The holidays are usually a time to gather and celebrate but two things that so many of us have to contend with during the season are: long drives to meet up with family and friends and the cost of fueling up that accompanies holiday travel.
To help you get through the holidays without making a deep dent in your pockets, use this TPG editor-curated guide to help you save at the pump every time you stop to fill up your tank.
Use Fuel Rewards on your next holiday road trip
According to AAA, the current national average for regular gasoline is $3.33 — which can add up especially if you’re traveling hundreds of miles to meet up with loved ones. The prices may be even higher depending on where you live. In California, for example, the average gallon of gas is currently just over $5.
Thankfully, the last few years brought a quiet surge of gas station rewards and third-party loyalty programs designed to save you money on gas. This means there are more ways than ever to avoid paying full price. It’s possible to use one or multiple programs to save big on your next Christmas road trip — and that’s before factoring in any rewards you earn with your credit card.
Fuel Rewards, a third-party loyalty program specifically for Shell gas stations, has been an incredibly lucrative way to save on gas. Once you get to know the program and tailor a few shopping patterns, it’s not too hard to build up enough rewards (earned in cents off per gallon) to make your next trip to the pump more affordable.
Fuel Rewards has dozens of national partners where you can use a linked credit card to shop and earn cents off per gallon on your next fill-up.
With those savings and Gold or Platinum status, your next fill-up will be at least 30 cents off per gallon. All Fuel Rewards fill-ups are capped at 20 gallons. Once you start pumping, your savings are used, whether you pump one gallon or 20.
Related: Top tips for how to save on gas
Circle K Easy Pay Debit
Another way to save at Shell is with Circle K Easy Pay Debit. This program allows you to save 30 cents per gallon for the first 100 gallons or 60 days, depending on your location, after which you’ll save 10 cents per gallon.
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Here’s how it works: You get a physical Easy Pay card linked to your checking account. You then use that card to pay for your fill-ups, with all savings automatically deducted. Cards are PIN-protected and become locked after three failed attempts at logging in. The only downside is that you can’t earn credit card rewards this way.
Related: Best credit cards for gas
Pilot Flying J myRewards Plus
Pilot and Flying J have a joint loyalty program called myRewards Plus, which lets drivers earn rewards on fill-ups and other purchases. The program runs various promotions, depending on the month.
In one promotion, you could get 5 cents off per gallon purchased when you pay for gas with the myRewards Plus app. Check the website for the current promos.
This third-party app offers restaurant and grocery store rewards, as well as savings at the pump. While you’re shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner, you can also claim offers in the app to save a certain number of cents per gallon.
After you claim an offer, you have four hours to fill up at the specific station you selected using a linked credit card. Cash back earned from the fill-up will then be placed in your Upside account, which you can cash out whenever you like. I like Upside because fill-ups with savings are good for up to 50 gallons, and these savings can be used for better things during this holiday season.
Related: Hitting the road? These are the 4 best cards for fueling up
Pay with GasBuddy to save on your next trip
The Pay with GasBuddy program continues to evolve rapidly and improve. It used to award Shop Your Way points, but now it offers several levels of cash savings per fill-up. It introduced deals you can claim at specific gas stations right before you fill up and a “gas back” shopping portal in the app.
Similar to Circle K Easy Pay, payment occurs with a physical card connected to your checking account that GasBuddy mails to you. You pay with it at the pump. The amount you pump, minus any GasBuddy savings, is deducted from your checking account.
GasBuddy also offers a Pay with GasBuddy Premium option where you can save up to 40 cents per gallon after enrolling. This service costs $9.99 per month and guarantees you save at least 20 cents per gallon (up to 50 gallons per month). So, if your family primarily does holiday road trips, this service could potentially save you a fair amount of money. It also offers additional perks like roadside assistance.
Grocery store fuel points to save on holiday groceries and gas
A subscription to Walmart+ costs $12.95 per month, though those with The Platinum Card® from American Express receive a monthly fee reimbursement for the service as a perk of having the card. (Terms apply. Cardholders get reimbursed with a statement credit after they pay for Walmart+ each month with their Platinum Card. The cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Subject to auto-renewal).
You can save up to 20 cents a gallon if you fill up at Exxon-, Mobil-, Sam’s Club- or Murphy-branded gas stations. Additionally, there are several other grocery chains that offer gas discounts for being a member.
Kroger is a very popular option in the South. Between holiday grocery shopping and taking advantage of 2 fuel points per dollar spent on gift cards, it’s pretty easy to max out the $1-per-gallon savings the Fuel Points program allows. You can even buy third-party gift cards from the Kroger gift card-specific website. It regularly has gift cards for sale at a discount or with earnings of 4 fuel points per dollar.
Related: Save 10 cents per gallon at Mobil and Exxon with Walmart+
Using the best credit cards for gas
Credit cards are one of the best ways to save on gas. You don’t need to download an app or sign up for a membership to save on gas with a credit card. We have a guide on the best credit cards for gas so that you can start saving on your next holiday road trip. Notable cards like the Citi Custom Cash® Card (see rates and fees) can earn up to 5% cash back on gas.
Some of the best travel cards also offer additional gas rewards just in time for the holidays. Select American Express cards are eligible for an additional 2 Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on qualifying purchases at US Phillips 66®, 76® and Conoco® locations or through the Fuel Forward™ app. (Enrollment is limited. Offer expires 12/31/23). Additionally, cards like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offer a decent 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations while simultaneously providing cardholders with even more generous reward rates like 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year, then 1% thereafter).
You can stack two or more programs on a single fill-up to compound savings and make gas particularly cheap. Here are a few strategies:
- Fuel Rewards plus Pay with GasBuddy: The two programs operate independently, allowing you to lower the price at the pump with Fuel Rewards. You’ll then have less cash than you pump deducted from your checking account when paying at a Shell station with your GasBuddy card. If you earn enough Fuel Rewards to make a fill-up basically free, GasBuddy still gives you the savings based on the pre-discounted price of the Shell gas. This means you can make a profit when filling up your tank with gas.
- Kroger plus Pay with GasBuddy: The same principle as above applies when filling up for a discount using Kroger Fuel Points and then paying with your GasBuddy card.
- Fuel Rewards plus Circle K Easy Pay: Like the two strategies discussed above, you can earn Fuel Rewards when paying with your Circle K card.
- Stacking with Amex Offers: From time to time, American Express offers promotions on gas purchases. For instance, we’ve seen Amex offer 400 bonus Membership Rewards points when spending $40 on gas.
The holidays are a busy time in general but even more so for those who have to travel to see loved ones during the season. Using gas rewards programs and offers on your credit cards can help you save money whenever you fuel up.
Most nationwide gas station chains have their own loyalty programs, which typically have limited-time savings or a sign-up bonus. Plus, several programs can be used together to compound your savings even more.
If you don’t use Pay with GasBuddy, make sure to use a credit card that earns great rewards at the pump to rack up additional savings on your next fill. Remember to also check rotating categories for additional savings at the pump.