Save money on gas purchases and earn rewards with a gas credit card.
If you live in a city with high gas prices, drive a luxury vehicle or large SUV, or have a long commute to work, you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on gas each month. Gas is often one of your biggest expenses, and one that’s difficult to control.
Gas credit cards give you a break on your gas purchases, helping you to reduce the cost of transportation. Depending on the card you choose, you can either reduce the price you pay at the pump or receive rewards on your gas purchases. This guide will show you how gas credit cards work, how you can benefit from your gas purchases, how to choose the right gas card, and how to avoid the drawbacks that would offset the benefits of your card.
Two types of credit cards with benefits on gas purchases
There are two types of credit cards with gas benefits: Gas station credit cards, which are affiliated with major oil companies; and general rewards credit cards that offer points or cash back on gas purchases.
1) Oil company credit cards
These cards give you a discount or credit for each gallon of gas you purchase on your credit card. Most major oil companies – Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the like – offer a gas credit cards affiliated with their brand. These cards may be closed-loop, meaning they can only be used at gas stations owned by that oil company, or they may be co-branded with a major credit card processing network, such as Visa or MasterCard. Co-branded credit cards can be used at that specific gas station, any partner gas stations, and anywhere else that accepts credit cards.
With oil company gas credit cards, the reward is a discount off each gallon of gas purchased with your credit card. You’ll receive the discount as a statement credit on your credit card balance for the billing cycle when you made the gas purchase.
For example, if your gas credit card offers a 5 cent discount per gallon and you purchase 14 gallons at $2.09 per gallon, your credit card will be charged, $29.96. A credit of $0.70 (5 cents multiplied by 14 gallons) will be applied to your statement and deducted from your balance. Your balance due will only be $29.26.
The credit card loyalty program may give you a bigger discount as you make more gas purchases on your credit card. For example, gas purchases under $100 each month may receive a discount of 5 cents per gallon, while gas purchases over $100 receive a discount of 10 cents per gallon.
Some gas credit cards limit the discount to a set number of gallons purchased each month. Once you reach that limit, you’ll no longer receive the discount on your gas purchases. If you purchase a lot of gas each month, this might be a deal-breaker.
2) General rewards credit cards
Points and cash back credit cards are not affiliated with a specific gas station, but offer rewards on purchases made at all gas stations. Your rewards accumulate with each purchase you make. You may even be able to earn a minimum amount of rewards on all other purchases made on the credit card.
For example, a rewards credit card may pay 3% cash back on gas purchases. If you spent $29.96 in gas purchases, you’d have to pay the full amount, but you’ll receive $0.89 cash back.
Some rewards credit cards may only pay a higher amount of rewards on a certain amount of purchases, like $6,000 annually. Once you’ve reached that threshold, your gas purchases will earn a lower level of rewards (dropping from 3% to 1%, for example). Some credit cards may exclude gas purchases made at warehouse stores like Costco.
Once you accumulate the required amount of rewards, you can redeem them for cash back, statement credit, gift cards, travel, merchandise, or other options offered by your credit card issuer.Back to top
Oil company gas credit cards vs. general rewards credit cards
Oil company gas credit cards and general rewards credit cards both offer benefits on gas purchases. See how the two types of credit cards stack up against each other.
|Oil company gas credit card||Rewards credit card|
|Can often only be used at gas station locations affiliated with a single brand||Can be used anywhere|
|Offers an instant discount on gas purchases||Allows you to accumulate rewards that you can redeem later|
|Typically have higher interest rates||Competitive interest rates, may offer promotional interest rates on purchases and balance transfers|
|Potentially low credit limit||Chances for a higher interest rate|
|No rewards on gas purchases made with other gas stations||Earn rewards on all gas purchases|
|No rewards on other non-gas purchases||Potential to earn rewards on all purchases made on the credit card, gas and non-gas|
|May be easier to qualify for, even with less than excellent credit||Usually require excellent credit history|
Is a gas credit card right for you?
While the ability to save money or earn rewards on gas purchases sounds appealing, a gas credit card may not be the best credit card for you depending on your purchase and payment habits. In general, a gas credit card may be right for you if:
- You spend a lot on gas each month. If you spend several hundred dollars or more each month on gas, a gas credit card will give you a big break on gas costs. If you rarely drive and spend only a few dollars each month on gas, a gas rewards credit card won’t provide much benefit to you.
- You pay your balance in full each month. Gas rewards credit cards, especially oil company gas credit cards, tend to have higher interest rates than other credit cards. Carrying a balance would result in high finance charges that negate the benefit of the gas savings you receive. Paying your balance in full every month also allows you to avoid paying interest on your purchases.
How to qualify for a gas credit card
Whether you qualify for a gas credit card depends on which card you apply for. Some gas credit cards are easier to qualify for.
You generally must be over age 18 to be approved for a gas credit card in the U.S. Federal law also requires that if you are under 21 that you have your own income before you can be approved for a credit card. If you don’t have a job or access to regular, reliable income, you’re not likely to qualify for a gas credit card.
Some oil company gas credit cards are close-loop credit cards, meaning they can only be used at that specific gas station chain, and can’t be used at other merchants. These credit cards are typically the easiest to qualify for. Even if you have bad credit or no credit, you have a better chance of qualifying for a closed-loop gas credit card. This is a good way to start building or rebuilding your credit so you can qualify for better credit cards in the future.
You’ll need good or excellent credit to be approved for a gas credit card that’s co-branded with a major processing network like Visa or MasterCard. These credit cards can be used at more locations, but have more stringent credit requirements.
How to choose a gas credit card
Picking the right gas credit card means paying attention to all the features of the credit card. While the gas benefits will play a big role in the card you choose, other features of the credit card, like pricing and other perks, should also be factored into your decision.
- Decide whether you want to be tied to a specific gas station brand. This will help you narrow your choices to oil company gas credit cards or general rewards credit cards that pay higher rewards on gas station purchases. If you want to use a gas station credit card that will give you an instant discount on your gas purchases, choose a credit card affiliated with gas stations near you. Otherwise, if you pick a credit card for a gas station that doesn’t have locations on your normal route, you won’t get the full benefit from your credit card.
- Initial bonus. Depending on the gas credit card you choose, you might receive a bigger discount on gas purchases during the initial months of using your credit card, or you may be able to earn a bonus for spending a certain amount with your card in the first few months.
- APR. The interest rate is always an important factor to consider when you choose a credit card. Oil company gas credit cards will tend to have higher interest rates, which makes it important to pay your balance in full each month to avoid paying expensive finance charges.
- Annual fee. If you’re looking to save money, paying an annual fee on a gas credit card may not be worth it. Look for a credit card with a low or no annual fee. Don’t get a credit card with an annual fee unless you can earn enough rewards or gas discounts to offset the annual fee.
- Other rewards and perks. While your primary goal is to find a credit card that will benefit you on gas purchases, any other rewards you receive will only sweeten the deal. A credit card branded with a major processing network, even if it’s a general rewards credit card, is more likely to come with additional rewards.
Drawbacks of gas credit cards
Knowing the drawbacks of a gas credit card can help you decide whether you should apply.
- High cost of carrying a balance. Because gas credit cards tend to come with high interest rates, carrying a balance can get expensive. It’s always better to pay off your full balance each month. That way you never have to pay interest.
- Only beneficial if you spend a lot on gas. If you only spend a small amount of money on gas each month, a gas credit card is just another credit card in your wallet. You’d receive more benefits by choosing a credit card that pays rewards in the categories where you actually do spend.
- You might increase your gas spending. When you’re buying gas with cash or debit, you’re more likely to keep your spending in check because you rely on those funds for other living expenses. Don’t go overboard on gas purchases just because you have a gas credit card. Monitor your gas spending throughout the month and reserve money in your checking account to pay off your gas credit card balance.
Are gas rewards credit cards worth it?
While gas rewards credit cards do offer some benefits to people who drive a lot, many consumers say they still are not worth the hassle. The average per-gallon discount is about 4 cents. With only a 4 cent discount, it would only be beneficial when gas prices are already low. Four cents off a gallon of gas that’s priced at $2 is a lot more noticeable than 4 cents off a $5 gallon of gas.
High interest rates are also common with gas rewards credit cards. The average APR is 21.12% compared to about 15% with regular cards. If you are unable to pay your balance in full every month, the high interest could negate any money you might save from your fuel rewards.
A gas card may be right for you if drive within a certain range of miles annually and you live in an area where gas is already inexpensive. Most cards have a maximum limit on fuel rewards (for example, $99 per year with the 76 Personal Credit Card), so driving extra wouldn’t save you more unless you have a card with unlimited rewards. If you don’t feel like you would benefit from gas rewards, consider getting a cash back rewards credit card.
How to maximize your gas rewards
Once you’ve chosen and have received your gas credit card, use these tips to maximize your rewards.
- Choose a gas credit card based on the gas stations near you. It’s not worth it if you have to burn fuel driving out of your way to get to a gas station where your card will give you a discount. If there are no gas credit cards affiliated with the gas stations closest to you, choose a general rewards card that will pay rewards on all your gas purchases, regardless of the brand.
- Watch out for gas stations that charge more for credit cards. More gas stations around the country are charging different prices for cash and credit card purchases. Cash purchases are offered a discount, while credit card purchases are charged a few cents more. Pay with cash if your gas credit card doesn’t give you a big enough discount to make a difference.
- Buy all your gas with your gas credit card. You’ll save the most money – and earn the most rewards – when you make all your gas purchases exclusively with your gas credit card. If your gas credit card only offers a discount on the first 25 gallons of gas you purchase each month, make sure you use it for all 25 gallons of gas you purchase.
- Use your gas credit card for road trips. Make sure you use your gas credit card for fill-ups whenever you’re planning to drive a long distance. If your credit card has a monthly or quarterly cap on the discount or rewards you can receive, consider making your trip at the end of the month or quarter, so your rewards clock can reset.