Gas Price Redux, Part Two
Last month we started tackling those pesky prices at the gas pump. This month, it's time to share even more strategies for boosting the discounts available.
First, gift cards. If you buy a $50 gift card at Kroger or Giant Eagle, you get 10 cents off a gallon. Strategy: Buy gift cards for other retailers, and use them to pay for items you were planning to purchase anyway.
"If you know you are going to go to spend the money anyway, leveraging all of those expenses by buying gift cards for fuel discounts can get you more bang for your buck," said Brad Huffman, a Worthington-based financial planner. "I have clients who do that and haven't paid for gas in a long time."
My lovely neighbor, Tina, bought Lowe's gift cards at Giant Eagle, and used them to pay for the fixtures in her remodeled bathroom. Thanks to that little bit of planning, she got a lot of free gasoline. Some of it is even sitting in gas cans in her garage.
That's another trick. Gas discounts are only good for one fill-up, and most gas tanks are too small to hold all of the cheap gas you're entitled to.
"It's within the rules to fill up a gas can at the same time you fill up your car at the discounted price," said Kroger spokesperson Amy McCormick, "as long as they follow the law."
And the law says a three-quarters-filled container can be stored on the ground, though not inside the vehicle.
Another way to stock up on gas discounts is to use a credit card that provides an additional per-gallon discount. For example, if you use the Kroger 1-2-3 Rewards Mastercard, you automatically get 5 cents off a gallon, in addition to the discount you would have already gotten. It would turn your 10 cents off a gallon into 15.
The Giant Eagle Fuelperks card will net you an additional 4 cents off a gallon for every $50 you spend at the retailer, so every $50 would get you 25 cents off a gallon instead of 20. If you love Walmart, their Walmart Discover and store credit card will earn you 5 cents off per gallon at participating stations.
If you want discount gas, opening a card for a particular store might not be necessary. Take a closer look at the rewards and perks offered by the cards you already have. Many cards have added or already offer cash-back rebates on gasoline purchases, and if your card doesn't, it may be possible to call the company and switch to another card that does.
The usual caveat - don't use a credit card for a reward or discount, unless you pay the balance in full every month.
"The interest and fees will completely wipe out any discount you may have gotten," said Huffman.
Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek, who has written about personal finance, banking, and insurance for The Columbus Dispatch and Bankrate.com. She blogs about very personal money issues at middlepathfinance.com. Denise tries not to talk about money at cocktail parties, but sometimes she just can't help herself.