Nearly every major credit card company offers a gas card and most gas stations also offer one of their own. If you are in the market to save money on fuel and are feeling a little overwhelmed by the choices out there, read on.
First, consider your own driving habits. If you are a heavy commuter or spend a significant amount of money on gas purchases, gas cards are definitely for you. However, even if you don’t spend a lot of time in your car, it may still be possible for gas cards to come in handy. Parents can use them to monitor driving and gas usage of their teens and college students; disciplined people use them to limit their spending on items like gas and groceries.
Drivers can take full advantage of savings offered by gas cards, but not all cards are alike. Before you sign up for the first gas card offer that comes your way, make sure you have compared a variety of offers and read the terms and conditions for each. Obviously, the companies offering the gas cards are looking for ways to make money, so the devil (for you, the consumer) is in the details.
What to look for when choosing gas cards
Many gas cards offer an introductory period with a high rebate or point reward that drops to a lower incentive after a matter of months. Different cards will offer different introductory periods and different incentive percentages. Don’t let a high initial rebate convince you to go with a gas card with a very low final rebate. Do your math to determine which will help you save more in the long run. Do not settle for a rebate less than 3%, unless the rebate is on all purchases.
Not all rebates are created equal. Some gas cards offer a rebate against all purchases, while others offer rebates for specific things, such as gas, and groceries, with a lower rate for all other purchases. Make sure you are familiar with your own spending patterns before you decide on a card.
Gas cards offered from gas stations sometimes do not include benefits for purchases other than those made within the brand gas station. These types of gas cards are becoming increasingly rare as the benefits offered from major credit card companies grow more and more similar. This is a benefit to you since this means some gas card companies have begun offering an added discount to their own gas card customers.
When selecting gas cards, look for cash back limits, varying rates for different kinds of purchases and other tiny details that may lower your potential savings. Note that some gas cards have rebates that expire, so be sure to have read the fine print.
Be aware that gas cards usually have a higher APR than a regular credit card, usually beginning around 14%, so if you plan to carry a balance on your gas card, think twice about getting one because you won’t be saving any money. Carrying a balance on a gas card cancels out any savings or rebate benefits because of the higher APR.
Do not consider any gas cards with annual fees. The fee will cancel out your savings and may even cost more than if you had simply purchased your fuel without a gas card. There are simply too many gas cards available without annual fees to consider one with fees.
If gas cards seem like the right choice for you, and for many people living a modern lifestyle it is, make sure you investigate all of your options before making your decision. While they are a terrific way to save money on gas, keep in mind that the best gas cards for your friends may not suit your own lifestyle and spending habits. There are many options available which can help you save on your gas bill, and with a little homework, you should find the one that has the best mix of rebates, benefits and services for you.