Did you know many grocery stores have a gas rewards program? Some of them even take it further by partnering up with gas station chains and offering discounts on fuel. I personally saved about $200 last year using this benefit.
Combine both of these with a cash back credit card (especially one with revolving 5% categories), and you can save a ton.
Here’s how I did it -- and how you can, too!
I Drive a Lot
I purchased my car in 2012, and I have almost 150k miles on it. That’s an average of 30,000 miles per year! When you drive as much as me, the cost of gas is a big factor in your budget. That’s why I try to fill up at Costco gas stations every chance I get.
When there is no Costco gas station nearby, I have to resort to filling up at a major gasoline chain. I cringe when I find that the price per gallon is 20+ cents more than at Costco. But that's the cost of convenience.
I Also Cook a Lot
Cooking at home is a great way to keep your food expenses in check. So I try to cook at home and meal plan as much as I can.
Back in 2013, as gas prices started to rise, grocery chains responded by heavily promoting their gas rewards programs. I thought to myself, If I can optimize my grocery shopping habits, I can fill up at major gasoline retailers at Costco-like prices!
Related: Best Grocery Receipt Scanning Apps
Participating Grocery Stores & Gas Stations
Before I go any further, I’d like to explain that both gas station and grocery store chains’ names vary by region. We have Carls Jr on the West Coast, and the East Coast has Hardees. Southern California has Ralphs, and Virginia has Kroger.
So, here are the details of the two biggest grocery store and gas station partnerships:
- Kroger/ Grocery store: Kroger/ Ralph and Gas station: Shell and Gas station: Shell Kroger/ Ralphs and Gas station: Shell
- Grocery store: Safeway/ Vons/ Albertsons and Gas station: Chevron/Texaco
How a Grocery Gas Rewards Program Works
Here’s the way it usually goes: for every specified dollar amount spent at your grocery store (typically $100) you’ll get 10 cents off per gallon. You can click on the links above for more details of each individual program, but that seems to be the typical deal.
The average American household spends $151 a week on food, which is a grocery bill around $650 a month. If you’re enrolled in a gas rewards program, that average means you could get a total of six gas reductions per month.
My average fill-up is around 12 gallons, so that's about $7.20 a month saved. That doesn't sound like much, but stay with me here...
There are also extra ways to get bonus points and unlock your gas savings a lot faster.
Ralphs currently has a double points promotion for shopping on weekends. One $100 grocery shopping trip on a Friday will unlock $0.20 of gas savings.
Gift Card Purchases
At Safeway/Vons, gift card purchases count as double points. At Kroger/Ralphs, you instantly unlock $0.20 savings with a $100 gift card purchase.
The folks over at KrogerKrazy.com have shared some other ways to grab some extra points at Kroger. If you have the option to fill out a customer survey at the bottom of your receipt, it will unlock 50 points towards your fuel rewards.
Related: How to Create a Bare Bones Budget
Combining Credit Card Cash back Offers
Here’s where it gets interesting. I have a Chase Freedom® Credit Card where I get 5% cash back on certain categories every quarter. Here’s what it looked like for 2016:
Based on my average 30k miles a year, I filled up at the pump approximately 50 times in the first quarter. Of those visits to the gas station, 18 resulted in a double-dip. My credit card cash back savings during Q1 were $40.50. I also saved $21.60 that quarter ($7.20 x 3) from my grocery rewards. This resulted in a total gas rewards savings of $61.60 for the first quarter.
According to my budget, I spend about $1,500 on groceries a quarter. That is another double-dip for Q2, with cash back savings of $75 and another $21.60 in gas rewards earned. This came out to a total gas rewards savings of $96.60 for the second quarter.
Learn more about how the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Credit Card can help you maximize gas rewards savings.
Putting It All Together
It may seem complicated to take advantage of these offers, but all you need to do is pay attention to a few things.
- Commit to one grocery store and one gas station chain. You can select based on the location, convenience, and/or by the brands you trust. Sign up for the gas rewards, and stay loyal to those retailers.
- Keep up-to-date with your credit card promotions. If you have multiple credit cards, use the credit card with current gas/grocery promotions and the highest rewards.
- Don’t redeem your gas rewards to top off. You get the most bang for your buck when redeeming it on an empty tank. Don’t drive on empty, but also don’t fill up only 5 gallons at a time.
Sometimes when I’m working with a recipe, I’ll have to hop from Ralphs to Vons to find that one missing ingredient. That’s okay, though. When you get in the habit of knowing that Ralphs unlocks Shell rewards and Vons unlocks Chevron rewards, then you can strategize which combo you choose to go to for every $100 on groceries you spend.
Learn More: The Best Gas Rewards Credit Cards
I’ll still save the most on gas by filling up at Costco, but when a Costco is not nearby, I can fill up at conveniently located gas stations without breaking the bank, thanks to gas reward programs (and a little planned spending).