Best Credit Cards For Gas & GroceriesWhich items do you most often purchase with your credit cards? For most of us, gas and groceries are at the top of the list. These are everyday essentials, and when you don't have the cash ready, paying for these items with your card can help you make it to your next paycheck.
Credit card companies want you to spend, of course, as they collect a fee from the merchants every time you do. More cards are offering benefits, typically through the form of rewards programs like cash back, value points, and cash in hand benefits. With dozens of potential cards to choose from, it can be tough to find the right option for you. That’s why you should decide based on your spending habits. Like most Americans, you probably spend the bulk of your credit on gas and grocery expenses. If you didn't choose your current card specifically for its gas and groceries benefits, there's a good chance that you are not getting the most out of your purchases.
There are a large number of options available, and we’re here to help you make an informed decision. Before we start listing the best credit options, however, here are some points to consider before you apply.
Cards that specify gas and restaurants are good, but not always the best. It might seem like an obvious choice to go directly for a credit card that gives you cash back or credits for gas station and supermarket transactions, but these are not always the best options. Many offer high percentages of cash back or points-to-dollars, but they often have low spending caps. Some of them may only offer restaurant and gas benefits a few months out of the year, rolling over to other (potentially less useful) categories during other months.
Cashback and points are not the same things. There is often some confusion regarding these two features. “Cashback” value does just that. You get cash back, up to a certain amount each quarter. A rewards point system, meanwhile, is quite different. Points are usually based on a point-to-dollar basis, but the actual value of those points is often only $.01, or even less at times. That means an offer of cash back on purchases, say, 1-2% may be more valuable than a points system, especially if the cash back benefit exceeds the value of the points.
Your benefits will always increase with a better credit score. Advertisements may promise a certain percentage of cash back, but you may end up with a different deal if your credit score is low or average. Most issuers keep these details buried in the fine print, so you should know your credit score and expect that the advertised offer might not be what you end up getting. However, some benefits will still save you money, so it may still be worth it. In the end, it’s best to consider the specifics of your situation.
The benefits will disappear almost immediately if you fail to pay off your monthly balance. Consider this: If you get 2% cash back on all gas purchases, that's good. If you fail to pay off your balance at the end of the month, you may end up paying upwards of 24% on any remaining balance, immediately canceling out any benefits you may have had. If you aren’t sure you can pay the bill in full at the end of every billing cycle, don’t get a credit card, or choose one with a low credit limit.
Here are some of our top credit card choices for regular gas and grocery purchases.
Best For GasIf you spend a lot of time on the road and filling stations are your favorite place to flash the plastic, The Costco Anywhere Visa® card by Citibank delivers the goods. You do have to be a Costco member (which costs from $60 to $120 a year), but there's no annual fee for the card. You get a 0% APR for the first seven months, then a reasonable 16.49% after that. You'll get up to a massive 4% cash back on purchases at an extensive list of eligible merchants within an annual limit of $7,000, which means up to $280 a year back in your pocket. If you exceed the $7,000 limit, you'll still get one percent back. People who drive a lot tend to eat out a lot, and you're covered there too: there's a 3% cash back offer at restaurants. You’ll also get 2% cash back on Costco purchases, and 1% on all others. The extra cash back option for restaurants, Costco, and all other purchases makes this card a great option for everyday spending.
The catch: You must be a Costco member to avoid the annual fee. If you are a Costco member, you'll pay the annual fee through your membership. Unfortunately, the seven-month intro APR rate at 0 percent is noticeably shorter than that of some competitors.
Best For Both Gas And GroceriesThe BankAmericard Cash Rewards® card is one of the best options if you pay your bills on time and spend a lot of cash on gas and groceries. The cash-back value is high, and frequent drivers will find good value for money here. You get 3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries, 1% on everything else up to a limit of $2,500 per quarter. There's a 10% bonus when you return cash back value to a Bank of America checking or savings account (25-75% for Preferred Rewards members), and an additional $150 cash reward bonus if you spend $500 in the first 90 days. There's no annual fee, and you get a 0% APR for the first 12 months, then variable 13.99% - 23.99% after that.
The catch: This one is not kind to reckless spenders. You'll face a harsh 29.99% fee for late payment, with transaction fees of $10 or 5%, whichever is greater.
The PenFed Ultimate Cash Rewards Visa Card Plus® is designed for US Government employees (including military service members) and their dependents. Others can access its benefits by donating to the National Military Family Organization or Voices for America's Troops. This card offers a point system that’s tough to beat, especially for big spenders. The low APR is very attractive to those with good and excellent credit, easily beating most competitors. The variable APR is 9.74% - 17.99%, and you get 5x reward points on gas, 3x on supermarket purchases, with 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. There's a $100 bonus for spending $1,500 in the first 90 days and, what’s more, there's no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. It's a simple deal, but the low APR, generous fee structure and high rewards reward you with good value for your expenses.
The catch: There’s not much to complain about here except the tricky application restrictions.
Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express® is another top candidate for gas and groceries purchases. There's a generous 6% cash back offer at US supermarkets, up to a $6000 annual limit. That's good for $360 every year! There's another 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores via Reward Dollars redeemable as statement credit. The supermarkets, filling stations, and department stores that account for most of our daily spending are covered, but there’s also an additional 1% cash back on everything else! There's a 0% APR for the first 12 months, then 14.24% - 25.24% after that. The annual fee is $95, so this card is best if you spend a lot in the rewards categories. This card is very generous, offering not just high cash back for supermarkets, but also in a high spending limit, and with unlimited 3% benefits at gas stations and department stores. You’ll also get $250 back if you spend $1,000 within the first three months.
The catch: You’ll need a good credit score to qualify for this card. If you exceed the $6,000 spending limit for supermarkets before the year is out, the cash back value decreases to 1%.
The Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express® has many of the advantages of the Blue Cash Preferred, but with fewer benefits. What’s the advantage? This card is accessible to people with average credit. However, its rewards program focuses on points. Supermarket shopping will earn you double points on a $6,000 annual limit while you get single points for everything else within the same $6,000 limit. There’s an added incentive to spend, though. Making 20 or more purchases within a single billing cycle earns you 20% more points. Spending $1,000 within the first three months rewards you with 15,000 additional points! There's no annual fee, and the APR is 0% for the first 15 months, then a variable 14.24% - 25.24% after that.
The catch: This card offers less value in benefits than the Blue Cash Preferred, and it is still inaccessible to those with bad credit. It seems unfair that all the good reward programs are for people with high credit ratings, but that’s the real world. Work on getting that score up, and reap the benefits!
If you're an average American and groceries and gas dominate your spending, our list features some of the best cards for day-to-day use. You should always shop around for the option that fits your needs most closely, but don’t be surprised if you come back to these!
See them here:
Costco Anywhere Visa
BankAmericard Cash Rewards
PenFed Ultimate Cash Rewards Visa Card Plus
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express
Blue Cash Everyday from American Express