Comparing Credit Cards for Gas and Auto Rewards
Updated: October 17, 2019
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 things like travel rewards.
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!
Best Gas Credit Cards
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
Pros: By default, this card's 3% cash back category is gas when you receive the product, but you can change it once a month to any one of 6 categories that include travel, dining, and online shopping, for example. In addition to the 3% offer, this card rewards you with 2% back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases for a combined $2,500 each quarter, then 1%. The Bank of America Cash Rewards' everyday rewards have oomph, and the no annual fee helps things along.
Cons: Gas and travel are considered two separate categories, so you can't earn 3% cash back on both at the same time.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Pros: The Blue Cash Preferred offers a competitive 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit; a $250 welcome bonus after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months; and 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%). No other card offers as high of earnings at U.S. supermarkets, and the earnings on U.S. gas stations are more than competitive.
Cons: This card's annual fee is hefty, at $95, and it isn't waived the first year, meaning you don't get those initial savings with the waived fee.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Pros: Looking for a card that rewards for all manner of travel? This is a great choice, with rewards in not only flights and hotels, but also homestays and rideshares. Earn 3X points for gas, rideshares and transit; eating out and ordering in; and travel, including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. You can also earn 30,000 points after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership.
Cons: If you're looking for rewards on groceries, look for a different card, such as the Bank of America Cash Rewards or the Blue Cash Preferred.
Discover it® Student chrome
Pros: Designed with students in mind, this card offers 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter. On all other purchases, you get unlimited 1% cash back. There's no annual fee, and you get rewards for good grades in the form of a $20 statement credit for each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years. Also, consumers with no credit history are accepted.
Cons: While ideal for a consumer just starting out, this is a card you will outgrow rather quickly.
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Pros: The U.S. Bank Cash+ offers the best of both worlds – the 5% back on select categories, rivaling the rotating category cards, such as the Discover it Cash Back, as well as the 3% back of the Blue Cash Preferred on gas. Earn 5% back on 2 select categories (up to $2,000 a quarter) and 2% back on 1 everyday category, such as gas stations or grocery stores. There's also a $150 sign-up bonus after your first $500 spent within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Cons: There's a fair amount of organizing with this card – you'll need to sign up for which categories you want and keep track of them.
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Pros: There are no rotating categories with this card, freeing you up to spend in any way you choose. Although there is no sign-up bonus, you can earn 1.5% back on all purchases. The QuicksilverOne accepts consumers with fair credit, which is handy if you are trying to improve your credit, and you also want to practice using rewards.
Cons: This cash back card has the unusual feature of an annual fee ($39), which lowers your overall rewards. That means to benefit from the 1.5% back, you'll need to spend at least $2,700 each year to break even.
Citi Rewards+SM Card
Pros: There are myriad ways to earn with this card. Not only do you get a 15,000-point sign-up bonus after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months, your rewards are always rounded up to the nearest 10 points and you can earn 10% back on redemptions up to 100,000 points. Finally, earn 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations up to $6,000 spend each year and 1X thereafter.
Cons: There are a couple of fees that might scare you away: The balance transfer fee is 3% or $5, whichever is greater, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
Discover it® Secured
Pros: Earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly, then 1%), plus double your cash back at the end of your first year of card membership. That means if you spend $200 a month on gas and dining out, that comes to $48 for the year, plus another $48 at year end.
Cons: If you think you might be tempted to overspend with this starter card because of the rewards, this may not be the best choice for you.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
Pros: The Wells Fargo Cash Wise offers simplicity without sacrificing rewards. This card boasts a unique offer: a cell phone protection plan offering up to $600 against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card. Upon receiving, cardholders are eligible for a $150 sign-up bonus for $500 worth of spend within the first 3 months. Additionally, the card offers a flat rewards rate of 1.5% (including gas purchases). And the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa is all kinds of fun with an impressive 1.8% for qualified digital wallet purchases made within the first year. There's also no annual fee.
Cons: You can do better on rewards if you are willing to sign up for rotating categories, such as with the Chase Freedom or the Discover it Cash Back.
Discover it® chrome
Pros: The Discover it chrome gives you all the benefits of the Discover it Secured – 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly) – but without the need for a security deposit on your line of credit. This card also gives you the opportunity for a lower ongoing interest rate (13.74% - 24.74% variable).
Cons: Like many Discover cards, this card offers a Cashback Match at the end of the first year in lieu of a traditional sign-up bonus. Consider another card if you want gas rewards and a sign-up bonus.
Compare the Best Gas Credit Cards of 2019
|Card||Rewards Rate at U.S. Gas Stations||Review Score||Annual Fee|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||3%*||3.4 / 5||$0|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||3%||4.2 / 5||$95|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card||3X||3.5 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student chrome||2%***||4.2 / 5||$0|
|U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card||2%||2.0 / 5||$0|
|Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card||1.5%||4.1 / 5||$39|
|Citi Rewards+SM Card||2X**||3.0 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Secured||2%***||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card||1.5%||3.8 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® chrome||2%||4.1 / 5||$0|
*Up to $2,500 on combined purchases each quarter.
**2X at gas stations and supermarkets up to $6,000 per year, then 1X
***2% at gas stations & restaurants up to $1,000 every 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 cash back 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 Preferred® Card from American Express are among some of the best gas and grocery credit cards.
Who should get a general rewards card?
General cash back 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. If you often find yourself making purchases with a variety of merchants, this is a good option.
When a general rewards card isn't the best choice
If you are looking for a way to boost your rewards with a specific gas retailer, then a branded card may be best, particularly when gas prices are low.
Purchasing gas with gas rebate cards
Branded gas cards like the Shell Fuel Rewards Card and BP Visa Credit Card are usually rebate cards. With these, you’ll save anywhere from 5 cents to 30 cents per gallon of gas you buy at that particular retailer.
Who should get a gas rebate card?
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. Also, if the card is in a network, such as Visa or Mastercard, it can be used at more merchants. Finally, gas cards often accept fair credit, so this might be a good choice for you if you are trying to build credit.
When a gas rebate card isn't the best choice
Rebates usually expire after 12 months, so it’s difficult to accrue enough rewards to redeem them for a large amount of “free” gas. Also, gas credit cards in a network offer extra rewards, but still might exclude purchases at other gas retailers.
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.
The daily commute
Let's say you travel 25 miles a day to work 5 days a week and 100 miles on the weekends, which means you travel 225 miles a week or 11,700 miles a year. The average cost of gas in the U.S. on Oct. 16, 2019, according to AAA, is $2.65, and if you are driving a 2017 Jeep Wrangler with an EPA combined city/highway fuel efficiency of 18 mpg, you will spend $4.73 on gas a day or about $33 for the week.
If you were to pay for gas without the use of a gas card, you’d spend $1,722 on fuel for the year. With the use of a Drive Savvy Rewards Credit Card from gas retailer 76, you can take advantage of rewards throughout the first year:
- Earn 50 cents per gallon the first 30 days – that's $26.70 the first month.
- Earn 10 cents per gallon from day 31 to day 90 – that's $10.68 for 60 days.
- Earn 5 cents per gallon after the first 90 days – that's $24.48 the next 275 days.
That's $61.87 saved for the first year.
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:
The road trip
- 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 $4.17 per gallon (as of Oct. 16, 2019, according to AAA).
If you were to pay for gas without the use of a gas card, you’d spend $302.50 on fuel round-trip. With the use of a Drive Savvy Rewards Credit Card from gas retailer 76, you can take advantage of 50 cents off per gallon offer for the first 30 days. With this card, you’ll spend $266 in total. That’s a savings of $36.27 on one road trip alone.
The big move
With moving time upon us, this is a good time to consider getting a gas rebate card because of the front-loaded rebates the first months.
If you are moving from Miami to New York, for example, that's 1,280 miles. Remember, in a 2017 Jeep Wrangler, you are getting 18 mph. That's 71 gallons.
With the Exxon/Mobil Smart Card, you can earn 50 cents a gallon by applying through the Speedpass+ app and using Synergy fuel within the first 2 months, bringing you $35 in savings.
You can also plot out where you'll get gas cross-country with the Get Upside app, which is available in Texas and parts of the East Coast, and even save further with each gallon, as well as discounts at restaurants you stop at.
How to compare and choose between two gas cards
When you're choosing between 2 gas credit cards, there are intro bonuses, ongoing rewards and annual fees to consider. Here, we compare a gas rewards card with a gas rebate card, the Blue Cash Preferred and the Exxon/Mobil Smart Card.
1. The price of gas
Heads up that gas rebate cards offer cents off per gallon, which can result in bigger savings when the cost of gas is low. On the other hand, when gas prices are high, a gas rewards card that offers a percentage cash back may be better. With the average cost of gas at $2.65 and using the Exxon/Mobile Smart Card (6 cents off per gallon) to purchase 15 gallons of gas, that results in a savings of 90 cents. Using the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (3% cash back at U.S. gas stations) to purchase the same amount of gas results in a savings of $1.19.
2. Annual fee
Often, but not always, annual fees can be a signal of superior rewards. In the case of the Blue Cash Preferred, there's a $95 annual fee, and that's in exchange for a superior welcome bonus and ongoing rewards. Meanwhile, the Smart Card offers no annual fee.
3. Intro bonus
While the Smart Card has no sign-up bonus, it has a boosted rewards offer of 12 cents on every gallon of Synergy fuel the first 2 months and 50 cents on every gallon the first 2 months when you apply through the Speedpass+ app. Meanwhile, the Blue Cash Preferred offers a $250 welcome bonus after the first $1,000 spent the first 3 months of card membership.
Intro bonus comparison: Blue Cash Preferred vs. Exxon/Mobil Smart Card
|Card||Blue Cash Preferred||Exxon/Mobil Smart Card|
|Intro bonus offer||$250 / $1,000 in first 3 mths||12 cents * 90 gal/2 mths = $10.80|
|Other||N/A||50 cents * 90 gal/2 mths = $45|
4. Ongoing rewards
While the Smart Card rewards for fuel (6 cents on each gallon), the Blue Cash Preferred rewards for much more, including 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year) and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and transit. As you can see, the rewards add up with the Blue Cash Preferred.
Ongoing rewards comparison: Blue Cash Preferred vs. Exxon/Mobil Smart Card
|Card||Blue Cash Preferred||Exxon/Mobil Smart Card|
|Gas rewards||3% * $127/mth * 12 = $45.72||6 cents * 45 gal/mth * 12 = $32.40|
|Other rewards||6% (U.S. supermarkets) * $500/mth * 12 = $360||N/A|
5. Check the interest rate
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.
6. Put it all together
As you will see, the Blue Cash Preferred, even with its annual fee, offers excellent rewards the first year, compared to the Smart Card. Even after the first year, the Blue Cash Preferred comes out ahead compared to the Smart Card. In fact, we found that general-purpose gas rewards cards time and again have greater value.
Comparing Blue Cash Preferred vs. Exxon/Mobil Smart Card
|Card||Blue Cash Preferred||Exxon/Mobil Smart Card|
|Sign-up bonus||$250/$1,000 spend in 3 mths||$55.80|
|Total first year value||$560.72||$88.20|
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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