Painless ways to save at the gas pump
When people face the necessity of saving on their fuel budget, they often think of taking bold or drastic action: forgoing a vacation, staying at home more, even buying a more fuel-efficient car. There's nothing wrong with these measures, but often it's not desirable or possible to follow through on them.
There are relatively painless ways to help reduce the total cost of gas. One is to use a credit card that provides the most benefits, especially for gas purchases. Some examples follow. A good source for such information is CardHub.com (just type "best gas credit cards" in the search field).
I recently joined the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (http://www.penfed.org), mainly because of their Platinum Visa points reward credit card, which has many attractive features. There is no annual fee. If you or your immediate family has no military or civil service experience, you may incur a one-time $15 fee. (PenFederal also has a cash rewards card, with less attractive features.) The points card offers a 5 percent credit for any gas purchased at the pump, as well as a 3 percent credit for grocery purchases and a 1 percent credit for all other purchases. If you charge $1,000 on the card in the first three months, you will get a prepaid Visa card for $250, which you can redeem for purchases wherever Visa is accepted.
Another card worth considering is the Blue Cash Preferred Card offered by American Express. It has an annual fee of $75, but it does offer many benefits. If you charge $1,000 within 3 months, you receive a $150 rebate. You receive 6 percent cash back for supermarket purchases, 3 percent back for gas and department store purchases, and 1 percent for all other purchases.
AMEX offers a joint card with Costco that also has attractive features. There is no annual fee.You receive a 3 percent gas credit for the first $3,000 spent for gas, 2 percent for restaurants and travel, and 1 percent for all other purchases.
The Discover Open Road card offers a 2 percent credit for all gas and restaurant purchases. For purchases from some online retailers, you can get as much as 20 percent cash back. There is no annual fee.
Several oil companies offer credit cards that give rebates for gas at their stations. The following cards do not have annual fee, and some offer other rebates.
BP Credit Card: Offers a 10 percent rebate on BP gas, 2 percent off on all travel and dining expenditures, and 1percent for all other categories.
ExxonMobil: Rebates 15 cents per gallon on ExxonMobil gas, and credits 2 percent for all other purchases up to $ 10,000 a year and 1 percent for purchases above $10,000.
Marathon: Rebates 25 cents per gallon rebate for monthly gas purchases above $1,000, 15 cents per gallon for total monthly purchases between $500 and $999, and 5 cents per gallon for monthly purchases less than $500.
Chevron Texaco Visa: Offers a 10-cent-per-gallon rebate, a 3 percent rebate for other purchases at Chevron Texaco, and a 1 percent rebate for other purchases.
Citco Mastercard: Gives a 4 percent rebate for Citco gas, and a 1 percent credit for other purchases.
Be careful with these cards: If you do not pay your balance in full each month, it may not be worthwhile to use them, as the interest payments could easily outweigh any of the rebates/discounts.
There are other options that will reduce your gas costs. Carpooling is an option. There are multiple web sites that can assist you, including http://www.erideshare.com, http://www.carpoolworld.com, and http://www.carpoolconnect.com.
If you search the Internet, you will find many other tips that can reduce your gas costs such as: keeping your tires inflated; tuning your car up regularly; proper tires alignment; driving more slowly; avoiding sudden starts and stops; not idling for long periods; not carrying unnecessary weight in the trunk; and not using a higher octane gas than is necessary.
It is likely that gas prices will continue to increase in the short run. Some of these alternatives should help.
(Elliot Raphaelson welcomes your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.)