The incredibly baby-wise Denise mailed me about forty questions, so she is very pretty, if a tad bit needy. Ha! I kid, Denise! I kid because I love!
I closed my eyes and reached my hand into the swirling maelstrom of her email and plucked out the following:
Another question too—gas credit cards. Am I going to get a better deal with a BP or Amoco type card instead of putting my gas on a regular credit card?
I think this is a very timely question, given that gas prices always go up in the Summer, and that seems to go double (triple? quintuple?) for this year. Personally, I am still trying to sell my kids on the idea of pulling me around in a rickshaw, but being the ungrateful and lazy beasties that they are, I’m not prepared to get rid of my car just yet.
Here’s the thing: I shop around for gas. I have certain gas stations that I favor, because they tend to be lower-priced, but the mechanics behind the buying and selling of oil are such that you can just never know for sure who’s going to end up with the lowest price.
With the market so tight right now, gas stations are offering various incentives for you to use their cards and buy all of your gas from them. I’ve seen “earn up to so much free gas” and “$.05 off per gallon” and “earn redeemable points” and “get a free tiara and pedicure.” Okay, maybe not that last one. But the promotions are varied and plentiful.
I have never gotten a gas credit card and probably never will. I get money back with my credit card(s) already, and the two I use most often do a special gas promo several times a year (where my usual 1% goes up to 5% for some period of time). For me, that’s sufficient.
However, I’m me and you’re you, so here are the things you should consider when deciding whether or not to get a dedicated gas credit card:
- How much do you drive? I work from home, which makes for a very pleasant and inexpensive commute (as well as being able to work in my pajamas). If you aren’t so lucky, and have a long commute or otherwise do a lot of driving, you may be a good fit for one of the cards that has tiers of rewards. One of the reasons I don’t do a card is because I will never use enough gas to reach the Mecca level of bonuses. Maybe you do.
- Do you tend to patronize the same gas station all the time? Do you always go to Ernie’s House of Gas? Does Ernie offer a card? It may make sense to get one, if so. However, think about what you’re doing here. Do you go to Ernie’s because you’re lazy and he’s on your way to work or because he has the best price?
- How’s your credit? Every time you open another line of credit, your credit rating is (slightly) adversely affected, even if you pay your bills like clockwork. The formula used to determine your rating involves squid testicle and bat phlegm, yes, but it also considers how much debt you could get yourself into in a hurry. A new card means a new line of credit, and if your rating isn’t all that it could be, it probably isn’t a good idea to open a new account.
- How good are you at paying off your credit cards? You’re going to notice a recurring theme around here, and the refrain goes a little something like this: Think of your credit cards as cash or don’t use them. Credit cards are a useful tool if you pay off the balance each and every month. Credit cards are a slippery slope that lead to financial ruin if you’re likely to overspend and carry a balance. Be honest with yourself. If you’ll find yourself having a tight month and deciding to just pay the mininum just this once, skip it. A new credit card is not for you.
- What is the incentive program offered and does it change over time? Even moreso than with “regular” credit cards, you need to read the fine print on these offers. What are the rewards offered? How are they affected by the amount you spend? Do they change as time goes on? Are there restrictions on how they are redeemed? These are all things you need to understand before you jump in. Many, many of these offers have a great hook that’s a limited-time offer.
So there you go; items to consider if you’re thinking about a gas station credit card. In the meantime, I just know you’re grouping together your errands and other necessary driving to cut down on separate trips, filling up mid-week when gas prices tend to be at their lowest, and driving a fuel-efficient vehicle. ‘Cause you’re pretty and smart that way.