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Earn rebates of 5 percent on gas!
Have you ever seen this or similar offers out there on gas cards?
They sound great, but then you read the fine print. The offer is only good if you purchase at least 45 gallons per month and purchase at XYZ station on the third Tuesday of the month between 3 and 4AM during a thunderstorm. Also, the offer is only good for 1 purchase per month, meaning that you better drive a tank to cash in on it.
While the above example is a bit extreme, you may get the feeling that you’ll have to jump through hoops to get anything back with most gas cards out there.
What are the worst caps and gimmicks on gas rebate cards? Let’s find out!
Tricky Minimum Quantity Tiers
There are a few gas cards out there that require a minimum amount of gasoline to be purchased during each billing cycle. Failure to do so means forfeiture of your rewards.
Two cards that come to mind are the Conoco Personal card and the Shell Drive for Five card. Each requires a minimum of 45 gallons to be purchased each month to get any rewards.
That amount of fuel consumption is not easy to reach. If you drive a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon, you’d have to average 37.5 gallons per day over a 30 day month to reach that threshold. That includes every day, not just work days.
So, if you decide to sit in and watch basketball all day in the coming weeks or watch football all day every Sunday in the colder months, you’ll have to drive even more on other days to hit that minimum amount.
Beware of Maximum Quantity Caps
Some gas cards come with a maximum quantity of fuel that is eligible for rewards during each billing cycle. Again, the Conoco Personal card and Shell Drive for Five card come to mind, along with the various BP cards out there.
The Conoco Personal card has a 110 gallon monthly threshold. If you go over this amount, you’ll no longer accrue rewards. If you are not a road warrior and don’t drive a tank, you should not have to worry about this. However, if you are a road warrior, then this could be a restrictive feature.
The Shell Drive for Five has a similar quantity limit. It limits rewards to 100 gallons per month.
Users of any version of the BP gas card and the pump rewards program have to use their rebates on a 1-time purchase of up to 20 gallons. I have a suggestion for BP to restrict their savings even more: from the time the customer pays for his or her fuel, give him or her 45 seconds to use rebates. Any fuel that hasn’t been pumped by then doesn’t qualify for rebates. What do you think?
Watch Out For Bait and Switch!
Gas cards occasionally come with high quality upfront rewards. These lead unsuspecting consumers to believe that they will cash-in on great rewards. Then, after a brief period, the rewards plummet and leave the customer virtually empty-handed.
The most notable case of this that I can think of is with the Valero card. It offers a rebate of 30 cents per gallon during the first 3 months. With the current average price of regular gasoline (at the time of this writing) being just over $3.74 (as posted by AAA), that amounts to a savings of over 8 percent on gasoline purchases. That’s the best deal that I know of.
Hold your horses, though. Depending on the version of the card that you get, your rewards will drop to little or nothing after 3 months. With the Preferred Gold version of this card, you’ll earn 1 cent per gallon on regular gasoline after 3 months. With any other version, you’ll earn nothing.
If you decide to splurge on some Super gasoline, you’ll earn 2 cents per gallon. So, the best that you can do is earn 15 times less than you would during the first 3 months – and you’ll pay a $10 annual fee to do so, which will negate most or all realistic rewards that you could earn with this card.
Pay at the Pump “Convenience”?
Alright, this isn’t technically a gimmick. If a card advertises that you can pay at the pump, you can do just that.
With that being said, what credit card can’t you pay at the pump with? Is that really a notable feature to advertise?
Station Selection Restrictions
I understand why a company wouldn’t want you to purchase gas from another supplier. However, that is a downfall for you, the consumer.
Many gas cards require you to purchase fuel from their stations to earn any rewards. That’s great for their bottom line, but what happens if you see gas for 3 cents less per gallon across the street? Should you be forced into a save now versus save later situation or should you get a least something back in addition to the savings that you found across the street?
Obviously, the issuers of such cards are trying to get you to mindlessly use their stations, but it always pays to see if there are savings out there with other suppliers or just go with a card that is not station-specific.
Gas rewards cards can be an excellent tool of savings on your gasoline purchases. However, it pays to shop around and find the best card out there.
In general, cards that are not station specific have less gimmicks, more flexibility and better rewards than station-specific cards, so I recommend checking out the Blue Cash Everyday, Costco Anywhere Visa or other similar cards for your spending needs.