The Average family will spent anywhere between $2,000.00 and $4,000.00 a year on gasoline. No matter how you pump it, that’s a lot of money. And, with gas prices climbing upwards again, every dollar spend on gasoline, is one less dollar to spend on an amazing trip, your mortgage, or a good time out. We can work to minimize the pain at the pump by taking advantage of Fuel Saver Programs.
Fuel saver programs are programs offered by merchants to entice you to buy their products and then buy their gasoline. It is vertical integration of customer spending habits by corporations. Make no mistake about it, corporations have done the math and they know they are going to make a profit off you. But, because of the small initial rewards received, often times Average Joe’s overlook these programs as possible excellent savings opportunities.
Rule#1 of the Average Joes:Our goal is MINIMIZE the merchant’s profit’s while MAXIMIZING our returns
First, let’s look at some vendors with fuel saver rewards that I have personally used and frequent, just to see the wide variety of opportunities:
Hy-Vee– Hy-Vee is a Midwest grocery store chain (245 stores) that I frequent often. Offering fuel saver rewards for in-house groceries, food stuffs, prepared meals, and gift cards! Hy-Vee has an incredible assortment of ways to save on gasoline. Hy-Vee is my number one pick for a fuel savers rewards program and I often give these rewards away to the local Joes that I meet in my travels.
For this program, Hy-Vee gives you a plastic card to carry, which you use during checkouts to earn rewards and when redeeming your gas rewards.
Shell– A credit card linked program, the vendor wants you to get their credit card and spend money at their locations. A solid program, but you have to watch your interest rates. I use these vendors on occasion. An advantage of the gasoline company branded cards is that you can INCREASE your available personal credit when approved. This can help you increase your credit score by increasing the amount of your available credit, if used in moderation.
British Petroleum– A credit card linked program, the vendor wants you to get their credit card and spend money at their locations. Another solid program, but you have to watch your interest rates. I use these vendors on occasion. An advantage of the gasoline company branded cards is that you can INCREASE your personal available credit when approved. This can help you increase your credit score by increasing the amount of your available credit, if used in moderation.
Costco– A perennially favorite and a huge draw to the “members only” crowd (as the lines will attest), Costco, has the simplest program available and simply offers cut rate pricing on their brand of gasoline. If you regularly buy gas here, the savings alone will more than pay for your club membership. However, I have yet to find a way to maximize my savings here beyond what the store dictates. And, I hate the lines.
Sam’sClub – Another solid favorite, their gasoline is also in high demand by the club member crowds. Of the two, Costco and Sam’s Club, Costco seems to be the hands down favorite, however, Sam’s Clubs (621) warehouses far outnumber Costco’s (451) warehouses. However, I have yet to find a way to maximize my returns here beyond what the store dictates as a savings.
Publix – Publix, a dominant grocery store chain of the southeast. (One of my first jobs was working in a Publix Bakery) is falling way behind on gas rewards programs when compared to other vendors. They do offer on occasion discounted gas cards for sale. However, I am not a huge fan of this program as my rewards are capped out by Publix and the corresponding gas card. Frustratingly, if you shop in the Southeast, Publix is often the only grocery store game in town, thus limiting your opportunities.
Quicktrip– Quick Trip (a mid-western convenience store chain) offers a $.03 per gallon discount ($0.25 for new card members for two billing cycles) and then rewards a $10.00 gift card for every $200.00 spent on qualifying in-store purchases. For as many road trips that I do, this is a great way to earn free food and drinks. However, the Quick Trip credit card is only valid at Quick Trip’s 758 stores. So, this program has a lot of limitations. But, for those who are trying to expand their credit line or establish new credit, this credit card is very easy to get.
Minimizing Profits/Maximizing Returns
For my model, I am going to use just Hy-Vee, however, these practices can be expanded to other vendors. Now you will need to adjust and adapt with different vendors. Some vendors will offer more ways to take advantage of gas rebates and some will have less. You have to shop around, explore your local area, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Just because you like the clerk at the local convenience store, does not mean they have the best gas savings opportunities. The bottom line is, you should no longer pay retail for gas after reading this blog.
Step One – Find a fuel saver program that is convenient for you. When, I am in the Midwest, I use Hy-Vee. When, I work in the northeast, I use another. When in Florida, I use another. Since you live a more static lifestyle than I do, find a brand or a company that works for you and that you will frequent often.
Step Two – Join the program. You will have to give up some personal information here in order to take advantage of the program. But, not everyone is willing to do this. Once you join, watch for their corporate specific promotions. Promotions are where you really score.
Step Three – Begin studying the vendor and adapting to their specific program and how it best serves you. Some vendors will offer unique offers, specials, and/or incentives. For example:
- Hy-Vee is offering double points in May. But, only on Monday’s in May and June. So, I know, that I need to double up my shopping efforts on Mondays in May and June at Hy-Vee.
- In comparison, BP is offering a straight $.10 cents off per gallon, for every $100.00 in gas bought. Here they are using a graduated rewards system. The more you buy the more you save. It does not fluctuate and is a straight forward system.
- Price Chopper rewards its customers with a straight forward $0.05 for every $50.00 spent on groceries. Since the average grocery bill is now in the hundreds of dollars, these nickels add up fast.
Step Four – Begin buying… Now, I know that sounds counterintuitive. We are spending money to save money, but in this case we have to. Ask yourself, is there some way you can increase your buying? I travel extensively for work. So, I am happy to buy gasoline for work, put it on my personal credit card and then get reimbursed by my employer while I pocket the benefits.
If we are using a grocery store program, watch their sales ads and plan your buying accordingly. Maybe a certain store is offering a fuel saver bonus for XXX brand while not offering anything for YYY brand. Maybe on this trip you should buy the XXX brand and pocket the fuel saver reward, if it makes financial sense.
The above four steps will get you good rewards. Not great rewards, but good rewards and you will save money. Step Five is for the great rewards!
Step Five – Thinking outside of the box. Using steps 1 through 4, you are now accruing some valuable gas rewards points and laying down your working foundation. But, it is time to step up to the BIG Leagues and maximize your purchases and maximizing your profits. To do this we, need to use some manufactured spending or create a way to increase our money being spent through a vendor in order to increase our rewards being received.
Manufactured Spending is where we, the Average Joes,buy cash equivalents, like gift cards/debit cards, in order to maximize our spending on credit cards in order to receive credit card company rewards. We then cash out the gift cards/debit cards to pay back the credit card debt in order to repeat the process; again and again and again. Let’s look at two scenarios I have used-
Scenario One –
I walk into a Hy-Vee on a Monday in May. I need to buy a gift card in order to pay my Disney Vacation Club maintenance fees. I purchase a $200.00 Disney Gift Card, using a Disney branded Chase credit card that rewards me 2% back for my grocery store purchases. I display my Hy-Vee Fuel Savers Card and make sure that I am credited for my purchase. Here are the results:
- I earn $.20 cents Gas Rewards for a gift card in excess of $100.00.
- I purchased the gift card on Monday in May, so my $.20 cents is doubled to $.40 cents off per gallon thanks to the May promotion.
- I bought groceries at Hy-Vee earning another $.68 off per gallon.
- I now have a total of $1.08 cents off per gallon.
- Chase “rewards” me with 2% back on the $200.00 for a $4.00 reward rebate.
I give away the gas rewards to an Average Joe who can use the rewards (I already get free gas). She promptly goes out and happily buys $2.71 a gallon gasoline and redeems the rewards to get a $1.08 off per gallon; her final costs per gallon is $1.63 per gallon. A savings of 40%.
I earn $4.00 which is deposited into my Chase Disney Card rewards balance to be used on an upcoming family vacation.
A win-win situation!
Scenario Two –
I walk into Hy-Vee and I purchase a $500.00 debit card on a Monday in May. I receive the following:
- I earn $.20 cents Gas Rewards for a debit card in excess of $100.00.
- I purchased the gift card on Monday in May, so my $.20 cents is doubled to $.40 cents off per gallon.
- Chase “rewards” me with 2% back on the $500.00 for a $10.00 reward rebate.
- I spend, $5.95 to purchase the debit card and to redeem it with a money order. I repay the credit card.
- I repeat this process 5 more times.
My “reward” is as follows:
- $10.00 in credit card rebates if your credit card offers back 2% for grocery stores purchases X 5 purchases = $50.00 in credit card rebates.
- $.40 per gallon X 5 purchases = $2.00 off per gallon credit (to be given away).
- The average car has a 12 gallon gas tank, or a $24.00 savings for some lucky Average Joe.
- A total “earnings” of $74.00.
Now, with your earnings, you will have some expenses. You have to buy the gift cards, you have to redeem the gift cards, and of course your time and energy has to be calculated in. But, if you are working smart and not hard, you begin to see the possible opportunities here.
A second win-win!
These are just two scenarios. But, you can explore your regional area, or examine your spending habits and create your own opportunities now that you know the mechanics of the gift card/credit card Arbitrage game.
Apps for Extra Savings
We are in the Golden Age of saving money. More and more companies are creating apps and services that allow us Average Joes to tap into opportunities to save money, often vertically (Coupon Stacking). Vertically refers to using the same buying opportunity but receiving rebates through more than one outlet. I have written about this before and you can read more about it at my blog post CouponStacking. Here are a couple of Apps that I use that will help you receive extra rebates:
GetUpside – This is a new company that has created an app for saving money at gas stations, car washes and convenience stores. Their available stores are limited at the moment and they are not in all markets; but when I reached out to them, they assured me they are growing. And, I have no doubt they will.
Doing a quick search around my Florida base camp, I see two gas stations, one offering $.10 back and another offering $.03 back. But, as of this writing, I am in the Kansas City area and no gas stations are participating in this market.
Researching the social media feedback, I am reading good things about this app/company. I have downloaded it and will experiment with it once I am in one of their respective markets (Maryland, Virginia, DC and Florida) and then I can give more personal feedback. I am encouraging everyone to give this App a try. I have a referral code of J7ERH and it appears we will both get a bonus if you use my referral code.
Receipt Hog – This is one of my favorite apps. For every gas receipt I receive, I scan it into their database and they use it for their respective research. Each gas receipt gets me pennies. I know it is not much. But, in my first year I have earned about $40.00. Well, that is found money people for very little effort on my part. And, that $40.00 will be happily spend in Hawaii on a couple of cold fruity drinks. I do not have a referral code with Receipt Hog, just download it and thank me later.
Dosh– Is an app that links your credit card to a loyalty program. I just received an email (as of this blog writing) that Exxon and Mobile gas stations are now within their program. 2% is automatically rebated to users within their participating gas stations. This can be combined with other programs, like Exxon’s speed pass for coupon stacking opportunities.
Credit Card Rebates
We cannot overlook credit card rebates as another source of saving money. In some cases these can be combined with fuel saver programs for stacking purposes. Most work independently of fuel saver programs which allows for coupon stacking; although some will dictate brand specific buying. Most credit cards will rebate you 1% for gas purchases, which seems to be an industry standard. A few will rebate a bit more. For example:
- American Express’s Blue Cash Preferred offers back 3% on gasoline.
- Costco’s Anywhere Visa offers a whopping 4% on gasoline.
- Marathon offers a corporate card which offers a staggering 11% back on gasoline.
Many companies have entered into corporate alliances to expand their customer’s abilities to access gas stations and to redeem awards. For example-
Hy-Vee, which has a limited number of gas stations, has partnered with Casey’s GeneralStoreswhich has over 2,000 gas stations, which now gives us Average Joe’s a greater access to opportunities to redeem our accrued gas saver awards.
Price Chopper has partnered with Quicktrip.
Safeway has partnered with Sunoco.
Kroger has partnered with Shell.
Winn Dixie partnered with Plenti, but that rewards system now has become defunct. This underscores the importance of using your rewards and not hoarding them.
And, on and on.
When finding a rewards program to frequent, look at who the program partners with, if any, and consider those opportunities to expand your money saving opportunities.
A Few More Thoughts
Manufactured Spending Difficulties – Unfortunately, a number of grocery store vendors are cracking down on allowing debit cards/gift cards to be bought with credit cards. I find it is becoming more and more difficult due to:
- The credit card companies frown on this behavior and are pressuring vendors to stop it at their respective level.
- People are engaged in manufactured spending, then fraudulently claim their cards have been stolen and banks are triggering chargebacks to the vendors. Which the vendors are forced to absorb as a loss.
Manufactured spending is not impossible. But, if you take the manufactured spending route, you will have to explore your area for opportunities and do it responsibly. Don’t get too frustrated, manufactured spending is an evolving game and you have to be flexible if you are going to play it.
Expiration Dates – I have lost a few too many rewards based on expiration dates because I often have more than one going at a time. And, that is just sloppy record keeping on my part. Always, keep an eye on those expiration dates! I think you will find every program has them.
Shop Around – Every time you go to a grocery store, convenience store, gas station, check around for what type of rewards program they offer. Begin going to stores that are outside of your comfort zone. Explore new options. As commercial vendors become more and more competitive chasing your hard earned Average Joe dollars, the opportunities become more and more ubiquitous, but we have to shop around to find the best opportunities for us!
A Living Blog Posts – Average Joe believes in creating blog posts that are continuously updated. Please check back often as I will update this blog as I explore and research other markets. If you have a program you would like to share, please send me a note so I can update the blog and give you credit!
Stuff You Need…
Our goal at Average Joe Arbitrage is too help YOU have more money, earn more rewards points, and receive more opportunities for free stuff. We may be Average Joes at heart, we just choose not to live like Average Joes!
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