A previous article titled “Ten Easy Things to Save You Lots of Money,” mentioned “troll(ing) Your Gas Perk Programs at your Grocery store.” I figured this was worth it’s own article. I’ll show you some ways to save on gas, while making the most of fuel rewards offer by your grocery stores.
I have a confession, I didn’t pay more than $.01 per gallon for gas for three and a half years and I rarely pay full price for gas today. Man that felt good to get off my chest. I take full advantage of gas perks, and you should too.
Gas perks are available in a lot of the US and it goes something like this, you buy groceries and gift cards and you earn cents off per gallon. You then redeem those gas perks at grocery store sponsored or owned gas stations. I personally have dealt with three major grocery chains, Kroger, Giant Eagle, and Biggs (not mentioned past this, I hate their program). The savings via your groceries is nice, but it’s the gift cards where all the real savings are, for a couple of reasons.
Gift Cards Offer 2x or 4x Rewards
Most grocery stores offer 2x or 4x rewards for buying gift cards. In fact, I would say that out of the gas perks I’ve earned in the last 8-10 years, 90% of them have been via gift cards. I would estimate I save roughly $150-250 a year off gas, an amount that was likely closer to $600 a year when I used to live in Columbus (we will get to why it was higher later). I also don’t drive nearly as much as I used too. I would say in total over the last 10 years, it’s likely around $2,500 – $3,500 in total gas savings.
Gift Cards Allows You to Effectively Gain Gas Perks Shopping Outside the Store
You’re going to Kohls, Home Depot, Target, and so forth? Well buy the gift cards if you are certain you are going to use the entire balance in a “short-ish” time frame (less than 7 days), don’t carry balances too long. Don’t buy cards just to earn gas perks, buy them because you’re already going to buy something, and the gas perks are just freebies. There is even one way of taking this idea a step further.
Taking it a Step Further: Buy Gift Cards to Buy Gift Cards
I’m going to start with Kroger’s gas perks because that’s the program I currently use. Most Kroger’s offer eBay gift cards, and these bad boys are cash back gold.
Kroger’s Gas Perk Structure: $.10 off per gallon up to 35 gallons (max $1.00 off per gallon) – Requires: $500 of gift cards (which are normally 2x) or $250 of gift cards if 4x is being offered.
So what can you earn by shopping at Kroger and buying eBay gift cards?
- Credit Card Use: 2% Cash Back
- Kroger Gas Perks: If you do 12 gallons at normal 2x rate, $12 (gas savings) / 500 (of gift card purchases) = 2.4% off, but up to 14% Savings Back (If you get all 35 gallons while 4x is being offered)
- eBay Bucks: 2% up to 4% (if offering promotions)
- Gift Card Savings: 2% up to 30% (varies tremendously upon the vendor)
- Fat Wallet (savings on eBay): 1% (sometimes more)
- Can be Even More if you are meeting credit card goals (whole other subject)
Imagine you are about to spend $1,000 at Home Depot in home repairs. Let’s imagine that there are no specials are happening (no 4x gas perks, 4% eBay bucks, bonus Fat wallet).
You go to Kroger and buy $1,000 of eBay gift cards with your 2% back credit card. You then log into Fat wallet and go to eBay and buy home depot cards (currently going for about 7-8% off with little effort).
So what would you have earned/saved?
- Gas Perks Worth: Up to $70 (up to 35 gallons, $1.00 off each time, two fill ups)
- Credit Card Use: $20 Cash Back
- eBay Bucks: $20 Cash Back
- Fat wallet: $10 Cash Back
- Remaining eBay Gift cards/Cash Saved: $80 (You only spent $920 to get the $1,000 of home depot cards, you could buy $920 of eBay gift cards if you want the cash)
Total Benefit: $200.
To be fair, you would have gotten $20 if you just went to Home Depot (Cash back on Credit Card). [Missed Opportunity: $180]
You also would have gotten the cash back on the credit plus the gas perks if you just bought the home depot cards at the grocery store. [Missed Opportunity: +$110]
But let’s take a step even further. You could have even more.
Do it during 4x gas perks: +$70 more.
Do it during 4% eBay bucks: +$20 more.
Sign up for a Mileage Plus Explorer Card (or other credit cards with spending rewards): +$300 more of travel (you meet the goal of Spending $1,000 in first three months) but you would lose $10 of cash back equivalent versus a 2% cash back card.
Buy gift cards that are discounted more: Save even more
Meaning in theory you could earn $580 of net benefits (or more if buying more discounted gift cards) on the purchase of $1,000 of home depot gift cards. That’s a mind blowing 58% back. Closer to 60% for the Home Depot cards if you really cherry pick the home depot cards on eBay.
But let’s take a step even further, again! You could have even more.
When you go to spend those gift cards, be sure to log right back into fat wallet a second time! Get 1-6% Cash Back for most major retailers.
Up another 1-6% of savings.
Note: Let’s also not forget that you can get a 10% off coupon for Lowes and use it at both Lowes and Home Depot. Now we’re pushing 70+% back (in theory) for this $1,000 spent at Home Depot. Don’t forget you could get even higher if you choose a retailer with higher discounts on their gift cards.
I’ve spent some time making these pictures to help illustrate what is happening (note it does not include the 10% off Lowes/Home Depot Coupon).
There is one hiccup (which you can overcome)
You need gas cans to make this possible, as you need to redeem $1.00 off all 35 gallons and you car likely can’t handle all of it. Some people pull up two cars at once, but that is forbidden in the terms. They do make large capacity gas can as well (be easier if you drive a truck). The five gallon gas cans pay for themselves after about 7 trips, and should last your entire life.
I mentioned Free Gas for Three and a Half Years (Throwback to my College Years)
Yes believe it or not I did not pay for gas for almost four entire years. Well to be fair, I paid $.01 per gallon (at the time they required you to pay at least $.01 per gallon). I used to live in Columbus, OH and shop at Giant Eagle, which at the time had crazy amounts of perks. Not only was it effectively 4x all the time on gift cards, but every time you filled up you got 1% off your groceries (could be saved up to 20% and applied to up to $2,500 of groceries). There also was no limit on how much could be redeemed per gallon (still this way) and they never expired (also still this way). At the time, they also sold fee free PayPal gift cards which could be applied into your PayPal account and transferred back to your linked bank account.
So every time I went to the gas station, I always had mountains of rewards that never expired and I kept earning those percentage off groceries as well. It was insane.
What shut this down:
- Added fees to PayPal Gift Cards
- Added restrictions on transferring on Paypal
- Reduced Gift Cards back to 2x
- Removed the 1% off your grocery per fill up program
But boy, it was a sweet 3.5 years. Nothing like filling up for $.09 to $.13.
It is a Hassle, But it Pays
I’m not going to sit here writing not acknowledging that this is a hassle to do, but the reward is far worth it. The time you really need to focus on this is when you have large expenses coming for major retailers, such as home repair or updates. I did apply this mention while rehabbing my last house, but not to the degree I should have (I did it maybe half of the time). I had a point when rehabbing my house where I literally gave these gas perks away ($1.00 per gallon).
This information is actually most valuable to business owners, contractors, landlords, and home owners. The potential with gas perks is some of the strongest cash back in the United States, and I hope that you take full advantage.