How Does a Gas Credit Card Work?

By Jamie Cattanach · March 31, 2023 · 8 minute read

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How Does a Gas Credit Card Work?

Americans put a lot of money into their fuel tanks — from commuting to work to taking epic road trips — and gas credit cards are one option that can help cut the costs of getting around.

There are a few different types of gas credit cards to consider: branded gas cards that only work at specific gas stations, branded gas credit cards that you may be able to use elsewhere, and regular rewards credit cards that offer cash back or other incentives at the pump.

If you’re curious about the pros and cons of these cards, read on to learn:

•   What is a gas card?

•   How does a gas card work?

•   How do you get a gas card?

•   What’s needed for a gas card application?

What Is a Gas Credit Card?

So what is a gas card? The answer depends on whom you ask: The term can refer to a variety of different products (more on that in a moment). But at its most basic level, a gas credit card is a credit card that allows the cardholder to save money on gas, either with per-gallon discounts, cash-back rewards, or other incentives.

Given the wild fluctuations in the average price of gas, these cards can be an excellent way to lower your overall transportation costs, especially if you drive often. However, like any credit card, they do come with both risks and benefits.

Types of Gas Cards

As mentioned above, “gas credit card” and “gas card” can actually refer to several different products. Here’s a closer look.

Closed-loop gas cards

What is known as a closed-loop gas card is a card that can only be used at a specific gas station brand. They earn the cardholder discounts or rewards on money spent on that brand of fuel. They cannot be used at other gas stations or stores. This can make them convenient for those people who almost always go to the same gas station.

Of course, that limitation can also be too restrictive. Some people may want a card with more flexibility and capabilities. In addition, closed-loop gas cards can come with high interest rates, so if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, you may actually end up spending more on gas overall.

Co-Branded Gas Station Credit Cards

Gas station credit cards vs. gas credit cards are co-branded. That means they bear the logo of both the gas station and a major credit card issuer, such as Visa or Mastercard. These cards may offer specific rewards at the pump. However, because they’re part of a major card network, they can also be used elsewhere.

These credit cards offer the benefit of being available for more general, all-purpose use. Of course, they also make it more possible to rack up debt on non-gas-related expenses, like cool shoes, the latest mobile device, or just about anything. As is true with any credit card, paying off your balance on time and in full each month is the best way to avoid paying interest on your purchases, which can quickly eclipse any rewards you might earn.

Traditional Gas Rewards Credit Cards

Finally, regular rewards credit cards may offer cash back, miles, points, or other rewards at the pump and elsewhere. Some rewards credit cards may allow borrowers to choose specific categories in which they’ll earn rewards at a higher rate, and the fuel pump might be one of those categories.

Traditional rewards credit cards offer ultimate flexibility in how and where you get rewarded for spending your money, so this could be an excellent choice for those whose budget fluctuates over time.

For instance, perhaps you spend a lot on gas over the summer because you’re taking road trips, but less so during the fall and winter. A traditional rewards credit card may allow you to choose gas stations as a category for part of the year — and another, more relevant category (like grocery stores) for the rest.

However, like all credit cards, they do come with the risk of falling into debt by carrying an ever-larger revolving balance.

How Do Gas Credit Cards Work?

Here’s how a gas card works in most situations: Although there are several different types of gas credit cards, they typically sync up with how any credit card works. You use the card at the point of sale to purchase gas and reap rewards or discounts. Usually this is done by swiping the card at the fuel terminal or, if it’s not a closed-loop card, at another point-of-sale system.

With non-closed-loop gas credit cards, you may also be able to use the card to make online purchases by typing in the relevant card information. (Always make sure the website you’re purchasing from is legitimate and secure before supplying your credit card number!)

Like any credit card, gas credit cards usually charge interest on revolving balances; that is, money you charge on the card and don’t pay off at the end of the statement period. Interest rates can be hefty — upwards of 20% APR (annual percentage rate) — which is part of what makes falling into credit card debt so possible. That’s why paying off your balance in full and on time, each and every month can be crucial.

If you can’t, you might consider consolidating your debt with a 0% balance transfer or personal loan.

Things to Consider Before Applying for a Gas Credit Card

While a gas credit card can help you save money at the pump, like any other credit card, it can also put you at financial risk, especially if you’re already struggling to make ends meet and pay down debt.

In addition, applying for a gas credit card will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower (although usually only in the short-term) your credit score.

How to Get a Gas Credit Card

In terms of how to get a gas card, it’s similar to applying for a credit card of any kind. There will be information you need to share about yourself and your finances on a gas card application.

You can apply for gas credit cards at the gas station offering one or online. The application process will require basic demographic information, like your name and address, as well as financial information such as your employment situation and annual income. Once you’re approved for the card, you’ll receive it in the mail and can start using it for gas purchases — and, if it’s a major network credit card, purchases elsewhere, too.

Putting Money on a Gas Card

In addition to gas credit cards, there are also reloadable prepaid gas cards which are not credit cards. They’re more like debit cards in that you can use them only to access a finite amount of preloaded money on the card.
These types of cards can be a useful tool for managing gas spending and controlling your budget. You can load them with money at the gas station or online.

How to Pay With a Gas Card

How to pay for gas with a card works just as it would with any other card. You use it at the point-of-sale system (or present it to the person at the pump, if you’re in Oregon or New Jersey).

If you’re using a refillable gas card, you’ll need to load money on it ahead of time. If you’re using a credit card, you’ll get a monthly statement listing everything you’ve spent over the billing period and will have the opportunity to pay it off in full, which is a wise move vs. paying the minimum amount.

Is a Gas Credit Card Right for You?

If you find yourself spending a lot of money at the fuel pump, a gas credit card could help you pinch some pennies and get where you’re going for less. But like other credit cards, the risk of going into debt — or at least paying more than you need to after interest — is real. A prepaid gas card could be a good middle-ground option to help you stick to your transportation budget and manage your gas money budget more easily.

The Takeaway

There are multiple different types of gas credit cards, but they all generally have the same benefit: making the cost of gas more affordable by providing discounts or rewards at the pump. Whether you opt for a gas credit card or a reloadable gas card, this kind of product can make budgeting simpler, as long as used wisely.

Finding a credit card that can reward you for good financial decisions is a total game-changer, and that can be what the SoFi Credit Card does. With it, you’ll earn unlimited 2% cash back rewards, including those that can help you pay down debt.

The SoFi Credit Card: Put it to work in your wallet.


What is the difference between a gas card and a credit card?

People may use the term “gas card” to refer to prepaid gas cards or gas credit cards specifically designed to offer the cardholder rewards at the pump. A regular credit card doesn’t necessarily offer any specific fuel savings, but a gas credit card can.

Does a gas card affect your credit?

If you apply for any credit card, the issuer will run a hard inquiry on your credit history, which may have a short-term negative effect on your credit score. In addition, late payments and high balances can drive your score down, as well, but paying off your debt in full and on time can help create a healthy credit history.

Can you buy other things with a gas card?


Can you get cash back from a gas card?

Some gas credit cards offer cash back rewards. You can also find unlimited cash back rewards credit cards that aren’t specifically designed for gas savings but can still help you earn back a percentage of every dollar you spend.

Photo credit: iStock/Eleganza

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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