Imagine never having to worry about the price of gas.
This isn’t a pitch for buying an electric vehicle or exchanging your car for a bike, although that could certainly help. Instead, by using a combination of loyalty and cash-back programs you can greatly decrease how much you spend on gas.
Richard Kerr, the founder of the Award Travel 101 Facebook group, which has more than 55,000 members, shared some of his tactics with Varo. He uses several programs and apps to save money at the pump, and sometimes he even makes money when he buys gas. He’s also recently launched the Awards Travel 101 podcast and explores this topic in episode six.
Read more: 5 Tips for a Cheap Summer Road Trip
It’s all about stacking
If you’ve ever dipped your toe into the couponing or travel hacking world, you’ll quickly learn that the key to massive savings is figuring out how to combine offers from multiple programs. The same approach applies to saving money on gas.
One program might lower your cost per gallon, a second company gives you cash back, and a third offers rewards points for your purchase. “All these savings stack on top of each other to the point where you can get gas for free,” says Kerr.
Start with a rewards program
The first level in the stack is the gas company’s rewards program. Only certain gas stations participate in a rewards program, and some of the programs are only eligible to residents of certain states. But these rewards programs are free to join and often offer savings on gas and convenience store purchases.
Some of the popular programs to look out for include:
- BP Driver Rewards
- Exxon Mobile Rewards+
- Pilot Flying J myRewards
- Shell Fuel Rewards
- Speedway Speedy Rewards
They work differently, but often you’ll either earn points that you can redeem for merchandise or earn fuel savings which can lower your cost per gallon in the future. For instance, with BP Driver Rewards you get 1 cent off per gallon for each $10 in BP fuel you buy. So, if you spend $30 on gas, you can save 3 cents per gallon the next time.
Kerr says Shell’s Fuel Rewards program, which also has a cents-off-per-gallon approach, is one of his favorite right now because there are so many ways to earn rewards. For example, you can link your debit or credit card (like your Varo debit card for example) to the program and earn a reward for 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend at eligible restaurants.
“With very little effort, you can get almost $1 offer per gallon on your next fill up,” he says. “This is obviously only good at Shell stations, but it’s just so easy.”
Depending on the program, the rewards may expire within a month or two and you’ll want to be careful about using your rewards before then. Many of the programs also have limits on how many gallons of gas you can buy (often, around 20) when you redeem the rewards. Kerr says his car only takes about 13, so he’ll sometimes bring an extra gas canister to get the full 20 gallons at a discounted rate. (Don’t worry, he safely stores it at home after.)
Earn a little extra cash back from third-party apps
In addition to loyalty programs, there are a few companies that will offer you cash back for buying gas.
- Using the GetUpside app, you to pull up a map off nearby gas stations, accept a cash-back offer at the gas station, and then scan and submit your receipt after filling up to get the cash back added to your account. You can earn up to 25 cents per gallon, which you can have transferred to a PayPal account. Unfortunately, the app only works in nine states (primarily on the east coast) right now.
- You can also use a similar app, TruNow, to scan your receipt and earn around 0.5% to 2% cash back on your gas purchase. It works around there country and sometimes also has deals on gas station convenience store items.
These apps generally won’t lead to lots of earnings, but they do offer extra savings and don’t take away from the other opportunities.
Stack on the Pay with GasBuddy program
GasBuddy is a long-time favorite when it comes to saving money on gas. You can use the app to compare prices at nearby gas stations before filling up. If you’re headed on a road trip this summer, you can even use the trip planning tool to estimate your fuel costs and find the cheapest stations along the route
But the tip here is to look into the “Pay with GasBuddy” program. After signing up, you’ll receive a card in the mail, you can link your bank account, and if you use the card at the pump you can save 5 cents per gallon. The full price gets charged at the pump, but GasBuddy deducts the savings before pulling money from your account. There are also paid versions of the program that give you 20 cents off per gallon.
Kerr suggests one of the alternative free options which lets you earn the equivalent of 15 cents per gallon in Shop Your Way points, an online rewards program where you can redeem points for merchandise. You earn these rewards based on how many gallons you buy, not the price per gallon, and can actually come out ahead.
“If I get my cost per gallon down to zero with Fuel Rewards, I can make money using Pay With GasBuddy,” says Kerr. “I get paper towels, wipes, and other household stuff for free with the points.”
Pick, choose, and learn from the approach
By stacking the programs and apps above, you save money and open up more room in your budget. If the full stack sounds like too much, you can pick and choose which programs to try and you’ll at least save some money.
The potentially more valuable lesson here is to generally look for opportunities to combine multiple savings and earnings programs. Similar programs and apps can help you save money and cash back whether you’re buying furniture, clothing, or groceries. If you can incorporate this approach whenever you shop, you may find that the savings stack up as well.
Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer and credit enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter @is_lou.
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