Comparing Credit Cards for Gas and Auto Rewards
Updated: August 1, 2018
Gas credit cards provide special rewards like cash back, points, and rebates for purchasing gas. If you’re interested in a gas credit card, note that there are several types, each with a unique set of benefits and conditions. Beyond saving money at the pump, the best gas credit cards can help you build credit, lower your grocery bill, and start collecting valuable points you can use toward other reward categories, like travel.
In this guide to gas credit cards, you’ll learn:
With many different types of gas cards, you’re in a position to find a card tailored to your needs. Whether you’re a small business owner who does a lot of local traveling or a brand-loyal consumer looking for a gas credit card, there’s an option for you. Read on before making a decision!
CreditCards.com's Best Gas Cards of 2018
|Card||Rewards Rate at Gas Stations||Review Score||Annual Fee|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||3%*||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||3X||3.7 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Secured||2%||4.8 / 5||$0|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Card||1.5%||3.7 / 5||$0|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||1.5%||3.4 / 5||$0|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||2%||3.3 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® chrome||2% on Gas & Restaurants up to $1,000 every quarter||2.9 / 5||$0|
|U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card||2% (requires user activation)||2.0 / 5||$0|
|MLB™ Cash Rewards Mastercard® from Bank of America||3%||N/A||$0|
|Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®||1%||4.6 / 5||$0 - $99|
*Up to $2,500 on combined purchases each quarter.
Gas rewards credit cards analyzed: 390
Criteria used: Rewards rate, supplemental rewards categories, integration with loyalty programs, redemption options, redemption flexibility, sign-up bonus, other benefits, customer service, credit needed, rates and fees, ease of application
How do gas credit cards work?
Gas credit cards offer special rewards for purchases on gas; they can be categorized as either rewards cards or rebate cards. The best gas rewards cards offer cash back (usually 1-3%) or points on gas, as well as on purchases in other categories. Gas rebate cards offer cents off for every gallon of gas purchased.
Gas cards fall into one of three buckets:
- General cash back cards with rewards on gas purchases.
- Gas rebate cards that are co-branded with a retailer like BP and network like Visa or Mastercard.
- Gas rebate cards that are specific to one retailer like Shell or Chevron and not within a network.
The key to maximizing your savings is to find the card that most closely aligns with your spending habits. As a rule of thumb, gas rebate cards are best for people who are brand-loyal. If you buy gas at many different retailers, a gas rewards card is usually the better choice.
Purchasing Gas with General Rewards Cards
Most cashback and rewards credit cards offer incentives for spending on gas, but also offer rewards on other types of purchases. For this reason, top cashback cards like the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and Capital One® Quicksilver® Card are among some of the best gas and grocery credit cards.
General cashback and rewards cards are a great tool for simplifying and magnifying your savings. Use these and you won’t have to worry about leaving savings at the pump or in line at the grocery store.
Purchasing Gas with Gas Rebate Credit Cards
Branded gas credit cards like the Shell Drive for Five® and BP Visa® Credit Card are usually rebate cards. With these, you’ll save anywhere from 5 cents to 25 cents per gallon of gas you buy at that particular retailer. However, branded cards don’t offer rewards on purchases at other gas retailers.
What to know about branded gas rebate credit cards:
- Not all gas rebate cards are part of a network like Visa or Mastercard. Shell’s Drive for Five® credit card is a non-network rebate card that will earn you five cents off per gallon at Shell, but it can’t be used for purchases anywhere else.
- Gas credit cards in a network offer extra rewards, but still exclude purchases at other gas retailers. If you have a BP Visa® Credit Card, you’ll earn five cents off per gallon for every $100 spent on purchases outside of BP everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted, but won’t get any savings if you buy gas at a non-BP gas station.
- Rebates expire, usually after 12 months. Because of this, it’s difficult to accrue enough rewards to redeem them for a large amount of “free” gas.
Essentially, with a branded gas rebate card, you can expect some decent savings on on-brand gas purchases, but negligible awards on most other things.
Gas Rewards Credit Cards vs. Gas Rebate Credit Cards
| ||Gas Rewards Credit Card||Gas Rebate Credit Cards|
|Good for||Receiving cash back, points||Building credit, saving on gas|
|Credit needed (FICO score)||Good/Excellent (670+)||Fair (580 or lower)|
|Sign-up bonus?||Potential cash/points bonus||Potential introductory rebates|
|Rewards||Usually gas, groceries and retail||Gas at one retailer|
Do gas credit cards help build credit?
Yes, gas credit cards can help build credit. As is the case with most other types of cards, responsible use of a gas credit card will improve your credit score. If you’ve never had a credit card and are thinking of applying for a gas card as your first one, consider:
- Most gas credit cards will approve your application instantly. Gas cards carry low credit limits and high APRs. This makes them an option for people with average to no credit.
- The average APR on a gas credit card is very high. 23.61%, per the 2018 CreditCards.com gas card survey. Most gas cards don’t offer a 0% introductory APR either, so if you’re planning on using one, pay off your balance every month to avoid paying interest.
The bottom line — If you drive a lot, you’re gas brand-loyal, and your credit is average or limited, a gas credit card may be a good option for you. If you’re not brand-loyal, there are still many other credit cards for people with fair credit to choose from.
Where gas credit cards can be used
If your gas credit card is part of a network like Visa or Mastercard, you can use it anywhere. If your gas card is not a part of a network, you won’t be able to use it anywhere besides the issuing gas retailer.
How do I know if my gas credit card is in a network?
Gas cards that are within a network feature Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover logos. If there is no network logo on your card, you won’t be able to use it most places.
Factors to consider when choosing a gas credit card
The price of gas
Gas rebate cards offer cents off per gallon, which can result in bigger savings when the cost of gas is low.
The average cost of gas in the United States is $2.73 per gallon (as of April 19, 2018, per AAA). Using the BP Credit Card (ten cents off per gallon) to purchase fifteen gallons of gas results in a savings of $1.50. Using the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (2% cash back at U.S. gas stations) to purchase the same amount of gas results in a savings of roughly 81 cents. You’ll save even more with a cashback card when gas prices rise.
Your credit score
If you have an average-to-poor credit score, you’ll likely still be approved for a gas card. If you have an excellent credit score, you may be better off opting for a card with more robust, flexible rewards that also provides incentives for gas.
The Chase Freedom® card is an example of a gas rewards credit card that offers ample cash back on gas (5% as part of rotating quarterly categories), along with cash back on all other types of purchases.
Are you loyal to one brand?
If you only like buying gas at one gas station, it’s not a bad idea to apply for their branded credit card.
Consider the fact that most people who are passionate about one gas station don’t necessarily fuel up at the largest retailers. Shell, Exxon, and Chevron, who come in at numbers one, two, and three respectively in terms of US market share (per CSP Daily News, an industry publication) aren’t among the top ten favorite gas stations in America, according to comprehensive gas station review app, GasBuddy.
If you’re a person who regularly rotates between Mobil, Sheetz, and Kwik Trip based on price, take a look at a cashback credit card with gas rewards.
Who should get a gas rewards credit card
Some gas credit cards offer a very broad, flexible rewards program and some offer value with a more rigid structure. Your credit score, spending habits, and geographic location are all factors in deciding whether a gas card is right for you, but generally, you should apply for one if:
- You drive a lot or have a long commute. Whether you go with a traditional rewards card or opt for a gas rebate card, if you drive often, a gas credit card will help you save. If you’re already spending an hour at least on the road per day, why not get rewarded for it? Start using those commuter miles to your advantage with a gas card.
- You have good/excellent credit and want to expand your rewards. There are points to be had and cash back to be earned for people who are good candidates for cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. If you aren’t already saving on gas in some way, you can certainly start with a cashback credit card.
- You don’t have a stellar credit score. The high APRs on most gas cards make carrying a balance a bad idea, but if you pay off your balance every month, using a gas card will improve your credit. Unlike other types of rewards cards, most gas cards will approve your application instantly, even with poor credit.
- 4.You’re planning a road trip. Although most gas credit cards don’t offer 0% introductory APR, a lot of them provide high rebates for the first few months. The Phillips 66 Drive Savvy® Rewards Credit Card knocks fifty cents off per gallon purchased for the first 30 days—which adds up to huge savings on a summer road trip. Introductory rebate offers pay off no matter how much you drive, but when planning a major road trip, the savings quickly add up.
How much can you save with a gas credit card?
You can take advantage of gas cards with introductory rebate offers to experience significant savings, especially in the first couple months. Let’s examine a real example to find out how much money you can potentially save.
Perhaps you’re planning your yearly trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. For the sake of this example, let’s use the following data points:
- You're traveling from Dana Point, CA to Leggett, CA (653 miles, according to the Travel Channel).
- You’re driving a 2017 Jeep Wrangler with an EPA combined city/highway fuel efficiency of 18 mpg.
- The average cost of gas in California is $3.55 per gallon (as of April 19, 2018, according to AAA).
If you were to pay for gas without the use of a gas card, you’d spend roughly $256 on fuel round-trip. With the use of a Drive Savvy® Rewards Credit Card from gas retailer, 76, you can take advantage of a 50 cents off per gallon offer for the first 30 days. With this card, you’ll spend roughly $220 in total. That’s a savings of $36 on one road trip alone.
If you’re considering a gas credit card, consider the intro offers in the context of your own gas budget. For many people, the rewards are lucrative and a smart way to save money.
Griffin Miller is a personal finance writer at Bankrate, specializing in credit cards. He frequently contributes research, guides, and advice to CreditCards.com. You can reach Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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