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Gas prices continue to rise, and on average, a gallon of gas currently costs over $3, which is roughly 75 cents more than what it was just a year ago. In fact, the average American spends approximately $1,600 per year on fuel for their car. And with experts predicting that prices will go up even further in 2012, they may be set to spend even more.
With this ever-increasing expense, it's worth a little investigating into the ways in which you can save on your costs at the pump. While many credit card companies have scaled back their rewards programs, some still offer stellar cash back options for purchases on gas. These rewards cards have no annual fees and with the exception of the True Earnings card, their reward points never expire.
1. American Express Blue Cash Everyday
The American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card offers unlimited 2% cash back at any gas station that accepts Amex, and features great cash back options in other categories as well. Plus, you'll earn an unlimited 3% cash back at grocery and department stores, and 1% on all of your other spending.
If you make $1,000 in qualified purchases in the first three months of opening an account, you qualify for a $100 bonus. The card also comes with a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months and best of all, the rewards program has no minimum spending requirement, no enrollment, and no rotating rewards categories. Don't forget, though, that after the promotional period expires, the regular APR is 17.24% to 22.24%, depending on your credit history. For more information, check out this additional American Express Blue Cash Everyday review.
2. Chase Freedom
Although the Chase Freedom Card comes with rotating cash back categories, it features gas in two different quarters in 2012. This means that you'll receive 5% cash back on gas purchases for six months out of the year (and earn 5% cash back on other featured categories throughout the year), and 1% on all other purchases.
Chase offers a 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers and for six months on purchases. As a cardholder you'll also receive a $100 bonus check when you spend $500 within the first three months. Alternatively, you can instead sign up for the Freedom card with a promotion that includes a $200 bonus for spending $500 within the first three months, but you won't receive the 0% introductory rate. After the promotional period the standard APR on the Chase Freedom card is 9.99% to 22.99%. For more information, check out this Chase Freedom review.
3. True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express
The TrueEarnings Card comes with no annual fee for Costco members. You earn 3% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas purchases, but then it drops to 1%. You'll also receive 2% cash back for restaurants and travel expenses, and 1% on all other purchases.
You can redeem your rewards for cash or merchandise at any Costco. The card offers a 0% introductory APR for the first six months, then it changes to 15.24%. If you don't already have a Costco membership, you can sign up for the card with an annual fee of $50.
4. Discover Open Road Card
With the Discover Open Road Card, you can earn 2% cash back on up to $250 spent at gas stations and restaurants each month. You also get a free $150 gift certificate to Restaurant.com after your first purchase.
You earn cash back rewards on other purchases in levels. For instance, you earn 0.25% cash back for the first $3,000 in annual spending and 1% on additional expenditures. You can redeem your rewards whenever you like. Additionally, Discover offers a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months for this card, then it changes to 10.99% to 20.99%.
5. Chase Ink Cash Business Card
For the small business owner, the Chase Ink Cash Business Card may be a good fit. The card offers 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually on gas and dining. You also qualify for 5% cash back on your first $25,000 spent on office supplies, cellular or landline phone services, and cable services, and an unlimited 1% in rewards for all other purchases.
You'll receive a $250 bonus check after spending $5,000 in the first three months. There's also a 0% introductory APR period for the first six months, after which the rate switches to a variable 13.24%.
A rewards credit card can help you save money on gas costs throughout the year, but to enjoy the full benefit of these rewards, you must make sure to pay off your balance in full each month. If you have a card with a 15% APR and you have a substantial balance, receiving 3% cash back for gas will not be much of a benefit. Make sure you pay attention to paying down your credit card balances when you apply for credit cards to help you save money at the pump. For more information on these and other gas-friendly credit cards, you can view Money Crashers' best gas credit cards roundup.
What are your favorite rewards credit cards that help you to save money on gas?
Front page photo credit: Money Smart Guide
David Bakke is a contributor for the Money Crashers Personal Finance blog.