Gas promotions at retail stores: Cheap Trick Thursday

Gas prices are definitely lower but not as low as they were last summer, which is why some retailers --- even Walmart --- have started offering gas discounts to their customers.

Now, most Consuming Interests readers are probably not taking advantage of the Walmart offer to save 10 cents per gallon, because it's only available in 18 states, the closest being Virginia.

But perhaps you have been lured by the promise of free gift cards at CVS or gas rewards points at Safeway or Giant? I'm curious if any of the discounts have prompted you to change your shopping habits --- building loyalty to one store over others.

The programs all have their pros and cons. At CVS, the products that trigger the gas card voucher change each week. With Safeway and Giant, you can redeem your points to save 10 cents per gallon for every 100 reward points you redeem. That means if you only use 200 points and you've got a 15-gallon tank, you're saving $3 on your fillup --- but at Safeway you can use up to 1,000 points at a time, and with Giant you can use 2,200 at a time, to save $2.20 cents per gallon.

Of course, if you regularly shop at one of these stores, you may be able to accumulate points faster. But you can't use pharmacy items or gift cards toward your total at either supermarket.

Plus, you've got to find a participating gas station --- the Safeway points can only be redeemed at its branded stations in Catonsville, Nottingham and Pasadena. Giant partners with Shell, but according to its website most of the participating stations are in the counties around Baltimore, with the exception of stations on Russell Street near the stadiums and Luzerne Street in East Baltimore.

I'm really curious to hear from consumers who participate in these promotions. Do you find yourself shopping exclusively at one store to earn more points? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Scroll down for a comparison of three programs:

CVSBuy $30 worth of specially marked products to earn $10 gas cardMust redeem voucher for gift card within 30 days.Each week the dollar count resets.Exxon/Mobil, Shell, BP Amoco or BP Arco
GiantEarn 1 gas reward point for every dollar spent; for every 100 points redeemed, save 10 cents per gallon.Redemption limited to 2,200 points ($2.60 off), up to 35 gallons per transaction.Points expire 30 days from the date they were earned.Participating Shell stations
SafewayEarn 1 gas reward point for every dollar spent; 2 points per dollar on qualifying gift cards; 50 points per prescription. For every 100 points redeemed, save 10 cents per gallon.Redemption limited to 1000 points ($1 off), up to 30 gallons per transaction.Rewards expire at the end of the month following the one in which they were earned; any points less than 100 expire at the end of the month.Safeway gas stations in Catonsville, Nottingham and Pasadena

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