PenFed Visa: Best 5% Cash Back Rewards on Gas Credit Card

Pentagon Federal Credit UnionYears ago, when both credit and champagne flowed freely down Wall Street, the fabled 5% cash back reward credit card freely frolicked among elm and oak trees of Central Park. Nowadays, finding a decent 5% cash back reward credit card is rarer than seeing a unicorn… but today I saw one. His name was PenFed.

PenFed is short for The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, a credit union for the branches of the military and government, and has been a popular credit union for personal finance enthusiasts. A few years ago, you could get some pretty high interest rates on their certificates of deposit. Today, the interest rates are more pedestrian but I bet they’ll be more attractive in the future.

However, the real claim to fame, at least today, is their 5% cash back on gasoline credit card.

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Are Loyalty Affinity Credit Cards Worth It?

Penn State Credit CardOne of my friends absolutely loves his Penn State-branded American Express card (I think it’s a “skinned” AMEX Blue card) because he gets to earn “points” towards various Penn State-related products and services. An example is the annual Alumni Association Annual Membership which is available for 7,100 points. Sometimes I think he gets amped up seeing Joepa on the face of the card. 🙂

It made me wonder whether these types of loyalty credit cards are worth it. The ones that most immediately come to mind are the gas station credit cards where you get higher cash back or reward points when you use it at their gas station.

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Best Cash Back Credit Cards

A few years ago, cash back credit cards were everywhere. Today, the offers are harder to find as company hunker down and deal with the financial crisis we’re facing. Despite the economic climate, cash back credits are still out there and you can still get a little cash back on your purchases.

How do cash back credit cards work? Each credit card company does it differently but the basic idea is the same. Every time you make a purchase with the credit card, your cash back or rewards account goes up in value. When you reach a certain threshold, you can cash out your cash back. Some companies will write you a check (Citi), while others will directly credit your account balance.

Is cash back worth the hassle? The answer is it depends. Some cards offer high cash back percentages on certain purchases and you can optimize your cash back by using several cards. Many of the best credit cards have rewards. I don’t recommend using more than two or three cards because the return on your time will decrease as you get more cards (you may find it helps to write down the cash back categories on the card itself).

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 Frugal Living 

Forget Cashback Rewards, Go Cash

I was in New York a few weekends ago and saw that gas stations listed two prices for fuel, one if you paid in cash and the other if you paid in credit. The credit price was a little over 2% higher than the cash price ($2.49 vs. $2.44) and it was clear that you paid the lower price for paying cash. None of this “wink wink nudge nudge” stuff, they full out stated the price for gas with cash was lower.

Against the credit card merchant policy? Maybe.

Did we really care? No.

We paid cash… and saved 2% on the price, rather than getting 1% cashback on the backend.

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5% Cash Back at Supermarkets & Gas Stations

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Rewards CardThis offer has expired.

Well well, it looks like we finally have the return of a long lost cash back favorite from a year or two ago… the coveted 5% cashback on supermarkets, drug stores and gas stations credit card in the form of the Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards card. (if that’s not your thing, here’s my list of the best cash back credit cards)

A few years ago, there were a dozen of these types of cards. In the last year, that number dropped to zero. Those that did exist only offered it on gasoline and imposed ridiculously low limits such as the Discover Open Road card (gives 5% on gasoline but only up to $5 a month!). Back in the heyday, each were vying for “share of wallet,” the industry term for how much of your spending gets put on their card. They often earn a couple percentage points per transaction so the hope is that you use the card for more than the 5% categories, which is a loss leader for them (this ignores the finance charges, fees, and other charges they impose for a variety of reasons).

Looks like they’re making a come back with the Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards card is leading the way.

Any catches? Yes, there are a few. Like all Citi cards, the cashback now comes in the form of ThankYou Network points rather than straight up cash. Those with student loans can convert the points into “cash,” making it a truly 5% cashback card. If you don’t have student loans, you’ll have to take it in the form of gift cards to get a full percentage value. You can always sell the gift cards and still get close to 5% cashback in the worst case.

Another catch is that the 5% promotion is for the first 12 months. I normally don’t like promotional offers (with the exception of when the Citi CashReturns had 5% cashback on everything) but right now this is the only card that offers 5% on the “everyday shopping” category (which includes supermarket, drug stores and gas stations). There are a couple alternatives if you’re looking for a gas cashback credit card, but none exist (to my knowledge) for supermarkets.

Finally, the only limit on cashback is an annual limit of 75,000 ThankYou points – it’s unlikely you will reach that limit ($15,000 in spending in the 5% categories!).

Some other features that may be of interest: 12 month 0% APY balance transfer, no annual fee, 1% cash back on everything else. The 12 month 0% APY balance transfer is nice but it has a balance transfer fee of 5%, I’d pass on that. The no annual fee is standard and the 1% cashback on everything else is also pretty standard.

Overall, I think this card is a good option if you’re looking for a way to shave 5% off your supermarket and gas bills.

Blue Cash from American Express. The Blue Cash from American Express offers 5% cashback at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations with no limit whatsoever. The card also offers a 0% balance transfer for 12 months with a 3% transfer fee capped at $99.


How to Max Out Credit Card Rewards

With the price of food and gas where it is, everyone’s looking for an edge and for more and more people, myself included, that edge is in maximizing what you can get out of credit card cash back reward programs. Credit card companies charge vendors a hefty percentage to process credit card transactions (AMEX and Discover charge the most, that’s why they often have the best cashback programs), so doesn’t it make sense that they pass along some of that to you? Of course it does!

So here are eight tips I use to ensure I get the most cash back out of credit cards, hopefully you will find them useful as well.

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Best Gasoline Cashback Credit Cards

Getting a good gas cashback credit card is the easiest way to save on gas, bar none. With gasoline prices increasing every single day, everyone is looking for ways to save on driving. Since you probably can’t sell your car and get one of these highest mileage cars, the next easiest thing is to get a credit card that gives you a little extra cashback on gasoline purchases (always try to get the best credit card for you). At the moment, besides specific gas station branded credit cards, I think the two best options out there is an American Express card and a Discover card.

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Discover Business: $100 Cashback Bonus Promotion

Discover® Business CardThis promotion has ended, you can look at this list of the best credit card offers to find additional sign up bonuses.

Discover Business is running a promotion where you can get $100 bonus cashback after $1000 in purchases within the first three months. Discover Business was the card I decided was the best business card because it offered a 0% APY on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months, had no annual fee (rare in a business credit card), and now with this $100 cashback promotion offer… it’s certainly worth considering if you run a business.

Some other notable features of the card:

  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers,
  • 5% cashback bonus on office supplies,
  • 2% cashback bonus on gas purchases,
  • 1% cashback on everything else.

So, who can apply for a business card? Anyone can apply, simply enter your social security number as the TIN. The beautiful thing about the United States is that anyone can be a business as a sole proprietorship and there are no additional tax implications or forms to fill out for the sole proprietorship business entity. This means that anyone can take advantage of this business card offer even if you don’t have a business.

If this card isn’t your thing but you are still interested in the best cash back credit cards, I invite you to click that link and check out the hottest offers available.

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