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KSL does the math to compare fuel rewards programs

By Sloan Schrage and Lori Prichard, KSL TV | Posted - Aug 31st, 2018 @ 9:30am



SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gas prices in Utah right now hover just over $3 a gallon and a fuel rewards card could help you shave a lot of money off your Labor Day road trip. There are pros and cons to the different options, so KSL did the math to see how the savings stack up.

We based our test on a fuel price of $3.19 a gallon, and a 14 gallon tank.

Gas company cards

First up, credit and charge cards.

Gasing up on Chevron Texaco’s Visa earns you three cents a gallon. That’s 42 cents saved on 14 gallons. You can bump up the savings to 10 cents a gallon if you’re willing to spend at least $300 on non-fuel purchases in their convenience stores.

Even better, Exxon Mobile’s gas credit card gets you six cents off every gallon for a savings of 84 cents.

According to our math, the best might be the Sinclair card. Depending on the station, the discount ranges from 5 cents to 10 cents a gallon. Keep in mind, not all Sinclair stations participate in the discount, but if they do, the savings on a 14 gallon tank will be between 70 cents and $1.40.

“One of the things I think is really important for the consumer to consider is their shopping style,” said Teresa Hunsaker, an educator from Utah State University Extension’s Family and Consumer Science division.

Hunsaker warned that credit cards issued by gas companies will typically have significantly higher interest rates than standard bank-issued cards. It’s important to look into those details before signing up.

“If people rack up balances and not get them paid off, then it takes away from the value of any savings you have received,” she said.

Gas station loyalty cards

Next, we compared gas station loyalty cards.

Photo: KSL TV

For her fuel savings, Melissa Christensen gases up with her Nitro card from Maverik.

“You save six cents a gallon,” said Christensen. “And, they do price match for the area.”

Christensen prefers the Nitro card because it’s not a credit card. Instead, the loyalty card is linked to her debit account.

Using our same calculations based on $3.19 a gallon for a 14 gallon tank, the Nitro card saves users six cents a gallon, or a total of 84 cents.

Shell’s Fuel Rewards Network is similar – it is also linked to a debit card. It will save you five cents a gallon, or 70 cents total on the fill-up. You can bump up your savings by buying meals from Shell’s participating restaurants or goods from partnering stores.

But there’s a hidden benefit to Maverik’s Nitro card: it will instantly match a competitor’s pump price if that price is lower than the Nitro’s six-cent discount.

Shell doesn’t price match.

Grocery store loyalty cards

That doesn’t matter to Rachel Madsen. She has an entirely different strategy.

“I like to go to Smith’s, I use my fuel rewards,” said Madson, a busy mother-of-three.

Photo: KSL TV

Madsen’s fuel rewards card earns her one point for every dollar she spends at Smith’s. If she earns a hundred points in a month, she’ll get 10 cents off a gallon; with 200 points, the discount climbs to 20 cents off a gallon. The discount maxes out at 1,000 points, or $1 off a gallon. It’s good for up to 35 gallons.

Harmons’ Foodie Club card offers up very similar savings, but maxes out at 30 gallons.

Bottom line on savings

Both grocery loyalty programs offer excellent gas savings potential if you frequently shop at either Smith’s or Harmons.

Otherwise, the Maverik Nitro’s six cents off a gallon and a possible 10 cents off a gallon at Sinclair are your best bet.

Warehouse clubs

Many Utahns swear by another option to save on gasoline: warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Both sell gas that’s around 12 to 16 cents cheaper a gallon than the next cheapest competitor. But unless you use your club memberships frequently, the annual cost may not add up. You’re paying for the privilege to shop there.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this story was first published, the information about Sinclair has been corrected. Sinclair no longer offers a Visa card with a 4 percent cash back incentive. It now offers a private label charge card which carries an instant discount ranging from five cents to ten cents a gallon, depending on the station. Some Sinclair stations do not participate in the discount. This changes the payout from $1.79 on a 14-gallon tank as reported earlier, to either 70 cents or $1.40, depending on the discount.

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Sloan Schrage
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Updated: Monday September 24, 2018 10:38 pm