The best rewards at the pump don't come from gas cards
Small business owners have some better options to choose from
Cathleen McCarthy is a journalist whose articles on travel, commerce and consumer topics have appeared in dozens of publications. She writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
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Dear Cashing In,
just took a job that requires a long commute, minimum one hour each way. I also
run a small business on the side that sometimes requires road travel. Given
that it now costs about $50 to fill my tank, I'm looking for a credit card that
will help me save some money on gas and car travel in general. What are the
best options? -- Dave
not surprised you're feeling that commute. With gas averaging $3.35 per gallon
in the U.S., 10 hours of driving a week must be getting costly. The US Energy Information
Administration expects prices to average $3.44 a gallon next year, so you're
smart to be looking for a break.
for you, there are rewards cards that offer significant bonuses for that
particular expense, especially for small business owners. Some cards offer them
as revolving category bonuses that change every quarter, but a few reward gas
card designed specifically for gas savings is the Chase BP Visa, launched in
March. Through its Pump Rewards program, cardholders get a 15-cent-per-gallon
rebate for every $100 spent at BP and can redeem them for up to 20 gallons at
the pump. Because you can only use the rebate reward on one fill-up, the
program favors vehicles with large tanks over compact cars. The APR is relatively high -- 19.24 percent --but there is no annual fee.
With the Discover
Open Road credit card, you don't have to stick to one gas station. You get an
automatic 2 percent cash reward on the first $250 spent on gas and restaurants
each billing period. This card comes with no annual fee and no interest on
purchases for 14 months.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred offers 3 percent back at gas stations and select
department stores, and 6 percent back on the first $6,000 spent at
supermarkets. It charges a $75 annual fee, but the company is now offering a sign-on
bonus of 150 Rewards Dollars if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of
card ownership. That should pay for two years' worth of annual fees.
Chase Freedom is one of those cards with revolving categories
but it's offering 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent at gas stations
during six months of 2013 -- between January and March and July through
September. The card also offers 5 percent back on drugstores, restaurants,
departments stores and movie theatres, among others, but gas is the only category that appears twice, which
tells you tells you something about customer demand right now. You do have to
remember to register every quarter but there's an app that
downloads automatic reminders to iCal, Outlook, Google and Yahoo calendars.
However, that business you run on the side qualifies you for
the Chase Ink cards, which offer similar gas savings, but beat those other cards
in sign-up bonuses alone. Ink Cash card has no annual fee and offers a sign-up
bonus worth $200 if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You'll earn 2
percent cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and
restaurants. Plus you get 5 percent back on office supplies, cable services and
telecom services on the first $25,000 spent annually, and 1 percent back on all
If I were you though, I'd go for the Ink Bold, which offers
two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent annually at
gas stations and hotels and 5 points per dollar on the first $50,000 spent
annually at office supply stores and on phone, Internet and cable. Best of all,
you get a 50,000 point sign-up bonus if you spend $5,000 in the first three
months. Points transfer to participating travel programs at a 1:1 value. Given
the $95 annual fee is waived the first year, you can't go wrong here.
See related: Chart: Compare and find the best gasoline rewards card for you
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