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- Gas credit cards can help you improve your credit with purchases you already make
- You can choose between closed-loop or general rewards gas credit cards
- The best gas credit cards for bad credit have no or low annual fees and modest rewards rates
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 still get a rewards credit card if you have bad credit. You just need to adjust your expectations and be willing to consider a smaller pool 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 a percentage of your spending back as cash, just like any other cash back credit card, although credit cards for bad credit tend to have less lucrative rewards programs and more fees.
Keep in mind these two main types of gas credit cards as you consider your options:
- Closed-loop gas cards can only be used 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. It has an ongoing interest rate much higher than the average credit card APR and you can only use it at participating Exxon and Mobil locations.
- Traditional gas rewards credit cards let consumers earn rewards on gas and other purchases. These cards tend to be more useful since you aren’t limited to only using them at a specific gas station chain and you can use them for all your purchases — not just gas.
How do gas cards work?
Gas credit cards work like many other rewards credit cards — the purchases you make with the card accumulate on your balance and reduce your available credit until you pay for those purchases. The best gas credit cards reward you in the form of points or cash back for every dollar you spend with the card. For example, if you use a gas credit card that earns 5 percent cash back at the pump and spend $200 a month on gas, then you would get $10 in cash back.
Like other credit cards, gas credit cards typically come with a variable interest rate, which charges a percentage of your unpaid balance at the end of your billing cycle if you don’t pay off your purchases in full. If you’re building your credit score with a gas credit card for bad credit, then it’s important to keep your credit utilization ratio in check and pay your bills on time.
Building credit with a gas card
Using a gas credit card can be a great way to build your credit, especially if gas purchases are necessary in your budget and you have to spend that money anyway. Instead of charging it to a debit card, you can charge your gas purchases to a credit card and diligently pay off the balance to establish a positive payment history. 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 more 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 mediocre 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
You have a few options to consider for a gas credit card, even if you have bad credit. The following list of credit cards includes the best gas cards for bad credit on the market today.
Learn more: What to look for in a credit card for bad credit
Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best secured card for gas rewards
Because it’s a secured credit card, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card will require that you 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 percent 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 Rewards Card: Best for easy approvals
If you are looking for an easy approval gas card, you should consider the Shell | Fuel Rewards® Card. However, it doesn’t directly offer cash back like other rewards cards. Instead, eligible purchases boost your discounts for the price of gas per gallon at the pump.
- 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. Like the Shell | Fuel Rewards Card, the Techron Advantage Card works by accumulating discounts toward the price of gas at the pump when you use the card.
- Earn boosted fuel credits at Chevron and Texaco stations for the first 90 days once you open your account
- Earn up to 8 cents per gallon in fuel credits on every fill-up year-round
- No annual fee
Are gas cards worth it?
Consumers looking for a way to build credit should 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 an easy 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.