It doesn’t matter if you drive 10 miles a week or 1000 miles each week, you are probably always eager to save a bit of coin at the gas pump. With AAA indicating that national average gas prices hover around $2.50 per gallon (with prices up by twenty-five cents or more per gallon since last year), most of us want to find the lowest priced fuel. Yet, that is often something that seems out of our grasp. We can ask friends what they pay and where they find good rates, we can search for cheap gas on MapQuest or Google, and even use the web to compare the cost of premium gas vs regular gas at the local pumps.
The problem? Most of the data is not in real time or we forget to look for it until we need that gas right away. This is why apps like GasBuddy can be so useful. In an August 2017 article in USA Today, the app’s designers said it would “shave 5 cents off each gallon of gas pumped at most gas stations in the United States.”
It would do this in several ways:
- First, it would reveal the best pricing on gas based on your GPS data in your mobile device
- Second, it would use a gas payment card linked to a checking account to allow you the lowest price per gallon. As the article explained, “if you fill up with gallons at $3 a gallon, the $30 charge would show up as $29.50.”
Wait a minute, you might think, what about the different gas station loyalty programs? And you would be right in thinking about that issue because the loyalty credit cards that a lot of the big-name brands in fuel provide would not work via this route. This is because most of the gas station loyalty programs use a credit card rather than a simple, bar-coded loyalty card. This is why you get the discount in the first place. By eliminating the middle man and paying the gas station directly through their card, they can allow for a discounted price.
A lot of the programs, and their cards, also come with additional benefits. In fact, many gas station loyalty programs”are paying $1 to $2 per mile for airline trips, which could average from 50-200 miles monthly, and that helps add up for free plane trips.”
So, does that mean that you shouldn’t use the GasBuddy program? Here’s the thing, and it is a “thing” we constantly remind our readers: It is unwise to limit your efforts at saving money to one channel or opportunity.
Consider that some gas station loyalty programs are very local or regional. If you drive elsewhere, and avoid registering for other gas station loyalty programs, it forces you to pay premium prices at the pumps. Don’t neglect the fact that GasBuddy and some gas station loyalty programs are not honored at wholesale spots like Costco. There are also some brands of gasoline with their own pumps, stations and mobile payment systems that offer rebates. For instance, Costco has its own credit card for use at the pumps and which comes with a 4% rebate at the end of the year.
So, never stick to just one of the gas station loyalty programs and most definitely explore options for wholesale pumps and options like GasBuddy. Remember too that you don’t need to use the Pay with GasBuddy option, and can just look to the app for the most current lists of local gas station prices.
However, you always want to have more than a single app with up to the minute details of that kind, and so we are going to look at a few of those momentarily, too. This way you can verify if a station really is ten or more cents less at the moment and navigate there quickly to enjoy the deal.
The Ways to Save
Of course, using a card like the GasBuddy card that reduces your price per gallon at the pump is an obvious way to save any time you visit a station. But, there are alternative methods that you cannot overlook. For one thing, the apps themselves have a lot to deliver in terms of effective and useful information.
For example, you get things like:
- Pricing maps
- Trip calculators
- Gas price charts
- Fuel consumption insights
- Local feedback on prices
- Nearby services and stores
- Real time traffic updates, and more.
Now, we looked first at GasBuddy because it has that “Pay with GasBuddy” option for some of the largest, fastest and most consistent discounts on your car’s fuel. However, let’s look at a few other gas apps that give you lots of useful information and ways to get the lowest prices.
Remember that a few of them are going to also work with any and all gas station loyalty programs. Most of the apps may not show you a comparison between the cost of premium gas vs regular, and this is because premium fuels are not really for the frugally minded.
They are not even for the automotive upkeep minded. Consider what AAA says about it: “there is no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that requires regular fuel…Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs, and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”
Unless your car’s manufacturer specifically says to use the higher octane (this is often for higher horsepower and high-performance vehicles), just go with the regular gas at the lowest price. And you can quickly discover the best spots nearby when you use the following apps:
- Fuel Finder – This is a crowd sourced resource that relies on drivers reporting on the lowest gas prices. It all goes down in real time and you can see just where the nearest pumps are from your location, what they are asking for a gallon of gas. It also has an offline mode for when you are without Internet access and once registered, you can update when you find a good deal or a sale price.
- Gas Cubby – Recently joined with Fuelly – a web fuel logging community with up to the minute pricing – this app helps you save at the pump in a number of ways. The first is the real-time data on local pricing, but it also emphasizes how your car is performing and what sort of actual mileage you are getting. Just make a habit of logging your fuel usage and then rely on the app to see if your car could be doing better, where to get low priced fuel and how to drive more efficiently. For iOS devices, only.
- Gas Guru – Available as an app for both Android and Apple devices, its emphasis is to help you find cheap gas near you, but it will also compare at your favorite destinations (cheaper closer to home than the office, for example). This lets you label and save favorite spots and filter by grade or location. You also get mapping, last time of pricing updates, address, business hours of stations, and more. Effective in all locations, it is the ideal road trip tool but also great for fast comparisons if you are also looking to see which spots have the best prices for loyalty programs or rewards.
- Route4Me – Sick of burning costly fuel while sitting in morning traffic? This is an app that can help to eliminate this annoying issue. It lets you plug in your favorite destinations, and then it simply optimizes routes based on real time traffic and updates. If you have more than one place to go on your trip, the app actually helps you to drive the fastest and most efficient route. This is amazingly handy for companies with lots of delivery vehicles, but also fantastic for the everyday driver eager to skip the stop and go, fuel gobbling traffic.
- Waze – The famous, free community based traffic app that incorporates navigation, real time road and traffic information and which also includes details on gas pricing. Community shared gas prices ensure that you can see just which stations along your optimized route offer the best per gallon price or which are in line with your loyalty rewards goals.
So, with these apps, you get everything from navigation inspired by real time traffic updates to details about trustworthy local shops and restaurants. You can turn to these apps just to cut your costs at the pumps, but you can also use them as the ultimate travel and automotive maintenance resource. After all, you can rely on the apps to help you gauge your mileage, which can often indicate a problem with your car long before you notice it. Did you suddenly dip to 22 MPG when it was 28 MPG just a few weeks earlier? If so, it may be traffic, but it could also be a repair looming. And, as the old saying tells us, the sooner the better, and catching repairs early on is usually the best and most affordable time to do so.
Rack Em Up in the Store
And though we have looked at gas station loyalty programs, we also have to consider ways to save at the pump apart from the gas station loyalty programs and apps just described above. One of the nicest ways to reduce your per gallon pricing is to do so through grocery purchases. There is a long list of national chains and local grocery stores that reward their customers with discounted gallons of gas for every dollar or more spent. A brief list would include such programs as the:
- Safeway gas savings program that discounts fuel through Sunoco stations and gives a dime off a gallon of gas for every $100 spent in the stores
- Kroger gas program that rewards points for every dollar spent. Once $100 is spent, the buyer gets a dime off a gallon of gas. This program is through the store’s chain of stations or through Shell gas stations.
- Stop & Shop also offers ten cents per $100 spent and makes this discount stackable up to $1.50 per gallon. The catch is that you can only use them at Stop & Shop stations and they expire in a 30-day window.
- Winn Dixie gas locations throughout the Southeastern U.S. have their Plenti program with Exxon Mobil stations that let you earn points for every dollar spent.
- Ingles gas rewards does a direct point per dollar too, and give five cents per gallon at 100 points. There is no cap on the program, but you can redeem your points for up to 20 gallons at any of the Ingles stations
- Price Chopper gas station savings are similar to all the rest, and work a lot like Stop & Shop’s as they are stackable. You redeem them exclusively at Sunoco stations by scanning your shopping loyalty card to indicate your current points.
Other familiar names include Bi-Lo, Albertsons, Food City, Harvey’s Supermarkets, Shaw’s, TOPS, Hy-Vee, Cub Foods, Shop N’Save, and many more. Most use the $1 per point model with 100 points translating to five to ten cents per gallon. Some of these programs work exclusively with the store’s private pumps, but others work with big name vendors, such as Sunoco and Mobil. The point is to try hard to align your spending at grocery stores with gas rewards when available. This is entirely free money, and though the store’s pumps or chosen vendor may not be your preferred option, when those discounts stack up and you are looking thirty to fifty cents, or more, discounted off the gallon, it is a great reward.
You can save at the pumps, just use apps and methods like those outlined here and you can see a lot less disappearing into your gas tank this year.