Save On Road Trip Expenses With The Right Credit Card

road trip

Planning a road trip anytime soon? Odds are the price of gas is a consideration if not a major concern. As gas prices continue to rise, travelers are looking for new ways to save. Tuning up the car, using smartphone apps to find the lowest price around, inflating tires properly and other money-saving measures can help. Using the right credit card can gain big savings too.

The current national average is $3.78 per gallon – nearly 14 percent higher than it was at the beginning of the year – meaning that gas prices exceed $4 per gallon in some states. Having the right credit card can help. But which to choose? Of the two types of credit cards – gas station-affiliated cards and generic gas cards- there are more than 1000 offers out there right now.

“The credit card market continues to offer surprisingly lucrative gas rewards without requiring consumers to fill up at one particular station or another,” says credit card authority Odysseas Papadimitriou, former Capital One executive and CEO of Card Hub, a credit card rating organization that just released its list of the Best Gas Credit Cards.

According to Card Hub, generic cards used for gas can produce some of the best savings.

The best generic cards?
Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Card – This one offers those who pay at the pump points equivalent to 5 percent cash back on gas at any station plus 3 percent cash back at supermarkets and 1 percent on other purchases. While the card has no annual fee, belonging to PenFed Credit Union costs $15 and members do not have to be affiliated with the military.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express – This card gives 3 percent cash back at gas stations, 6 percent at supermarkets and 1 percent everywhere else. The $75 annual fee is offset by a $150 initial bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months.

TrueEarnings Card from American Express - Costco members get 3 percent cash back on gas purchases up to $4,000 (1 percent thereafter), 2 percent at restaurants, 2 percent on travel and 1 percent on everything else.

But what about gas station-sponsored cards?

“When it comes to choosing a station-specific gas credit card, it’s important to remember that value is inherently conditional,” says Papadimitriou. “In other words, you’ll have to get gas at the right station and oftentimes spend a certain amount each month or year in order to qualify.”

The best gas station cards include:

Marathon Credit Card - This brings a 25-cent rebate, but the offer has a catch. That $.25 is for each gallon of Marathon gas purchased during months a cardholder charges at least $1,000, $0.15/gallon for spending between $500 and $999.99 and $0.05 for spending less than $500. This card does not have an annual fee or an initial bonus.

Chevron & Texaco Credit Card – This card provides a $0.30/gallon, up-front discount on Chevron and Texaco gas for the first 60 days after opening the account. After that, you get $0.20/gallon off during months that you spend more than $1,000 in qualifying purchases and $0.10/gallon off when you spend $300-$1,000. Qualifying purchases include most charges made with your card with a maximum of $300 in discounts each calendar year.

Card Hub also notes other ways to save on gas, like shopping at certain grocery stores. Kroger, Safeway and others offer discounts at affiliated gas station chains based on how much you spend at their stores. For example, spending $100 at Safeway will save you $2 on the next 20 gallons of ExxonMobil gas you buy.

That idea is especially powerful when travelers combine it with the respective station’s co-branded credit cards.

Looking for other ways to save on gas? Check out this video:


[Photo credit – Flickr user little peppercorn]