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Gas cards offer different rewards programs

October 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
With gas prices as high as they are, most consumers are trying to find ways to save at the pump. There are dozens of credit cards that offer a cash-back bonus on gas purchases, but how do you find the best one?

Pumping gas these days is painful. One way to get some pain relief is to use a gas rewards credit card, but not one that's branded to a specific oil company.

"You're limited to that gas station and only that gas station. Whereas your more general gas credit cards, they'll give you 2, 3 percent at any gas station," said Anisha Sekar, vice president of credit and debit products at Nerd Wallet.

NerdWallet.com is a website devoted to helping consumers find the best credit card for their needs. Sekar says some gas reward cards can save you 3 to 5 percent on your gas bill nearly every time you fill up.

Let's say you drive the average 12,000 miles per year and your vehicle gets 20 miles to the gallon. At today's average gas price of $4.70 a gallon, it will cost you almost $3,000 per year. But if you get 5 percent cash back with a rewards card, you'll have an additional $141 a year in your pocket.

So which gas rewards card is best? If you just want gas rewards, Nerd Wallet's top pick is the Pentagon Federal Platinum Rewards Card. It gives 5 percent back on all of your gas purchases.

"Pentagon Federal is a credit union, and though they're aimed at the military, anyone can join with a small onetime donation to Voices For America's Troops, and it gives the highest rewards for gas out there," said Sekar.

If you're looking for the top pick for no-fee rewards, look for the Chase Freedom Credit Card. It offers five 5 percent cash back, but only on two quarters of each year.

"In the first quarter and the third quarter they gave 5 percent rewards on gas. And then if it's not a bonus category for that quarter, you get 1 percent rewards," said Sekar. That averages out to about 3 percent a year.

If you want a rewards card that not only works for gas but also works for other things, look no further than the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. You get 3 percent cash back on gas purchases and a whopping 6 percent on groceries.

"Which is huge because, you know, we all need to eat, we all need to drive," said Sekar.

But no matter what card you choose, make sure you pay it off every month or the interest rate charges will eat up any savings you get.