How to Turn Groceries Into Gasoline
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For many families, relatively high gas prices account for a large percentage of the monthly budget. One way to cut your gas costs — at least a little — is to do your grocery shopping at a store with a loyalty program connected to gas rewards.
You have to shop for groceries anyway; you might as well save money on gas while you’re at it. (See also: The Best 5 Credit Cards for Groceries)
Types of Grocery and Gas Programs
In most cases, a grocery and gas program works by offering you a discount on your gas when you buy groceries at a particular store. However, each program is different, so make sure you understand the terms and conditions.
There are two common types of discount-based programs.
- Flat Discount: Some grocery stores just offer a flat discount, no matter how much you buy in groceries. However, you might still need to buy a minimal amount of groceries in order to qualify for the discount.
- Tiered Program: In other cases, there might be a tiered system. My local grocery store has a program associated with a local gas station. At $50 in groceries, I receive 10 cents off each gallon of gas. It steps up to different levels until I receive 35 cents off a gallon of gas for spending more than $200 in a single trip to the grocery store.
With these types of programs, your discount is usually tied to your shopping trip. In the case of the grocery rewards program I have access to, the shopping trip is good for two weeks. Each shopping trip is good for one trip to the gas pump.
Many gas rewards programs work on a points basis. You earn gas rewards points for your purchases. These might be flat programs or tiered programs, but the points add up over time, much like a credit card rewards program. You can use the points toward gas purchases as you want. However, most programs have relatively short expiration periods of 30 to 60 days. They won’t carry over indefinitely.
Club Store Discounts
Another option is to get your gas at a club store gas station. Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club locations often have gas stations as well. You don’t receive specific rewards for buying groceries, but being a club member means that you get access to gas that is between 5 cents and 15 cents per gallon cheaper than other places in town. If you shop at club stores anyway, and pay for the memberships, you might consider buying gas at those locations as well.
Stores That Offer Grocery and Gas Programs
There are a number of grocery and gas programs available. My grocery and gas rewards program is very local; it only works at the one store and with the one gas station. However, there are more widespread programs available.
This gas station chain works with different grocery store loyalty programs, including:
- Shop ‘n Save: Earn 10 cents off per gallon for each $50 you spend. It’s possible to stack rewards with this program, until you use it to make a gas purchase. There is a maximum of 30 gallons per fill up for the reward, and rewards expire after 30 days.
- Price Chopper: Earn 10 cents (stackable) off per gallon each time you spend $100. The maximum per fill up is 20 gallons, and rewards expire after 60 days.
- Redner’s Warehouse Markets: This program works the same way as the Price Chopper program, but rewards ecpire after 30 days instead of 60.
You can shop at participating stores, and then use your card at any participating Sunoco pump to enjoy your discount.
You can earn fuel points at Kroger stores. These points can be redeemed at Kroger fuel stations or at participating Shell stations. You receive one fuel point for each dollar you spend in groceries, as well as 50 fuel points for each prescription filled at a Kroger pharmacy. When you buy eligible gift cards, you get double the fuel points ($25 gift card = 50 fuel points).
Every 100 fuel points results in 10 cents off each gallon for a single fill up, with a limit of 35 gallons per vehicle, per purchase. It’s worth noting that Kroger-owned grocery stores include City Market, Dillon’s, FredMeyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs, and Smith’s. You can join this rewards program at any of these stores, as well as the Kroger branded grocery locations.
This is another food store that works with Shell stations, in addition to using the Giant fuel stations at the grocery property. It’s a point system, and every 100 fuel points earns 10 cents off each gallon of gas during a fill up. Points expire after 30 days, and you can save up to $2.20 per gallon on a single fill up.
Earn points for making purchases of groceries, prescriptions, and gift cards, earning one point for each dollar you spend. (As of this writing, Safeway is offering four times the points for each dollar spent on gift cards.)
You can earn points for shopping at Weis grocery stores, to the tune of 10 cents off each gallon for every $50 you spend on a single trip. You can redeem at Weis stations, as well as participating Sheetz and Manley’s locations.
Fuel Rewards Network
Local stores and other chains make use of the Fuel Rewards Network. (Shell is also a part of this network.) Stores like Winn Dixie (receive a 10 cent per gallon bonus for being a part of the Baby Club) and Bi-Lo are part of this network, and can provide you with gas savings attached to your grocery purchases.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Grocery Fuel Rewards Program
To make the most of your gas rewards program, plan ahead.
Know the Expirations
Be aware of when your gas points are expiring. Most programs automatically pull your older points first when you get gas, but you should still pay attention. Use the points before they expire.
Watch Out for Redemption Periods
In some programs, there is an accumulation period and a redemption period. Read the terms carefully, since this can mean that there is a period of time (usually during the redemption week for month-based programs) that you can’t accumulate gas points. Try to plan your shopping during times you know you will accumulate points.
Plan Your Trips to Hit the Minimum
Don’t make multiple small trips to the store throughout the week. Instead, make a list and do your shopping at once. With programs that require a $50 minimum, make sure your bill comes to at least that. For tiered programs, plan your shopping so that you do more at once to take advantage of the higher rewards.
Bonus? Fewer trips to the store means less gas burned getting there.
Remember That Coupons Come Out After Rewards Are Figured
Most programs don’t deduct coupons until after fuel rewards are determined, so you can actually use coupons (particularly BOGO coupons) to help you reach the threshold.
Watch for Opportunities to Earn More Points
Look out for special opportunities to earn more points. You might get extra points for buying certain items or bonus points during special sales.
Verify Your Rewards
Most programs list your rewards right on the receipt. Keep track of your rewards, and verify that you are getting the discounts you deserve.
Finally, remember to be reasonable about these gas rewards programs. Check prices at the grocery stores you use. It doesn’t do you much good to save 10 cents on a gallon on gas if you are spending an extra 30 cents on a loaf of bread. Make sure that you truly are seeing net savings on your combined grocery and gas purchases.
With a little planning you can save money on gas, just by making regular grocery purchases. I have enjoyed using the fuel rewards program offered by my local grocery store. My husband and I save between $70 and $100 a year on gas. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but over time it really starts to add up.
Consider your rewards opportunities, plan your shopping, and try to buy your gas when you have enough rewards to get a discount. After a few weeks, you’ll settle into a rhythm, and your pocketbook will thank you.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.