May 11, 2005 -- With oil prices hitting record highs recently, consumers are feeling the pinch at the gas pumps.
Drivers can take a number of steps to try to limit fuel consumption, such as keeping their cars properly tuned and taking shorter routes, but at some point, every driver has to fill the tank.
The "Savings Mom," Stephanie Nelson, appeared on "Good Morning America" with some ideas for saving money on gas by using discount cards and coupons and being a savvy shopper.
Not Your Usual Gas Station
Consider nontraditional fuel centers at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Their gas prices are usually lower than the market average. Here are some money-saving ideas to use at these places:
Save money using store discount card. At some grocery stores and Wal-Mart stores, you can save 3 cents a gallon with discount cards.
Use fuel discount offers and coupons issued by grocery stores at the cash register. These promotions are available at selected stores across the country. You can find information in store advertisements and on their Web sites. Also ask store personnel if they have special promotions available for their fuel centers.
Common store promotions reward shoppers with additional discounts on gas when they spend a minimum amount on groceries. For example, shoppers can save 10 cents per gallon of gas if they spend $100 at their store. They will either receive a coupon or the discount will be automatically programmed on their store discount card.
Gas Credit Cards
Gas rebate credit cards are lucrative now, but read the fine print. You can research cards on www.cardweb.com.
There are station-specific rebate cards, general rebate cards and grocery store rebate cards that give rebates ranging from 2 percent to 10 percent on gas.
Read the fine print. Lucrative rebates of 5 percent to 10 percent on gas may only apply under certain terms. Know the rules to play your card right for the biggest savings. Some things to consider:
• Are there spending limits for the high gas rebate? For example (in the case of one gas rebate card), once annual card spending reaches $3,000 per year, then the gas rebate goes down from 5 percent to 1 percent. The trick: Only put your gas spending on this card to maintain the high gas rebate.
• Is there a limited time period for the high rebate and/or low interest rate?
• Is the high gas rebate available at all fuel centers or only selected stations?
• If you expect to carry a balance on the card, is the interest rate competitive with other options?
Shop Around Online
Shop your area gas prices easily at www.gaspricewatch.com or www.gasbuddy.com. Gas prices vary by area based on competition, but it doesn't make sense to drive around to find the lowest price. Prices can vary by up to 10 percent to 20 percent by competitive area.
Simple changes can yield big savings. Here's a real-life example based on the Savings Mom's husband:
He fills up near office instead of home and saves 10 cents per gallon on about 15 gallons per week. That's a total of 780 gallons, or $78 annual savings.
His total spending is $1,500 a year if paying an average of $2 per gallon.
He has a gas credit card rebate of $150.
Total annual savings:
$78 price savings
$150 rebate savings
Total: $234 per year (15 percent)
For more money-saving tips from the "Savings Mom," Stephanie Nelson, visit www.thecouponmom.com.