Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gas Rewards Programs: Beat the System

They're pretty smart—rumors float around that gas will reach $5/gallon, and all of these grocery and convenience stores are baiting us with 10 cent/gallon discounts. In fact, they'll let you save up to $1 per gallon-----if you spend $1000 at their store in one month.

Source: via Marissa on Pinterest

Here are a few tips to help you figure out if you can use the system, or if the system will use you.

  • Compare the prices of your staples—things you buy at least a couple times a month—at every store in your area. Which ones have the best overall deals?

  • Do the ones that have the best deals also have gas rewards programs? If they don't, then don't bother with gas rewards programs. If they do, proceed.

  • Do these gas rewards-participating stores actually have gas stations in the areas you frequent? Find this out before giving them all your business. I was shopping at one store because it's literally just across the street from me, and one month I happened to spend enough to qualify for 10 cents off per gallon. I couldn't recall ever seeing a gas station near their location so I called the store and asked where their participating stations were. . .and the nearest one was in a town ten miles away that I never go to. Not even joking. And yet, their gas program had dominated print-ads in my town for months!

  • So the store has the deals, the gas rewards program, and plenty of participating stations in your neighborhood. Okay—give them all your business. Seriously. If you're going to do it, go all-in. Only go to other stores if they're running much better deals on what you need—and if that's a regular occurrence, you might have to give up on trying to profit from gas rewards.

  • But keep your grocery budget just as tight as usual.

  • If you don't spend enough to qualify for rewards often, then so be it. But cash in when you can!

  • If it is the last day of the month, and you're at the checkout, and you're just $3 short of your 10 cents discount. . .Be strong. Don't spend the extra $3. See: Suppose you drive a little car like mine and the most gas you ever buy at a time is 12 gallons—at 10 cents off per gallon, the maximum you will save on that transaction is $1.20. If you spent that extra $3, you would have to buy 30 gallons of gas in that next transaction in order to break even. Calculate your own maximum savings according to the size of your gas tank and you'll see whether or not it's reasonable to tack on a last-minute pack of gum just for your gas discount.

Gas rewards don't really work for me. I save a TON of money by patronizing Sprouts for my produce, but stick with a different grocer for most of my other purchases—it's a rare month that either one of them sees $100 from me! If you think about it, a dollar or two of savings on gas every month doesn't make it worthwhile to compromise very much on your grocery budget.

How do you decide where to go grocery shopping?