Gasoline-branded credit cards offer some savings on fuel, but their rewards have always been a bit pedestrian. And with gas prices as low as they’ve been, this is now truer than ever.
CreditCards.com’s recent survey of the 20 largest major gasoline-brand cards found that the savings earned vary a great deal, from 2 cents per gallon to 25 cents. The most common savings averaged about 10 cents back per gallon.
“At a dime off per gallon, those who spend $150 on fuel per month save about $6, or 4 percent,” says CreditCards.com.
A 4 percent return is good compared to a non-gasoline rewards card’s payback of 1 to 3 percent. However, gas-branded cards’ also carry high APRs, restrictions on payouts and complex rules — all factors that make these cards attractive to only a few consumers.
Gas cards carry an average APR of 24.14 percent. That’s dramatically higher than the current average credit card rate of about 15 percent on general-purpose cards. This fact alone makes gas cards an unproductive choice for anyone who carries a balance.
With gas prices as low as they have been for months, an APR that high will likely wipe out any rewards from fueling up. AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report said Sunday that the national average for regular gasoline is at $2.45 cents a gallon, compared to $3.66 a year ago.
Here are other highlights from the Creditcards.com survey:
- Gas cards are slowly dwindling. Gasoline-brand-specific credit cards have undergone many changes, including reward program restructuring and card discontinuation.
- If you want a gas card, the time to have one is now because in 18 of the 20 cards, discounts come in the form of per-gallon discounts, which are worth more when gas prices are low, as they are now.
- Maximizing your rewards will take work. They commonly have minimum spending thresholds and maximum limits, qualified and unqualified purchases, often further complicated by tiered rewards levels.
- Gas cards still can make sense for credit-building, or as a short-term money-saving tool. Many offer instant approval, others give new cardholders a quick burst of fuel discounts useful for travelers.