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The best rewards at the pump don't come from gas cards

Small business owners have some better options to choose from

By

Cashing In
Cashing In columnist Cathleen McCarthy
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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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Cashing In,
I 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

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Dave,
I'm 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.

Lucky 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 purchases year-round.

One credit 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 other purchases.

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

Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Vexed by a personal finance problem? CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers every weekday. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.
Gary Foreman, New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman,
"New Frugal You"
Sally Herigstad, To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad,
"To Her Credit"
Cathleen McCarthy, Cashing In columnist Cathleen McCarthy,
"Cashing In"
Jane McNamara, Let's Talk Credit columnist Jane McNamara,
"Let's Talk Credit"
Elaine Pofeldt, Your Business Credit columnist Elaine Pofeldt,
"Your Business Credit"
Erica Sandberg, Opening Credits columnist Erica Sandberg,
"Opening Credits"

Published: December 18, 2012



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Credit Card Rate Report

Updated: 12-20-2014

National Average 14.92%
Low Interest 10.37%
Balance Transfer 12.73%
Business 12.85%
Student 13.14%
Reward 14.90%
Cash Back 14.94%
Airline 15.52%
Bad Credit 22.73%
Instant Approval 23.33%

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