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

March 09, 2014
6 min read
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 Rewards Premier Credit 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.

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Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express: Offers 6 points per dollar spent at US gas stations. Terms apply.

Hilton Honors Card from American Express: Currently offers 5 points per dollar spent at US gas stations. Terms apply.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Offers 3% cash back at standalone gas stations each calendar year, not including Costco, Sam’s Club and other gas stations attached to stores. Terms apply.

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. Terms apply.

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 Business Cash Credit Card 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 (No longer open to new applicants) 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 Honors program.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and Citi Hilton Visa: Earn 3 Honors 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 Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by Ah, the lure -- and the many expenses -- of a road trip

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023