Gas prices in my area have come down by about thirty cents since the summer. I can’t think of any other product that fluctuates so wildly in price. I guess there is a reason it is excluded from the core inflation index! Another “in a class of its own” is increases in price. I’m not that old, but when I was in high school, gas was a dollar or even less. I remember a price war between two gas stations where regular unleaded got down to just 59 cents per gallon!
But gas prices aren’t going to be getting much lower before they start rising again. So it’s going to be a good idea to have a plan for minimizing your fuel bill. Car-pooling, alternate forms of transportation, and fuel efficiency are all valiant points, but today I’m just going to be talking about saving money at the pump instead of needing the pump less.
Gas points take a few different forms. Probably the most well-known is credit cards that offer “points” redeemable towards discounted fuel. Spend money and get free gas! As long as you are already spending the money the money in the first place, this is a good deal if you can get it.
Another way to accrue points towards discounted gasoline is with store loyalty cards. Most often, these apply only to the store-branded gas stations, but some chains will work out a deal with another brand of gas.
At King Soopers, simply having a loyalty card entitles you to three cents per gallon off the advertised price. Then shopping at Kings allows you to accrue fuel points. You can get ten cents off for every $100 you spend in the store. Gift cards and pharmacy earn points even faster! And then they have a deal worked out with Shell. You can get a single ten-cent discount at Shell if you have accrued at least 100 fuel points with your Sooper Card.
Because Pandora is rather confused by what part of the country I live in, I know that Shell has a similar agreement with Stop n Shop in the northeast US.
Finding the cheapest gas stations
Of course, getting ten cents off the price of your gas isn’t going to help much if you fill up at a gas station that charges 30 cents more. The Shell station closest to my nearest highway exit regularly charges as much as 50 cents more than other places in the surrounding area. Ironically, the cheapest gas is just a quarter-mile down the road at the station that Walmart just built.
There are a few ways to discover who has the cheapest gas. Traditionally, this was done by driving around and word of mouth. I still do most of my gas price discovery by simply driving to the places I go normally and keeping an eye out for prices then. That’s how I know that Walmart has the cheapest pre-discount gas and the Shell near it has the highest.
In the advent of mobile phones, more people are turning to apps such as Gas Buddy. These programs turn to crowd-sourcing to get prices for all gas stations and display them on a nifty map. I have one friend who lives by Gas Buddy and does his part by faithfully recording the price he paid whenever he fills up.
If an out-of-your-way station has the cheapest price, you should probably still skip it unless it is along the way of an alternate route that doesn’t add any distance to your driving. Adding extra miles to your trip can quickly eat up any price savings at the pump. If the price is three cents cheaper, you are only saving thirty cents on gas. But if you burn fifty cents worth of gas to get there, you are paying more instead of less.
By combining cheaper pump prices and fuel points you can maximize your fuel savings.
How do you make sure that you are getting the best price at the pump? Is there anything I missed?