If you are planning to buy gift cards to earn fuel perks, read this post first. There’s a break-even point and you should know what it is.
Gas Perks Create Loyal Shoppers
Just over ten years ago, the average price for a gallon of gas was under $1.50. In 2014, the cost of gas jumped to well over $3. Today, the national average gas price is $2.73 per gallon. Many major grocery chains have capitalized on our growing gasoline price sensitivity and introduced reward programs linked to gasoline discounts. These programs help you save money on gas and they create loyal shoppers who bring all of their business to one store in order to collect the points or perks.
Stores are also increasingly offering double (and sometimes quadruple) rewards points when you buy gift cards from their stores. The connection between gift cards and gas perks creates opportunities for people to buy gift cards for personal use. Rather than give the gift cards to someone as a gift, the buyer purchases gift cards to get reward points and then uses the gift cards to buy things he or she already planning to buy. There’s nothing wrong with doing this…it’s just a way to earn more points and save money on gas.
Mark Romanelli, the former Executive Vice President of GiftCards.com, did the math below to determine how much people need to spend in order to maximize their fuel rewards. I’ve updated this post below, but tried not to change the spirit of his message or mess up the math. Here goes…
How do Gas Rewards Work?
Fuel rewards go by different names depending on the grocery chain. At Kroger stores and their other brand stores, gas rewards are called “Kroger Fuel Points.” At Safeway, Vons and the other stores owned by Albertson’s, fuel rewards are called “Gas Rewards.” At Giant Eagle locations in the northeast, gas rewards are called “Fuel Perks.”
Regardless of the name, these gasoline programs all operate in a similar fashion. On average, for every $50 a consumer spends at the grocery store, he or she will receive 5 to 10 cents off per gallon of gas. Some stores offer more when you buy gift cards. During holiday months and other special promotions, certain product purchases can increase the gas rewards discount up to 20 cents off per gallon.
The true amount a consumer saves on fuel rewards is based on three factors including the cost of gas, the cents off per gallon being rewarded and the size of vehicle (how much gas it holds). The size of the car or truck matters because most of these programs only allow you to use rewards on one fill-up before the accumulation starts over.
How do Fuel Rewards Add Up?
If a fuel reward program offers 10 cents off per gallon for each $50 spent daily, you could save 2.4 to 4 percent on gas if you are taking full advantage of the program–using rewards before they expire and filling up full tanks of gas.
At the 2014 gas price of $3.55 per gallon, you would need to spend $1,775 in order to get a free tank of gas. Is that a reasonable amount?
How Much Do You Typically Spend on Groceries?
According to the USDA, the average family of four, on a moderate budget, spends $879 to $1,047 per month on groceries. So roughly every two months, a family can get a free tank of gas by fully utilizing their points and for making purchases that they need to make anyway.
How do Gift Cards Affect Gas Rewards?
Many grocery chains suggest buying gift cards in order to earn more gas points. Some even give you additional rewards for doing so. The net effect of this promotion is that consumers are going out of their way to buy gift cards for planned purchases simply to increase their accumulated savings. For example, before buying a new appliance at Lowe’s, a consumer stops by the grocery store to buy Lowe’s gift cards. Before picking out a big screen TV at Best Buy, the shopper buys Best Buy gift cards en route. Some consumers stock up on JCPenney gift cards for back-to-school shopping and others stop by the gift card kiosk at the grocery store for Disney gift cards before heading to their Disney vacation.
Suppose a mid-sized vehicle owner has a home improvement project coming up. In order to maximize fuel perks, he buys a $100 Home Depot gift card from the grocery store for the cost of $100. There is no savings on the gift card itself, but the purchase at the grocery store earns him 10 cents off per gallon of gas which would save 3.2 percent for a full tank of gas or $3.20 for every $100 spent at the pump.
When grocery chains offer double points to increase the reward to 20 cents off per gallon, mid-sized to large vehicle owners could save between 6.4 and 8 percent. When grocery stores offer 4X Fuel Points…well, the savings increase further. If you want to know when grocery stores have gift cards on sale or higher than usual gas points, follow this post on gift card deals.
If you have a purchase to make, research your fuel rewards program to figure out if the gas savings derived from buying gift cards at the grocery store is worth the trip it takes to get there. And don’t forget, sometimes the bonus gas points are offered online too! During the Kroger 4X Fuel Perks event shown below (4/15/2018 to 5/2/2018), Kroger offered 4X Fuel Points on every gift card purchased. I may not be good at the math, but I know the savings are likely double-digit if you take full advantage of the deal.
Do you have another reason or way to take advantage of fuel points? I know we’ve got some points boosters out there who buy gift cards to maximize their airline miles. What’s your secret to maximizing gas perks? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@GCGirlfriend).
Happy Gift Carding!
~Shelley Hunter, Gift Card Girlfriend