NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, Fall 2014
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 (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
on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's
on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's
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!