Gas prices continue to surge as summer travel begins: 5 ways to save at the pump

May 29, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information to reflect current gas prices.

Tens of millions of Americans hit the road for Memorial Day Weekend, and even more have plans to travel this summer. From your commute to a family trip to filling up a rental car at a destination, you’ve probably groaned at the price you’re paying at the gas pump.

After a spring that saw gas prices surge nationally, the U.S. hit new record prices leading into the holiday weekend. The national average for gas is now $4.61, according to data from AAA. Compared to just a year ago at the start of summer, it would have cost the average American $30 to fill up a 10-gallon tank. Now, it’s $46.

The prices may be even higher where you live, or at your summer destination. In California, an average gallon of gas costs $6.13. In New York, the average is $4.92.

Since the early months of 2022, the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia have had a dramatic impact on the cost of crude oil … and on the price at the pump. That swiftly led to the most dramatic price increases since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the prices have only gone up since then.

Related: Higher fuel prices do mean more expensive plane tickets, but it’s not as clear-cut as you may think

Prices were already high even before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

$4.39 gas at a station in North Carolina
Gas sat at $4.39 as of Memorial Day weekend at this Sheetz station in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Lack of supply resulted in a gas shortage last summer, leading U.S. gas prices to hit a seven-year high, a sharp departure from the cheap pandemic-induced prices in 2020 when road trips and outdoor adventures became a staple among travelers and families opting for transport by car versus an airplane.

Standing with Ukraine: How you can join us in supporting the country now

Given the uncertainty over the situation in Ukraine and the volatility in the global oil markets, it’s hard to know how long prices might continue to climb.

So what can you do about it as you plan summer travel, or navigate higher prices in your day-to-day driving?

Thankfully, a quiet surge over the last few years of gas station rewards and third-party loyalty programs designed to save you money on gas now mean there are more options than ever for finding ways to avoid paying the full price you see on the sign. It’s possible to use one or multiple of these programs to save big on your next fill-up — and that’s before factoring in any rewards you earn with your gas credit card.

These are my five favorite programs, in addition to a few stacking opportunities where you can use two or more of these programs to fill up. If you’re strategic, you might even be able to turn a profit on your next trip to the gas station.

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In This Post

1. Fuel Rewards

A third-party loyalty program specifically for Shell gas stations, Fuel Rewards has been my most lucrative way to save on gas. Once you get to know the program and tailor a few shopping patterns, it’s not too hard to build up enough fuel rewards (earned in cents off per gallon) to make your next trip to the pump more affordable.

Since 2018, I crossed the $1,800 mark in savings from the program.

(Screenshot from Fuel Rewards)

Sign up for instant Gold status, which gets you 5 cents off per gallon on your first fill-up. This stacks with any additional Fuel Rewards you earn — all the way up to making gas nearly free.

Fuel Rewards has dozens of national partners where you can use a linked credit card to shop and earn cents off per gallon on your next fill-up. There is also a dining rewards program, shopping portal and plenty of promo offers (like T-Mobile Tuesdays) to earn Fuel Rewards.

Related: How I saved $1,000 on gas fill-ups in 1 year

Shop through the online portal and earn at least 5 cents per gallon. Link your Dunkin’ rewards account and earn an additional 10 cents per gallon. Eat at your favorite local restaurant in the dining rewards program and earn 10 cents per gallon.

With those savings, in addition to having Gold status, your next fill-up without even trying will be at least 30 cents off per gallon. All Fuel Rewards fill-ups are capped at 20 gallons and once you start pumping, your savings are used, whether you pump 1 gallon or 20.

2. Circle K Easy Pay

Another way to save at Shell is with Circle K Easy Pay. This program allows you to save 30 cents per gallon for the first 100 gallons or 60 days, after which you’ll save 6 or 10 cents per gallon, depending on your location.

Here’s how it works: you get a physical Easy Pay card that’s linked to your checking account. You then use that card to pay for your fill-ups, with all savings automatically deducted. Cards are PIN-protected and become locked after three failed login attempts. The only downside is that you can’t earn credit card rewards this way.

Related: The 8 most underrated loyalty programs and tools you should use

3. GetUpside

This third-party app hit the scene a couple of years ago and has expanded significantly. It now includes restaurants and grocery store rewards, as well as savings at the pump. You can claim offers in the app to save a certain number of cents per gallon.

(Screenshot from GetUpside)

After you 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 then be placed in your GetUpside account, which you can cash out whenever you like. I like GetUpside because fill-ups with savings are good for up to 50 gallons. My wife and I both wait until our cars are empty and then fill up on the same pump simultaneously. (Remember not to put the handle back on the pump between cars or that will end your fill-up and your savings).

Related: How to use these 7 credit cards to maximize your domestic US getaway

4. Pay with GasBuddy

The Pay with GasBuddy program continues to evolve rapidly and improve. It used to offer Shop Your Way points, but now it offers several levels of cash savings per fill-up. It has introduced deals you can claim at specific gas stations right before you fill up, as well as a “gas back” shopping portal in the app.

Similar to Circle K Easy Pay, payment occurs with a physical card GasBuddy mails you that is connected to your checking account. You pay with it at the pump. The amount you pump, minus any GasBuddy savings, is deducted from your checking account.

(Screenshot from GasBuddy)

Pay with GasBuddy Premium memberships allow you to save more per gallon and offer additional perks, like roadside assistance.

5. Grocery store fuel points

By now, I believe almost every nationwide grocery store has its own fuel points program or has partnered with an existing national gas station brand’s program to offer fuel savings for your grocery shopping.

The newest entrant is Walmart+ which is the new subscription service for Walmart similar to Amazon Prime. It offers free shipping on orders with a price of $12.95 per month.

Walmart+ is Walmart’s new subscription service that offers free two-day shipping on orders and other perks, similar to Amazon Prime. A subscription costs $12.95 per month. Here’s the great thing about it though, that monthly fee is reimbursed as a perk of The Platinum Card® from American Express. (reimbursed with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.)

Related: Save 10 cents per gallon at Exxon Mobil with Walmart+

You get savings of up to ten cents a gallon if you fill up at Exxon Mobil, Sam’s Club- or Murphy-branded gas stations. The full instructions can be found here.

There are several other grocery chains offering gas discounts for being a member.

I use Kroger here in the South and between regular family grocery shopping and taking advantage of 4 fuel points per dollar on gift cards, it’s pretty easy to max out the $1 per gallon savings the program allows. You can even buy third-party gift cards from the Kroger gift card-specific website. It regularly has gift cards for sale at a discount or with 4 fuel points per dollar earnings.

(Screenshot from Kroger)

Stack programs

You can stack two or more of the above programs on a single fill-up to compound savings and make gas particularly cheap. Here are a few of my strategies:

  • Fuel Rewards plus Pay with GasBuddy: The two programs operate independently of each other, allowing you to lower the price at the pump with Fuel Rewards. You’ll then have less cash than you pump deducted from your checking account when paying at a Shell station with your GasBuddy card. If you earn enough Fuel Rewards to make fill-up basically free, GasBuddy still gives you the savings based on the pre-discounted price of the Shell gas — meaning you can make a profit filling up your tank with gas.
(Photo by Paul Brennan/Shutterstock)
  • Kroger plus Pay with GasBuddy: The same principle as above applies when filling up for a discount using Kroger Fuel Points and then paying with your GasBuddy card.
  • Fuel Rewards plus Circle K Easy Pay: Like the two strategies discussed above, you can earn Fuel Rewards when paying with your Circle K card.
  • Stacking with Amex Offers: From time to time, American Express offers promotions on gas stations. For instance, we’ve seen Amex offer 400 bonus Membership Rewards points when spending $40 on gas. These stack with gas station and third-party loyalty programs, though you must pay with the Amex card you linked the offer to. As such, you can’t stack Amex Offers with Pay with GasBuddy or Circle K Easy Pay.

Related: Best credit cards for gas purchases

Bottom line

Other nationwide gas station chains have their own programs. They each typically have limited-time savings or a sign-up bonus. In addition to the featured programs, there is basically no reason to pay full price for gas no matter where you are. If not using Pay with GasBuddy, make sure to use a credit card that earns great rewards at the pump and you’ll compound your savings even more. Also, if you’re looking to stop paying for gas altogether, you could try an electric or hybrid vehicle, not only helpful to your wallet but beneficial to the planet far beyond your time on the road.

Read more: If you’re tired of high gas prices, here’s how to rent an electric (or hybrid) car

Additional reporting by Sean Cudahy, Clint Henderson, Caroline Tanner and Benji Stawski.

Featured photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy.

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