Credit Card Rewards and Electric Vehicles: Are They Driving Enough of a Bargain for EV Owners?
While many credit cards offer perks such as rewards for gas, electric vehicle (EV) owners were in no such luck until recently.
Over the past few months, a string of credit card companies started offering EV rewards for charging at public charging stations. These include U.S Bank, for example, which started offering such a perk in January: cardmembers can now earn up to 4x points or 4% cash back for their EV charging transactions, according to a press release.
“We have expanded our card rewards to put EV charging transactions on par with gas,” Steve Mattics, head of U.S. Bank Retail Payment Solutions, said in the release. “We are continuously evaluating our credit card offerings to ensure we provide meaningful rewards to our customers, and as options for fueling vehicles expand from gas to a mix of gas and electric charging, we are making sure that our cards follow our customers’ needs and preferences.”
Other companies, such as Sam’s Club, quickly followed in these footsteps. The company said that as of May, members with a Sam’s Club Mastercard can earn 5% back in Sam’s Cash on EV charges at eligible EV charging stations in the United States, according to a press release.
But are these rewards enough of a draw to sign up for a card?
Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, explained that according to Kelley Blue Book estimates, it costs $55 per month — $660 per year — to charge an EV, so, “even at the high end of the credit card rewards market (5% cash back), that would be just $33 in annual rewards.”
“Yes, every little bit counts, but that’s probably not a reason to sign up for a new card just because of the EV charging rewards. If you happen to already have a card that offers generous EV charging rewards, that’s probably the best scenario,” Rossman said.
There’s another caveat: He said that this is assuming at-home charging. EV-specific credit card rewards programs typically only apply to public charging stations, not your home electric bill.
Rossman then pointed to another example, citing a Wall Street Journal reporter who spent $175 in charging costs on a 2,000-mile road trip. “If we multiply by seven to get to approximately the average number of annual miles driven by the typical American, that would be $1,225 in annual charging costs. Five percent of that would be $61 in rewards. It’s not nothing, but it’s probably far from the typical household’s top spending category,” he said.
The bottom line, he said, is that there are probably plenty more spending categories that you’d be better off maximizing before electric vehicle charging costs. “And considering how much at-home charging takes place, the best bet might be to use something like a 2% no annual fee cash back card for your electricity bills (assuming your utility provider accepts cards and does not charge cardholders a surcharge). That would be broadly useful for other spending categories as well,” he said. “In and of itself, electric vehicle charging is probably not costly enough to warrant a detailed credit card strategy. Most EV owners probably spend a lot more on things like groceries and dining.”
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