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Saving At The Pump: Is A Gas Rewards Card Right For You?

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Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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  autos arrows plug v2 Saving At The Pump: Is A Gas Rewards Card Right For You?

CHICAGO (CBS) – Gasoline prices are dropping a little, but we’re still paying an average of $3.80 per gallon for regular unleaded in the Chicago area.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports one way to save at the pump is by using a gas rewards credit card. There are a lot of them out there, so she looked at how to choose the best one for you.

Buying gas is a necessary evil, so drivers like Dana Haber use a gas rewards credit card to make stopping at the pump a little less painful.

“I just spent $70 right now,” she said. “Five percent of that … at least 12 bucks a month.”

Chase Freedom is Haber’s card of choice, giving her 5 percent cash back on gas purchases; but there are dozens on the market offering cash back rewards of 1 to 5 percent.

“It basically cuts your fuel bill. … Especially if you’re, one, shuffling the kids around to practice, if you’re taking road trips,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com.

No matter which card you choose, experts say you need to make sure it has no annual fee.

“The presence of an annual fee can quickly take away from any rewards,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, founder and CEO of Cardhub.com

Many gas companies offer their own rewards cards. Sam Begay likes Speedway, which offers at least 10 cents off, but there aren’t many Speedway stations in the city.

“I’m right here at Citgo, throwing only $10 in to get me back to Summit, where I’ll fill up and use my reward card,” Begay said.

Experts say access to only a limited number of stations might be one reason to avoid certain rewards cards. Getting a specific number of cents off your purchase, versus a percentage back, is another.

For example, when you pay $4 a gallon, BP offers you 5 cents off. However, Bank of America offers 3 percent cash back on gas, and pays you back 12 cents for the same gallon.

Christopher Cebrero is doing the math and may switch.

“Anything to save money with gas is a go-to for sure,” he said.

How much you drive is also a consideration in choosing a card. In fact, if you only spend $50 a month on gas, and your card offers 5 percent you’re only saving $30 a year.

For you, there might be better choices.

“Your largest spending category may be groceries, so there are credit cards that are particularly good in that dimension,” Papadimitriou he said.

Whichever card you choose, the number one rule: don’t carry a balance.

“Some banks charge 10, 15, if you have bad credit, even 25 percent APR. So that really kills the 3 percent savings at the pump,” DeHaan said.

We also noticed that comparing prices at stations within a mile of each other can pay off. Gas can be 20 cents a gallon cheaper from one station to the next. Fill up with the lower priced gas and use a rewards card to maximize your savings.

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