Credit Cards

Here's Why You Should Never Get a Gas Station Rewards Card

Alex Cohen Alex Cohen  | 

According to CNN Money, the average driver fills up about 11 gallons of gas every week. With gas prices ranging between $2.30 - $3.00 per gallon depending on where you live, that's around $29 weekly, $116 each month or $1,392 per year. If your household has more than 1 driver (most do) the numbers can be significantly higher.

Almost every national gas station has a branded rewards credit card. These cards usually offer a discount for every gallon when you fill up at their gas stations. No matter how you crunch the numbers, these cards are awful. They're misleading and the games you have to play to earn rewards are not worth your time.

The issue is that these cards used to be much more straightforward with what value you were getting with every gas purchase. A few years ago, Shell, Exxon and BP offered percentage based cash back on their cards, meaning that for every $1 you spent you would earn 3-5% cash back on gas when filling up. This made it easy to determine if the card actually provided value or if it was just another rewards card. More recently, they've switched to a cents based discount—where you earn either 5, 10 or 20 cents off every gallon, depending on a variety of factors. And now gas stations have added in terms that limit how much you can earn and have added in minimum outside spend, making the programs confusing and annoying. I've broken down the top gas station cards below, to show you just how awful these cards are and provide some clarity into their misleading advertising.

The Cards

Shell Platinum Select Mastercard

Shell Platinum Select Mastercard

Annual Fee: $0
Rewards: .10, .15 or .20 off each gallon when you spend different amounts
Reward Value: Pretty awful

This card sounds great at first. Spend $500 on the card and earn .10 off each gallon, spend $1000 on the card and earn .15 off each gallon or spend $2500 and earn .20 off every gallon. However, do not be fooled. This is actually an awful deal. In order to earn any sort of discount on gas, you end up losing on the purchases you make in order to qualify. The $500, $1000 or $2500 you have to spend in a month prior to earning a bonus, earns $0 in rewards on the Shell card. And because Shell has a cap of 100 gallons per discount, there's no way to earn more than what you're losing.

Shell Drive for 5 Card

Annual Fee: $0
Rewards: $.05 off every gallon, no caps or minimum spend
Reward Value: Also awful

This is actually a straightforward card. Earn 5 cents off every gallon you make, with no minimums to reach or caps on how much you can earn. But, when you actually run the numbers, 5 cents off per gallon only nets 1.3% cash back (average cost per gallon of $2.75). You're better off with any other card that has a gas category that earns 2-5%.

BP Visa Rewards

Annual Fee: $0
Rewards: .25, .15 or .05 off per gallon for every $100 spent in different categories
Reward Value: Misleading

The BP card is full of tricks as well. The way it works is that for every $100 you spend at BP, you earn .25 off per gallon, every $100 spend on dining, groceries and travel you earn .15 off per gallon and for every $100 on everything else you earn .05 off per gallon. First - there is a 20 gallon cap. That means in an ideal scenario you could only earn $5. Realistically, you're filling up less than 20 gallons at one time and earning only .15 off as your spend is more than likely in the other categories. I've run the numbers and I can't find any scenario where you spend in these other categories to earn $ off at BP and come out with a positive reward value. Find a different card!

ExxonMobil Smart Card

Annual Fee: $0
Rewards: .06 off every gallon at Exxon and Mobil Stations
Reward Value: Not bad

This card is better than the other gas branded cards but you could still be earning better rewards with something like the Chase Freedom Card or Discover it card when they have their quarterly gas bonuses. At .06 off each gallon, this card nets around 2% cash back per $1 spent (depending on cost per gallon).

Chevron Credit Cards

Annual Fee: $0-$25
Rewards: Incremental .03 off each gallon + .10 or .20 off based on outside spending
Reward Value: Abysmal

If you were considering this card, don't. This card offers the worst rewards out of all the other cards we've talked about. The amount in rewards that you lose by using this card to reach their minimum outside spending is crazy. Let's say you spend $1000 to earn .20 off + .03 standard, totaling .23 off per gallon. You would have given up roughly $20 in rewards (2% standard cash back * $1000) to only earn $2.53 in rewards at Chevron (.23 off * 11 gallons on average). And at a standard .03 off per gallon, you're only netting a little over 1% cash back. Run away from this card.

Hopefully this sheds some light on the deceitful and misleading credit card offers that are currently being offer by gas stations. You'll get more value by opening a different, non branded credit card that offers points, miles or cash back at all gas stations.

Disclaimer: Because Birch does not receive compensation for credit card applications, we're able to offer honest and transparent reviews on credit cards.

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen

I run Birch by day and watch cat videos by night

San Francisco, CA