4 Credit Cards That Can Help You Save on Your Summer Road Trip

Gas can make summer road trips expensive, but the right credit card can earn some of that spending back.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Road trips offer distinct advantages over other means of travel. You can change your itinerary at a moment’s notice, you can take in unexpected sights on the way to your destination and you don’t have to deal with airline security.

But while a road trip might seem like a budget vacation, gas purchases can make your costs skyrocket. With a credit card that rewards gas purchases, you can recoup some of that cost, making your trip more affordable.

The best cards for road trips earn rewards as you fill up at the pump, lessening the burden on your wallet. As a bonus, they may provide other road-centric perks. And because you can’t guarantee your gas station of choice will always be within reach, the best road trip cards we highlight here aren’t tied to specific gas stations.

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back on gas and select department store purchases and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.74% to 24.74%
Why We Picked It: The 3% cash back rate on gas is solid, there are plenty of other ways to earn cash back rewards and as a bonus, the card provides protection policies to keep you safe on the road.
Benefits: Cardholders have a wide range of ways to earn cash back, with 3% cash back on gas. The $150 signup bonus is a nice perk. The card also includes emergency roadside assistance, additional car rental insurance and a global assistance hotline to help when you need medical, legal or financial assistance.
Drawbacks: Cardholders pay an annual fee of $95.

2. Bank Americard Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases, on up to $2,500 per quarter
Signup Bonus: $100 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months, then variable 13.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Cardholders earn 3% cash back on gas and Bank of America customers get extra cash-back redemption value.
Benefits: There’s a nice mix of ways to earn cash back, with 3% earnings on gas purchases. Bank of America customers get an additional 10% value when they deposit their cash back into a Bank of America account. There’s also a $100 signup bonus, and no annual fee.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t a Bank of America customer, you won’t earn the full cash back potential.

3. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: Five points for every dollar spent on gas purchases, three points for every dollar spent at supermarkets, and one point on all other purchases
Signup Bonus: $100 in statement credits when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: None
APR: Variable 9.49% to 17.99% on purchases, 0% intro APR for 12 months for balance transfers made through June 30, then variable 9.49% to 17.99%
Why We Picked It: As you spend, your card earns points that can be redeemed toward travel purchases. Gas purchases earn five points per dollar.
Benefits: Points can be redeemed for your road trip expenses, including lodging and car rentals, and gas purchases earn the highest number of points. If you can qualify for the lower APR, you’ll get a fantastic interest rate. You’ll also get special savings and discount offers from select retailers.
Drawbacks: The card is only available to PenFed members, who include active duty military, educators, government employees and the families of members. If you can’t qualify for PenFed membership, you can’t get this card.

4. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on eligible gas (up to $7,000 annually, then 1% thereafter), 3% cash back on restaurants and travel purchases, 2% cash back on Costco purchases and 1% cash back on other purchases
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None (you will need a paid Costco membership)
APR: 0% intro APR for seven months, then 15.99%
Why We Picked It: The year-round 4% cash back on gas purchases is fantastic, and you can also get 3% back at car rental agencies and the diners or greasy spoons you hit on your road trip. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Benefits: The range of ways to earn cash back make this a well-rounded card. Plus, you get car rental insurance, travel accident insurance and 24/7 emergency assistance.
Drawbacks: You need a paid Costco membership to get this card.

Choosing a Card for Your Road Trip

There’s one of two ways you can use a credit card to make your road trip more affordable. You can select a points rewards card that earns points that can be redeemed for travel purchases, such as lodging and car rentals. Or, you can choose a card that earns you cash back as you spend on gas and other purchases. Either way, you’ll want a card that drives down the cost of your road trip.

If you plan to use your card outside of your road trip, you’ll probably want to pick a card that fits your spending the rest of the year. You can look at the rewards and purchase categories for each card, and choose one that will best reward your overall lifestyle outside of your road trip.

Finally, examine the additional travel benefits. Gas rewards are great, but emergency roadside assistance or additional car rental insurance can provide additional peace of mind while you’re on the road.

What Is Required to Get a Gas Rewards Card?

Cards that reward gas purchases often require good to excellent credit. If your credit doesn’t measure up, you may be better off hunting down a card with lower credit requirements. If you aren’t sure where your credit stands, you can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Penfed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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The post 4 Credit Cards That Can Help You Save on Your Summer Road Trip appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Car Maintenance Tips for Safe Summer Travel

car-maintenance-for-a-road-trip

If you are planning to travel by car this summer, take steps to help avoid ending up on the side of the road. Make sure your car is in good shape so it won’t break down.

A properly maintained car gets you where you want to go, and saves you money getting there. Here’s what you need to check.

1. Radiator

Overheating is the number one cause of summer breakdowns, according to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Make sure your radiator is adequately filled with coolant at the right concentration — usually a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, but check your car’s specifications.

The radiator should be flushed every two years. If it hasn’t been serviced, do so before you hit the road. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, make sure the engine has cooled before you open the radiator cap to avoid being scalded by boiling coolant.

Check your dashboard temperature gauge while driving. If it moves into the red, you’re going to have to turn your motor off or risk damage. If your engine temperature starts creeping up, try turning your air conditioning off and your heater on — all the way up. You may get hot, but you might save your engine while on your way to get a professional’s help.

2. Hoses

Your coolant is only as good as the hoses it flows through. Look for leaks, cracks, peeling or separation. While the engine is still warm, squeeze along the hose’s length — it should feel firm, but not hard. If the hose is spongy or soft, even in one section, consider replacing it before it fails and causes bigger problems.

3. Oil

The hotter the weather gets, the more important oil becomes. Oil helps prevent overheating by lubricating many moving parts. However, oil additives break down over time.

Oil change recommendations are as frequent as every 3,000 miles, but makers of many modern cars say to wait until a maintenance-reminder light brightens your dashboard.

According to the Car Care Council, “Though having to only change your oil every 7,500 miles is something we would all prefer, 3,000 to 5,000 miles are numbers more representative of actual driving conditions. By erring on the side of caution, you’ll help to extend the life of your car.”

Check your oil between changes and add a quart or two of your car manufacturer’s recommended grade, if needed.

4. Battery

Hot weather can strain a battery. Test the battery if it’s older than 3-years or if you see one of these telltale signs of a failing battery:

  • Lights dim at starting
  • Power drain when turning on the air conditioning
  • Slow cranking when you start the car

Many auto parts stores offer free battery testing. Check your battery to make sure the posts and connections are free of corrosion, a white powdery residue. If it’s not a maintenance-free battery, make sure its cells have plenty of water.

5. Air Conditioning

A marginally operating air-conditioning system may fail in hot weather, according to the ASE. Put a thermometer in your car’s vent while the air conditioner is running and see how cool the air is getting.

If it’s not cooling properly, you may try replacing cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air-conditioning system in newer cars. Check your owner’s manual for location and how often they should be replaced.

However, if your air-conditioning system is suffering from a bigger problem — like a leak or loss of refrigerant — it’s likely time for a mechanic.

6. Tires

Your four tires offer a critical connection to the road, according to the Car Care Council. Check them at least monthly. Low tire pressure adds rolling resistance, making it harder for the engine to move your car.

Proper tire pressure, which should be posted on your car door, improves gas mileage by 3.3%, or about 10 cents a gallon, the council says.

Underinflation stresses a tire’s internal fabric and steel cord so they flex beyond designed limits and lose their bond to the rubber. The result can be a blowout.

Don’t wait for your car’s tire pressure monitoring system to light up, as it may be too late to save the tire. Instead, check air pressure when the tires are cool — summer weather and friction can cause the pressure inside to rise, giving you a false sense of security.

Also, check the tire tread by inserting a penny: If you can see all of Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires. If the tires look unevenly worn, have your wheel balance and alignment checked.

7. Other

Here are a few more tips to get your car road-ready for summer.

  • Consider a tuneup. Fouled spark plugs cause the engine to lose power or misfire, wasting fuel and lowering gas mileage. However, check your owner’s manual before scheduling a tuneup. Many newer cars don’t require a tuneup for more than 100,000 miles.
  • Check the brakes. If you notice pulsations, grabbing, noises or longer stopping distances when braking, it may be time for repairs.
  • Change the wipers. Windshield wipers deteriorate faster in sunny weather. If you get caught in a summer shower, you’ll want to be able to see where you’re going. Many auto parts stores offer free installation when you buy new wiper blades.
  • Wash and wax. Sunlight, UV radiation, acid rain, salt, dirt and air pollution can damage your car’s exterior. Help protect the paint and finish by washing and waxing your car regularly.
  • Keep a safety kit. In case your car does break down, be prepared with supplies, including water for yourself and the radiator, jumper cables, a flashlight and batteries, and a first-aid kit.

And if you car is beyond repair, remember to check your credit before you go shopping for a new vehicle. A good credit score generally qualifies you for the best terms and conditions on an auto loan and can save you a lot of money on interest. You can see where you credit currently stands by viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

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Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund

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