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What Is The Best Credit Card to Maximize Points Earning On A Road Trip?

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TPG Reader Patrick emailed me to ask about which credit card to use during a road trip:

“I’m planning a cross-country road trip in May-June of this year, driving from Los Angeles to New York and back. I have a Citi AAdvantage Amex and MasterCard that I use for everything – gas, food, bills, etc. I also use the Marriott Premier Rewards Card (for Marriott stays and paying my timeshare yearly dues). Should I stick with my AA cards for everything but lodging and use the Marriott card for stays on my trip ( 5x points if used at Marriott) or should I get a different card strictly for this trip which would be used primarily for food, gas and lodging?”

Sounds like fun! Personally, though, I prefer a flying trip…because I’m an impatient person. The main expenses of a road trip are typically: gas, hotel stays, and tolls, but there’s no card that will offer you bonus category earnings on all three, so I’d recommend a combination approach.
The first card I’d recommend is the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, which gives you double points on gas, as well as a 15,000-point bonus when you spend $30,000 on the card within a year. Two other good options are the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus, which are both business cards (the Bold is a charge card, the Plus is credit) that give you double points on gas and hotel purchases, as well as current sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points for spending $5,000 within 3 months. Plus, they both come with Master Roadassist, which provides 24-hour emergency roadside assistance through AAA when you’re 100 miles or more from home. Though you have to pay, it’s better than calling a tow company because fees are pre-negotiated to be fair.

Ah, the lure -- and the many expenses -- of a road trip
Ah, the lure – and the many expenses – of a road trip

The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t give you double points on gas, but it does give you double points on travel expenses, including hotels, tolls and parking, so that’s a good option for you. In the meantime, here are the rest of the cards that earn category spending bonuses at gas stations:

AMEX

Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express: 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at stand alone gas stations.

Mercedes-Benz card from American Express: Though most of the coverage of Mercedes-Benz Amex co-branded cards is on the Platinum version, which offers all the same perks as the personal Platinum card, the regular version of this card actually offers 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on gas purchases of up to $400 at standalone gas stations in the US.

Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express: Offers 6 points per dollar spent at standalone gas stations.

Hilton HHonors card from American Express: Currently offers 5 points per dollar spent at standalone gas stations.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred: Offers 3% cash back on the first $6,000 (then 1%) spent at standalone gas stations each calendar year, not including Costco, Sam’s Club and other gas stations attached to stores.

SimplyCash Business card from American Express: 3% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on gasoline from standalone stations each year when you choose to earn in that cash back category.

TrueEarnings Business Card from Costco and American Express: 4% cash back on the first $7,000 of fuel purchases at US gas stations and Costco, then 1%.

True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express: 3% cash back on the first $4,000 of fuel purchases and gasoline at US gas stations and Costco, then 1%.

Asiana Airlines American Express Card: Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on gas and grocery store purchases. Note that Asiana is a Star Alliance member. Their award chart is distance based and offers a very generous stopover policy.

CHASE

Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus: The two Ink cards offer double Ultimate Rewards points while the Ink Classic and Ink Cash dole out 2% cash back on gasoline and hotel purchases. Ink Cash and Classic offer that on the first $25,000 of spending each cardholder year, while Ink Bold and Ink Plus have a $50,000 cap per cardholder year.

The Chase Freedom is also currently offering 5X points per $1 up to a total of $1,500 in spending this quarter at gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks as its Q1 category spending bonuses now through March 31, 2014.

Priority Club Select Visa: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. I value Priority Club points at about 0.5-0.7 cents each, meaning you’re getting a 1.4% return at most.

CITI

Citibank AT&T Universal Business Rewards Card: Cardholders earn three ThankYou Points for every dollar spent at office supply merchants, gas stations and on professional services. Those who hold a Citi Thank You Premier card can earn 1.25 cents in value per point, and some cardholders can now transfer those points to the Hilton HHonors program.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and Citi Hilton Visa: Earn 3 HHonors points per $1 at gas stations.

OTHER

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Card: This card offers a lucrative 5% cash back per dollar spent on gasoline purchases up to $50,000 per year. Points are worth one cent each for many items including gift cards and travel reservations, or you can put the rebate towards your statement, so if you charge $200 on gas in a month, your bill will only post as $190. Check out this post for more information on how to maximize the Pen Fed program.

US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature: This travel rewards cards earns two FlexPoints for every $1 spent on gas, grocery or airline purchases – whichever you spend most on each monthly billing cycle – so in order to take advantage of this bonus spending category, you’ve got to keep a careful tally of which expenses you’re spending the most on.

For more information, see these posts:

Maximizing Points on Gas Spending and Gift Cards

Earning the Most Miles and Points on Gas Purchases

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me or emailing me at [email protected]


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