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The COVID-19 pandemic gave workers the advantage of saving money on commuting expenses. Gas, vehicle maintenance, daycare, morning coffee and on-the-go streaming subscriptions and transit each contribute to the overall cost of in-office work. As workers now head back to offices on hybrid schedules or for the traditional Monday through Friday, some commuters may be looking for ways to adjust their budgeting to accommodate these added expenses.
Fortunately, there are credit cards and subsequent perks for commuters that help. Some cards are better suited for drivers while others are tailored to those who take transit. No matter how you commute, the right credit card for you is one that eases the burden of the direct and tertiary costs of commuting.
Best credit cards for driving
With gas prices fluctuating as a result of inflation and numerous other factors, commuters who drive daily are feeling the impact of higher gas prices. These costs can be a significant part of your monthly budget, giving gas expenses the potential to be one of your most rewarding categories.
Below are some of the best credit card options to earn a high rate of cash back or rewards for gas purchases.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for customized cash back
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card is one of few cards offering cash back rewards in a category of your choice. Cardholders choose one category to earn 3 percent cash back—including a gas purchase category–among many others. You’ll also earn 2 percent cash back at eligible grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1 percent on all other purchases. This makes it an all around flexible card if you’re only comfortable holding one credit card for all of your purchases.
Although cash back on this card is capped at $2,500 per quarter between the choice category, grocery and wholesale club purchases, the lack of an annual fee makes it an enticing option for cash back on gas purchases.
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: Best for no annual fee
The Citi Custom Cash card is another no-annual-fee option and includes an impressive 5 percent rewards on purchases in your top category of 10 everyday spending categories, including gas stations. A cash back rate of 5 percent at gas stations is the best any cardholder can expect from a credit card. If your monthly budget for gas is below $500, the Citi Custom Cash card is your best choice to maximize your cash back for purchases at the pump.
Keep in mind, you’ll only earn 5 percent back in your top category each billing cycle. If you use this card in multiple categories per cycle, you’re leaving a lot of cash back on the table by only earning 1 percent back for all purchases made outside of your top category. Other cash back credit cards with tiered categories may come with decent rates for purchases in the Custom Cash card’s categories that don’t make the number one spot on your list each billing cycle. If you only use this card at gas stations, you can stack your cash back in that category and use another card for all of your other purchases in other categories.
Sam’s Club® Mastercard®: Best for Sam’s Club members
The Sam’s Club Mastercard rewards cardholders with 5 percent cash back on gas purchases (up to $6,000 each year, then 1 percent). If you’re a member of Sam’s Club or are considering a membership, this generous cash back rate can be just the nudge you need. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a wholesale club credit card or membership to buy in bulk and save on groceries. Since most cash back cards don’t earn rewards for purchases at Costco, Walmart or Sam’s Club, this card positions itself as a solution to fill that gap while providing the top cash back rate for gas purchases.
Although a Sam’s Club membership costs $45 annually, this card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and a welcome offer that comes as a $30 statement credit after making $30 in Sam’s Club purchases within the first 30 days. While this isn’t the most substantial welcome offer you’ll find on a no annual fee credit card, it is a 100 percent return for the amount you’re required to spend and comes close to offsetting your Sam’s Club membership fee.
Best credit cards if you use public transit
Not everyone drives a vehicle to work every day. Whether you live in a walkable city or must rely on public transit for the most efficient route to work, the best cards for transit or rideshares help you earn rewards for or from your transit purchases.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for everyday spending
The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers a generous 3 percent cash back on transit purchases and an impressive 6 percent cash back on streaming purchases. It’s a solid card for streaming subscribers on the go who make the most of idle time on the train, bus or in rideshares.
While it’s great for commuters on transit, this card’s strongest benefit is its cash back rate for purchases at U.S. supermarkets. If you want this card to help offset commuting costs, you’ll definitely want to make use of its 6 percent cash back in this key category as well.
Although there is an ongoing $95 annual fee on the Blue Cash Preferred, it’s waived the first year. Additionally, the card’s welcome offer comes as a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first six months of card ownership. This could help offset the cost of your annual fees on this card for the first three years you hold the card. Although, if you’re using this card for commuting costs, streaming services and at U.S. supermarkets, it’s very likely you’ll recoup your annual fee each year without the welcome offer.
If you’re still on the fence, this card also comes with Amex Offers. These special promotions include further opportunities for cardholders to earn more cash back or points for purchases at select retailers.
The World of Hyatt credit card: Best for rewarding both travel and commuting
If you stay at hotels and resorts often plus use public transit on a regular basis, you may find the World of Hyatt credit card worth considering. While it would mean choosing one hotel chain over others if you want to make the most of it, you’ll earn 4 points for every dollar you spend at a Hyatt property, 2 points for each dollar you spend on transit, restaurants, airlines and gym memberships, plus 1 point per dollar for all other purchases. You’ll enjoy other perks such as valuable travel and purchase coverage, no foreign transaction fees and automatic elite status with Hyatt. While there is a $95 annual fee, you can potentially offset this with rewards earnings, hotel membership elite status benefits and an annual free night certificate.
This card will only be worth it if hotels are a major part of your expenses and you want to pool your points from other areas of your expenses into hotel rewards. However, 2 points for each dollar spent on transit is no better than earning 2 percent back at a flat-rate on a cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card or the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card–both which have no annual fee.
Capital One Venture Rewards credit card: Best for easy-to-manage rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is a flat-rate travel rewards card offering 2 miles for every dollar spent on all purchases and 5 miles for every dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. For those who prefer simplicity, this card is an excellent choice and includes a welcome offer of 75,000 bonus miles if you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, equivalent to up to $750 in travel rewards. The flat-rate rewards are unlimited too, so you can use this card for your daily transit needs, and for all other purchases too.
This card is a good choice if you’re looking for a no-hassle way to earn solid rewards for every purchase, including transit. It’s particularly great for cardholders who travel occasionally and will make the most of their travel card rewards for one or two trips each year.
Best credit card perks for your daily commute
The best credit card perks for your daily commute depend on a few factors. What you consider valuable may look different compared to what another commuter finds valuable. The best credit card perks on cards for commuters may include:
- Low interest rates or 0 percent introductory offers for purchases or balance transfers
- No penalty APR or late fees
- Welcome or sign-up bonus
- Cash back, airline miles or points rewards
- No annual fee
These are beneficial to everyone, not just commuters. A card with the no annual fee perk, however, can hold more weight for commuters. Purchase categories like gas and transit don’t make up most of an average person’s budget. If you’re the type of cardholder who normally doesn’t spend much throughout the year it may be difficult to offset a card’s annual fee with the rewards you’ll earn. This is certainly the case if your commuting expenses are higher than or equal to other areas of your expenses.
How to choose a card for your daily commute
First, take a moment to review your credit score. Most of the popular credit cards require a good credit score. You can also find options if you have fair credit or limited credit history, but the best perks and rewards will come on cards requiring good credit. If you are concerned you won’t qualify for the card you are interested in, you can work on improving your score by making the right money moves to raise your credit score.
Next, consider what rewards mean the most to you. For example, those who want their rewards to offset some of their commuting costs may find that cash back is their best option. If you want to put your commuting expenses towards a future trip or travel, then a travel rewards card would be a better choice. If you’re unsure what you want at the moment, you can always choose a card with multiple redemption options, such as points toward travel or gift cards.
Remember, the best cards for driving and gas purchases may not be as ideal for someone who only uses a card for transit purchases, so it pays to review how you’ll use the card and what rewards add the most value to your lifestyle. Analyze how much you’re spending each month on commuting expenses and how many points or cash back you could potentially earn from a credit card that interests you. Also consider if you’ll use this card for other expenses in addition to commuting. It may be the case that the majority of your rewards will come from other expenses.
You also have to factor in other fees, such as the annual fee, balance transfer fees or foreign transaction fees, which can quickly add to the overall cost of using a credit card. If the potential perks and benefits outweigh the annual cost, then it may be worth considering a credit card for commuting expenses.
The bottom line
Why use a credit card for commuting expenses? Commuting not only takes time out of your day, it can take a chunk out of your wallet. This can be a frustrating circumstance, especially if you’d rather be working from home to save on these added costs and time.
With the right card for your commute, you may be able to recoup some of these expenses. At the very least you can earn rewards for purchases you need to make anyway. Choosing the right credit card to match your spending isn’t always easy, but there are plenty of options for your daily commuting needs.