Rewards credit cards can be lucrative, both in terms of their ongoing rewards and generous sign-up bonuses. Unfortunately, the best credit cards on the market are only available to consumers with very good or excellent credit, which usually means a FICO score of 740 or higher.
But, you can get a rewards credit card if you have bad credit. You just need to adjust your expectations and be willing to consider a broad range of cards. Specifically, you may find that most rewards credit cards for bad credit are ones geared to specific purchases, such as gas.
What is a gas card?
Gas credit cards can help you rack up rewards when you fill up your tank, but you can also use them to build your credit score so you can qualify for a better rewards credit card later on. Most gas credit cards offer rewards as a percentage of your spending, just like any other cash back credit card, although credit cards for bad credit tend to have less lucrative rewards programs and more fees attached.
Keep in mind that when we’re talking about gas cards for bad credit, there are two main types to consider.
- Closed-loop gas cards are only good for gas and other purchases with specific brands, such as Shell or Chevron. One thing to consider as you compare cards is the fact that closed-loop, gas-only credit cards tend to come with incredibly high interest rates. Take the ExxonMobil Smart Card, for example. This card gives you 30 cents back for each gallon of gas you buy for two months, then 6 cents back per gallon. However, you’ll pay a variable APR of 26.49 percent on purchases if you carry a balance.
- Traditional gas rewards credit cards let consumers earn rewards on gas and other types of purchases. These cards tend to be more useful since you aren’t limited in terms of the gas stations you can fill up at and since you can use them for all your purchases—not just gas.
How do gas cards work?
Gas credit cards are easy to apply for online, although credit requirements can vary depending on the type of gas card you’re considering. The best gas credit cards that let you earn rewards are typically geared to consumers with good or excellent credit, while consumers with only fair credit (580 to 669) or poor credit (579 or below) may only be able to qualify for rewards credit cards for bad credit or a store brand gas card.
Some gas cards let you earn points or cash back for each dollar you spend on gas and other purchases, yet closed-loop gas cards that only work with a specific gas brand may offer a discount for each gallon of gas you buy instead.
At the end of the day, the benefits of picking up a gas card depend largely on the card you get approved for and their specific rewards program. Just remember that, like all credit cards, gas cards charge interest when you carry a balance, so you’ll want to pay your gas card bill in full each month you use it.
Building credit with a gas card
Building credit with a gas card is a smart move, just like it would be with any other type of credit card. Whether you use a closed-loop card or a rewards credit card for bad credit, all of your credit movements and payments will be reported to one or all of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
To make the most out of your gas card, you’ll want to use it for gas and other purchases you can pay off right away. Try not to carry a balance since your interest rate will likely be on the high side, and steer clear of racking up debt you can’t afford to repay.
Pros of building credit with a gas card
- Some gas cards are fairly easy to get approved for, either because they are gas-only credit cards or regular rewards cards geared to consumers with poor credit.
- Gas cards report to the three credit bureaus, which can help you build credit over time.
- Gas cards can help you earn rewards or discounts when you fill up.
Cons of building credit with a gas card
- Gas cards for bad credit may only offer so-so rewards.
- You may have to pay an annual fee, and many gas cards come with a high APR.
- Some gas cards for bad credit are secured credit cards, meaning you have to put down a cash deposit as collateral.
Best gas cards for bad credit
When it comes to gas cards for poor credit, there are quite a few options to consider. The following list of credit cards includes the best gas cards for bad credit on the market today.
Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best secured card for gas rewards
Because it’s a secured credit card, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is one of the easiest gas cards to get approved for. You’ll have to put down a cash deposit as collateral to get started, but this card will report your credit payments to the three credit bureaus, helping you build credit over time.
- 2 percent back on the first $1,000 you spend at gas stations and at restaurants each quarter (then 1 percent) as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases
- Discover will give a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
- No annual fee
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best gas card for students
The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is recommended for students and other individuals with “fair to good” credit, which usually means anyone with a FICO score in the 580 to 740 range.
- 1.5 percent cash back on all your purchases
- Capital One will automatically consider raising your limit after six months and six on-time credit card payments.
- No annual fee
Credit One Bank Platinum Visa for Rebuilding Credit: Best for building credit*
The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit is geared to consumers with poor credit, so it is one of the easiest gas cards to get by far. Note that the annual fee is $75 first year, then $99 after that ($8.25 per month).
- 1% cash back rewards on eligible gas and grocery purchases and mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services (terms apply)
- Pick your credit card payment due date.
Shell | Fuel Reward Card: Best for easy approvals
If you are looking for an easy approval gas card, you should consider the Shell | Fuel Rewards® Card.
- Save at least 5 cents per gallon of gas with automatic Gold status within the Shell Fuel Rewards program (up to 20 gallons).
- Combine your automatic savings with additional discounts you earn by shopping with select merchants.
- No annual fee
Chevron/Texaco Techron Advantage Card: Best for big gas discounts
This gas-only credit card is another easy approval gas card that can work well for consumers who are looking for a Chevron gas card for bad credit.
- Earn 30 cents per gallon in fuel credits at Chevron and Texaco stations for the first 90 days once you open your account.
- Earn 3 cents per gallon on every fill-up year-round (on regular or diesel), 5 cents per gallon on Plus fuel or 7 cents per gallon on Supreme/Premium fuel. (Higher rates on Plus and Supreme fuel end Sept. 30, 2021.)
- No annual fee
Are gas cards worth it?
Consumers looking for a way to build credit should absolutely look into gas credit cards, whether secured or unsecured. Gas cards can help you build credit while you learn positive credit habits, and you can even score some rewards or fuel discounts along the way.
Just make sure that you’re comparing gas cards for bad credit in terms of their fees and their rewards, and that you only apply for a store-branded gas card if you fill up with that brand frequently.
Still worried about being approved for a card? Try inputting some basic information—including your name, address and the last four digits of your Social Security number—into CardMatch™, Bankrate’s prequalification tool. There’s no impact to your credit score, and you’ll get matched with cards that fit your credit profile. It’s not a guarantee you’ll be approved for the card, but it’s the best way to see which cards you’re likely to qualify for.
*The information about the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit and ExxonMobil Smart Card, Chevron/Texaco Techron Advantage Card and Shell|Fuel Rewards® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.