SLADE COLUMN: So many options for gas savings
Are you still paying full price for gas?
With the latest incentives that gas stations have rolled out, there are now so many options for savings that there’s hardly an excuse.
The choices include signing up for some of the new gas station reward networks, or scoring discounts from grocery stores, or the long-running cash-back deals tied to credit cards.
Some of the offers are better than others, in terms of saving money. But with all the options out there, you can save on gas in whatever way you’re comfortable.
Some of the discounts are very simple and direct, such as being able to buy a gas station gift card for less than face value, or signing up for a program where you get a specific price-per-gallon discount.
Other deals are more complicated and involve things like getting a variable discount on the price-per-gallon for up to a limited number of gallons that you purchase during a single visit.
Here’s a rundown:
Blue Water convenience stores, which sell several brands of gas, including Exxon and BP in the Charleston area, are encouraging people to sign up for a rewards card that’s linked to your checking account. The idea is that you use the card to pay for your purchases and the money comes from your checking account, like a debit card.
The store presumably saves money on debit and credit card fees, and the cardholder is rewarded with a discount of 10 cents per gallon, which at current prices is a discount of between 3 percent and 4 percent. Details are in stores, or online at BlueWater-Rewards.com.
Shell stations are running a loyalty program called the Fuel Rewards Network. The way it works is that you sign up for the free savings card, then earn cents-off-per-gallon discounts by using a linked credit card when dining at participating restaurants, making purchases at Shell stations, or starting at the rewards network portal before shopping online with participating merchants.
The savings are limited to 20 gallons of gas at one time. The program is similar to others I’ve seen that offer airline miles or cash back instead of gas savings.
BP also offers the BP Driver Rewards Card, a free loyalty program card, which gives you a one-time 10 cents off per gallon, then a 5 cents-per-gallon savings for every 20 gallons you buy. Sign up at bpdriverrewards.com.
Discounted gift cards have been my favorite way to save on gas. They are simple, and the savings in my experience are greater than with cents-per-gallon deals. I’ve been buying gas for 20 percent off for more than two years now using Harris Teeter grocery stores’ discount deal, which is offered all the time, or similar deals offered from time to time by Publix and CVS.
At Harris Teeter each time you spend $40 on groceries, you can buy a Shell or BP gift card worth $25 for the discounted price of $20. Very straightforward, and it’s hard to beat 20 percent savings. The last time I bought gas it was $3.30 a gallon, so my discounted gift card saved me the equivalent of 66 cents per gallon.
For those who like watching the price of gas roll back right at the pump, the Fuel Perks promotion offered by Bi-Lo stores has been popular. Shoppers with a Bi-Lo BonusCard can save 5 cents per gallon on up to 20 gallons of gas, at a participating gas station, for every $50 spent at Bi-Lo on groceries, with some restrictions. Purchasing promoted items can generate additional Fuel Perks.
As with the Shell Fuel Rewards Network program, if you have a smaller gas tank (mine holds about 11 gallons), your savings are limited compared with someone who can buy 20 gallons at a time.
Credit cards have long offered gas savings deals, which always should be weighed against other offers that simply provide cash back. Credit card deals make sense only if you pay off the card balance in full and on time, avoiding interest charges and fees.
Some credit cards offer a straight percentage back, such as the BankAmericard no-fee cash rewards cards, which gives you 3 percent back on gas as well as 2 percent back on groceries and 1 percent on everything else. Other cards, such as the BP Visa card, give you cents-per-gallon savings at the pump, based upon how much you spend with the card.
Whichever way you prefer to save money on gas, there are lots of good options out there.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.