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Credit Cards

Hitting the road this year? These 5 credit cards can save you money on your next road trip

Taking a road trip is a great way to see the country, but you need to account for the cost of gas, food and lodging. Here are the best credit cards for the road.

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Taking a road trip can be a great way to spend quality time with family or friends, and it is a great alternative to flying. That said, road trips can still rack up quite a bill. You’ll need to factor in the cost of a rental car or maintenance on your own vehicle, gas, tolls, parking, hotel or campsite fees and food.

These expenses can add up fast, especially if you have a packed car. But if you use the right credit card, you can earn rewards on all expenses. Some cards even provide money-saving perks, including car rental discounts or a travel or dining credit, that can offset the cost of your vacation.

To make your next road trip more affordable, consider using one or more credit cards that can allow you to maximize rewards. We reviewed the best credit cards to find cards that can save you money in five categories: car rentals, gas, dining and takeout, groceries and everything else. (See below for our methodology.) So before you hit the road, check out the benefits of using the right credit card.

Best credit cards for a road trip

FAQs

Best for car rentals

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    17.24% - 24.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Special benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership

Cons

  • High annual fee, but it can be offset by taking advantage of all the card’s perks
  • No introductory APR
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,469
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $3,346

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Best for gas

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

On PenFed's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations, 3X points on supermarket purchases, 1X point on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Promo APR

    0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers made from now until September 30, 2022.*

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 17.99% variable on purchases; 17.99% non-variable on balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • High 5X points on gas at the pump and 3X on supermarket purchases
  • No bonus category activations
  • Good special financing offer on balance transfers

Cons

  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $513
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,167

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus.

*After the promotional balance transfer period, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

Best for groceries

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening; N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.74% - 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • High 6% cash back at U.S. supermarket spending (up to $6,000 a year, then 1%)
  • Unlimited 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • Unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.

Cons

  • 2.7% fee on purchases made abroad
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $679
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,397

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Best for dining and takeout

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $120 dining credit annually ($10 a month) for purchases made with Grubhub, Seamless and eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment)
  • Up to $120 Uber Cash annually ($10 a month) for U.S. Uber Eats orders and U.S. Uber rides (card must be added to Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit)
  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned at restaurants and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,074
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,969

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Best for everything else

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.74% - 24.74% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
  • Simple cash-back program that doesn't require activation or spending caps
  • One of the longest intro periods for balance transfers at 18 months

Cons

  • No welcome bonus, so you can’t maximize rewards during the first few months of card opening
  • Minimum cash-back redemption of $25
  • 3% fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $443
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,213

FAQs

What is a road trip credit card?

While credit cards aren't specifically branded as road trip cards, many offer versatile rewards and perks geared toward road trips. The best credit cards for road trips offer you the ability to maximize rewards on key expenses that you'll incur on the road, including: cost of a rental car or maintenance on your own vehicle, gas, tolls, parking, hotel or campsite fees and food.

In addition to rewards, cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer discounts at popular car rental agencies, like National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar, as well as rental car insurance and roadside assistance.

Rental car insurance (aka auto rental collision damage waiver) reimburses you for theft or collision damage, while roadside assistance helps you with roadside emergencies, like a jumpstart or tire change. While these perks don't have a monthly or annual fee, you may need to make a copay for roadside assistance. For instance, the Sapphire Reserve card charges $50 per incident on up to four claims a year.

Premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and American Express® Gold Card, also offer annual statement credits toward eligible travel or dining that can help you save even more.

Road trip credit cards are also great year-round. You can use the cards on this list at any time of the year to earn rewards on car rentals, gas, dining, takeout, groceries and more. After all, the best credit cards aren't exclusive to a specific purchase, but instead are versatile for all of life's expenses.

What credit score is required for a road trip card?

All of the cards on this list require good to excellent credit (scores above 670). If you have less than stellar credit, consider alternative cards for bad or fair/average credit. While credit cards for bad and fair/average credit won't offer the same money-saving perks, you can use the card to build good credit. Then you can apply for a new rewards card once your score is higher.

How to choose the right credit card for a road trip

Credit cards come with a lot of benefits, so many that it can be hard to choose one card. While there's no one-size-fits-all credit card, there are some simple steps you can follow to choose the credit card that provides you with the most benefit. Here are the steps:

  1. Check your credit score and credit report: First, check your credit score and credit report. This lets you know where you stand and can influence which credit cards you apply for. Most cards on this list require good or excellent credit. You can check your credit score for free with Experian Boost™, Discover Credit Scorecard or your card issuer. You also have free access to your credit reports every week through April 20, 2022 at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Decide which type of credit card suits your needs: Once you know your credit score, review what you plan to spend the most money on during your road trip. If you expect to order a lot of takeout and dine at restaurants, choose a card for those purchases. But if you rather buy groceries, opt for a grocery rewards card. Many cards also offer rewards in several categories, like gas and groceries, that allow you to maximize rewards.
  3. Shop around for the best credit card offers: If you still have trouble choosing a card, consider submitting a pre-qualification form online to see whether you may qualify. This can help you narrow down which cards you might be approved for, without any damage to your credit score. Pre-qualification isn't a guarantee you'll be approved for a card and submitting an application affects your credit score.
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Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

We also estimated how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee. Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it’s generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

For balance transfer cards, we used a Bankrate calculator to tally the interest rates and fees you could incur if you transferred $6,028, the average balance Americans carry on their credit cards in 2019, according to Experian.

If the average consumer with a $6,028 balance on their credit card pays $200 each month, they will spend $1,911 in additional interest, assuming the average 17.7% APR. And it will take them 40 months — more than three years — to pay off that debt.

With four of the five cards featured on this list, if you take full advantage of the intro APR period and pay $200 per month, you’ll pay less than $450 in interest and cut your repayment time in half to 20 months. That’s a significant savings.

For the cards that offered a rewards program, we also estimated how much cash back you might earn over a five year period. Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company’s data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri’s data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It’s important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

When choosing the best balance transfer card, we focused on the card that provides consumers with the cheapest way to pay off their debt rather than the number of rewards they could potentially earn. When you’re in credit card debt, your primary focus should be repayment. Earning rewards should be seen as a bonus, and you don’t want to spend beyond your means in order to earn points.

The five-year rewards total and the interest rate and fees estimates are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending and debt. You may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.