Oil stocks have gone through the roof of late, which is great news for investors and bad news for consumers.
Global oil prices hit nine-month highs last week, with the average cost of regular gasoline in California zooming to a jaw-dropping $4.29 a gallon. That's 57 cents higher than a year ago and a surge of 26 cents in just seven days. The average nationwide price, as of Feb. 27, was $3.29, up 13 cents from the previous week and 34 cents in a year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On the ever-so-slightly brighter side, higher prices means bigger rewards for those who use credit cards with cash-back programs. After all, if you're going to spend a fortune commuting or just tooling around town, you might as well see a return on your investment. An examination of the various available programs revealed the following cards offer your best bet. (Please note most of these cards require a good to excellent credit rating to qualify.)
Chase Freedom Visa Card
Receive 5-percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent at gas stations from Jan. to March, and again from July to Sept. There's no annual fee and rewards never expire.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card
This AmEx card offers 3-percent cash back on gas and department store purchases, but it's the 6-percent rewards on groceries that makes the $75 annual fee worthwhile
American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Earn 2X points on gas and groceries. You'll pay no fee for membership in the first year but $175 annually thereafter.
Discover Open Road Card
Receive 2-percent cash back automatically at gas stations and restaurants year round. Discover charges no fees for this program.
TrueEarnings Card from American Express and Costco
Double up with an American Express card and Costco membership card in one piece of plastic. You'll earn 3-percent cash back for the first $3,000 in annual gas purchases and 1 percent thereafter. There's no annual fee for Costco members.
Chevron and Texaco Visa Card
Get 10-cents off per gallon in fuel credits on Chevron and Texaco purchases; 3 percent in fuel credits on non-fuel purchases at Chevron and Texaco; and 1 percent in fuel credits on all other non-fuel purchases made anywhere else. The cards are issued by GE Capital Retail Bank, which doesn't charge an annual fee.
Discount Gas Gift Cards
If your credit rating has taken a dive or you just have an eye for a great deal, discount gift cards are the way to go. You can buy gas gift cards at up to 20 percent off the face value without membership costs or other fees. Gas reward credit card holders can purchase a discount gas gift card for the points, then redeem it at the pump for even further savings as gift cards are considered as good as cash at gas stations.
Photo by Dat Nguyen