Top tips for how to save on gas
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Gas prices have been falling, but they are still too high for most consumers.
You probably already have coupon codes, frequent cash-back sites, use the right credit card and know of other offers to save money on most household purchases. So, why do you still pay the asking price for gas, which is a large expense for many households?
There are now multiple apps, programs and strategies that help you drop the price per gallon on your next fill up. These gas savings add up over the year in a very real way. In fact, in one year, I saved more than $1,000 when filling up our household’s vehicles. This was true even before we got a recreational vehicle, but now, being strategic about gas is more important than ever.
So, how do you save even more on this essential item? Here are some of our top tips for how to save on gas.
For all the gas programs outlined below, the savings principles are pretty similar. Still, there are a few things to plan out beforehand.
Maximum gallons allowed
The different gas savings programs cap your discounted gas at a certain number of gallons per fill up. Kroger, for example, allows 35 gallons of discounted gas per fill up, while Fuel Rewards only allows 20 gallons. Once you use your savings for each program to lower the price at the pump, they are expended — whether you get 1 gallon of gas or the maximum allowed.
So, to maximize your savings, you want to get as close to the maximum number of gallons allowed per fill up as possible. For me, this means my wife and I head to the station together and do some maneuvering to get both cars filled up without putting the pump back in its holder. It can also mean bringing a few empty gas cans per fill up to catch the remainder of the discounted gas after the vehicle is full.
Related: The best gas credit cards
Depending on your state and the program you are using, the discount on gas may be capped or uncapped.
Kroger, for example, allows a maximum discount of $1 off per gallon at every gas station, with two notable exceptions: one location in Tennessee and another in Richmond, Virginia.
Meanwhile, Fuel Rewards can bring your cost of gas down to 1.9 cents per gallon in some states (like where I live in Georgia). In other states, there's a maximum of $1 off per gallon.
One way these companies can offer such lucrative discounts is to count on breakage. Most of these programs have short expiration periods of one to three months, within which you must use your fuel savings. If you forget to fill up before your points and savings expire, there’s nothing you can do to get them back.
Fuel savings programs
Exxon Mobil Rewards+
Earn 3 points per gallon of gas pumped and 2 points for every $1 spent in the gas station's convenience store. Each point is worth 1 cent in discounted gas or convenience store items, and you need at least 100 points to redeem $1 in savings. The savings here are not per gallon but instead come in the form of a flat dollar amount.
This is probably the least lucrative of the programs, and it's tough to find much value in it. The program does have regular sign-up bonuses for new customers, so check its latest offers if you don’t yet have an account.
The third-party loyalty program for Shell has been the most lucrative for me when it comes to saving at the pump. There are various avenues to earn Fuel Rewards, which you accrue in a cents-off-per-gallon manner. You can link your credit or debit card to the program and then shop at participating merchants to earn savings.
Fuel Rewards also has an online shopping portal that rewards you with a certain number of cents off per gallon for shopping at participating merchants.
Download the app or sign up to earn automatic Gold status, which gives you 5 cents off per gallon on every fill up. Research all the different actions you can take and limited-time offers you can participate in to save on your next fill up. Each fill up is limited to 20 gallons, and the maximum discount allowed varies by state.
If you shop at Giant supermarkets, for example, you can link your Giant and Fuel Rewards accounts. Then, you can use your grocery store points through Fuel Rewards for discounts on your next fill up.
Related: Saving on gas: Everything you need to know about fuel loyalty programs
Kroger Fuel Points
You’ll earn 1 point per dollar every time you shop at Kroger. Every 100 points are worth 10 cents off per gallon on your next fill up. Kroger often makes it easy to earn points by offering bonus earnings of 2 to 4 points per dollar spent on gift cards and certain grocery items.
During any special, such as one that earns you 4 points per dollar spent on gift cards, you must load the digital coupon on the Kroger app to your Kroger Plus Card before checkout.
The maximum discount per gallon of gas is $1 (with the exceptions noted earlier), and you can purchase up to 35 gallons of gas for each fill up. If you buy a $500 Disney gift card from Kroger during a bonus points event that nets you four times the points, you’ll earn 2,000 points; this is good for two fill ups of $1 off per gallon on up to 35 gallons (or a maximum of $70 in savings). That becomes a 14% discount off the $500 Disney gift card if you value gas savings like cash.
Of course, you can also pay for your purchase at the grocery store with a card that awards a bonus. For instance, the American Express® Gold Card awards 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar).
Related: Best grocery credit cards
Marathon Arco Rewards
This program offers periodic savings at the pump, including a $2 bonus for signing up.
The program gives you rewards points in exchange for buying gas and some merchandise at Marathon stations or convenience stores. You earn 5 cents worth of Marathon Rewards on every gallon of gas you buy. You can then redeem whatever you've earned during your next fill up.
Pay with GasBuddy
You may know GasBuddy.com as the site that shows you gas prices in certain areas. GasBuddy has expanded and now offers an avenue to pay for fuel at the pump and earn rewards.
Pay with GasBuddy gives drivers instant savings at the pump. You now activate deals in the GasBuddy app before you pump gas to save additional cents per gallon.
When you sign up for Pay with GasBuddy, you’ll link your checking account to the service and receive a physical card that looks like a credit card. Use the card to pay at the pump, and your checking account will be debited the amount you paid, less any savings. What’s great about Pay with GasBuddy is the ability to stack your savings with any discounts you receive from other savings programs.
Pay with GasBuddy doesn’t care how much the fuel costs, only how many gallons of gas you pump. If you use Fuel Rewards to only pay $1 per gallon for gas, you’ll still earn your Pay with GasBuddy savings per gallon.
The Trunow app offers at least 0.5% to 2% cash back on all your gas receipts from any station. Trunow partner stations offer 1% cash back on all gas receipts and allow you to redeem your rewards in the station.
Trunow partner stations are identified on the map with a blue circle around them. To earn savings, all you have to do is take a picture of your gas receipt with the app. Within two days, you'll see the cash back in your account.
Upside (formerly GetUpside) is a third-party app that hit the scene a couple of years ago and has expanded significantly. It now includes restaurant and grocery store savings, as well as savings at the pump. You claim offers in the app to save a certain number of cents per gallon.
After you sign up and claim an offer, you have four hours to fill up at the specific station you selected using a linked credit card. Cash back earned from the fill up will appear in your Upside account, and you can cash out whenever you like. I like Upside because fill ups with savings are good for up to 50 gallons.
A recent offer in New York City was for 40 cents off at a Mobil station on Eighth Avenue, dropping the price to $3.99 a gallon.
As previously mentioned, my wife and I both wait until our cars are empty and then simultaneously fill up on the same pump. (Remember not to put the handle back on the pump between cars, or you'll end your fill up and your savings.)
Related: Beat high gas prices on your next road trip: 6 ways to save at the pump
This is where things get really good. You can use Fuel Rewards, Pay with GasBuddy and Trunow all on the same gas fill up for a triple stack of savings. Here is a breakdown of how it would work:
- If you have $1 in Fuel Rewards, you can lower the price on the pump at a participating Shell station from $2.50 per gallon to $1.50 per gallon.
- Use your Pay with GasBuddy card to save 20 cents per gallon pumped (as the gas price doesn’t matter).
- Scan your receipt from the pump into Trunow and earn up to an additional 2% cash back.
If you fill up the maximum of 20 gallons, you’ll save $20 on gas and $1 with Pay with GasBuddy. Plus, you'll get 3 cents in your Trunow account. This brings your total fill-up cost to $38.97 instead of the usual $50 that most people end up paying.
Of course, you’ll want to pay the remaining gas cost with a credit card that awards a bonus at the gas station for even more savings or earnings. One great option is the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees), which awards 3 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations, resulting in 5.1 cents in points earned per dollar spent at the pump, based on current valuations.
When searching for gas savings, you should also look out for American Express or Chase offers that work at gas stations. For example, we saw one offering $10 back on $20 spent via the BPme mobile app.
Check the Amex Offers section on any relevant American Express credit cards you have. Finding a money-saving offer on an Amex card — such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which already awards 3% cash back on gas at U.S. gas stations — can be especially useful. You receive cash back in the form of Reward Dollars that you can redeem as a statement credit.
Almost every grocery store and gas station chain has its own version of fuel savings, so make sure you’re at least participating in a program for the area where you normally fill up. Once I got a routine down, I realized that saving money at the pump is one of the easiest loyalty escapades I participate in every month.
If you see a fellow gas station patron with multiple gas cans sitting on the ground, you know they don’t necessarily have a lot of grass to cut or generators to run. They may just be someone like me trying to maximize their gas discount at the pump.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.