Maximize Your Gas Budget with Gift Cards

gift cardThe high gas prices we’ve experienced in this nation the last few years have taken a toll on the average family’s budget; I know they’ve certainly hit us hard. Because my husband and I have four children, we drive large, older vehicles that get less than desirable gas mileage. Out of necessity, I’ve come up with some creative ways to save money on gas.

Many of us live near a Kroger (or Kroger affiliate) store, and many of those stores sell gas. If you don’t have Kroger’s loyalty card yet, the first step is to sign up for a Kroger Plus card. It’s fast and free to sign up at the customer service desk of your store, and having a card can potentially save you a significant amount of money in the store and at the gas pumps over time.

Kroger Plus card holders get an automatic discount of 3 cents per gallon on all gas purchases at Kroger fuel centers. All you need to do is scan your card before you start pumping in order to receive the discount. Then when you accumulate points on your loyalty card for in-store purchases, you can qualify for additional gas discounts, up to $1 per gallon off. For each 100 points you accumulate, you earn 10 cents per gallon off, so 1,000 points equals $1 per gallon off, or a savings of $35 for a 35-gallon fill-up.

Usually, you receive 1 fuel point for each $1 that you spend in store. Now, unless you spend a huge chunk of change on groceries each month, it might take a long time to accumulate 1,000 points to get a full $1 off per gallon of gas, and points expire at the end of the month after they’re earned.

Here’s where it gets fun. Kroger offers a huge selection of gift cards to various retailers, from home improvement stores to restaurants to clothing stores to Amazon to Facebook to iTunes to gas stations. Yes, even gas stations. The store’s regular practice is to double fuel points on gift card purchases (with a few exceptions, such as Kroger gift cards and pre-paid MasterCard/Visa-type cards). So for example, if you purchase a $50 gift card to Home Depot, you will receive 100 points for a fuel purchase, or 10 cents/gallon off of a 35-gallon fill-up.

Generally it would take $500 in gift card purchases to reach 1,000 fuel points, but several times a year Kroger offers quadruple fuel points for gift card purchases, so you can reach 1,000 points with only $250 in gift cards.

To reach 1,000 points, I generally take around half of our $400/month gas budget and purchase gift cards for BP. During times that Kroger offers 4X fuel points, that one purchase nets me 800 fuel points. If I add in a $50 gift card to Amazon or Belk, I’m at 1,000 points and I’m saving $35 on a fill-up. Our vehicles don’t hold 35 gallons, so when we’re going to use the full discount, we drive both vehicles and split the fill up.

Now, I have a Kroger Visa card, so I get an extra 5 cents per gallon off when I fill up at Kroger; I actually save $1.05 per gallon when I have 1,000 gas points, or a total of $36.75. Additionally, I earn rewards for using my Kroger Visa, equaling quarterly checks to spend for groceries at Kroger.

To help us qualify for two or more $1.05/gallon fuel discounts each month, I purchase gift cards to any stores or restaurants where our family regularly shops. Gift card selection varies somewhat by store, but there are many, many from which to choose. It takes a little work to plan ahead to purchase the gift cards and remember to use them, but to save $75 or more each month on gas is worth it for our family. Perhaps it would be for you, too.

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