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

by on March 9, 2014 · 15 comments

in American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.

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 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]


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ben Price

    I’m impatient too, but road trips are the best. Especially in foreign countries! Drove from Jacksonville FL to South Dakota/Wyoming/Colorado and back.

    Took a car from Paris France and drove the Northwest Coast and WW2 battle fields.

    Rented a car in Krakow and drove the whole length of Poland (all the way to Lithuania).

    The trick: get a nice car rental! Best time!

  • eric

    chase freedom wins in my view. No fee earning 5 points to the dollar that I can transfer to my sapphire UR and than transfer it to hyatt or the other transfer partners is a win win.

  • Jonathan Brewer

    Quick note, the business version of the TrueEarnings card gets 4% back vs 3% on the personal card. This is my goto card for gas, since my office is right by a Costco.

  • dovertime

    Road trips are absolutely stellar! My wife and I completed a 3.5 week road trip of the Eastern Seaboard for our honeymoon. We went from Maine all the way to Key West. Rented Corvettes, Mercedes SUV’s and stayed at stellar properties along the way.

    Although I prefer flying, there is nothing quite like the freedom of driving wherever you want, whenever you want!

  • Rick

    The Amex Everyday Preferred may also be a good option. 2x points on stand along US gas stations, I believe. If the road trip isn’t until April, I’d recommend that.

  • dee seiffer

    But the gas bonus is only 1st and 3rd quarter this year for Freedom. The questioner’s road trip is second quarter in May – June. Otherwise, I’d agree.
    Or, if there is a way to plan on Shell stations along the route, Chase Ink to buy Shell gift cards at Staples for 5 URs and use the Ink card at the pump for 2 URs when you can’t find a Shell.

  • GregD

    I know Hilton has devalued their points recently, but if you really want to go with just one card then Hilton HHonors Surpass may fit the bill: 12x points if you stay at Hilton properties on your trip, 6x points for gas and at restaurants and even supermarkets if you choose to make your own meals or pick up some supplies along the way, and 3X points for everything else including souvenirs and entertainment.
    Or a Chase Ink Biz card then stock up on gift cards at an office supply store (5x points) and use them along the trip.

  • Ben Price

    May be right on the Hilton card, mainly because of the sheer volume of HGIs around the USA.

    IHG would be a good card, too, if quantity of properties is one’s logic.

  • JustSaying

    Chase Freedom as it will 5X on all restaurant spend on the trip up to $1500. Then Chase Ink Plus to give 5X at office supply where he can buy gas cards along the way…….if staying at Marriott brands he can buy their gift cards for 5X at Staples…….or even AMEX gift cards at Staples at 5X to spend where other 5X is not available……

  • Greg

    Agreed. My strategy would consist of Amex Everyday Preferred for gas and Chase Freedom for food. Depending on what Point Breaks are available during their travel plans and how they fit into the route, they may consider the IHG card as well. With the 80k sign up option, they have enough points for potentially 17 stays when factoring in the 10% credit back.

  • road100

    I just read the following review for the AE card for Mercedes Benz (regular, not platinum) , does that mean you won’t earn 3x points at Shell, Chevron, etc…??

    The use of card and earning 3 points at gas stations, is very tricky.
    The card has the very small fine print that says: “card holder will get 3
    points for every dollar at any alone standing gas station”There is
    almost no alone standing gas station any more. All of them have a big
    store (food, drinks, ect..) that the business runs under that store,
    therefor doesn’t qualifies as “alone standing” and therefore every
    dollar spend in a gas station means one points only !!!

  • Martin

    Where did you shoot this video? It seems like an exotic location.

  • Martin

    CapitalOne Venture Card gives two miles/points for every dollar on all travel related expenses, including gas, told, hotel, airplane, car rental. Correct me if I”m wrong…

  • Patrick Folger

    WOW! Thanks for the write up and great responses from readers. Im self employed so time is no issue for me. The current plan is about 40 days ( visiting family and sightseeing ) I will look into those, as well as the reader comments. Since most money like mentioned will be for gas, lodging and rest. I’ll make sure I focus most on value from those.

  • Patrick Folger

    TPG.. after watching your video and seeing your reaction to me using AA card for everything is making me think if I’ve been hurting myself for years not maximizing my dollar to point ratio. Looks like I may be not being to loyal to AA and taking advantage of better cards and maybe different airlines

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