With gas prices expected to average $3.92 nationwide for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline during the summer driving season of April through October, according to the Energy Information Administration, it's no wonder American drivers are getting frustrated as they fill up their cars each week. Rather than letting your blood pressure rise as you watch the numbers climb at the gas station, use these four strategies to save money on gas.
Be choosy about where you fill up. Thanks to smartphones and computers, there's no reason that you can't find the cheapest gas prices along your route. At your computer, you can check prices at FuelMeUp.com, GasPriceWatch.com and GasPrices.MapQuest.com, while on the fly the app from GasBuddy.com is available for almost every type of smartphone. If you are traveling, CostToDrive.com (and its available smartphone app) will calculate the costs based on your specific car and will tell you the cheapest places to stop when you are ready to fill up based on actual gas price data from the Oil Price Information Service that is updated in real time.
Pay cash. Gas stations are one of the few businesses these days where cash still gets you a discount. More gas stations are offering reduced prices for drivers who pay in cash, and they aren't necessarily at unbranded gas stations. Gas station owners of top-tier name-brand gas stations are also opting to offer a cash discount to get drivers to fill up at their locations. Offering a reduced gas price for paying cash is up to the station owner, so you'll have to look around in your area for stations offering this option to save money on gas.
Get a credit card that offers gas discounts. If you like to buy gas with a credit card, it's still possible to save money on gas by using a credit card that offers an upfront or cash-back discount for gas purchases. Most name-brand gas companies offer discounts on gas purchases with their own credit cards. However, they often require purchasing a minimum amount of gasoline monthly and have a maximum discount, making them less desirable choices. A better choice is a bank credit card that provides cash back on gasoline purchases. Bankrate's current list of gas rewards credit cards includes a dozen different programs from the American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa card types.
Sign up for a loyalty program. Drivers can effectively double dip on their rewards by signing up for a loyalty program offered by major retailers and grocery stores and paying the cash price or by using a credit card with a gas discount. While discounts vary by the store and even geographically, it's not uncommon to earn a 10 cent discount per gallon of gas for every $100 in purchases at the participating store.
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Copyright 2012, Bankrate Inc.