Paying for gas is part of everyday life in the U.S., with an average of about 369 million gallons per day consumed in 2021. As a common expense and with fluctuating prices, it makes sense to consider how to save at the gas pump using different strategies, including gas cards.
But are gas cards worth it? Compared to other options, will they save you the most money?
See how gas cards work, what savings they typically offer, and alternatives you might want to consider.
How gas cards work
A gas card is often a type of card that’s offered by a gas station brand in partnership with a bank or card issuer. For example, the Shell Fuel Rewards Mastercard is a gas rewards credit card associated with Shell gas stations, but it works on the Mastercard network and is issued by Citi.
Most gas cards offer a flat savings rate such as 10 cents per gallon on all your gas purchases at participating retailers. Depending on how often you fill up with gas and where, this could present a valuable opportunity to save a flat rate on your gas station visits.
The current (as of May 18, 2022) average gas prices in the U.S. are about $4.57 per gallon. This could easily fluctuate depending on where you live and what’s available in your area, but this is the average for the entire country for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.
Let’s say your car has a 12-gallon tank and you’re completely filling it up with regular gas. At $4.57 per gallon, that would cost $54.84. If you use a gas card that offers 10 cents off per gallon, you’d save $1.20 on 12 gallons of gas for a final price of $53.64. That’s about 2.2% in savings.
But what happens if you use a higher grade of gas? The average mid-grade gallon of gas is currently (as of May 18, 2022) about $4.91 per gallon. If you fill up a 12-gallon tank with mid-grade gas, it would cost $58.92. Using a gas card that offers 10 cents off per gallon, you’d save $1.20 on 12 gallons of gas for a final price of $57.72. That’s about 2.0% in savings.
As you can see, your savings benefit goes down as the price of gas increases. This is because most gas cards offer a flat savings rate of 5 to 10 cents per gallon rather than a percentage of savings. In times when gas prices are trending upward or staying high, this type of savings rate becomes much less valuable.
How reward credit cards work
If you compare credit cards, you’ll find plenty of options for cards that offer cash back, points, or miles for any eligible purchases you make. These are called rewards credit cards and some of them are likely a better option for gas purchases than gas cards.
It’s not uncommon for general rewards cards to offer bonus rewards in certain categories, which could include gas station purchases. In some cases, you might receive between 3% to 5% cash back on gas depending on which card you use, especially with some of the best cashback credit cards.
Using the same examples above, let’s calculate how much money you might save at the gas pump if you were to use a rewards credit card rather than a gas card. Let’s say you have a card that offers 5% cash back on gas and we’ll do an example for each for both regular and mid-grade gas with 12-gallon tanks.
Twelve gallons at $4.57 per gallon costs $54.84. With a 5% cashback card, you’d save about $2.74 for a final price of $52.10.
Twelve gallons at $4.91 per gallon costs $58.92. With a 5% cashback card, you’d save about $2.95 for a final price of $55.97.
Your overall savings benefit stays the same no matter the price of gas because the percentage is always the same. Not everyone will have a credit card that offers 5% back on gas, but being able to earn a constant 3% to 4% still beats the savings calculations with gas cards.
It’s also important to consider other perks and benefits of rewards cards, which could include bonus rewards in categories other than gas. A rewards card might also have purchase protections, travel coverage, and/or cell phone protection. Gas cards don’t typically have many benefits and some of them might only function at the gas stations they’re associated with.
Is a gas card worth it?
A gas card might be worth it in certain situations, including if you don’t qualify for rewards cards that offer more value on fuel purchases. Certain gas cards could have less strict credit requirements for approval, which might make sense for you depending on your situation.
After all, some savings is better than no savings. And using a gas credit card responsibly could help improve your credit score to open up more opportunities down the road.
But if you’re able to qualify for a credit card that offers bonus rewards on gas, a gas card likely wouldn’t be worth it for you, especially if gas prices are high.
With gas cards that offer flat savings on each gallon of gas, your savings percentage goes down as the price of gas goes up. With the right rewards cards, you don’t have to worry about fluctuating gas prices — you always get the same percentage of savings.
Gas cards to consider
If a gas card makes the most sense for your situation, consider these questions when deciding which gas card might be best for you:
- Where do you typically get gas? The nearest gas stations might not always offer the best prices, but you also have to consider the amount of gas you would be using to get to a cheaper gas station that’s farther away.
- Are you a member of any gas rewards programs? Many gas station brands offer free memberships that typically provide a small discount on your gas purchases. This is often around 2 to 3 cents saved per gallon, which isn’t much, but it all adds up.
- Do you have any wholesale clubs nearby? A Sam’s Club or Costco membership comes with access to their discounted gas prices, which could be helpful if you already frequent these wholesale clubs.
While the right gas card for you likely depends on what’s available in your area, here are a few gas card options from some of the largest gas station chains in the U.S.:
- Exxon Mobil Smart Card+: Offers standard savings of 12 cents per gallon on Synergy Supreme+ premium gas or 10 cents per gallon on other Synergy fuel grades at Exxon Mobil gas stations.
- Shell | Fuel Rewards® Mastercard®: Offers standard savings of 10 cents per gallon at participating Shell locations, as well as Shell rebates on other qualifying purchases.
- Speedy Rewards® Mastercard®: Offers 50 points per $1 spent at Speedway and 10 points per $1 spent on other qualifying purchases. Points can be redeemed for fuel discounts, in-store products, and gift cards.
- Sunoco Rewards Credit Card: Offers standard savings of 5 cents per gallon at participating locations.
- Techron Advantage Visa Credit Card: Accepted at nearly 8,000 U.S. Chevron and Texaco gas stations, this card offers up to 10 cents per gallon in Fuel Credits, as well as cell phone protection.
For gas cards not associated with specific gas station chains, check out our list of the best gas credit cards.
Rewards cards to consider
If you qualify for certain rewards credit cards, you’re likely to receive more savings on your gas purchases.
Keep in mind that some rewards credit cards have annual fees, but they also might have a welcome offer or sign-up bonus for new cardholders to help boost your rewards earnings. You typically have to spend a certain amount of money within a few months of your card account opening to qualify for this type of offer.
You also typically need good or excellent credit to qualify.
Here are some popular rewards cards to consider for saving money on your trips to the gas station:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.
- Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Earn 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back), plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Note that eligible spending categories can include gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and more.
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases.
- Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi: Earn 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases (up to $7,000, then 1% thereafter); 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; and 1% on all other purchases.
- Wyndham Rewards Earner Business Card Earn 8X points on eligible Wyndham Hotel and gas purchases; 5X points on eligible marketing, advertising, and utility purchases; and 1X points on all other purchases.
Other options include the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, Chase Freedom Flex℠, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, and U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card.
To see more cards with accelerated rewards rates, check out our list of the best rewards credit cards.
Do gas cards help build credit?
Yes, gas cards could help build your credit. Gas cards are typically credit cards that offer benefits at specific gas stations. If you use a gas card to make purchases and always pay off your balance without making any late payments, you might see your credit score increase over time.
What are the benefits of gas cards?
Gas cards often provide a benefit of receiving discounts or rewards on gas purchases at participating locations. Certain gas cards only function at specific gas stations while others can be used to make credit card purchases almost anywhere that credit cards are accepted.
Do gas cards help with frequent flyer miles?
Gas cards offered by gas station brands don’t typically help with earning frequent flyer miles. However, certain credit cards such as the Citi Premier and United℠ Business Card offer bonus rewards for gas station purchases, and these rewards could be redeemed for flights.
Gas cards are certainly useful in some situations, but they might not always make the most sense. If you want to maximize your rewards at gas stations, specific credit cards that offer bonus points on gas purchases are likely the better option.
Keep in mind that you have other ways to save on gas as well, including signing up for free gas station memberships. Check out these ways to save at the gas pump to learn more.
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