Trying to determine who offers the best gas credit cards is tricky business because so much of it depends on personal preferences. You have to look at interest rates, annual fees, where the card can and cannot be used, whether or not the card can be used for things other than gas, and so forth. While there may be some nationally-known gas credit cards that are more popular than others, there are also some cards issued by smaller, regional retailers that are just as good.
Our online credit card finder can help you locate the best gas credit cards so you can compare them.
According to the 2009 Survey of Consumer Finances report from the Federal Reserve, nearly 12% of all American households with multiple credit cards had at least one gas card. The report indicates that rate is lower than it has been in the past, being down about 4% in 2007 from numbers reported in 2004. Though the 2009 survey is the latest data available from the Federal Reserve, industry experts suspect the downward trend has been continuing.
How do gas cards differ from standard credit cards?
A typical gas credit card is issued by a retail gasoline outfit, whether it be a national, regional, or a local business. Nationally known companies with gas credit cards include names like Mobil and Shell. United Refining Company is a good example of a regional gasoline retailer offering credit cards for its CITGO, Kwik Fill, and Country Fair brands in the northeastern United States. In all of these cases the credit cards cannot be used anywhere other than the retail outlets operated by the companies that issued them.
The gas credit card is designed to allow the consumer the ability to purchase gasoline and other products through the retailer without needing cash. Most of the issuing companies that operate convenience stores along with their gasoline operations allow consumers to purchase anything in the store using that same gas card. Many companies also offer rewards ranging from in-store discounts to cash rebates the more you put the card to use.
The main difference between the gas credit card and a standard credit card is its limited use. You can’t simply walk into your local department store and make a purchase with your gas credit card. Along those same lines, credit limits are also generally lower because use of the card is so limited.
How do the interest rates of gas credit cards compare?
On average, gasoline retailers that issue their own credit cards have interest rates on par with standard credit cards – ranging from about 7% to 19%. Some companies offer a below average interest rate but then tack on a service charge equaling 1.25% or better. In such cases, the total amount you pay usually ends up being a wash. Where you come out ahead using a gas card over standard credit card is that quite a few companies actually reduce the price you pay per gallon when you use their card.
For example, United Refining Company offers five cents off per gallon when you purchase gas with their card. This is true for both individual and fleet users. If you were to pay your bill in full every month, it’s quite possible that the five cent discount would totally offset the service fee. Since you’re paying in full every month, you would not incur any interest charges either.
Keep in mind when shopping for gas cards that issuers are required by law to disclose interest rates on their application forms. More information on disclosures can be found at the website of the Federal Trade Commission.
Other any other types of gas cards available?
The term “gas cards” is sometimes used to refer to standard Visa, MasterCard, or Discover credit cards that reward you when you’re purchasing gas. How those rewards are implemented varies from one credit card company to the next. However, using Discover as an example, they have a revolving rewards program that offers an additional 5% cash back on specific categories of purchases. Gasoline purchases are a normal part of this rotation.
Under this program, Discover users who sign up for the discounts will receive their additional 5% on all gasoline purchases during the promotional term. Once that term has expired, the extra cash back expires with it. Users will still get their standard 2.5% back on all purchases, including gasoline.
Other types of standard credit cards offer various types of rewards for gasoline. Some of them even have joint agreements with oil companies designed to allow them to market their products together. Individual consumers will have to check the paperwork that came with their cards or contact the credit card company directly to find out if they offer any gas rewards.
You can compare various gas cards easily by using our online credit card chaser.