I was reading a guest post on Doctor of Credit this morning regarding Master Lists of Gas Station rewards, written by Josh over at Frugal Hack Me. Both are very good sites, but I’ve been thinking about something to write today, and this one irked me. Before I go on, there’s a ton of work here, and if you compare it to the typical credit card pimping blog it almost feels wrong to call this out, but I gots to.
You can check out the post that offended me here. And this is the 30,000ft view of it:
Josh compiled a list of 22 Gas Rewards programs. Twenty Two! Each program was then ranked from 1-5 based on how awesome they found it to be. Criteria for awesomeness:
- 1/5 – The rewards are far too difficult and/or expensive to earn and there’s no sign-up bonus or everyday bonus.
- 2/5 – The rewards are a tad bit expensive to earn and there’s not an everyday bonus or a sign-up bonus.
- 3/5 – The rewards are easy to earn, but there’s not an everyday bonus or a sign-up bonus.
- 4/5 – The rewards are easy to earn and there’s an everyday bonus OR a sign-up bonus.
- 5/5 – There is a sign-up bonus, an everyday bonus, and there are plenty of ways to earn rewards.
Sounds reasonable so far right?
Here’s my beef.
Firstly, why have a list of programs I cannot use? Out of the 22 listed there was a mix of gas station programs, such as Shell, BP, Exxon et al, along with grocery stores, such as Kroger and Stop and Shop. What you’ll find is that most states will only have a couple of such grocery chains, for example in New York we have Stop and Shop, but no Giant stores (they are across the river in NJ, same family, different brand).
The simple answer to this question, is that everyone can drop in and pick the best program based on their location. Of course, I’m miffed that my No.1 program is ranked so low, and a program I don’t really understand is ranked so highly.
How Master Lists are used
As a New Yorker looking at that master list i’d be looking between gas station chains (somewhat national coverage) and local grocery stores. So I might look at:
Stop & Shop Gas Rewards
- Sign-up Bonus: None
- Everyday Bonus: None
- How to Earn:
- Shopping – Earn 1 point per $1 spent. For every 100 points you earn, you get $0.10 off the gallon. Points totals under 100 in a calendar month expire.
- Gallon Limit: 35 gallons
- Notes: Rewards expire 30 days after earning them and they aren’t the easiest to earn.
- Rating: 2/5
and the chains, such as BP:
- Sign-up Bonus: $0.10 off per gallon when you register.
- Everyday Bonus: None
- How to Earn:
- Fuel Purchase – $0.05 off per gallon for every 20 gallons purchased. There is a minimum of two transactions that must total 20 gallons.
- Gallon Limit: 20 gallons
- Notes: This is BP’s response to Shell’s Fuel Network. It’s pretty straightforward, but it seems like it’s much easier to earn money off the gallon with Shell’s program vs this.
- Rating: 4/5
- Sign-up Bonus: $0.20 off per gallon on your second fill up and another $0.20 off per gallon after linking a card.
- Everyday Bonus: $0.03 off per gallon.
- How to Earn:
- Portals – $0.05 off per gallon for every $50 spent.
- Referrals – $0.20 off per gallon for every referral.
- Misc Offers – ex. $0.05 off for spending $100 at electronics stores.
- Gallon Limit: 20 gallons per reward.
- Notes: This is one of the most robust rewards programs around. Shell offers many different ways to say money off the gallon, so you’ll want to check your account regularly. Also, Shell uses your maximum reward at once. So, if you have $0.50 off a gallon or $0.05 off a gallon, it will use the total reward regardless of how many gallons your filling up with (max 20).
- Rating: 5/5
This is poppycock (I think!)
Shell gets the best rating here, and Stop & Shop gets a really crap rating. Interestingly, Stop and Shop partners with Shell, so you have to pick one or the other at the pump. I pick Stop and Shop.
Technically, I should pick BOTH. I actually read the post today because I don’t know enough about the gas station rewards programs, but looking at Shell, it seems to have a high rating through all sorts of convoluted crap. Portals, Misc Offers, what the what!? I can’t keep up with this for 5 cents here and there.
Stop and Shop is awesome because the Gas Rewards program runs bonus multipliers.. on gift cards..
Note that when they aren’t on a bonus they earn zero rewards, but all you do is keep an eye out for what is coming up, we have a thread on this in the forum that is updated with the weekly flyer: Stop and Shop, how to reduce gas prices by over 50% Technically now it would be to reduce them by 100% as the base price has dropped.
Show me the money!
All this talk of 3 cents here, 5 cent there.. I only use Stop and Shop for $2.20 off per gallon. I buy my giftcards when they come on bonus, and a $500 card gives me $2.00 to $2.50 per gallon (the cap is $2.20 per transaction, $0.30 cents carries forward) and that is up to 35 Gallons. One gift card = $77 in savings per fill up.
As noted previously, the best thing to do would be for me to use the Shell card for 3 cents off per gallon for the lulls when Stop and Shop isn’t offering $2.20 off per gallon. But really… do I want to sign up for a new program and carry a new card to save a quarter per fill up?
Master Lists are dangerous because the author (myself included) has to dive into the realm of theory, and sometimes that can lose site of the real value in a list. Stop and Shop for me gets 6 out of 5 because when they run an offer, I can pick up a months worth of free gas in 5 minutes. The only real way I can see to move past this is to throw in reality checks.
In this case, the reality check would be ‘How much, per month, do you save on gas with your method?’ the follow up question must always be ‘How long does that process take to create?’ without these, the lists lose perspective.