Rising gasoline prices are busting Americans’ budgets. Learn some quick tricks for cutting costs when you fill up.
Though rising gas prices have slowed recently, they’re still near a record high level with no signs of abatement heading into the more expensive spring and summer seasons. National prices currently hover at around $4.24 per gallon, while California is inching toward a $6 average gallon price.
You can’t control the price of oil, but you also don’t need to feel helpless in the face of soaring gas costs. Consider rising gas prices an opportunity to improve your fuel efficiency or become a gasoline bargain hunter. Plenty of online sites and tools can help.
Read on to learn about methods for saving money at the gas pump, including gas trackers, discounted and free gas cards, improved fuel efficiency, rewards programs and club memberships.
For more, see CNET’s best gas stations, the best gas credit cards and the latest on gas prices in the US.
Track your local gas prices and find the best station
Start with the most obvious advice for saving money on gas: Find the cheapest gasoline in your local area and buy it from that station. A handful of websites and apps already track gas prices for free.
GasBuddy is a well-known website for tracking gas prices in the US and Canada. It also provides data for the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s gas tracker pages. Both sites share data but present the information in different ways — try them both to see which you prefer. GasBuddy is available on the web or via mobile apps for Android and iOS, although critics have raised concerns about its data tracking and privacy policies. .
Ubiquitous auto insurance company Geico also provides a helpful local gas station tracker. Enter an address, city or ZIP code plus a maximum distance area, and Geico will return a detailed list and map with regular, mid-grade and premium gas prices as well as directions to stations.
AAA provides a gas price tracker in its mobile app (Android, iOS), as does GasBuddy competitor Gas Guru (Android, iOS), but both services have been dinged in user reviews for not keeping pace with the latest price changes.
You can also check gas prices in your vicinity when using mobile navigation apps like Waze or Google Maps. In Waze, tap the fuel pump icon under the search bar to see current prices at gas stations near you.
Likewise in Google Maps, simply tap the “Gas” button beneath the search bar to display prices for all gas stations close to you. Zoom out or scroll the map to find gas prices for a broader area. The Google Maps website also provides the same service via browser.
Get money back from gas credit cards and fuel rewards programs
If you’re spending $60 to $75 every time you fill up your gas tank, there’s a benefit in receiving a percentage of that money back via gas station or credit-card reward programs. Check out CNET’s best gas credit cards to find one that will work for you.
Major gas stations also offer credit cards and reward programs that promise to save you money with each fill-up by giving you a percentage back. For example, Speedy Rewards offers a $25 gift card for 500 points, which equals 50 gallons of gas. At $4.25 a gallon, that’s nearly 12% back.
Shell and BP claim you’ll save at least 5 cents per gallon with their respective reward programs, and ExxonMobil says you’ll get at least 3 cents off. Be sure to review the terms of each program to see exactly what percentage of your gas spending you’ll be getting back.
Supermarket chains Safeway and Kroger also offer rewards programs that will save you money on gas. With both programs, for every $100 you spend on groceries you’ll get 10 cents off gas the next time you fill up. Kroger works with Shell and Kroger Fuel Centers, while Safeway’s program works with Chevron, Texaco and Safeway stations.
Pay for gas with cash instead of debit or credit
The practice of charging less on gasoline for customers paying cash varies from gas station to station, but it can be very common in some cities: in my local area of Oakland, California, almost every gas station charges 10 cents less for customers paying cash. In Los Angeles, several gas stations offer 20-cent discounts on gas, especially for premium.
That 10- or 20-cent difference can quickly add up. You will save $1.50 to $2 every time you completely fill a 15-gallon tank, or $72 to $144 a year at the average consumption of 60 gallons per month. (Just watch those ATM fees: if you’re paying $2 to $3 to get your cash each time, you’re losing money.)
Increase your fuel efficiency
Another way to save money on gas is to make sure you’re maximizing the number of miles your vehicle travels per gallon. First, check your tires: the US Department of Energy estimates that properly inflated tires can boost gas mileage by 3%. At current prices, that level of improved efficiency could save you almost 13 cents per gallon.
Google Maps can also boost your miles per gallon by recommending certain routes that avoid hills and traffic, resulting ideally in more constant driving speeds. Fuel-efficient routes are available on the mobile Android and iOS apps, though the feature hasn’t been rolled out to all users yet. To turn on fuel efficiency in Google Maps — if it’s not on already — tap the three dots on the directions screen, then tap “Route options” and toggle the “Prefer fuel-efficient routes” option on.
Other fuel-tracking mobile apps like Fuelio and JerryCan provide methods for improving your fuel efficiency as well as tracking gas prices at stations. JerryCan claims that drivers using its app can improve their fuel efficiency by up to 20%, which equates to saving a whopping 87 cents per gallon at today’s prices.
Finally, hypermiling (the practice of wringing the maximum distance from every gallon of gas) is no longer relegated to fringe enthusiasts. CNET Brian Cooley explains how regular drivers can adapt extreme hypermiling techniques to increase their own fuel efficiency.
Try a club membership for discounted gas prices
Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart Plus all offer discounted gas prices to their members. Walmart+ promises 5 cents less at its fueling centers, plus access to all Sam’s Club locations. Walmart Plus memberships cost $13 a month or $98 a year. Sam’s Club memberships range between $45 and $100 per year.
Conventional wisdom claims that Costco gas generally costs about 20 cents less than local gas prices. On March 9, TheStreet reported that the average price of gas at Costco was $3.69 per gallon, 56 cents lower than the national average that day. Costco memberships cost between $60 and $120 per year.
Warning: Due to the recent price spike, gas lines at Costco have become notoriously long.
Buy discounted gas cards through resellers
Gift cards are a popular choice for easy presents, but as you might expect, not all of those gift cards get used. A variety of resellers let consumers hock their unused gift cards or buy them on the cheap.
Raise and Gift Card Granny are two sites that let users buy and sell unused gift cards from Chevon, Texaco, Shell, BP and other gas providers. As you might guess, most discounted gas gift cards are sold out right now, but you can set up alerts for when new ones come in.
Be careful to check the actual price discount and other specifics of any card — both sites also sell gift cards at retail rates, and Gift Card Granny also sells reward cards.
Bicycles, public transit and electric vehicles can end dependency on gas
Soaring gas prices provide a timely opportunity to wean yourself off gasoline-based transportation, if you have other alternatives. Riding a bicycle or using public transit more often will obviously help decrease your gasoline costs.
Similarly, acquiring an electric vehicle will certainly reduce your gas usage. It’s not just Tesla — Hyundai, Ford, Porsche, Audi and many more automakers are providing electric cars now. Bonus: you’ll be fighting pollution and climate change at the same time as you’re saving money. Check out CNET Roadshow’s list of the best electric vehicles to learn about the latest and greatest EV cars.
First published on March 13, 2022 at 4:25 a.m. PT.
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