Gas prices remain high: How can credit cards help you save on travel?
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The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas hit an all-time high of $4.76 on June 2, 2022, following months of climbing prices that have consumers wondering what comes next. For context, the national average for a gallon of unleaded gas was $4.27 as of March 18th this year, and the same amount cost just $3.04 one year ago from today, per figures from AAA.
Many analysts are even predicting gas prices could surge over $5 per gallon this summer, which will make getting to work considerably more expensive, let alone any summer travel you were hoping to book. According to an April 2022 Bankrate survey, 7 in 10 people with summer vacation plans have had to make changes to their itinerary because of inflation.
Fortunately, you do have some tools you can use to take the sting out of gas prices, including rewards credit cards that offer bonus points on gas, as well as gas rewards programs themselves. This guide will highlight the best credit cards for gas purchases, how they work and steps you can take to reduce your transportation budget as gas prices surge this summer.
Best credit cards for gas
If you’re earning cash back or points on gas, you can think of that like a small discount — and who couldn’t benefit from that? The best credit cards for gas offer points or cash back on gas purchases plus the option to redeem rewards for fuel-ups. Credit cards we recommend for the summer travel season are featured below.
Citi Custom Cash Card
- Earn 5 percent cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent) on your top spending category each billing cycle
- Earn 20,000 ThankYou Points — worth $200 in cash back — after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months
- 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 16.99 percent to 26.99 percent
- No annual fee
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card gives you the chance to earn 5 percent back on up to $500 in spending in your top category each billing cycle, after which you’ll earn 1 percent back. Categories that qualify for the top earning rate include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. There’s no annual fee, and you can qualify for a generous intro offer and a $200 cash bonus when you spend $1,500 on your card within six months of account opening.
This card also lets you redeem rewards for a statement credit to your card, as well as for a check in the mail, a direct deposit in a linked bank account, gift cards, travel and merchandise.
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
- Earn 4 percent cash back at eligible gas stations, including gas at Costco (for the first $7,000 per year, then 1 percent), 3 percent cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2 percent cash back on all Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
- Variable APR of 18.24 percent on purchases
- No annual fee with paid Costco membership ($60)
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi offers exceptional rewards on gas purchases, including (but not limited to) gas you buy at Costco warehouses. Cardholders also earn 3 percent cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2 percent cash back on all Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases, which can add up quickly.
There’s no annual fee for this card, provided you have a Costco membership already. That said, it’s important to note that you cannot redeem your rewards for gas purchases directly. According to Costco, you have to redeem the rewards certificate you earn with this card for a Costco Shop Card first.
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
- Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases in each category (then 1%), and 1% cash back on other purchases.
- No annual fee
- Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express makes good on its promise to be a good “everyday” credit card. With elevated rewards rates in practical categories and no annual fee, this card is a valuable addition to nearly any wallet.
Is a gas card right for you?
While gas credit cards offer rewards that work for gas purchases, they’re definitely not for everyone. The fact is, there are some downsides that come into play any time you use a credit card for regular spending, including the possibility of racking up long-term debt.
Keep in mind the average credit card APR is currently over 16 percent, and that it may climb even higher if the Fed raises interest rates any more. With that in mind, rewards credit cards are best for people who have the discipline to pay their credit card bills in full each month.
How to choose a credit card for gas
If you’re hoping to earn gas rewards and you know you can avoid racking up long-term debt, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right credit card from the start. The following tips can help:
- Compare bonus offers. Credit cards with sign-up bonuses can help you earn hundreds of dollars in gas rewards right off the bat. With that in mind, you should compare bonus offers and the minimum spending requirements to earn them.
- Look closely at bonus earning categories. Also, look at the card’s earning categories, and seek out cards that offer more points or cash back in all the categories you spend a lot in (not just gas).
- Decide if you want to pay an annual fee. Most gas rewards cards don’t charge an annual fee, but there are some cards with bonus rewards for gas that do.
- Research ways you can redeem rewards. Finally, make sure you can redeem rewards you earn for options you prefer, whether that includes statement credits for gas, gift cards, cash back or something else.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
If you’re planning a summer road trip, choosing a destination closer to home will always help you save on gas. However, you should also price out and compare other aspects of the trip, including hotel rates, the cost of visiting local attractions and more.
Gas rewards programs are loyalty accounts affiliated with specific gas station brands. These programs typically give you rewards points for gas purchases, discounts on gas purchases or both. Also, some credit cards are co-branded with a gas station chain and only earn rewards at those chains.On the other hand, some gas credit cards offer cash back at all gas stations, regardless of the brand. This is usually a better choice since you can’t always predict where you’ll be when you need to fill up next.
The GasBuddy app can help you locate the cheapest gas in your area or on your route, so it’s the perfect tool to use for a summer road trip.
The bottom line
Gas prices may only climb higher as the year goes on, so it’s smart to get a credit card that can help you save on fuel. Fortunately, there are many cash back credit cards and travel credit cards that can fit the bill, each with its own rewards scheme and redemption options.
If you get a credit card for gas now, you have the chance to start earning rewards you can redeem for gas purchases this summer and later this year. And the sooner you start, the more free gas you can score.