Is Gas Cheap Enough?

Is Gas Cheap Enough?Unless you avoid cars, which I applaud, or use an electric one you have certainly noticed a decrease in the price of fuel.  If you are a California like me, prices are around three bucks a gallon and elsewhere in the country about half that.  The savings we are experience compared to last year are great, but out of our control; let’s see if there are ways to save some more.

For all numbers below I will assume you purchase 40 gallons a month over 3 fill ups, at 25 MPG this would be on 12,000 miles a year – adjust your numbers accordingly.

Costco or other wholesaler

If you are into looking up the cheapest place and going there that may work but it could cost time and potentially increase your mileage.  One popular method is to go to Costco or other wholesaler to get their reduced priced gas which is up to 25 cents cheaper per gallon.  One downside is the time it takes to wait in the long lines so I rarely use this method.  For an additional 45 minutes you are earning $10 a month, not too shabby.

Gas Cards

The strategy I prefer is purchasing prepaid gas cards at a discount.  Every month or so eBay will sell a $100 gas card for a price between $90 and $95.  I buy the maximum number (3) and keep them in my car.  This  $6 to $12 a month.  It takes 5 minutes to order on eBay.  When compared to Costco this method offers a similar price but saves time. 

Rewards on gas purchases

Rewards can be earned on gas purchases from credit cards, gas station programs, and partnerships.  In fact, it is even possible to combing programs to get additional savings.
Credit card rewards
First off I would recommend against getting a gas station credit card.  Chevron offers a card with three cents back per gallon, Shell gives five cents, and Exxon Mobil six cents up to 100 gallons but with at least 45 gallons a month.  You would receive $1.20, $2, and $0 from the respective programs.  In a future article I will explain that you should not sign up for a credit card unless you can get $500 or more from it. This money will definitely not add up to much.
There are other cards which offer 3% back on gas such as the BankAmericard and Amex Blue Cash Preferred, which is already better than the gas station cards and likely includes a sign up bonus.  Then there are cards with rotating bonuses such as the Chase Freedom and Discover IT.  These offer 5% during one quarter, maybe two, at gas stations and the bonus categories rotate each quarter.  The Discover card also has double cash back during the first year.
Gas station programs
Plenti is a program for several retailers and includes Exxon Mobil.  You get 1 point, worth a penny, for each gallon.  Forty cents a month isn’t enough to convince me to enter my 16 digit Plenti number.
Shell has Fuel Rewards which looks promising.  This is a program you join and attach your card to so you do not have to worry about having another thing to type in.  Right now they have a bonus of 25 cents off a gallon on your second fill up which I would value at $2.50 and three cents off every gallon instantly.  There are other ways to earn more – purchases of $50 in gift cards at Shell will earn you five cents a gallon while daily purchases may help as well, click the link for more details.  I am not sure if the savings per gallons stack, but since it is almost effortless to use after signing up I would recommend this.
Partnership Rewards
Vons and Safeway have a Gas Rewards partnership with Chevron Texaco where you can save 10 cents a gallon for $100 in groceries, 20 cents for $200, and $1 for $1000.  The $1 off per gallon is only at Vons stations.  Gift cards are worth double points, so a $100 in gift cards will get you 20 cents off per gallon.  Quite the 
Ralph’s Fuel Program works the same way as Vons’ without the $1 off per gallon option.  This program is partnered with Shell.
There are likely more gas station rewards programs or partnerships which I have skipped, but look into them and see if you can get enough from them to justify the effort.

Other Methods                                  

Finally, be on the lookout for unconventional ways to save.  Recently a gas delivery startup was expanding into my area and offered a great promotional price and $10 off first purchases so I took advantage of it.  I didn’t have to spend time at the gas station, but may have spent an equivalent downloading their app.  Their rates are in line with gas stations and are very easy to use.  If you decide to try it use code 3CG72 for $10 off your first fill.

Conclusion

In the end it all comes down to your value of time versus money.  If time is not very valuable you may be willing to jump through many hoops to save a buck.  For me that means purchasing discounted gas cards, but after researching the programs I am considering Shell Fuel rewards with my Discover card and maybe incorporating my Ralphs shopping.  At the other end of the spectrum if you are a lawyer earning hundreds of dollars an hour having gas delivered to your sports car is probably the way to go.
This entry was posted in Car, Save.

One comment

  1. Eric says:

    Wow, you outline some really easy ways to afford your monthly allowance of gas. It is something you have to pay for in the end so why not spend a little time figuring out how to save money from it. Thanks for the interesting read and hopefully I can institute some of these ideas into my daily gas spending routine.

Leave a Reply