Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Apps to find cheap gas in USA

I used 4 apps to find out which app provides best discount on Gas. All have their pros and cons. 

To know more about these apps and their pros and cons, see my post here.  

Detailed calculations for my suggestions based on 6 gas fillings are given below. 

App used Gas BuddyUpsideBpMeMaraton ARCO rewards
Date when signed up31st July23rd July31st July4th Aug
Date when bank account registration completed by app4th Aug
Type of card needed to use the app and get cashbackNeed to get the gasbuddy debit cardCan use your existing credit/debit card
Can use existing card to get 5 cent per gallon or apply for BpMerewards card to get additional 30 cent per gallon for first 1 months
Date when card is approved31st JulyNo approvalApplication got rejected
Date when card is shipped31st JulyN/A
Date when card is recieved8th AugN/AN/AN/A
Type of offeranywhere between 1 cent to 15 cent per gallon with the appanywhere between 1 cent to 15 cent per gallon with the app5 cent per gallon with the app
5 cent per gallon with the app+ 1 $ discount on sign up + 2$ discount on profile creation
First Gas fillDid not fill as deals were not there nearbyJuly 23rdDid not fill as not awareDid not fill as not aware
cashback given1.61
Gallons filled7
Rate of gas3.1
Rate of cashback given per gallon23 cent
Distance travelled for gas fill0.2 mi
Gas station franchiseBP
2nd Gas FillDid not fill as deals were not there nearbyJuly 23rdDid not fill as not awareDid not fill as not aware
cashback given3.4
Gallons filled10.01
Rate of gas3.69
Rate of cashback given per gallon34 cent
Distance travelled for gas fill0.2 mi
Gas station franchise7 eleven -Suunco
3rd Gas FillDid not fill as deals were not there nearbyJuly 24thDid not fill as not awareDid not fill as not aware
cashback given0.35
Gallons filled8.81
Rate of gas3.18
Rate of cashback given per gallon4 cent
Distance travelled for gas fill5.6 mi
Gas station franchiseBP
4th Gas FillDid not fill as deals were not there nearbyJuly 29thDid not fill as not awareDid not fill as not aware
cashback given0.63
Gallons filled10.5
Rate of gas3.56
Rate of cashback given per gallon6 cent
Distance travelled for gas fill3.4 mi
Gas station franchiseCircle K
5th Gas FillDid not fill as it was giving cheapest at 3.28 after discountDid not fill as it was giving cheapest at 3.32 after discountDid not fill as it was giving cheapest at 3.36 after discount
Gas price was 3.26 for Gallong without reward program and got to know about reward program at station
cashback given0
Gallons filled7.01
Rate of gas3.259
Rate of cashback given per gallon0
Distance travelled for gas fill1.71.70.2
0(as it was infront of Shell where the app took me!)
Gas station franchiseShellShellBPMarathon gas
6th Gas Fill up
cashback given
3.7(0.2 cashback + 0.5 backback+ 2 cashback for profile + 1 cashback for sign up)
Gallons filled10.61
Rate of gas2.259
Rate of cashback given per gallon37 cent per gallon
Distance travelled for gas fill0(As it was on the way)
Gas station franchiseMarathon Gas
Total cashback so far05.9903.7
Total cashback which can be redeemed04.99(as I need to pay 1$ charge for withdrawals less than 10$)0
3 (as I need to redeem 2$ and 1$ in next transactions)

How to save on Gas

As you might have noticed, Gas prices are fluctuating a lot in USA in recent past as it might be in other parts of the world . In my observation of last 1.5 months it is fluctuating between 3.56 Dollars per gallon to 2.9 Dollars per gallon . During my journey as silent spectator and a person who started filling gas himself I found couple of things which might be helpful to others as well. 

If you 
a. recently brought a car in USA/Canada or 
recently started wondering on how to save on Gas(petrol/diesel) or
c. Planning to travel to USA and take a rental car to drive yourself
this blogpost if for you. 

In this post I would try to explain on how to save money on Gas. I would broadly categorize the attempts to save on gas into 5 ways

Way 1: Get a credit card with huge discount on Gas refill

Right now chase and discover are giving credit cards with 5% cashback on gas refill. However they are giving it for 1 quarter of an year or few months on every year since last couple of years . To understand on how it contributes to your savings, let us take this example. If you are buying gas at a price of 3.3Dollars per gallon, you can buy 30.3 Gallons at 100 Dollars. For that purchase you get 5$ cashback. It contributes to 16.5 cent of discount per gallon. During other parts of the year the same card might give you 2% cashback  which contributes to 6.6 cent of discount per gallon. Even if the card gives to 1.5% cashback, you get around 5 cent per gallon discount. Some cards from Amex gives you 3% cashback on all purchases throughout the year. So, that would be around 10 cent per gallon cashback throught the year. So, you can use a combination of above cards and maximum discounts eg: use Discover whenever they give 5% and use Amex other times. 
Catch  : But if you are new to America, say you are here for less than 7 months  or travelling to America, you might not have credit score or might have a credit score less than 700. So, the chances of getting rejected in your credit card application is very very high. So, each rejection would be there in your credit history for 2 years and would affect your future applications for other cards. How that happens is not in the interest on current post and would park it for other post :-) 

Way 2: Use Generic Gas discount apps

There are 2 apps which are very popular for getting discounts on Gas. Although there are plenty, I found 2 to be useful across variety of gas stations. Let me describe the pros and cons of both apps here

a. Gas Buddy: 

This is an old app which provides you details about various gas locations and the prices of gas in those stations.  It uses crowd sourced data and rewards for correcting those details in case you see some issues.  It shows you some deals as in below image 
How to see gas prices in Gasbuddy

You can sort by price instead of distance from you to get better discounts as in below image. 
How to find better deal in gasbuddy

How to get discount on gas via gasbuddy ? 
Actual gas price displayed in a station might be 3.35$ per gallon. But in the app you might see a deal saying you are getting at a discount of 3 cent  or 6 cent per gallon. So, First you need to pay 3.35$ per gallon at the pump and you get a cashback of 6 cent per gallon for whatever gallons you filled.  You need to click on Done and upload the receipt of payment once done in the app to get the cashback which is called as Gasback in gasbuddy
How to get discount via gasbuddy

To get the actual discount via the app, you need to Sign up for their Gasbuddy debit card. The card takes around 8 days to reach you from Texas and discounts on gas fill would be accumulated on the card. You need to link your bank account to the app and the verification process would take 4 days. So, by the time you receive the card, account would be linked (if you tried to link on first day of installing the app). The gasbuddy card would charge  your bank account for the money after deducting the discount per gallon. The money you pay at the pump using the card would be same. But the actual money charged to your bank account would be different and you would receive the details via email. 

You can also pay via your credit card from day 1. But the discount would get accumulated to your account and you need to obtain the Gasbuddy card to use it as given below.

Catch :
a.  If you use any other royalty program like Upside or the gas station specific reward program, the discount you might get would be reduced by 3.5 cent per gallon or even more. 
How does rewards in gasbuddy works

2. If your credit card is giving you better discount say atleast 1.5%, you would get 5 cent per gallon. So, So, any discounts less than 5 cent via Gasbuddy card is not going to benefit you :-)
3. If you try to use the the credit card with max discount and use a station provided by gasbuddy, you might get a discount. But discount gets struck in gasbuddy card and you would end up using it in some station later. 

Upside : 

 The discount is given as cashback in the app. 
a. you need to use the app and find the nearby gas stations. 
b. It shows you various gas stations near you which are affiliated with Upside and giving discount.
c.  You can activate the deal for whichever station  giving you more discount on gas price overall by hitting Claim Offer
d.  drive to that station Fill in the gas with your existing credit/debit card. 
e. Once you fill the gap, you need to click on "I've paid" in app . It should be done before 4 hours of activating the deal. 
You need to enter the first 6 and last 4 digits of your credit card which you want to use at station before claiming the offer. Make sure to use the same card for purchase at the pump.
How to claim rewards in Upside

While filling gas you need to pay the same price which is displayed in the pump with your credit or debit card. The cashback shown in the app would be processed in 1 or 2 business days and displayed against your profile in the app. 

This is a comparatively better app than Gasbuddy due to following reasons
a. You don't need a GasBuddy card and can use your existing credit card which allows some discount as explained in way 1
c. You can withdraw the money directly to your bank account or buy a gift card for further purchases. 
4. As of now they are giving 25 cent per gallon for the first fill. So, if you fill 11 gallon which is full tank in most of the cars in USA, you get 2.75$ discount in first fill itself. 

Catch : 
1. You need to accumulate 10$ in reward. Otherwise you need to pay 1$ per withdrawal request. 
2 Cashback given per gallon decreases after first 3 purchases. It would come down to 1 cent per gallon or less than 5 cent per gallon in many stations near you.
You may get 3 cent per gallon for a BP gas station near you. But BP has its own app say BPMe. That gives 5 cent per gallon at the same BP station. Even Marathon has its own App Marathon Rewards. It gives 5 cent per gallon at Marathon stations. Both of them allow you to use your existing credit card. So, total reward you would get via station specific app is more than what you would be getting via Upside. 

Way 3 : Use Google Maps to find the cheapest gas

     If you are not a tech savy who is good with using apps and want to drive around to some random gas station, that might not work always. what if the fuel price of the station you drove has increased ? you need to drive further here and there in search of cheaper gas. Even if you find some cheaper gas in the process, you would have used some gas in driving and  lost some money in driving till that gas station and driving back. To avoid that, 
Go to Google Maps and search for Gas
2. It would list you various gas stations near you based on their distance
3. You can customize the search to show based on your interest let's say by fuel price by choosing the icon at top left. 
4. You can also see the price of the gas for most of the stations as in below screenshot.
How to use Google Maps to find cheapest gas station near me

Way 4: Use Royalty programs by wholesale stores: 

If you are in USA for long time, then you might have taken Sam's Club or Cotsco membership. If you are in USA for short duration, no need to take these annual memberships . You can skip this and go to next section as the amount of discount you would get per gallon is not worth the 25$ or more you need to pay for Annual membership.  In case you have taken Cotsco or Sam's membership both gas stations provide gas at a comparable prices to other gas stations. I did not find Krueger gas station offering gas at a lesser rate compared to other generic stations like BP, Shell, Marathon etc in the 20+ Kreuger gas stations I have observed so far. So, I would stick on to compare whether Sam's is really worth always or not. You can do similar math for Cotsco and find out yourself  

To take an example Fuel price right now is 3.259 dollar per cent in Marathon in our area and Sam's offers at 3.22$ per gallon. So difference is 3 cent per gallon. If you use Marathon's own reward program it offers 5 cent per gallon. So, Marathon turns out to be giving you at a actual rate of 3.209 which is 1 cent per gallon less than Sam's ! Plus you saved the annual membership fee you have to pay if you are buying the card only for the purpose of gas !! Few days back I could see that Suunco gas was offering gas at 5 cent to 8 cent less than sam's price. Now that is not there. But Suunco has its own reward program and combining that with suunco gas refill would have rewarded further. 

Way 5 : Combine Google maps with  reward app from specific gas company: 

As you might have figured out by now, using the direct reward from the specific gas company is most beneficial in many ways. You might have noticed some station gives you better price. But what if you drive 10 miles for that station and see price has changed ? How would you decide which station gives cheapest price in a new place if you are travelling ? Here is how
1. Go to Google Maps and search for Gas
2. It would list you various gas stations near you based on their distance
3. You can customize the search to show based on your interest
4. You can also see the price of the gas for most of the stations 
5. In case you don't see price for a specific station, you can find it out with Gasbuddy or Upside app :-)
.6. Drive to the station which gives you better deal and use the gas company specific app to maximize discount. 
Eg  1: Marathon is at a 2 miles distance from you and gives fuel at 3.26 and BP gives you at 3.39 , then Marathon is a better choice. 
eg 2 : Marathon is at a 2 miles distance from you and gives fuel at 3.26 in Google maps and does not show in Upside or Gasbuddy. Upside shows you Shell at same distance with 3 cent per gallon. GasBuddy shows same shell with 5 cent per gallon. But Shell has price at 3.33 per gallon. So, even with Gasbuddy discount you get shell at 3.28 per gallon !So, direct fill at Marathon or making use of Marathon rewards app and filling at Marathon gives you better discount !
Eg 3 : You get Marathon at 2 miles with fuel at 3.26 per gallon and you get a BP at 0.2 miles near you. But BP is giving you at 3.39 per gallon. Considering you have gas left to travel 10 to 15 miles atleast, you can drive till Marathon. Considering your gas mileage is atleast 16 miles per gallon in city, you would spend 0.2 cent per Mile. So, you would spend 0.8 cent of gas to travel till there(2 miles to go and 2 miles to come back). But if you are filling atleast 5 gallon without using any apps , you would get a discount of 65 cent. (3.39 in BP - 3.26 in Marathon)*5. So, actually you incurred a loss of 15 cent ( 65 cent discount - 80 cent you spent on gas). Instead If you fil more gallons say 10 gallon, you got a discount of 130 cent and actual discount is 50 cent. So, profit of 5 cent per gallon With the Marathon app you get more discount. If you have a fuel efficient cars which give around 20 miles in city and 40 miles or more in highways, your cost of travel in terms of gas is reduced and amount of discount for travelling to a bit away station to save on gas increases. 

Whether to use Store specific credit cards ? 

Think many times before you apply for reward programs which offer credit cards
eg: BPMe offers credit card which initially advertised in giving 50 cent per gallon for first 2 months till July end 2023. In Aug , they changed the discount it to 30 cent per gallon for first 2 months and 15 cent per gallon later. 
Reason : The chances of getting those credit cards approved is very very less if you are a newbee in US. 
Marathon and others are giving better prices than BP with their own reward(eg : BP offering at 3.39 would come down to 3.24 after 2 months with the BP me card. Marathon with marathon app  would give you at 3.21. If you combine it with your existing credit card, it would turn out to be 3.16 with the math I explained earlier. So, denting your credit score just for a new card which is less beneficial than your existing card is not a wise choice in my opinion. 

Bottom line : 
1. If you are not travelling for long distances, wait till gas reaches Low fuel warning/near empty and fill tank at a station offering good deal in above methods. Once low fuel warning comes up, you would be able to drive atleast 10-15 miles in most of the cars even in city limits. 

If you ask me on which is my favorite way to save on Gas, I would say Way 2 and Way 5 so far and Way 5 seems to be getting close to victory. Surprised ? See the detailed math in my other post to see it yourself. I would keep the math running for next few refills and update the blog on who the winner was. Do the math at your locality and let me know how it worked.