How to Save on Gas with Your Credit Card

With the right card, you can pay less to fill up your tank.

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Sixty-seven percent of Americans, across all income levels, say that recent high gas prices have caused them financial hardship, according to USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in mid-May. Fifty-three percent also said the price of gas, which has exceeded $4 per gallon in parts of the country, has caused significant lifestyle changes, ranging from staying at home more to cutting back on vacations to even getting more fuel-efficient cars.

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It’s no wonder, as the U.S. Energy Information Association forecasts that the price of regular gas will average 30 percent more this summer than it did during the same time last year. However, there are ways to fight back against rising gas prices so that you won’t need to change your life too drastically. One of the best ways to save, oddly enough, is to open a credit card.

There are two types of credit cards that provide significant savings on gas: cards tied to particular chains of gas stations and cash back credit cards with particularly high earning rates on gas purchases. Deciding which is right for you depends on how you answer the following question: Do you, or can you easily, get gas exclusively at a certain chain of stations?

If you answered yes:

Get the credit card tied to that particular chain. Credit cards affiliated with one particular station provide more lucrative discounts (5 percent or higher) than do cash back credit cards with extra on gas (2 to 3 percent), which means getting one is advisable if logistical variety isn’t important to your gas consumption. What happens though if you could patron a variety of different stations, such as would be the case if you live close to a busy highway?

Should this describe you, simply get the most rewarding station-affiliated gas credit card. One particularly attractive offer right now is the Shell Credit Card, not only because it provides 5 percent rebates on gas purchased at Shell but also because for every $100 you spend at Giant supermarkets using your free Giant loyalty membership card you earn 100 points, which nets you another 10 cents per gallon discount on a single fill up at a participating Shell station.

Because you can redeem up to 2,200 points in a single gas purchase, the combination of a Shell credit card and a Giant loyalty card could save you as much as $2.40 per gallon when filling up at a station charging $4 per gallon.

[See the best personal finance stories from around the Web at the U.S. News My Money blog.]

If you answered no:

Get the gas-oriented cash back credit card that best meets your spending habits. In addition to discounts on gas purchases, many cash back credit cards provide savings on other spending categories—groceries or home improvement, for example. Some of the best such cards currently on the market are:

  • The Blue Cash Everyday Card—provides 2 percent cash back on purchases made at gas stations and grocery stores, 3 percent on those made at department stores, and 1 percent on everything else
  • The TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express—offers 3 percent cash back on gas purchases up to $3,000 annually and 1 percent thereafter, 3 percent cash back at restaurants, 2 percent for travel and 1 percent for most everything else (Note: A Costco membership is required.)
  • Let everyone else complain about the cost of gas and how they’re cutting back to compensate. The only change you’ll have to make is opening a new credit card. Simply act strategically in selecting one that meets both your spending habits and lifestyle and you can save every time you hit the pump.

    Odysseas Papadimitriou is founder and CEO of Card Hub, a leading online marketplace for financial products ranging from second chance credit cards to the best rewards credit card.