Do you find yourself underwhelmed by the credit card rewards you receive when paying at the pump in 2023?
If you run up a sizable tab at the gas station each month, you may find that a rewards credit card that’s optimized for gas purchases is worth your while.
But you may be surprised to learn that gas station-branded credit cards usually aren’t the way to earn the most rewards.
Team Clark has researched the credit card rewards market to find the best programs for gas station rewards.
Best Credit Cards for Gas Rewards
|OUR TOP CHOICE||RUNNER UP||HONORABLE MENTION|
|Citi Custom Cash℠ Card||Sam's Club® Mastercard®||Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi|
|5% back on top spending category||5% back on gas purchases||4% back on gas purchases|
Annual Fee: $0
Rewards Program Details: Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Offer: Earn $200 cash back
Bonus Offer Disclaimer: after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Gas Rewards Opportunity: Citi Custom CashSM Card gives you 5% back in your top spending category each month. This is good for up to $500 in spending per month. Gas is one of the eligible categories. If you use this no-annual-fee card as your primary gas spender, you could earn 5% back on up to $6,000 in fuel spending per year.
Why We Like It: If you’re looking for a credit card to use just for gas purchases, it will end up being your top spending category each month, so you’ll always get the 5% back reward.
Gas Rewards Opportunity: Sam’s Club members can earn 5% back on gas purchases (at any gas station — not just at Sam’s Club stations) on up to $6,000 in fuel purchases per year. These rewards must be redeemed as “Cash Rewards” which are available only to Sam’s Club Plus Members for in-club purchases.
What To Know About This Card
- Annual Fee: None but Sam’s Club membership is required.
- Rewards Program Highlights: 5% cash back on gas purchases and 3% back on dining and travel, as well as 2% on purchases made at Sam’s Club.
- Team Clark Card Review
Why We Like It: If you’re a Sam’s Club member, you may find that getting this credit card is the easiest way to save the most on gas purchases. It also has competitive perks on dining and travel. The downside is that you have to remain a club member to keep the rewards credit card and can redeem your rewards only at Sam’s Club.
Annual Fee: $0
Rewards Program Details: 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter; 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; 1% cash back on all other purchases
Gas Rewards Opportunity: Much like the Sam’s Club card above, this wholesale club card offers some of its top rewards perks in the gas category. You get 4% back on gas and EV charging purchases for up to $7,000 of fuel purchases per year. This can be achieved at the Costco gas pump (which often has some of the cheapest prices on the market) or gas stations elsewhere.
Why We Like It: Being the Costco fanatic that he is, money expert Clark Howard has this card in his wallet. This card doesn’t offer much in the way of welcome bonuses or introductory APRs, but it does offer a strong list of spending categories for earning rewards. And while it may be disappointing that Costco purchases themselves are worth only 2% cash back, at least that rate holds consistent whether you’re shopping online or in the store. This card is on our list of best cards with no annual fee.
Other Credit Cards That Offer Gas Rewards To Consider
If you’re not a fan of the “one reward category” card or a member of Costco or Sam’s, you may find that our top choices aren’t for you.
But there are other very competitive gas rewards cards on the market.
- PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card: This card carries no annual fee and offers 5x rewards points on each dollar spent at both gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations. This is a great return, but you have to join the PenFed Credit Union in order to apply for the card. PenFed is short for Pentagon Federal. It primarily serves government employees and their families, but there are some other paths to membership.
- PNC Cash Rewards Visa Card: You can earn 4% back on gas purchases with this card. PNC offers bonus rewards on up to a combined $8,000 spending each year with gas (4%), dining (3%) and grocery stores (2%). But since the rewards are on combined spending, you may reach your earnings cap before you fully exploit the gas rewards.
- Rotation 5% Cash Back Cards: Both the Discover it Cash Back card and the Chase Freedom FlexSM card include gas station purchases in their rotating 5% bonus spending categories. These cards give 5% cash back on select categories for a three-month period and then move to another spending category the next quarter. Neither of these cards will give you year-round gas perks, but if you have both cards, you can probably cover six months of the year.
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card: You can earn 4x rewards points on every dollar spent on gas with this card. This card has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year of your card membership. There are other rewards bonuses, such as 5x points on hotels and car rentals, 4x points on other travel purchases and 2x points on groceries, dining and streaming.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: If you’re a frequent Hilton traveler, you may find that the 6x rewards points on every dollar spent on gas purchases make sense for your wallet. This $95 annual fee card gives 12x Hilton points on hotel stays and 6x points at restaurants and supermarkets.
What About Branded Gas Station Credit Cards?
You probably have stared at a credit card offer from your favorite gas station while fueling your vehicle at the pump. It seems they all have cards offering discounts on their gas.
But those rewards typically aren’t as good or as consistent as those offered by the cards I’ve listed above. And even the ones that do give you a fair shake on gas rewards are limited in the areas they’ll reward your other spending.
When you get past the promotional offers like “30 cents off per gallon for your first 5 fill-ups” or “20 cents off per gallon during your first three months of card membership,” you’re likely to see a flat discount rate on gas purchases between 5 and 10 cents per gallon.
I collected some of the “regular” rates of return for using branded cards from some of the more popular oil companies:
- BP /Amoco: 15 cents off per gallon
- ExxonMobil: 12 cents off per gallon
- Shell: 10 cents off per gallon
- Chevron/Texaco: tiered 5-10 cents off per gallon
- Speedway: 5 cents off per gallon
As you can see, these rewards don’t quite match up to some of our top credit card choices if the cost of a gallon of gas approaches $5. At that price, a 5% back card gives you the equivalent of 25 cents per gallon.
For these station-branded cards to offer superior rewards, they have to offer this same rate of “per gallon” discount no matter the price of gas. So if prices go down, you’ll still earn the same rate in rewards.
3 Things To Consider About Paying for Gas With a Credit Card
As you decide whether you want to start using a rewards credit card to pay for your fuel, here are a few things you may want to consider:
- Gas station pumps are known for fraud potential. Using a credit card gives you better fraud protection than a debit card, so you’re making a wise decision when you use a credit card at the pump. Also, it’s probably a good point in the article to tell you that Clark hates using a debit card.
- You can avoid your bank account’s funds being held hostage. Some gas stations place a temporary “purchase hold” on cards used at the pump. So if you’re using your debit card and running low on funds, you may find that this can tie up the money you need. Using a credit card will help you avoid falling into this trap.
- You may sacrifice some “cash discounts” offered at select gas stations. It’s not all roses with credit cards at the pump. There are still plenty of gas stations that give a discount for paying with cash. However, you’ll have to invest additional time to go inside to pay and you will miss out on your potential credit card rewards.
When it comes time to pick the right credit card for gas rewards, you may want to first consult Clark’s rules for credit cards.
He suggests that you apply for a steady cash back credit card before anything else. When you’re ready for an additional card, Clark does like a couple of the cards mentioned above as potential cash back earners for gas and more.
“If you are a Sam’s Club or Costco member, you may want to consider getting your second credit card from one of them,” Clark says. “Because the rewards they give you, if you’re a loyalist of either of those brands, are great. That’s evidenced by the rewards they’ll give you for filling up your tank.”
Clark carries both of these cards in his wallet.
Do you have a credit card that you use for gas rewards already? We’d love to hear about it in the Clark.com Community!
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