The website NerdWallet has a helpful review of the good and the bad in gasoline credit cards. It’s also a “good news-bad news” story, with a big food retailer and a California gasoline company leading the pack.

Here’s the deal. NerdWallet has rated the top 26 gas credit cards on the market. The website, launched in March, uses a ratings formula that emphasizes annual fees, signing bonuses and rewards deals relating to gasoline purchases.

We’ll include the list of NerdWallet’s best gasoline cards below, but some of the results may surprise you. As NerdWallet says in its introduction to its gas card rankings, “What is the best gas credit card? The answer is not black and white. While it may be tempting to just pick the card with the highest listed reward rate, there are other things to consider first.”

For example, NerdWallet cites Costco (Stock Quote: COST) as having the actual cheapest prices at the pump, but notes that most credit card issuers tend to block wholesalers like Costco from their rewards rates (the site recommends you read your card’s fine print to see if you can earn decent reward rates along with good gasoline prices when using your card).

Card issuers that ban Costco gas from the rewards portion of the card? Say hello to American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) and Citibank (Stock Quote: C). Card issuers that allow the rewards? The Costco True Earnings Card or the Costco True Earnings Business card.

In some instances, NerdWallet points out that cash or a debit card can translate into a better deal at the gas pump. Out in California, ARCO charges drivers approximately 4% less if you pay in cash, and doesn’t accept credit cards at all (it does accept debit cards). Since ARCO charges drivers about 5% less for gasoline in the first place, using a credit card for other gas stations in the Golden State may hurt you in the pocketbook — bonus rewards or not.

Some other tips on what to look out for when using a gas credit card to fill up your tank:

  • Many cards, such as the Shell card, only pay bonus gas reward rates for gasoline, not diesel fuel.
  • Many cards, including Shell and PenFed Platinum Cashback Rewards, don't pay bonus gas reward rates for airplane or boat fuel.
  • Many cards have restrictions on the maximum number of gallons you can pump each time (e.g. 75 gallons with the Amex Costco card), or the maximum you can spend each time ($400 with the Blue Cash card).

Now to the list, where NerdWallet advises consumers to focus on the limits (if applicable) that gas card issuers place on the amount of gas needed to qualify for any bonus rates at the end of the month

Credit Card                                       Gas Reward Bonus Rate    Dollars Per Month That Qualify

PenFed Platinum Cashback Rewards                      5%                                  No Limit

PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Card for Students 5%                                 No Limit

American Express Blue Cash                                   5%*                                No Limit

PNC Everyday Rewards                                           4%                                  $250

Lukoil-Getty                                                             4% at Lukoil & Getty       $1,250

American Express Costco True Earnings Business   4%                                  $500

Citizens Bank Accelerator Rewards Platinum           3%                                  No Limit

Gulf                                                                          3% at Gulf                       No Limit

US Bank FlexPerks Business Cash Rewards            3%                                  No Limit

Citibank AT&T Universal Business Rewards             3%                                 100,000 total point limit per year

Chase Ink Cash Business                                        3%                                 No Limit

American Express Costco True Earnings                 3%                                  $250

American Express Hilton Honors Surpass                2.5%                              No Limit

American Express Hilton Honors                              2.3%                              No Limit

Discover Business                                                    2%                                 $167

Discover Open Road                                                2%                                 $250

Discover Student Open Road                                   2%                                $250

Capital One LSU Tigers                                            2%                                No Limit

Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards                     2%                                No Limit

Citibank Dividend Platinum Select for Students        2%                               $300 total per year

Citibank Premier Pass – Elite Level                           2%                              100,000 total points per year

Quicken Rewards Visa                                               2%                              $2,000

Bank of America UPromise                                         2% at Exxon/Mobil      No Limit

American Express Premier Rewards Gold                  2%                              No Limit

Fifth Third Bank Rewards                                           2%                              $500

Heartland Bank Platinum Business Rewards             2%                               No Limit

*Some limits apply.

One card that didn’t make the final cut, possibly because its parent company is fighting the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, is the Chase BP Visa Card (Stock Quote: BP). Card owners can earn 5% rebates at British Petroleum pumps (including stuff other than gasoline), limited to $25 worth of rebates per billing cycle.

You may not want to wave the card around at your next Sierra Club meeting, but the rewards deals are highly competitive when compared to the NerdWallet rankings.

All in all, gas cards often don’t get their due. But you can save money using them, and the NerdWallet rankings are a good place to start finding the best card that helps you do just that.

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