring up a popup showing exactly which ones it gets the additional points at.

    Also, I like to put labels on my credit cards showing which categories they get the most points at. I can’t remember them all, so these are good ticklers.

    For any union members or retirees out there, I just found out today that the Union Plus credit card from Capitol One (http://www.unioncardapply.com) is now offering 1.5% cash rewards on ALL PURCHASES, no matter what. If you already have this card, you DO need to call and ask to sign up for it, you’re not automatically eligible for this benefit.

  • Aer O’Head

    I play the “cash rewards card game” and do a review of my cards every couple of months. In reviewing my American Express Blue Card Everyday, I noticed some webpages said “SELECT US department stores” and I wondered exactly which ones. It took me half an hour to find that info. So, if anyone else ponders the same question, you need to go to this page — americanexpress.com/rewards-info — and then click on the link “department stores.” That will bring up a popup showing exactly which ones it gets the additional points at.

    Also, I like to put labels on my credit cards showing which categories they get the most points at. I can’t remember them all, so these are good ticklers.

    For any union members or retirees out there, I just found out today that the Union Plus credit card from Capitol One (http://www.unioncardapply.com) is now offering 1.5% cash rewards on ALL PURCHASES, no matter what. If you already have this card, you DO need to call and ask to sign up for it, you’re not automatically eligible for this benefit.

  • alchemist

    Penfed just changed this month. They no longer have 5%/3%/1%. Assuming you have $500 in a checking account (not the $250 minimum – because at that level, Penfed hits you with a checking account monthly fee of $5.00), you get the 5/3/1. But here’s the catch. Just this month, 5 is no longer 5%! It is 4.2%. In other words, when you’ve accumulated 10,000 points, you used to get a $100 Visa Prepaid card. Now, it takes, 11,800 points to get the same $100 card. They never bothered to tell their members of this. Also, they also didn’t tell members that they added a $1 fee to your statement if you got it delivered by mail.

  • Todd Gak

    PenFed… it gets worse.

    I just received a letter telling me that they will now charge a $25 annual fee on my Platinum Cash Visa card. I can avoid the fee in 5 ways…

    – Open a Checking account with direct deposit ($250 min)
    – A Money Market or IRA with them
    – A Mortgage with them
    – An Installment Loan with them.
    – An Equity Loan or Line of Credit with them.

    Goodby PenFed. It’s been nice doing business with you.

  • pubpubpub

    Barclays has one that’s just as good.

  • Nate

    I saw elsewhere that the Pentagon Federal Platinum Rewards card just had its points devalued so that it’s really only 4.2% on gas now.

    Also, I found a 5% cash back on gas card not on your list mentioned at http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/711457/ – the Fort Knox Visa.

  • alchemist

    I don’t see the annual fee thing on Penfed, yet. They never sent me a letter about the $25 annual fee. Their website (for signing up new customers) clearly says “No Annual Fee” for all of their credit cards.

  • Mystiqz

    just wondering, did the analysis also include the difference in gas prices when using cc versus cash? thanks :)

  • Jerry

    credit score 638

  • RlNOOK

    There are no good gas cards. Now that most gas stations are charging anywhere from 30 cents to a dollar extra per gallon for using a card and then throw in interest also you are getting gouged. Don’t use the ATM at the gas station either. Everyone is trying to take money from you. Gotta be smart nowadays. Multi billion dollar oil companies charging extra for using a car……unreal

  • WakeUpb4its2L8

    Forgot to list the Fort Knox Credit Union card that offers the same 5% as Penfed does. There several “The Best” cards.

  • http://www.doctorofcredit.com/ doctorofcredit

    Link to the pen fed card doesn’t work. Also you need to include the new EveryDay cards from amex.

  • rasta_doc

    For years AAA has offered a VISA card that gives a 5% rebate on ALL gas purchases paid for at the pump. A couple years back they changed it, requiring some other purchases be charged to it,to prevent one from using it exclusively for fuel (as I had always used it). So I added my Cable bill to be paid automatically on that VISA card.

    Unfortunately the card is administered by BOA, who lies in wait for even a momentary delay in posting payment, so they can hit you with a “Late Fee.” But this, in my limited experienc, is true of all these bank cards.

    – rastadoc

  • Frank

    “…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.”

    There’s also the Fidelity AmEx that pays 2% cash back on all purchases, which I’ve heard Clark Howard mention: http://www.clarkhoward.com/news/clark-howard/personal-finance-credit/best-cash-back-reward-credit-cards-2013/nbb2L/

  • joann

    PenFed is now charging 11,760 points for a $100 visa card

  • Larry J

    I just got a USAA American Express rewards card with 0% intro APR for 18 months, 5% cash back on all gas purchases, 2% for groceries, & 1% on everything else with no annual fee.

    You do need to be a USAA member though. Its easy to join if you or a member of your family is in, or was in the military. Best card out there in my opinion. I also have the Discover It card, the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, & Capital One QuickSilver.

  • Nazzy17

    As well as citi double cash, 2% on everything!! Including gas at costco…and no annual fee. Ditched my Amex blue cash for this card because my cash reward annually with Anex including gas purchases was only working out to a 1.4% return.

  • ted

    Sallie Mae mastercard offers 5% back on gas & groceries

  • Cj Flournoy

    It must be a west coast thing because here in the Midwest I’ve never seen 2 separate prices for cash/debit and credit. We do however have a different price for regular unleaded and diesel, though. Go fig.

  • http://turbulencex.org/ Nicholas Littlejohn

    An electric car will save you the most here with its $7500.00 tax credit and low lease rates.