[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — PenFed Platinum Rewards, Chase Freedom. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
The best card–at this moment–to earn rewards on gas purchases is the PenFed Platinum Rewards credit card.
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Now, this is the best card to save money on gas alone. I’m focusing on one aspect, and if you have a long commute, saving money on gas might be your number one concern right now. I’m not a mathematician (and anyone who knows me well can confirm this) so I took a very simple example and ran some numbers.
Let’s say you spend $5,000 in a calendar year on gas. You get 5 points per $1 spent on gas purchases. So you’ll earn 25,000 points on gas purchases, which translates into $250. If you spend $1,000 within the first three months, you get 20,000 additional points. That’s worth $200 in rewards. Just for fun, let’s add that to the $250 you save on gas purchases.
We’re now at $450, but we also have to subtract the $15 donation you’ll have to pay to join PenFed. Now you’re looking at $435 you can apply toward even more gas purchases or something that might be fun, like a vacation.
You also get 3 points per $1 on grocery purchases and 1 point per $1 on everything else. There’s no annual fee, either, to cut into your profits. I wrote a blog about this card last month so you can get the details here.
This is a rewards points card so it’s not as straightforward as cash back cards, where you get a credit on your statement or a check in the mail. With this PenFed card, you can redeem your points for merchandise, entertainment, and more.
But you also can get “cash back” in the form of a PenFed Prepaid Visa card in increments of $50, $100, $250, or $500. Each point is worth 1 cent so you need 5,000 points to get a $50 prepaid card and so forth. I confirmed with PenFed that there are no fees associated with the use of this prepaid card. So, yes, it’s as good as cash.
I used the same scenario with a dozen of the best gas rebate cards on the market right now. This PenFed card came out on top easily. But if you’re looking for a more general rewards card that offers savings on gas, take a look at the first runner-up.
A close second: The Chase Freedom Visa – $100 Bonus Cash Back credit card gives you 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating categories. Gas purchases are in the rotation twice a year. Since the savings isn’t spread out evenly throughout the year, your savings will depend on how much you spend within a three-month period. You also get 1 percent on all other purchases, including gas when it isn’t offered in one of the quarterly categories.
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The current 5 percent on gas is only available through the end of March. But you get 5 percent cash back on gas again starting in July and lasting through September.
Image: ^riza^, via Flickr