Comparing Credit Cards for Gas and Auto Rewards
Updated: December 18, 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 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 for 2019
|Card||Rewards Rate at U.S. 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|
|Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card||1.5%||2.4 / 5||$39|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||3%||4.1 / 5||$95|
|Discover it® chrome||2%**||2.9 / 5||$0|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||2%||3.3 / 5||$0|
|U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card||2%***||2.0 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Secured||2%**||4.8 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student chrome||2%**||3.9 / 5||$0|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||1.5%||3.1 / 5||$0|
*Up to $2,500 on combined purchases each quarter.
**2% at gas stations & restaurants up to $1,000 every quarter
***Requires user activation
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
Pros: In addition to 3% on gas, this card rewards you with 2% back on groceries and wholesale club purchases for a combined $2,500 each quarter, then 1%. There's also the $200 sign-up bonus after a $500 spend within the first 90 days of card membership. The Bank of America Cash Rewards' everyday rewards have oomph, and the no annual fee helps things along.
Cons:If you are looking to earn improved rewards for travel, this card may not be the best choice. Instead, take a look at the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card.
Who is it for? If you have need for a card that rewards you for a decent amount of spend each month on combined gas, wholesale club and grocery purchases, the Bank of America Cash Rewards is a good choice.
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 elsewhere, such as the Bank of America Cash Rewards or the Blue Cash Everyday.
Who is it for? The renovated Wells Fargo Propel rewards you for an unlimited 3X points on gas, rideshares and transit, making it a stand-out for the frequent day tripper.
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.
Who is it for? If you need a card that provides a flat rate for all spending, including gas, the QuicksilverOne has what you're looking for.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Pros: The Blue Cash Preferred offers the best of its competitors, with a $200 welcome bonus after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months; 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%); and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. 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.
Who is it for? If you are on the hunt for a high intro bonus and generous gas rewards, this card's features make for a pleasant surprise.
Discover it® chrome
Pros: The Discover it chrome has the 2% back on gas that the Blue Cash Everyday has, but it also offers double your cash back at the end of your first year. That means if you spend $300 a month, you'll earn $72 for the year, then another $72 at the end of the first year, making it $144 total.
Cons:The quarterly maximum is low, coming to a little over $300 a month, which means if you plan to dine out and use your car a lot, this may not be the best choice. Also, there's no sign-up bonus.
Who is it for? If you want a card that rewards well for dining out and gas, but you don't plan to use it a lot, this is a good choice.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Pros: The Blue Cash Everyday offers great rewards on gas and groceries without an annual fee, making it competitive with the Bank of America Cash Rewards. Earn 3% back for up to $6,000 a year (then 1% back) at U.S. supermarkets; 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores; and get a $150 welcome bonus after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months of card membership. There's also a 0% intro APR offer of 15 months on purchases and balance transfers – then the regular rate becomes 14.99% - 25.99% variable.
Cons:If you don't mind an annual fee, this card can be beat by its big brother, the Blue Cash Preferred, which offers 6% back on U.S. groceries for up to $6,000 a year.
Who is it for? If gas and groceries are your main purchase staples and you want to avoid paying an annual fee, then the Blue Cash Everyday has what you are looking for.
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 2% back of the Blue Cash Everyday 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.
Who is it for? If you relish playing the rewards game and keeping track of which card to use for which type of spending, this is a good option for your wallet.
Discover it® Secured
Pros: Perfect for the consumer who wants to try out rewards but isn't experienced with credit, this card accepts people without a credit history. The Discover it Secured rewards you with 2% back at gas stations and restaurants for up to $1,000 a quarter, then you get double your cash back at the end of your first year.
Cons:If you plan to keep your new card beyond the first year and you buy a lot of gas, another gas card may be a better choice. For example, the Bank of America Cash Rewards earns you 3% back on up to $2,500 a quarter in combined purchases.
Who is it for? If you are looking for rewards in gas, but your credit isn't its best, the Discover it Secured is a stellar option.
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.
Who is it for? This card is perfect for students who keep a car on campus or regularly dine off campus.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
Pros: The Wells Fargo Cash Wise offers simplicity without sacrificing rewards. Upon receiving, cardholders are eligible for a $200 sign-up bonus for $1,000 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 mobile 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.
Who is it for? For those who value simplicity, the Cash Wise is a strong no-frills option perfect for new cardholders or those who want to avoid an annual fee.
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® Cash Rewards Credit 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 non-gas purchases where Visa credit cards are accepted, but no rewards on purchases at non-BP gas stations.
- 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.
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 Bank of America® Cash Rewards® Credit Card. 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.
- 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 $3.56 per gallon (as of Nov. 29, 2018, according to AAA).
If you were to pay for gas without the use of a gas card, you’d spend $258 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 $148 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.
For someone who drives 20,000 or 25,000 miles a year, the savings can add up. Assuming a gas price of $2.51 per gallon and a car with 25 MPG, here's how much you could save depending on how many miles you drive:
|Miles per year||Number of gallons||$ spent||$ saved|
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|
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. 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.
2. 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 $200 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||$200 / $1,000 in first 3 mths||12 cents * 90 gal/2 mths = $10.80|
|Other||N/A||50 cents * 90 gal/2 mths = $45|
3. 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 select U.S. department stores. 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|
4. 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 with $310 for the year compared to $88.20 with 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||$200/$1,000 spend in 3 mths||$55.80|
|Total first year value||$510.72||$88.20|
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 usually feature Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover logos. If there's no logo, you probably don't qualify to use the card through a network. A merchant will likely have a corresponding logo sticker on its storefront or on its website. Visa is the dominant network, but all of the major networks are accepted by millions of merchants.
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.
According to AAA, average cost of gas in the United States is $2.37 per gallon as of Dec. 18, 2018. Using the BP Credit Card (10 cents off per gallon) to purchase 15 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 about 71 cents.
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.
Gas or airline card: which should you get?
What you want out of your new card is as important as what is offered. Here, we compare Bank of America Cash Rewards with Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, looking at a trip from Austin to Denver during Spring Break in March, driving to Denver using the Cash Rewards card and flying using the Southwest card. But first, you'll need to look at other features, such as the sign-up bonus.
The Bank of America Cash Rewards offers a $200 sign-up bonus after a $500 spend within the first 90 days, while the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus offers 40,000 bonus points after a $1,000 spend within the first 3 months and 20,000 bonus points after a $12,000 spend within the first 12 months. There's also a 3,000-point bonus after your card anniversary. The Points Guy's valuation for Southwest points stands at 1.5 cents, meaning the 60,000 points are worth $900, albeit with a significantly higher spend.
BofA's Cash Rewards card offers a generous 3% back on gas and 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs for up to $2,500 a quarter total. It's 1% on all other purchases. Meanwhile, the Rapid Rewards Plus earns you 2X points on purchases at Southwest and partner hotels and car rentals.
While the Rapid Rewards Plus has a $69 annual fee, the BofA Cash Rewards card has none. If you plan to travel domestically relatively often by plane, the savings will likely offset the annual fee, but if you are a homebody or someone who relishes road trips, the card with no annual fee may be the better choice.
Spring break trip
Now to the fun stuff. The trip from Austin to Denver is a 920-mile drive, needing about 6 tanks of gas there and back (15 gallons a tank), at about $2.51 a gallon, based on the Nov. 29, 2018, national gas prices from AAA. As you can see, while you earn more back with the plane trip, you also spend more, but you'll probably need to tack on an extra 2 days if you drive, requiring hotel stays there and back. For the flight for 4 people and a car rental for a week, plan on spending $1,300, while for driving and staying 2 nights on the road, you'll spend about $480.
Road trip vs. plane trip:
|Bank of America Cash Rewards||Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus|
|Airfare|| ||$1,000*2X points*$0.015=$30|
|Car rental|| ||$300*2X pts*$0.015=$9|
|Gas||15 gal.*6 tanks*$2.51*3%=$6.77|| |
|Hotel on road||$250*1%=$2.50|| |
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 email@example.com.
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