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Gas prices hit record high due to pipeline shutdown—use these credit cards at the pump to help save

The recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline is causing gas prices to reach 6½-year highs. The right credit card can help you save.

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You've probably already heard about the massive cyberattack that caused the shut down of the Colonial Pipeline, the U.S.'s largest fuel source.

And if you haven't yet, there's a good chance you may notice next time you fill up your car at the gas station.

The ransomware attack that forced the pipeline to close on Friday, May 7, 2021, caused a shortage in gasoline supply, which means prices have gone up since, especially in areas where the Colonial Pipeline crosses over: southeastern states Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and continuing north up the East Coast through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

With gas prices now expected to hit a 6½-year high as a result of the shutdown, fueling up just got more expensive. You can find some relief however, by using a gas rewards credit card that can offset these higher costs.

These credit cards can help you earn cash back at the pump

Whether you're back to commuting to work in your car, running errands on weekends or planning to take a summer road trip, using the right credit card every time you fill up can help put some cash back in your pocket.

The average American spends about $2,218 a year, or roughly $185 a month, on gas, according to a sample budget based on the latest spending data available from the location intelligence firm Esri. Select analyzed 29 popular rewards cards that offer gas station rewards to see how you could be earning more from your gas purchases. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

Our best overall pick for credit cards with gas station rewards is the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card because it offers the highest rewards rate at gas stations with 5X points per dollar spent. When cardholders maximize their rewards at gas stations, this card can earn the average American $111 annually. The card's other perks include no annual fee and unlimited 3X points at grocery stores.

Because PenFed is a credit union, membership is required to open the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card. Anyone can join by completing a few extra steps: You need to apply, open a savings account with a $5 deposit and maintain a $5 account balance.

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

On PenFed's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Promo APR

    0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers made from now until September 30, 2021*

  • Regular APR

    13.49% 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

Terms apply.

*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.

For those wanting a gas rewards credit card that doesn't require credit union membership, consider our other top-rated options below:

Bottom line

Filling up your tank is an expense you can't really avoid, but you can control how you pay for it — and ideally earn some cash back along the way.

If you have to shovel out more money on gas, make sure you're maximizing the rewards you can earn. When filling up means more cash back, your dollars will stretch even further.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value for dining out, Select analyzed 29 of the most popular credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join and offer bonus rewards at gas stations. Bonus rewards means a cardholder earns 2% or 2 points per dollar in a given category. In this case, gas stations.

We compared each card on a range of features, including cash-back rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit score and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

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.)

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.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

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.