It's happened to all of us: You drive by your neighborhood gas station, take a cursory glance at the prices, swerving slightly as you do a double take. Then you spend the next 10 miles cursing the high prices that will deprive you of your summer road trip.

Not so fast, though. High gas prices are painful, but a smart choice of plastic will not only take away some of the sting, it will actually help you get more out of your summer adventures. Compare credit cards to find the perfect deal for you.

Dine out on Discover

Pulling a Thelma & Louise this summer (with a less-dramatic ending)? If your summer plans will take you through lots of gas stations and drive-thrus, it may indeed pay to Discover. The Discover Open Road Card currently offers a $75 Restaurant.com gift certificate after your first purchase. The gift certificate is redeemable online at over 15,000 restaurants across the country.

The perks keep on truckin' for travelers:

  • You'll get a 2 percent Cashback Bonus at restaurants and gas stations, up to your first $250 each month.
  • You'll receive 1 percent on other purchases after your total purchases reach $3,000 for the year (some purchases, such as certain warehouse clubs, earn 0.25 percent).

The Discover card also offers a zero-percent APR for 12 months on both new purchases and balance transfers. After that, the card's variable rate is 11.99 to 20.99 percent, depending on your creditworthiness. It has no annual fee.

Gas card perks for PenFed members

How does 5 percent cash back on gas purchases sound? It's a reality if you're eligible for the Pentagon Federal Credit Union--a credit union for members of groups related to the U.S. Department of Defense. The PenFed Visa Platinum Cashback Rewards Card is perfect for these times of high prices at the pump. It offers 5 percent back on gas purchases and 1 percent back on all other purchases up to $50,000 annually.

The card is for those with excellent credit. PenFed is offering an introductory balance-transfer benefit through June 30, 2011: a 4.99 percent APR for the life of the balance, with no balance-transfer fee. The standard APR on purchases is a variable 13.99 percent. The card has no annual fee.

Average credit? You won't get left at the pump

Offers abound for those with excellent credit, but what if you're still working on yours? Here's a great companion for your summer travels: the Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards card.

The card offers 2 percent cash back on gas and groceries and 1 percent on other purchases. The cash rewards are unlimited and don't expire. And you'll get a break on interest through January 2012 with a special zero-percent introductory rate.

This Capital One credit card, a MasterCard, has a $39 annual fee and a variable rate currently between 17.9 and 22.9 percent.

Costco shoppers: Two cards in one

If Costco is your favorite store for everything from birthday cakes to patio furniture to a six-month supply of paper towels, this card will fit your life. The True Earnings Card from Costco and American Express serves as both your Costco membership card and a working American Express card--one with no annual fee with your paid Costco membership.

You'll earn a whopping 3 percent cash back on gasoline purchases up to $3,000 per year (1 percent after that), and unlimited rewards on other purchases:

  • Restaurants: 3 percent
  • Travel expenses: 2 percent
  • Other purchases, including Costco: 1 percent

An added bonus: You'll get a $25 statement credit with your first purchase on the card. You'll need a good credit score to qualify for the card, which offers a zero-percent APR the first six months, and a variable rate afterward--currently 15.24 percent.

Spend big on gas and groceries? An AmEx for you

Here's another American Express that offers cash back--and a good choice if you don't have a Costco nearby. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card offers great cash-back rewards:

  • Supermarkets: 6 percent
  • Gas stations and department stores: 3 percent
  • Other purchases: 1 percent

Refer a friend who opens an account, and you'll enjoy a $75 referral bonus. The card features a zero-percent introductory APR for the first six months, and, after that, a variable rate currently ranging from 17.24 to 21.24 percent. The card has a $75 annual fee.

Face it: This summer's gas prices are bound to make you cringe. But keep your eyes on the road, your foot on the gas and the best rewards credit card in the passenger seat!

The original article can be found at CardRatings.com:
Best credit card deals for summer road trips