Editor's Note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the Pentagon Federal Platinum Cashback Rewards was from American Express and offered 1% cash back on non-gas purchases. It is actually a Visa card and it offers 0.25% back on non-gas purchases.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Gas prices are climbing again as skyrocketing crude oil prices have pushed the price of a gallon of regular gas to close to and even past the $4 mark in some cities. Fortunately for consumers, there are some tried and true ways to save, one of which involves leveraging your credit card rewards program.
Of course, some issuers offer better deals on gas than others and there are some caveats you need to be aware of in order to select the best card for you.
“Some have caps and some don’t work everywhere,” warns Tim Chen, CEO of credit card ranking site NerdWallet, which also features a gas comparison tool.
MainStreet asked experts to break down which cards on the market offer the best ways to save on gas.
If gas is taking up a big chunk of your monthly budget – and your credit is really good – you might want to apply for the Pentagon Federal Platinum Cashback Rewards card from Visa, which offers 5% back on gas purchases everywhere with no limit on monthly earnings. The card also features a low 9.99% annual percentage rate and $0 annual fee. However, Chen points out, while consumers won’t find much better universal gas earnings, the PenFed Platinum base rewards program, which offers 0.25% back on all other purchases, can be bested.
As such, Chen suggests that those looking for a more versatile rewards program opt for the American Express Costco True Earnings Business card, which offers 4% back on gas purchases anywhere – not just Costco – plus 2% back at restaurants and on travel and 1% back on everything else. The card also carries no annual fee (besides the one you pay for your Costco membership) and features a 15.24% APR.
There is a personal version of this Amex card that offers 3% back on purchases, 2% back on travel and restaurants and 1% back everywhere else. The annual fee and APR are the same as the business version.
Gas Station-Affiliated Cards
There are several gas station-affiliated credit cards out there that offer ample earnings on gas purchases to their regulars, according to Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of credit card comparison website CardHub.com.
The BP Visa credit card, for instance, offers 10% rebates on gas purchases made at BP stations within the first 60 days of opening the account. Afterward, cardholders can get 5% rebates on BP gas, 2% rebates for travel and dining, and 1% rebates for everything else. The card does not carry an annual fee, but its APR is high at 19.24%, so it’s not a good idea if you plan on carrying a balance.
The Exxon Mobile Platinum MasterCard offers a 15-cent rebate for each gallon of ExxonMobil gas as well as up to 2% rebates on all other purchases of up to $10,000 annually. If you spend more than $10,000 per year, then the rebate is 1% thereafter. This card also has no annual fee, but features a high APR of 19.99%.
While these cards can be a good fit for frequent visitors, Papadimitriou points out, it’s only a good idea to sign up for these cards if you tend to patronize a single station.
“Habits are tough to break, and when life gets hectic, convenience begins to trump saving,” he says. “That’s why, for most people, generic gas credit cards are going to be preferable.”
Cards With Revolving Categories
Keep in mind, you don’t have to sign up for a new gas-centric rewards card in order to save. Several good rewards cards with no annual fee incorporate gas into their revolving 5% categories.
Chase’s (Stock Quote: JPM) popular Freedom card, for instance, is offering 5% back on gas purchases through March and will do so again from July to September of 2012. Discover (Stock Quote: DFS) is also offering its Discover More cardholders 5% cash back on gas purchases through March and then again in the third quarter of 2012.
Be aware, though, that both of these rewards programs do have caps on them that only allow the 5% maximum cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases.
“That means you can only earn up to $75 in the bonus categories each quarter,” Chen says.
The U.S. isn’t the only place plagued by high gas prices. Check out this MainStreet roundup to find out which 10 other places have gas more expensive than ours!