The Best Gas Credit Cards and Why it May Not Matter

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Gas Category Bonuses

Readers often ask what the best cards are for gas purchases.

I prefer to keep it simple and:

  • Use the Chase Freedom Visa whenever gas is in their 5% quarterly category
  • Use the Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus for most other times
Which are the Best Gas Credit Cards?

Which are the Best Gas Credit Cards?

Mostly I use whichever card for which I have to complete a minimum spending requirement.  I would much rather have a high-sign up bonus on a new card rather than earn a few extra miles and points on an existing card.  But not everyone is like me.

I also don’t think it is worth the effort of chasing after gas category bonuses if you are only going to get 1 or 2 more points per $1.  Because it usually isn’t going to add up to much.  That’s why I try to max out the Chase Freedom 5% category bonuses, but don’t worry if Emily didn’t use her Ink Bold for gas (which earns only 2 points per $1 on gas)!

For example, we spend ~$150 a month on gas or $1,800 a year.  One extra mile or point per $1 spent is only 1,800 extra points per year.  But 4 extra points per $1 (with the Chase Freedom) is 7,200 points per year.

I’m willing to give up 1,800 points to make it less stressful for Emily, but I’ll go out of my way to get the 7,200 extra points!

But you have to decide if it is worth it to YOU to chase after gas category bonuses depending on how much you spend on gas and your comfort with sorting through credit cards at the pump.

The Best Cards for Buying Gas

I like the Penfed and Chase Freedom because they both have no annual fee which means that you can keep them for a very long time and help build your credit score.

I like the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus because even though they earn only 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on gas, you also get 5 Ultimate Rewards points for Office Supply and Telecom (Cable/Internet etc.) purchases.  So the Ink Bold and Ink Plus could be worth it even with the $95 annual fee.

In contrast, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold (which also earns 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 on gas) has higher annual fee of $175, charges a foreign transaction fee, and has category bonuses (3 points on air fare and 2 points on groceries) which aren’t as lucrative to me as the Ink Bold or Plus.

1.   Penfed Cash Rewards

The Penfed Cash Rewards card doesn’t earn me an affiliate commission, but is by far the best card for buying gas, if you like cash-back rewards.  You get 5% cash back per $1 spent on gas.  There is a $50,000 limit per year, but hopefully you spend nowhere near that amount on gas.

The card also has no-annual fee and no foreign transaction fee as well!

I don’t have this card and I likely won’t get it, because I prefer my miles and points to cash back and I prefer to not add a 17th card in my wallet.

But for those who like to maximize every dollar spent, it is hard to argue with a card which has NO annual fee and foreign transaction fee and which gets you 5% cash-back on gas!

2.   Chase Freedom

The  Chase Freedom Visa usually has gas in one or two of the quarterly categories which earn 5% cash back.

But you are limited to only $1,500 a quarter.

The Chase Freedom is a fee-free card, so it is a good Chase card to keep for a long time.  You can either redeem the points earned for cash back (5% cash back isn’t too shabby and some folks prefer cash back).  Or you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus or the JP Morgan Select card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt or United.

Our hotel in Paris and our flights back from India were mainly due to transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and United!

You have to activate each quarter’s category bonuses before the quarter to earn the 5X extra points.  The card has no annual fee.

3.   Chase Ink

The Chase Ink BoldChase Ink Plus earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on gas (up to $50,000 a card member year).  We like Chase Ultimate Rewards because you can transfer their points to United, Southwest, British Airways, and Hyatt almost instantly and in a 1:1 ratio.

Emily and I both have Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards, so it is easy for us to use our existing Ink Cards for gas.  We prefer keeping it (somewhat) simple and don’t want to have a separate card for gas especially when we don’t buy a lot of gas.

We also use the Ink cards to earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points at Office Supply stores and set up automatic payments for internet and cellphones.

But the Ink Bold and Ink Plus have annual fees of $95 which is waived for the 1st year, so this may not be the best card to keep in the 2nd year ONLY for gas purchases.

If you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and don’t want another card with an annual fee, you could get the no-fee Ink Cash & Ink Classic and transfer Ultimate Rewards points form the Ink Cash & Classic to the Sapphire Preferred and from there to airlines and hotels.

The Best of the rest

1.   American Express Mercedes Benz Card

You earn 3 American Express Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on gas with the Mercedes Benz card (not Platinum version), as long as your total gas purchase is less than $400 per transaction.  But the card has a $95 annual fee and a low sign-up bonus, so it isn’t worth it unless you spend a LOT on gas.

2.   American Express Premier Rewards Gold

I wouldn’t go out of my way to get this card with the current 25,000 point bonus.  Instead, I’d wait for the 50,000 point offer to return.

If you already have the card, it could be worth the 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 on gas.  But you’d have to spend a LOT on gas to justify the $175 annual fee, so I wouldn’t keep this beyond the first year.

That said, you do get 15,000 bonus points for spending $30,000 in 1 calendar year, so it could be worth it if you are a Big Spender.  Or if you spend heavily on air fare which earns 3X points or groceries which earns 2X points, but not otherwise.

3.   Costco True Earnings

The business Costco True Earnings business card earns 4% cash back on gas purchases in the US (up to $7,000 a year).  But you need a paid Costco Membership (~$55), so this card is helpful only if you have a Costco membership.

On the other hand, the Penfed Platinum gets you 5% cash back on gas (up to $50,000) a month and has NO annual fee.

Bottom Line

It is tempting to chase after gas category bonuses.

But I’d make sure to use a card which doesn’t have an annual fee (like the Penfed or Chase Freedom).

If you do pay an annual fee for a card which earns a bonus for gas, do the math to see that paying an annual fee (after the sometimes free first year) makes sense for you.

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34 responses to “The Best Gas Credit Cards and Why it May Not Matter

  1. Blue Cash Preferred from Amex offers 6% cash back at supermarkets so if a gas station that is attached to a grocery store counts for 6% cash back, that would be a good option. And of course for those who don’t mind the hassle of gift cards, you can always used Blue Cash Preferred of Chase Ink to buy gas gift cards ahead of time at supermarkets and office stores respectively.

  2. The best gas card by far is the Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum Card. You get 5% back to your account all the time for gas purchases at the pump with no annual fee and no monitoring of which category is active now. You also get 1% back on everything else which is not anything special.

  3. I was amused while reading this: While everyone here is thinking “What credit card do I use for all this money I am spending on gas?”, I have the opposite problem. I have the Chase Freedom card and, living in Manhattan, don’t even know where a gas station is!

    I plan to find one by Q3 to get the 7500 UR points with Chase Freedom, of course, to buy gift cards… but if anyone knows a good gas station in Midtown, give me a shout hehe 🙂 I guess I can always do it while visiting parents in NJ and drop by a Kohl’s too.

  4. On a regular basis I buy gas gift cards from Staples and Office Depot with my Ink to get 5x. When they’re out or if I need to get gas from a place that I don’t have a gift card for then I use my Hilton AMEX to get the 6x Hilton HHonors points.

  5. Sallie Mae World Mastercard, 5% on groceries & gas upto $250/month, 5% on books upto $750/month. Get a statement credit instead of UPromise cash out.

  6. I know some people are really in to maximizing what type of card to use for which kind of spend, but that is too complicated for me. I use whatever card I need to meet a minimum spend and if I don’t have a minimum spend to meet I just use one card for everything until my next churn. Using different cards for different spends is a level of extra organization I just don’t need.

  7. I’m not a big fan of Costco gas but if you buy the gas at their stations the prices is typically a few cents cheaper per gallon so that also has to factor in at some level.

  8. I don’t have this card and I likely won’t get it, because I prefer my miles and points to cash back …. Generally I agree with Darius’s statement. However, two main things made having the PenFed Platinum Rewards Card the best bet for me.

    First, I spend relatively little on fuel; I use my car usually just on the weekends for short trips so fill up maybe once a month (and my car is a fuel-efficient diesel car which further reduces my fuel usage), . The miles/points I would earn would be limited due to my low usage, so 5% cash back has a much higher value.

    Second, the card has no Foreign Transaction Fees. As one of the few (cannot think of another off-hand) no-annual-fee cards that does not have FTFs, it is often my go-to card when traveling outside the U.S. as my other non-FTF cards are the of the annual-fee variety so only in my wallet when a good sign-up bonus is available and then closed before the year of no annual-fee is up.

  9. I know hilton points are not worth much, but for their lower cat hotels, its not so bad, from 5k to 30k , so having the hilton amex fee free is a good way to rack up on points with gas gift cards purchase. I would buy these cards at supermarket $500 at a time and rack up 3k in pts.

  10. unfortunately cat 1 hiltons are the only ones worth the points, and there’s virtually none in America. Less than 1 per state average.

    • @Wedding Spend – The terms of the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred say that the 6% cash back is only at stand-alone supermarkets. I know that a transaction is coded differently for Dillon’s and the gas station by Dillon’s even though they are owned by the same parent company. But it could be worth trying out for 6%!

      @Jason Tsongas
      – Wouldn’t the Penfed card with 5% on gas and 3% on groceries and no foreign transaction fees be better?

      @The Miles Professor
      – What a strange problem (for those of us outside a big city) to have!

      @Traveling Well For Less – That’s a good strategy as well!

      @Paul – Nice find, but too bad the combined limit is only $250 a month.

      @Scott – Chasing category bonuses isn’t for everyone and there is extra effort involved which may not be worth it for some.

      @DaninSTL – Good point, and I’ll have to check out the price at Costco. The nearest Costco is 1 hour from me, so I don’t go there for gas!

      – I mention that the Penfed card has no foreign transaction fee and it is certainly one of the best no-annual fee cards for many!

      @choi @Dae – Using the Hilton card could be worth it for some, but do the math to make sure it works for you!

  11. My strategy I wrote about is using AMEX Blue preferred.. 6% back to buy Gas gift cards at Vons, get 4X fuel points, and then get $.20 to $1.00 off gas per gallon. Triple dipping on gas!

  12. We spend at least $400 a month on gas so it makes sense for us. We use our Costco Amex because in our area-they are usually the lowest price along with cash back 🙂

  13. Every time I check Gas Buddy in our area in Los Angeles area, it has the cheapest gas around so that coupled with the Business Costco card makes it much cheaper overall. I would like to know more about how the lower price compares to other higher priced stations using gift cards you have bought at stores to get more credit card points. When I have minimum spending to spend, I may use my costco card and then the American Express Gold card ( as Costco only takes AM EX cards) for instance to help me get the minimum spending but since gas is more expensive in California due to regulations, it does help you get to the minimum spending faster.

  14. Clarification re Penfed Platinum Rewards and the Penfed Cash Rewards: you are linking to the Platinum Rewards card, which has a points system, including the 5 pts for gas and 3 pts for groceries. It is the Penfed Cash Rewards automatically credits you each month with 5% on gas purchases (and .25% back on everything else including groceries). I don’t have any experience with the points system because I never converted my cash card to a rewards card, but I believe there is no automatic posting and you need to do something to “cash” in.

  15. I use the Amex Blue Cash Preferred to buy gas at a grocery store, and only get 3% everywhere I’ve tried. The gas pumps are coded differently. But, I also buy $500 Visa gift cards at the store (Kroger) to get gas rewards points. I get 6% cash back on the Visa gift cards, which more than pays for the fee associated with buying and liquidating them and also earns me lots of fuel rewards points so that I save $1/gallon on all my gas (the max of any grocery store in my area, but when I used to live in another city, Kroger let you use up to 2000 points to save up to $2/gallon – it varies by market). Keep in mind the Amex BCP limits you to $6k a year, but that hasn’t been a problem for me since my car is fuel efficient and has an 18.5 gallon tank, and I don’t drive that much. When I travel and rent a car, it usually has a smaller tank, so as not to waste my Kroger points I use GasBuddy to find cheap gas, and pay with a gift card if I can.

  16. I received notification with my latest COSTCO AMEX statement that as of May the 4% gas reward will no longer apply at supermarket affiliated gas stations (which is where I typically fill up (Vons Gas) in my area).

  17. I wish people…who are reading churn blogs…stop saying BCP = 6% on groceries. AF is $75, so the effective CB is 4.75%. If you churn using VISA/MC/AMEX GCs, the effective CB is 3.5% with $5.95.

  18. @Million Mile Secrets – the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa Card card is 5% on gas and 0.25% on everything else which is why I posted that I think FKFCU is the best option with 5% on gas / 1% on everything else.

  19. @romsdeal
    In english the triple dip ,if used properly, means 19-20% savings/cash back on gas purchases…

  20. I had the Penfed Visa since 2008. (my first $20K CL CC!). It gas been 5% cash back rewards card. I was offered 20K points to convert this card to 5 pts/$ w/no hard pull. Done deal!!

    Points didn’t post right away and I sent an e-mail to Penfed. I was given 25K points (worth $250 in gift cards) so I cashed the 25K points into a $250 Visa GC. Great redemption for no hard pull!!

    I just use this card for gas and although it will take a little while to accumulate points, it was so worth it to convert to 5 pts/$ for fuel. I usually buy my gas at Vons and it gets coded as a fuel purchase!!

    I have been unable to drive due to a hip fracture 3 weeks ago (I have 3-4 weeks to go) so if my wife needs gas, I have her use my Penfed card at the card reader!

    Bottom line: No annual fee. I do not put alot of spend except for fuel. I also have Penfed AMEX with a very generous CL! I also have Navy Federal CU Mastercard (no af) plus NavCheck (line of credit on checking account). All the above CC’s, etc keep my credit history positive! (ages my credit & also very low utilization compared to CL’s).

  21. The best card to use for gas is a gas gift card, that’s been bought with a credit card
    – within a optimized category spend
    – allowing you to pay a lower price at the gas pump (vs. the higher credit card price)
    I like $25 denominations that I can easily use up then throw away.

  22. I like the IHG card i get 2x for gas & groceris not including the free nihgt for the annual $49 fee not a deal i think……..

  23. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa is my undisputed gas card. 5 pts on gas (and 3 pts on groceries….including Walmart Supercenters) is very hard to beat in one card. The points convert one to one on redemption value. So it’s good as cash for any store-specific gift card or general Visa Gift Card. I’m about 2 months away from reaching 50,000 pts for a $500 Visa card. I’ll use it for a non-bonus category purchase. So I forego $5 @1% or 500 starpoints or 1500 Hilton points with my Visa Reserve. I’m also not out $500!

    I really don’t get the fascination with miles/hotel points cards at all costs….even when cash-back (or points equivalent) cards offer a better reward value. 2 chase UR points on gas via Ink or 5 pts on PenFed Platinum Rewards with no AF?? No contest. I don’t care how much of a Chase fan you might be. Considerations for spending requirements for bonuses aside, straightforward higher value on a given purchase always wins.

  24. OTOH, for lighter spenders, the Hilton Reserve Visa can be a top gas card….and top card for any category….UP TO $10,000 PER YEAR since 10,000 in spending per year gets you a free room voucher. So, a free 50,000 point room + 30,000 points earned on 10,000 in base spending is effectively AT LEAST 8 points per dollar. It’s even better if some of that spending gets more points in better categories. Again, it really depends on how much you spend. If you spend enough on non-bonus category purchases to reach $10,000 per year, then there’s really no reason to “waste” it on premium reward categories since you’ll hit the $10,000 without doing so.

    In case some don’t why

  25. @Daraius re: not troubling your old lady (wife) regarding which card to use.
    Put a label on each card and write the category or code so she can just thumb through them real quick and say “ah ha!” :-). Apps can be good, but sometimes good old fashioned labels can be quite handy. Just update the codes every few months or whenever you notice a category change. I believe this is the easiest way to do it. My old lady (wife) has said that she can never buy anything without calling me first. She likes the sign up bonuses since the only thinking is to use those cards to get to the minimum spending.

    @Lahaina also states a good option of the gift cards at the gas stations. I prefer getting the cards in $250 increments for the convenience of having it for a few weeks instead of one fill up. Or buy amazon gift cards at the gas station/office store (easy for us since amazon is the cheapest for buying diapers). You can even use the gas station gift cards to buy lottery tickets at some stations.

    We just did a ski trip thanks in part to the points and were upgraded to an executive suite at embassy. The most unexpected part was that we got to drive a dealer car for the 10 hour drive. I scheduled a regular maintenance that was $600 so I negotiated a 10% discount and free loaner car (anyways we got a 10% coupon in the mail the day after we took the car in). Well it turned out the radiator and transmission were kaput and they said it looks like I’ll have the loaner for while. Luckily the radiator and transmission were covered by a manufacturer’s extended warranty.

    Everything is negotiable.


  26. Arcos are often as cheap or cheaper than Costcos in California, and they are cash only (debit card with a fee)… except when you buy Arco gift cards at the supermarket, which would also be a good use of maximizing points.

  27. PenFed keeps making it harder and harder for customers, you now have to have the Plus version of the card to get 5% on gas. Fort knox credit union gives 5% on gas purchases though and no annual fee which put’s it in the lead for those spending a lot more than the average $2k per annum.

  28. Also, Darius your page “Gas Credit Cards” no longer exists, might want to remove mention of it and the dead link.

  29. Pingback: Bluebird Will Save You Gas Money in These 21 States! | Million Mile Secrets

  30. Darius you should fill up your wife’s car each week for her!! I bet she would absolutely love it, I know my wife does. And you can then decide how to get the most points from it.

  31. BP gas card gives a 5% back all the time and is a fee free card. Don’t have to wait on the once a year quarterly period like other cards.