Gas prices are continuing to creep up across parts of the county, with many spots breaking the $3 line again. As we start to shift into summer travel season, it’s a good time to revisit some potential ways you can ease up the pain at the pump this summer, with some tips via Consumer Reports.
Spend Less on Gas
While there are other ways you can reduce your vehicle costs, gas expenses generally hits our wallet the most. AAA reported today that the average price for regular-grade gasoline is now $2.81 per gallon compared with $2.37 a year ago. "If you're just looking at the price from the street, you're leaving money on the table," says Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. There are things you can do to keep your gas expenses down, such as:
Use a gas station app or website
App offerings from GasBuddy, AAA, Fuel Finder, and Gas Guru are among a handful that can help you find lower prices.
Also keep in mind that you're also likely to get a better deal at stations that are not located on major highways, says Michael Calkins, a manager at AAA. Logistically speaking though, making a big detour to pay less may not make sense.
Calkins also says to make sure that when you compare prices you consider only top-tier detergent gasoline, which is better for your car.
Consider the prices in each state
It’s important to keep in mind too that prices can change significantly due to how state gasoline taxes are different. DeHaan says he found that for a driver crossing the border from Ohio to Pennsylvania on Interstate 80, for example, it could cost 36 cents per gallon more to fill up in Pennsylvania.
That's more than $7 extra to fill up the minivan's gas tank. Heck, sometimes prices can even vary greatly in neighboring towns.
Think about your method of payment
You’ve heard of the phrase, “cash is king” right? Well never is it any truer than when paying at a gas station. Some stations will offer a lower price if you pay with cash instead of a credit card. The difference between the cash and credit price usually ranges from around 10 to 15 cents a gallon, says DeHaan, though sometimes the difference can be as large as $1.
Finally, another option you might consider is to pay with a cash-back credit card. While the credit card price may be higher than the cash price, the reward you receive could make using the credit card a better deal. Just make sure you pay off the balance in full each month, otherwise any reward earned could become moot due to interest rates!
It's worth noting that a rewards credit card could even provide greater savings than a gas credit card from a big oil company (such as Texaco or Chevron), says DeHaan. For instance, cards like the American Express EveryDay Preferred will offer an additional 2 points per dollar on gas. Their Hilton Honors Ascend card will also offer 6 points per dollar on gas as well. By comparison, the Sunoco Rewards Credit Card, offers only a flat 5 cents per gallon discount, though there is no limit on how much you can spend.
For debit card users, don't just assume that you are getting the cash price either.
Some stations could actually charge you the credit card rate instead, so make sure to check the posted prices at the pump. Selecting the debit option and entering a pin when you pump your gas is often a good indication your transaction will be handled as cash, says Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores, based in Alexandria, Va.
Bankrate.com has also created a great resource about how to save in multiple categories, including gas, with their list of the best no annual fee credit cards.
The list breaks down the benefits of each card, while providing information about: what you should know about annual fees, pros and cons of no annual fee credit cards and how to gauge if a no annual fee credit card is right for you.