Gas prices are surging: Here’s how I save $1,000 per year on gas fill-ups
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Gas prices are surging across the country. The average price for a gallon of gas hit $3.28 a gallon in mid-October according to AAA. Oil prices are higher than they’ve been since 2014. Gas prices are likely headed even higher. So what can you do about it?
You probably already have coupon codes, cash-back sites, the right credit card and other offers to save money on most household purchases. Why, then, do you still pay the asking price for gas, a large expense for many households?
There are now multiple apps, programs and strategies that allow you to drop the price per gallon on your next fill-up. These gas savings add up over the course of the year in a very real way. In around the last 12 months, I’ve personally saved more than $1,000 when filling 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.
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For all of the gas programs outlined below, the savings principles are pretty similar, but there are a few things to plan out ahead of time.
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.
This means 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 a bit of a maneuver 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.
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 with the exception of a location in Tennessee and another in Richmond, Virginia. On the other hand, Fuel Rewards can bring your cost of gas to free, down to 1.9 cents per gallon (like where I live in Georgia) or have a maximum of $1 off per gallon, depending on your home state.
One way these companies can offer such lucrative discounts is to count on breakage. Most of these programs have pretty short expiration periods of one to three months in which you need to 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 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 a flat dollar amount. This is probably the least lucrative of the programs and it is tough to find much value. The program does have regular sign-up bonuses for new customers, so be sure to 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 in saving at the pump. There are various avenues to earn Fuel Rewards, which are earned 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, you can link your Giant and Fuel Rewards accounts and use your grocery store points through Fuel Rewards for discounts on your next fill-up.
Kroger Fuel Points
Every time you shop at Kroger, you’ll earn 1 fuel point per dollar spent. Every 10 points are worth 1 cent off per gallon of gas on your next fill-up. Kroger often makes it easy to earn points by offering bonus earnings of 2 to 4 points per dollar on gift cards and certain grocery items.
During a 4x Fuel Points gift card special (or any special), you need to 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 4x points event, you’ll earn 2,000 points 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, such as the American Express® Gold Card, which awards 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x).
This program is new, and training sent out to gas stations must be nonexistent based on my experiences, but it offers periodic oversized savings at the pump. The program works by offering you “My CentsOff” points in exchange for buying specific merchandise in the Marathon convenience store.
You then redeem My CentsOff points for savings at the pump or Amazon gift cards.
From the above offers, I can buy two 79-cent Tic Tac Gums and have enough points for 10 cents off per gallon on up to 20 gallons, or a maximum of $2 in savings. Sometimes the app offers double points, and often there have been bonuses so large for merchandise that it makes sense to buy it and reap the savings at the pump. Your challenge will be finding any Marathon gas station that even knows what you’re talking about when you mention the app.
Pay with GasBuddy
You may know GasBuddy.com as the site that shows you gas prices in your area or for locations on a future road trip. GasBuddy has expanded and now offers an avenue to pay for fuel at the pump and earn rewards. Pay with GasBuddy can be used for 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 of the 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 app offers at least 0.5%-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 the ability 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 and within one to two days, the cash back will be added to your account.
This third-party app hit the scene a couple of years ago and has expanded significantly. It now includes restaurants 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.
Sign up and 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 and 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: The top 5 ways to save on gasoline
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, say, $2.50 per gallon to $1.50 per gallon.
- Use your new Pay with GasBuddy card to save 20 cents per gallon pumped (gas price doesn’t matter).
- Scan your receipt from the pump into Trunow and earn an additional up to 2% cash back.
If you fill up the maximum of 20 gallons, you’ll save $20 on gas, save $1 with Pay with GasBuddy and get 3 cents in your Trunow account for a total fill-up cost of $38.97 instead of the usual $50 that most everyone else around you is usually paying.
Of course, you’ll also want to pay for the gas that you do have to pay for 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, which awards 3x ThankYou points at gas stations, resulting in 5.1 cents in points earned per dollar spent at the pump at current valuations.
Another thing to stay on the lookout for when searching for ways to save on gas are Amex Offers that work at gas stations. For example, we recently saw one that offered $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 that already awards 3% cash back on gas at U.S. gas stations can be especially useful. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.
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. I’ve found with a bit of planning, and once I got a routine down, 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 now 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.
Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images.
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