NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, 2015 - NerdWallet
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NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, 2015

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NerdWallet’s Best Gas Cards, 2015

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 Credit Card
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on Chase's
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Historically, the Chase Freedom® has offered 5% cash back on gas for 2 of the 4 quarters of the year, 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.

Here’s the bonus category list for 2015:

  • Q1 (January 1 – March 31): Grocery stores, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
  • Q2 (April 1 – June 30): Restaurants
  • Q3 (July 1 – September 30): Gas stations
  • Q4 (October 1 – December 31):

Unlike with the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card (see below), you don’t need to pay to join a credit union, and 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

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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on American Express's
secure website

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 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, as well as a full 6% cash back on groceries up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%), unlimited 3% on U.S. gas and select department store purchases in the United States and 1% elsewhere. It has an annual fee of $75 and comes with a signup bonus: 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. With hard-hitting, easy-to-redeem rewards, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express definitely stands out.

The other version of the card, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express has a $0 annual fee and a signup bonus: Get $100 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $100 back in the form of a statement credit. It also has ongoing rewards of 3% on groceries up to $6,000 spent annually (then 1%), 2% on U.S. gas and select department stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

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

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card
Apply Now

on Pentagon Federal Credit Union's
secure website

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card 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 the annual fee is $0.

There are two significant downsides. PenFed has some pretty strict lending standards — which means you need 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
  • The annual fee is $0
  • 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
Top pick for fuel and food Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express  3% No limit
Top pick if you have super-excellent credit PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card  5% No limit
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa® Card 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®-New! Double Cash Back your first year 5% during qualifying quarterly bonus period $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter, one qualifying quarter
U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Platinum 3% No limit
Ink Cash® Business Credit Card 2% 2% on qualifying spending (gas and restaurants) of up to $25,000 per account year
Top pick if you fill up at Costco BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card 3% $1,500 per quarter limit on gas and groceries
Gulf 3% at Gulf No limit
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 Credit Card  2% No limit. Earns 2% on all purchases.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 2% No limit
Discover it® for Students-New! Good Grades Rewards 5% during qualifying quarterly bonus period $1,500 in bonus spending/quarter, one qualifying quarter
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card 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 HHonorsTM Visa Signature® Card 1.5%* 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.

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 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!
  • 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.

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

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

  • darren

    Yeh, Shell sux!! we just canceled our account with them. their customer service skills are below 0!!

  • alchemist

    See my post above about the two changes for Penfed this month.
    1. They deceptively now charge you $1 a month to receive paper statements
    2. You’re right about needing a balance of $250 in your checking to get the better 5/3/1 reward rate. BUT, if you have less than $500 in your checking, Penfed will hit you with a $5 a month service fee. So make it $500 minimum needed in your checking.
    3. MOST IMPORTANT: Now Penfed does not give you a dollar for every point earned, based on percentage. In other words, with 10,000 points, you used to get a $100 Visa Prepaid card. Now, it takes 11,800 points to get the same card. Doing the math, the rewards are actually: 4.2% for gas, 2.5% for food, and 0.84% for all else. But that again assumes you’re at the ‘high level’ and have the $500 in the checking account.

  • ruralvoice

    I have $5 in a share account that I opened for the “VISA Platinum Cash Rewards” Card in 20067 (which doesn’t deal in points-just cash rebates); I just opened a Money Market 1 Yr CD (and together with the deferred annual card fee plus the interest earned in the MMA, I get about 3% return which isn’t too bad nowadays).

    I still get the 5% rebate on all gasoline purchases, but I am not sure if that will go to 3% or not after October. I got the impression in talking with them that if I renewed with the underlying MMA certificate, prior to the card statement date at the end of October, the account would retain the 5% rebate. We will see.

  • alchemist

    Penfed changed their ‘math’. 1 point does not = 1% any longer! Go to their rewards website and you’ll see. A prepaid Visa used to be 100 points gives you $1. 10,000 points gave you $100. Now its 11,800 points gives you $100. These bastards just played a lot of folks for fools.

  • salvo2002

    I’ve been using Penfed since 2007. It’s been a good run, and I eventually knew this time would come. Ditto, goodbye Penfed.

  • alchemist

    haven’t seen the $25 fee thing yet. No letter in the mail. Remember there are/were two rewards cards. One that gave just cash back (Platinum Cash Reward) and the Penfed Platinum Rewards Card which does the gift card thing. Maybe the Cash Reward card charges the $25 and the Platinum Rewards Card doesn’t?

  • Jay Gardner

    This is the reason I’m looking here….
    PenFed dropped rewards and threatened annual fee in one random letter.
    I threatened to drop the card and my membership–and followed through.

  • Dolly Riva

    Have been with Penfed for many years. Credit card companies make money through interest and after their change in terms on the Rewards card, they will no longer be getting mine.

    They save a few million however they ‘sheer’ their customer base. Would have considered switching checking accounts to them until I found out the minimum required and monthly checking account fee if you are not direct-deposit. For one, I would never come close to dipping below the minimum nor not have a direct deposit coming in however I do not bank with those who require anything from their members and especially charge a monthly fee.

    On top of adding requirements for fees, they now charge an annual fee for the credit card as well.

    This will not work and as such, I shall part.

  • Nate

    Perhaps you have the PenFed Platinum Rewards card instead of the PenFed Platinum *Cash* Rewards card. It’s the latter card that now has a $25 annual fee unless you have one of those kinds of accounts that were mentioned. The easiest is the money market account; all you need to do is keep $25 in the money market account and you can avoid the $25 annual fee for the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards card.

  • alchemist

    correct. see my posts below on the same subject. I called ’em and told them off, but they don’t relent.

  • WakeUpb4its2L8

    I understand your rant, however, using the better gas rewards cards in conjunction with my Kroger rewards (10-20 cents off per gallon), it more than makes up for the extra dollar transaction fee.

  • Jthomas Annillo

    What country do you live in? I never seen a gas station charge 30 cents more per gallon for using credit. Show me a sign showing such a thing and I will believe you. 5 cents max.

  • Thee Gooch

    The price is the price. I’ve never been to a gas station that had separate cash and credit prices ..I think that you are on drugs . The gas station that I go to regularly has the lowest prices in the area and does not accept cash! My bank reimburses ATM fees every month, that you ATM statement is hogwash in my case.

    And interest? Only if you are fool enough to carry a balance. Everyone I know pays their cards off in full each month and pays 0 interest as a result.

  • RlNOOK

    Most of the pumps don’t have a difference of 10-20 cents (at least where I live) its usually near 50 cents and reaches a dollar at some gas stations. Cash is king at the gas station and if they weren’t making extra money from you they would not be offering rewards. Its that simple. Its why all banks got rid of rewards for debit cards. They were going to lose money. Rewards are only on credit cards and its because of interest being paid.

  • WakeUpb4its2L8

    I understand the point you are trying to make, but it isn’t as simple as just saying don’t use a card at the pumps. Yes, the CC companies are making money due to the curve with people leaving balances each month. However, some people can and are winning at the savings game. Once a week I spend approx. $120 average on gas and use a 5% cash rewards card. Once a week, I average 10-20 cents off per gallon at a select station. So, even getting charged $1 for using the card, it is obviously worth the fee because I am getting much more in return. I have zero balance at the end of the month, so no interest charge. I was just making the point that it is very worth using a card under certain circumstances.

  • Thee Gooch

    Can you elaborate?

  • Themanwhocan

    They are referring to the Sallie Mae Mastercard (and not the Sallie Mae Upromise card).

    You don’t need to be a student or have student loans, you just redeem your points for statement credit.

    5% Gas Stations. 5% Grocery Stores, 5% Book Stores (like

  • doctorofcredit

    Thanks, limited to $250 purchases per month ($12.5) which is a bit poor.

  • doctorofcredit

    Amex Fidelity is 2% on all purchases and Barclays Arrival is 2.222% on all purchases (assuming you redeem for travel expenses).

  • Themanwhocan

    The Sallie Mae is better than an American Express Blue Cash Everyday, because once you exceed the $250/month, the BCE never manages to recover the lead that the Sallie gained with its 5%.

    Last night I applied and was granted a second Sallie Mae Mastercard, so that pretty much eliminates any spending cap problems.

  • MichaelRC

    Also Sallie Mae MasterCard for 5% on gas (up to $250 per month).

  • Khloe Green

    there are gas stations that I go to that charge .03 extra if you pay with a card. so I just don’t go to those stations

  • pdxmom

    in Oregon they always have a different price. 10 cents per gallon – cash vs. card. it’s illegal in some states but not others.

  • snoop

    In Texas, it is typically 10 to 12 cents higher for credit so that they can cover the 3% bank fees charged by the bank for processing the transaction.

  • Big Dan

    All the gas stations in my area have different cash/credit prices, except for Turkey Hill.

  • Thee Gooch

    At the Safeway I go to, they shave 10 cents/gallon off for using a debit card. Given that gas is 3.55 a gallon and I get 5% off, I save about 17 cents a gallon using a credit card vs 10 cents using a debit card. Add on Safeway loyalty card discount to that, and I’m saving a lot per gallon with a credit card!

  • jimmah

    Me too, this used to pay for my annual AAA membership.

    I stopped using all BoA cards because they move the payment date but not the autopayment date so you will get hit with the late fee if you don’t keep changing your payment dates.

    Chase lets you sync the two dates so there is never a late fee while autopaying.

  • girlwhogabs

    You must be the one on drugs, Komrad. Where I’m from, I’ve NEVER seen a gas station that DIDN’T have 2 separate prices. Here in California, there is a cash/debit card price, and then for .10 cents more there is a credit card price.

    Keep smoking whatever is you are smoking…must be good for you to be that clueless!

  • Charles Lamb

    Hey stupid he said .03c not .30c

  • Brian Meola

    Hey stupid! The original comment said 30¢ to $1!

  • Alan Steinborn