The threat of $4 gas hangs over the already-tightened wallets of commuters. It’s enough to “drive” Americans to biking or public transportation. Fortunately, there are credit cards that are capable of easing the financial stress at the pump.
The average price for gas is $3.845 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com. One year ago, it was $3.533 per gallon.
Drivers can be sensitive to the small changes to gas prices. An offer of 1 percent cash back on gas would be equal to about a 4 cent discount based on today’s prices. With credit cards handing out as much as 6 percent cash back, the everyday driver would receive significant savings on gas.
Here are the most attractive options if you’re looking for a gas credit card:
PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards
The Platinum Cash Rewards card from Pentagon Federal Credit Union is a big hit among consumers for its unlimited 5 percent cash back on gas at the pump. However, it earns only 0.25 percent cash back on all other purchases.
The PenFed card has no annual fee but it does require membership with the credit union. Member qualifications include those with affiliations with certain military and government entities. Luckily, anyone can join with a one-time donation to the National Military Family Association ($20) or Voices for America’s Troops ($15).
The Chase Freedom® card has been a popular all-purpose credit card because it offers 5 percent cash back on quarterly-rotating categories and 1 percent cash back on everything else. Also, it has no annual fee.
For 2012, the Chase Freedom® pays out the bonus cash back on gas purchases in only two time periods — from January to March, which is nearly its end, and from July to September. There is a $1,500 spending cap, or $75 cash back, on these quarterly bonus categories.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards™
The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card is a no-annual fee credit with 3 percent cash back on gas, 2 percent on groceries and 1 percent on everything else. Unlike the Chase Freedom® card, this card’s gas cash back rate is effective for the entire year.
However, like Chase Freedom®, there is a $1,500 spending cap, or $75 cash back, per calendar quarter.
The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card would be a great general cash back card with year-round cash back on gas.
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
With a $75 annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred card doles out 6 percent cash back at supermarkets, 3 percent for gas and 1 percent for everything else. But, the 3 percent cash back isn’t the main attraction here — it’s the 6 percent cash back at supermarkets.
A sneaky financial hack employed by many savvy consumers is to use the Blue Cash Preferred card to buy gas gift cards for major brands, including BP, Gulf Oil, Hess and Shell, and then use the gift cards to pay for gas — essentially earning 6 percent cash back.
For some consumers, it is worth the trouble.
Before you apply
As with any other rewards or cash back credit cards, consumers should not expect carry a balance. Doing so would mean interest payments that destroy the purpose of having cash back.
Furthermore, applicants need great credit scores to get approved for the cards.
If obtaining one of these cards prove to be difficult, consider paying for gas with cash — some gas station owners charge lower prices with cash payments.
(Disclosure: MyBankTracker receive compensation from Chase and American Express for approved signups.)