For many years, the Shell card was recommended as an excellent method for young people to begin to establish a credit file. These credit cards were easy to obtain and payment history was reported to credit rating bureaus on a regular basis.
The popularity of company-issued gas credit cards has fallen in recent years as consumers have preferred to use multi-purpose credit card accounts that provide rewards for purchases.
Traditional Gas Cards
Gas accounts were high interest, limited use cards. They were useful only in purchasing gasoline from a single gas and oil company or from gasoline brands that had partner agreements to honor each other.
A generation ago, if a college bound students carried a plastic card in his wallet, it was very likely to be a card from Shell. Charges were limited to purchases at participating Shell service stations and the spending limit was often $300-500.
Gas and oil companies did not offer credit card accounts to encourage use of credit. The purpose was to build brand loyalty and repeat purchases from consumers who carried a Shell Gas or similar branded credit card that would lead the consumer to return to Shell every time he needed fuel.
Changes in Gasoline Credit Cards
Gasoline credit card use declined as credit card use increased in the past 20 years. The ability to use a Visa or MasterCard issued by a major bank eliminated the need for a specialty card dedicated to fuel purchases.
Credit lenders competed for market share and consumers were offered benefits and rewards for purchases of gas and oil that single purpose gas company cards did not provide.
In recent years, use of Shell Gas cards issued by Shell Oil has been limited to consumers who cannot qualify for other credit accounts.
New Gas Cards Available
Credit issuing banks have focused on providing special credit accounts branded with the name of major retail chains. This practice has now spread to include gasoline companies.
The new cards from Shell are hybrid accounts. They are not issued by the oil company but are managed by major lenders and co-branded with major logos. This provides a gasoline credit account that carries cash back and reward programs that compete with other major credit accounts.
Benefits and Rewards
This credit card is unusual as it offers a credit back for gas purchases. Many gas credit cards offer a few cents off the price listed at the pump. This is usually a 2-3% discount.
A card from Shell offer a full 5% credit if you purchase 45 gallons or more of gas per month and that 5% applies to the first 100 gallons purchased each month. This is a considerable savings that increases as fuel prices spike.
The 5% credit allows you to pay the same price as customers who receive a discount for cash purchases at gas stations.
The Shell Select Member Card also provides 10% cash back on hotels and motels. Popular hotels such as Hilton, Ramada and Holiday Inn are included when reservations are made through the special Member Center.
Other benefits you may choose are:
- 5% cash back on rental cards
- 5% cash back on airline tickets
- 24/7 toll-free Select Members phone service
- Travel reservation service
- Hotels at 50% or 30% discount
- $1000 emergency cash and prepaid airline tickets
- Weather advisory service
- Insurance protection
Interest Rates and Fees
Shell cards are not low interest accounts. To maximize the savings on gas purchases consumers should pay the account in full monthly. There is an annual fee of $25 for this credit card. However, frequent use of the account may result in the annual fee being waived.
The interest rate of 24.99% is standard today for special use credit cards. If you pay purchases within 25 days of being billed and pay entire balance by the due date each month, you will not pay any finance charges.
The APR for cash advances is 29.95% plus a $10 transaction fee. Clearly, the Shell Gas card is not a good account to use for a cash advance transaction. Other fees for late payment, returned payment, etc are charge at up to $35 per incident.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
If you want a gas company card that will provide rewards in the form of credits monthly for gas and oil purchases, Shell is a recognized name with outlets throughout the country.
This is a good account for those who travel for business or vacation as the emergency provisions for cash advances and insurance are substantial. The additional benefits of hotel discounts require the account holder to use the Shell management system when making hotel reservations.
Paying off the account balance monthly to avoid incurring high interest finance charges provides the highest benefit for consumers.
Gas company credit cards have changed to reflect the changing credit markets. Many gas cards are not multi-purpose cards offering benefits useful for traveling and for business and fleet use.
The high interest rates and fees for these branded cards combined with annual fees will cost more for those who carry balances from month to month. However, the generous 5% credit on Shell cards is a great benefit if you pay off your credit balances monthly.