The price of gas has risen 30% in the past year and shows no signs of going anywhere but up.

Since fuel is a necessity for most Canadians, cutting our bill as prices rise can be a difficult task. However, by using gas rewards cards you can counteract those rising gas prices, at least partially.

Gas Rewards Cards: Petro vs. Esso

Most major gas companies have loyalty programs, with PetroCanada’s Petro Points and Esso Extra points the most well known in Canada.  But now the banks are getting in on the act with both RBC and CIBC offering gas rewards cards that give you money back every time you buy gas.

Both gas rewards cards have no annual fee and give members the ability to earn loyalty points with every purchase and redeem the points for free gas rewards at the affiliated gas station.

With the RBC Esso Visa, members earn double points with every fill-up at participating Esso stations.  The key benefit of the CIBC Petro Points MasterCard is the ability for clients to save up to seven cents per litre at PetroCanada stations.  Both programs allow clients to redeem points instantly at the pump.

As stand-alone programs, Petro Points and Esso Extra points aren’t worth much to consumers.  With Esso Extra, you earn one point for every dollar you spend on regular fuel at Esso stations.  With Petro Points, you earn five points per litre on regular fuel at Petro-Canada stations.

When you spend $300 per month on gas at $1.28 per litre, you’ll earn $20 in free gas with Esso Extra and $10 in free gas with Petro Points.  That’s not enough to get you a quarter-tank of gas these days.

Here’s where using a rewards credit card can supercharge your earning potential and save you money.  When you spend $300 per month on gas and average $1,500 per month in total monthly spending on your card, the results are much different.

Credit cardAnnual spend on gasAnnual spend on cardFree gas
CIBC Petro Points MasterCard$3,600$18,000$194
RBC Esso Visa$3,600$18,000$155

The CIBC Petro Points MasterCard is a better deal because you can earn 50% more points on grocery and pharmacy purchases, plus an additional 5,000 bonus points when card purchases exceed $1,000 for the month.

Canadian Tire

Looking outside the major retail brands, Canadian Tire is another option to consider for gas rewards.  They have a solid rewards program where you can save up to 10 cents per litre when you use the Canadian Tire Gas Advantage MasterCard for your everyday purchases.  Here’s how it works:

Spend this monthSavings next month
$2,000 or more10 cents per litre
$1,000 – $19998 cents per litre
$500 – $9995 cents per litre
$0 – $4992 cents per litre

Using the Canadian Tire Gas Advantage MasterCard, you can save $222 annually when you spend $300 per month on gas and $1,500 on total monthly purchases.  This beats both Esso Extra and Petro Points, but with only 270 locations across the country, Canadian Tire gas bars may not be the most convenient option.

Cash Back Rewards Card

When combined with an affiliate credit card, gas rewards cards can subsidize your annual spending by fuel by 4-6%, enough to get you a couple free tanks of gas each year.  While these are decent options to consider – certainly better than nothing – most people are better off using a no-fee cash back rewards card.

The MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard gives 2% cash back on gas and grocery purchases, and 1% cash back on all other spending.  New cardholders enjoy a bonus reward rate of 5% for grocery and gas purchases during their first six months.

With the Smart Cash card, members can earn up to $360 cash back in the first year when they spend $600 per month on groceries and gas, and $1,500 on total monthly purchases.  After the first year, members can earn $252 in cash back rewards each year.  That’s more savings than the Canadian Tire rewards program offers.

For many of us, it’s not practical to car pool or to leave the car at home.  We need to find other ways to save on fuel.  Try to find a gas rewards card that provides superior overall benefits without having to drive to distant gas stations or pay extra fees.

Sign up for the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard here – (link)

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