When gasoline prices were above $3.50 a gallon in 2011, Harris Teeter launched a promotion that allowed customers of the grocery store to save 20 percent on gasoline purchases.
With few changes, that promotion has been going on now for more than five years. My family has saved hundreds of dollars on gas each year by using the discounted gift cards sold by the grocery chain, paying just 80 cents for every dollar of gas.
In other words, when gas was $3.50 a gallon, I was paying $2.80. Now that gas is about $2 a gallon, I'm paying $1.60.
Sadly, it looks like the last day for this promotion will be Nov. 1. I say "looks like" because there were previous times when the promotion was said to be ending, but then it continued. This time, it appears Harris Teeter is serious.
Some customers will be offered a new promotion, tied to the limited number of Harris Teeter stores that have gas stations. In the Charleston area, the Folly Road Harris Teeter near Folly Beach has one.
I'll explain the new promotion but first, here are the important points for fans of the 20-percent-off deal (and for Harris Teeter customers who were unaware of it):
- The last day to "earn" discounted gas cards is Nov. 1.
- The last day to purchase discounted gas cards is Dec. 6.
- Shoppers with a VIC card (Harris Teeter's loyalty program) who spend $50 in a single trip can buy a gas station gift card worth $50 for $40, saving 20 percent.
- The gift cards don't expire and can be used for gas or anything sold at the gas station except lottery tickets. So, it's also 20 percent off cigarettes, beer, gum, newspapers, or whatever.
- Shoppers can accumulate the ability to buy multiple discounted gas cards, one for each qualifying shopping trip.
For Harris Teeter shoppers who haven't been taking advantage of this, check your receipt the next time you shop there. The receipt will show how many gas cards you're eligible to buy.
For people who also use Bi-Lo Fuel Perks, remember that you could use both Fuel Perks and a discounted gas station gift card at the same time. Bi-Lo's Fuel Perks program allows customers with loyalty cards to accumulate cents-off-per-gallon gas discounts, which are then used to reduce the cost of a fill-up.
So, you could use Fuel Perks to reduce the per-gallon price at the pump, then save 20 percent on the balance due by using a discounted gift card. The same is true for the cents-off programs offered by gas stations, such as Shell's Fuel Rewards.
Harris Teeter's new promotion, which will not be offered at most Charleston-area stores, combines both concepts - the discounted gas card and the cents-off deal.
Instead of being able to buy a $50 gas card for $40, the new program will offer some Harris Teeter customers a $50 gas card for $45, plus a 3-cents-per-gallon discount. The requirement to spend $50 on grocery shopping to qualify for the promotion will continue.
A Harris Teeter representative told me that they do expect to provide a fuel-related promotion at other store locations, but there's no timetable for doing that, and no details on what that promotion will be.
Meanwhile, Publix continues to occasionally offer $50-for-$40 gas cards, through a coupon offer in store circulars.