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Money

Why gas prices are rising — and how to save at the pump

Here's how to avoid throwing money down the gas tank.

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Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Gas prices have started ticking up again: On April 27, 2024, a gallon of gas averaged $3.66, up 13 cents from a month before and 30 cents from two months prior, AAA reported.  

In response to ongoing supply chain issues and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, regular gasoline topped $5.00 a gallon for the first time in June 2022. The current uptick isn't due to global politics, though: Warmer weather means more people taking to the road and an increase in demand.

In addition, oil refineries change to a more expensive formulation for the summer, when gasoline evaporates more easily. Most areas require refineries to switch to summer blends by May 1 and gas stations by June 1. The switchover can add up to 15 cents to every gallon.

When the industry returns to the winter blend in the fall, prices traditionally decline accordingly. Until then, here are some smart ways to save at the gas station.

How to save on gas

Shop for the best car loan

Use a gas rewards credit card

Cards with fuel rewards are a great way to save and CNBC Select tapped the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card as the best in the field. There's no annual fee and cardholders get 5X points on fuel purchases at U.S. gas stations and EV charging stations. You must become a member of the PenFed Credit Union, however, which requires a $5 deposit. 

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 purchases at the supermarket (including most Target and Walmart locations), restaurants, and TV, radio, cable, streaming services

  • Welcome bonus

    15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening.*

  • Regular APR

    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.

0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be a non-variable rate of 17.99%. 3% balance transfer fee per transaction. 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.

If you don't want to join a credit union, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. That's not as robust as PenFed Platinum, but Blue Cash Preferred shines in other categories — including 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 3% cash back on transit, including rideshare, parking, tolls and trains.

There's also a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first six months. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.

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 or at Amazon.com checkout.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months. 

  • Annual fee

    $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.99% variable. Variable APRs will not exceed 29.99%.

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

The Citi Custom Cash® Card is also great if you spend a lot at the pump: Citi automatically applies 5% cash back to your highest-spending category for the billing cycle, up to $500 worth of purchases. That can save you as much as $25 a month

Citi Custom Cash® Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Special Travel Offer: Earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for first 15 months

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent, Good, Fair

  • See rates and fees. Terms apply.

The PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® has no annual fee and gives 4% cash back at gas stations, 3% cash back on dining and 2% cash back at grocery stores, up to $8,000 in combined purchases annually.

PNC Cash Rewards® Visa®

Information about the PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back at gas stations, 3% cash back on dining, and 2% cash back at grocery stores, for the first $8,000 in combined purchases in these categories annually, 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 bonus after you make $1,000 or more in purchases during the first 3 billing cycles following account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 24.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum, within the first 90 days from account opening, then 4%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Use an app to find cheap gas and discounts

Both the AAA and Gas Buddy apps list the prices at gas stations in your vicinity. Don't travel too far for cheaper fuel, however, or you could erase any savings.

The Upside rebate app offers cash back at thousands of gas stations nationwide, including BP, Chevron, Exxon, Love's, Shell and Sunoco. Users can receive up to 25 cents off a gallon, but you do have to pay first and upload your receipt to earn cash back.

The Pay with GasBuddy Card is a prepaid gas card that can save you up to 25 cents per gallon. It's free, doesn't require a credit check and, according to GasBuddy, can be used at 95% of U.S. gas stations. Discounts are taken when you swipe your card, so there's no waiting for a refund. And you don't have to reload: The card just pulls from your linked checking account every time you pump.

For more savings, the GasBuddy Premium service can save you up to 40 cents a gallon and comes with Allstate roadside assistance and exclusive offers from supermarkets, auto stores and more. There is a monthly fee of $9.99, but GasBuddy guarantees savings of at least 20 cents a gallon (up to 50 gallons a month).

Join a gas loyalty program

If you find yourself visiting a specific gas station chain frequently, consider signing up for its loyalty programs so you can score discounts and earn rewards.

BPme by BP is free to join and users get 5 cents off of every gallon they purchase at a BP gas station. You also earn points you can put toward gift cards, theme park admissions and more. For 99 cents a month, BP's Price Match program will check gas stations within two miles of the BP or Amoco station you fueled up at. If it finds a lower price, you get the difference — up to 5 cents per gallon.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+ is also free to join: Users receive 3 points for every gallon they purchase and 2 points for car washes and convenience store purchases. For every 100 points you earn, you get $1 off at the pump.

Enroll in the Shell Fuel Rewards program and you'll get 5 cents off a gallon for the first six months. If you don't fill up at a Shell station at least three times a month after that, your discount drops to 3 cents per gallon.

Drive smarter

Hitting the gas pedal may get you where you want to go faster, but it wastes money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gas mileage decreases rapidly above 50 mph: Every 5 mph above that is equivalent to an additional 27 cents per gallon.

Rapid acceleration and braking also can reduce fuel efficiency. Using cruise control on the highway will help you maintain a constant speed and save gas.

FAQs

The price of gas typically goes up in the spring, as refineries switch to the pricier summer blend and people drive more. The price per gallon usually goes back down by September.

By enabling you to maintain a steady speed and avoid sudden acceleration and braking, cruise control can improve fuel efficiency in certain situations.

According to the Department of Energy, gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. Every 5 mph above that is equivalent to an additional 27 cents per gallon.

Bottom line

Gas prices are trending upward as we head into summer. Getting a gas rewards credit card, hunting down cheaper fuel and making changes to your driving can all help you save when filling up your tank.

Find an auto loan that works for you

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.
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