Don't Pump All Your Money Away: Ways To Save On Gas

Don't pump all your money away: ways to save on gasHow does this sound?

You've just finished fueling up your car and you're tallying all the savings you've managed to achieve on your $80 gas purchase. First, you saved $16 through paying for your gas with 20% discounted gift cards. Then, you saved another $1.60 through buying those gift cards with your 2% cash back credit card. Next, you saved another $1.80 by filling up on 3¢/litre off supreme Thursday. Finally, you earned $2.00 in rewards "money" that you can use for future gasoline purchases.

That's a grand total of $21.40 saved, or a 26.75% savings on your gas bill! Sound too good to be true? Well it isn't - or at least it wasn't - because I've done it many times myself at Canadian Tire a few years back. If you want to know how I did it, I'll continue the story at the bottom of the article. But for now, these are the ways you can save big money on gas today!

1) Get A Credit Card With A Gas Bonus

It's no secret I'm a big advocate of responsibly using credit cards to reap all kinds of rewards and buying gas with your credit card is one of the best ways to reap those rewards even quicker. Why? Because many cards offer bonus rewards for buying it, that's why!

With bonuses like 4% cash back or up to a 10¢/litre discount, having the right credit card can make a big difference.

Full Details: Best Credit Cards For Gas Discounts

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2) Rewards Programs

Many gas stations have their own rewards programs that you can participate in through filling up at their stations as well as buying retail goods inside the store. Some of them provide good value and some of them don't. Here are a few examples of the types of rewards programs available:

  • Esso Extra points or Aeroplan miles at Esso.
  • Air Miles at Shell and Irving.
  • Petro Points at Petro Canada.
  • Canadian Tire Money at Canadian Tire gas bars.
  • CAA Dollars at Husky or Couche-Tard stations
  • Bonus Bucks at Pioneer
  • Free coffee or Big Bucks at some 7-11 stores with minimum 25-30L fill up.
  • Reveal A Deal or UltraMax at Ultramar (intermittently).
  • Grocery store discount coupons for Superstore, Sobeys (Atlantic Canada), and various Co-ops. You get these coupons through buying gasoline at their affiliated stations like Superstore At The Pumps, Fast Fuel, and Co-op gas bars.

Full Details: Gas Rewards Programs Compared

3) Fuel Discount Cards

Several stations, primarily Esso and Petro Canada have started offering fuel discount cards.

There are various ways you can get one of these cards including redeeming reward points, purchasing them outright, buying a brand new car, getting them given to you through some sort of promotion, or as a gift, often by the company you work for as a reward for good performance.

Normally, I wouldn't recommend buying one of these cards or redeeming your points for one because they don't give very good value. For example, at Esso you can spend 1500 Esso Extra points to get a card that gives you a 5¢/litre discount on 200 litres. That works out to $10 in savings over the use of the card. That doesn't make much sense when you can get a $10 car wash for 499 points does it? That's assuming you like car washes anyway.

However, Esso recently launched a new spin on these cards called the Esso Extra Privileges. It's the same as the regular price privileges cards in that it gives you a discount on every litre of gas purchased, the difference is this card is free. It gives you 2.5¢/litre discount on your first 100 litres and then after they they intermittently email you offers where they will give you more discounts at random times. It's definitely worth it both because it's free and you can stack it with everything else at Esso like Esso Extra or Aeroplan and you credit card discount.

Make sure you get your card before November 10, 2014 because this looks like a limited time offer.

4) Grocery Store Vouchers

Grocery stores in my region have started offering gas discounts depending on how much money you spend in-store on groceries and other items. I've also heard of similar programs in western Canada so keep an eye out for these discounts in your local flyers and stores.

These promotions run seasonally for a limited time and I've seen discounts as high as 35¢/litre. In some cases the incremental amount of money you need to spend to reach the next discount tier lessens as the amount of money you spend on one grocery order increases. Therefore, it can make sense to buy your groceries in large orders to maximize your savings.

Both Superstore (Loblaws) and Sobeys have been known to offer these discounts and the coupons are typically redeemable at one or two brand-specific locations. In my region it is Shell discount coupons at Sobeys and Esso and Irving discount coupons at Superstore.

You can also typically stack up to 4 of these coupons together on one gas purchase so wait until your tank is bone dry and then use several coupons together to get a huge discount. This gets you the maximum possible value. Note that there is usually a 75L limit so your discount will be capped if you have a really big tank.

5) Compare Prices

It's important to not go too far out of your way to try and earn extra rewards because you have to pay for the fuel to get there. The rewards can sometimes be worth it if it is only a few kilometres but make sure you value your time and the extra expense properly.

Many regions in Canada have regulated gas prices like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, so comparing prices can seem futile. However, the per litre price can still range by a few cents and the regulations only impose a maximum price, so there can still be the occasional gas war where prices can be drastically different.

In my youth, I saw prices of $0.13¢/litre in one such war - no joke - the cars were lined up all the way around the block! Most other stations were $0.30¢/litre at the time and the regular price was $0.50¢/litre.

Tips for getting the best price:

  • Download an app like Gas Buddy or use the Gas Buddy website that will automatically search for the station nearest you with the lowest price.
  • If you use supreme (high octane) fuel, pay attention to the markup. Even if the price of regular is identical everywhere, I've seen prices for supreme range from a 7¢/litre markup all the way to 14¢/litre, which is quite the difference.
  • Stations in convenient locations like the city centre or near an off-ramp have the highest prices. Look a short distance outside of town or off the beaten path to save a few cents per litre.
  • If a station ever runs completely out of regular gas, which does happen, they will typically drop the price of supreme to match the price of regular which can be a big savings, so keep your ears open for that!
  • If you are traveling out of town, do a quick check of your destination and few points along the way to see if prices are significantly cheaper there and, if so, fill up on the way instead of before you leave.

6) Discount Days

In Atlantic Canada, many places offer a 3¢/litre discount on supreme on Thursdays, but I'm not sure this has spread to the rest of Canada. I've seen it at Esso, Shell, Wilsons and Ultramar among others. Ask at your local gas bar to see if this is a thing in your area.

7) Costco Gas Bars

Costco gas bars are notorious for their lower prices. I don't know exactly how cheap they are because I've never had one close to me. Unfortunately, they are also notorious for their long lineups and wait times so you have to balance that with your desire for cheap gas. Additionally, you need to factor in how you far you must drive to get there. It makes the most sense to time your fill up with your regular Costco run to maximize your savings.

You do need to be a Costco member to use the gas bar, which can definitely be worth it, so be sure to swing by your nearest Costco and just how big the discount is. Please report the savings at your local Costco in the comments!

8) VIP Discounts At Specific Stations

These are rare, but I get 2 cents of per liter at specific stations owned by one person in my area through having bought a new Hyundai vehicle. This promotion is only offered by that one particular Hyundai store in my city as part of their "VIP Club", so it is definitely case by case.

However, I'm sure this is not 100% unique to them and there are more dealerships or even retailers out there that offer gas discounts.

The great thing here is that this discount can stack with all the other discounts you are already getting - sweet!

9) Fill Up When You're In The USA

It's astonishing how much less Americans pay for everything than us, and gas is no exception. At the time of this writing, regular is selling for $2.99 per gallon in nearby Maine, which works out to $0.79 per litre. I'm looking at prices of $1.27 per litre at the gas station down the street.

That's a difference of 38%!

Now after you factor in the currency conversion, which isn't great these days, that still a 30% discount.

That means, whenever you're considering a trip to the USA, time it so your tank is nearly empty when you get there and always fill it up to the brim just before you leave.

Heck, if you live close to the border, you might even consider a trip across the border just to gas up!

10) Gas Stations On Native Reserves

Although I've never done this, apparently the price of gas at stations located on native reserves is significantly cheaper than the regular price. The reason for this is that they are charged much less taxes and are able to pass the savings on at the pumps.

Apparently those with native status get an even bigger discount but even regular folk can take advantage of savings of 10-30¢/litre. If you're curious, here are a couple of resources to get you started:

11) Buy Gift Cards At A Discount

Occasionally there will be an opportunity to buy gift cards at a discount that can be used at gas stations. Use your credit card to buy them to get rewards (if you can), then fill up using the gift card for a completely stackable discount.

Savings can range from a few percentage points up to 20% or more.

I'm going to follow this article up with all the ways you can hack gift cards to get a discount at almost any store including gas bars so stay tuned for that!

Warning: Make sure you call to verify the balance on any used gift card you buy to make sure you aren't getting defrauded!

How I Saved Almost 30% When Filling My Car

Continuing the story from above, the real magic behind my big savings was that I was able to score Canadian Tire gift cards discounted by 20% via the AtHome membership program offered by a company called Memberworks. They also offered various similar programs:

Here's how these programs worked in a nutshell: First, you would buy a random product online (say business cards) or sign up for a particular credit card (say a Canadian Tire Credit Card) that had a partnership with Memberworks. Then, you would be given the opportunity to join one of their programs mentioned above either via telemarketer phone call or via a special offer after you made an online purchase.

There was either a monthly or annual fee cost for joining one of the programs after the usual 30 day free trial. The programs themselves would give you the opportunity to buy gift cards for various Canadian stores at a 20% discount, and most of them included Canadian Tire. There was typically a $500 annual gift card maximum for each store, which limited the maximum gas savings you could achieve. At one point, I was a member of two of the programs allowing me to purchase $1000 in Canadian Tire gift cards for $800 dollars.

The kicker was that the geniuses over at RedFlagDeals had figured out a way to get most or all of your monthly or annual fees refunded to you in the form of rebates. I can hardly describe these rebates to you because they were so bizarre. Essentially, by mailing in receipts to Memberworks for everyday purchases along with a rebate form they would provide you with, you could get cash rebates. For instance, send in a receipt for $30 in grocery purchases and get a $15 rebate. Crazy, right?

You could get enough rebates like these, if you skillfully requested them, to pay for your entire membership fee or more meaning the 20% discount on gift cards was a true 20% discount. There were definitely some hoops to jump through, but it was more or less worth it and I saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars doing this. People were booking entire vacations through Sears Travel, buying renovation supplies at Home Depot, and many more such examples all at a 20% discount on top of whatever other savings, sales, and discounts they could muster.

Why I'm Not Still Doing This

These programs are still somewhat operational, at least I think they are. Information about them found online has slowed to a mere trickle and there aren't many reliable sources left out there. That said, there are a few main reasons I stopped playing this game:

  • It was time intensive and nerve wracking spending large chunks of money on gift cards and then waiting for them to arrive in the mail hoping they wouldn't get stolen along the way. They always arrived, but it made me very anxious.
  • Memberworks eventually started cancelling many people's accounts randomly or forcing them out of the program when their credit card would expire, not allowing them to update the expiry date to keep going. This happened with most of my better accounts.
  • Memberworks was a shady operation with a lot of salespeople trained in hard selling. It lead to many unhappy customers and people feeling like they were duped and defrauded. The program was legitimate, but it was run in a very dubious way.
  • They slowly started raising the annual and monthly fees as well as putting restrictions on how many gift cards you could order per store per month. That meant you had to order gift cards more often and remember to do so every month to achieve the maximum benefit.
  • It became more difficult to sign up as most of the online offers people typically used to join one of the programs ceased.

I wouldn't recommend anyone join these programs today unless you are a real keener. If you do happen to be a current member, please share your experience in the comments because I'd be interested to hear if anyone is still actively taking advantage of this.

How Do You Save Money At The Pumps?

What are your tips for saving money on gasoline? Many people have their own system and I'd love hear about yours in the comments.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

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daun0's picture
thanks for the hints, can't wait to read your tips in the coming weeks, especially about gift cards. My fave is to buy Esso cards at SDM (with an SDM card) to earn points at both places ;-)
October 16, 2014 @ 1:17 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Yes, that's a good strategy. Do you also take advantage of the occasional bonus points SDM offers when purchasing gift cards. They used to give 7000 points on $75 in gift cards. Not sure if they're still doing that as I haven't seen an offer like that recently.
October 16, 2014 @ 11:29 am
WACM's picture
Great article! looking forward to the follow up article. I am particularly interested in the best credit cards and discount gift cards. Gas is probably my biggest expense atm so these tips are helpful. Here are some ways I currently save: 1) being conscious of the way I drive (hypermiling), 2) employee discount, and 3) sobeys coupons.
October 18, 2014 @ 5:33 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
I'm not much of a hyper miler myself as I found it too stressful to always be watching how I drive like that. I do keep an eye on the L/100 gauge some and I tend to shift to neutral as often as I can to coast. You get an employee discount? Does that mean you work for a gas station or oil refinery? The credit card article is coming along well and will be out on Tuesday.
October 19, 2014 @ 4:42 pm
My Own Advisor's picture
The best way, for me, is to look for discounts and comparison shop. Yes, fill up in the USA, and get cheaper beer and liquor as well! Kidding aside, although not really, using a Cash Back credit card is good as well. Let the cash accumulate and then "bingo", a couple hundred bucks to spend at the pump if I want to. I like keeping things simple, time is money and I don't like to put more effort into things than necessary. All in all, great ideas!
October 21, 2014 @ 6:21 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Keeping things simple is nice, my approach is more to try or learn about a lot of things and only keep doing those things that provide a relatively high return per amount of time invested and that is easily repeatable. Once you've got your own gas saving process down it doesn't take that much time if you work it into your routine. Speaking of credit cards, I just published my article about the best credit cards for saving money on gas today
October 21, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
I filled up on gas yesterday and this is how my rewards broke down this time. - Went to a nearby Shell station. - 58.67L of supreme gas @ $1.284/L = $75.33 regular price. - 2¢/litre supreme discount on Thursdays = $1.76 - 2¢/litre VIP discount = $1.16 - 10x Air Miles promo = 20 Air Miles earned = $2.22 - 5% cash back on MBNA Smart Cash = $3.62 Total savings: $8.76 = 11.6% Unfortunately I wasn't able to quite make it to an $80 purchase to make it 30 Air Miles, but my tank was almost empty. I would have had to be stalling into the gas station to make it I think.
October 24, 2014 @ 9:10 am
allen's picture
in the west there is a station called fasgas and they offer 3 cents per litre rebate on a debit type card plus i pay with my canadian tire card for another discount there is no canadian tire gas station in my town , i am a commercial customer and buy $50,000 a year in gas so all helps
October 31, 2014 @ 8:37 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
That's great that you're getting 3 cents per litre off. However, I think you should consider a different card than the Options Mastercard (if that's the one you have) if you are pumping $50,000 in gas a year! With options, that works out to less than $500 in Canadian Tire Money a year. If you had the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite for example, you would rake in $1250 annually. The $25,000 spending cap on the gas and grocery bonus would come into effect, but I factored that into the $1250 above. Check out all your options in my follow up article: Best Gas Credit Cards.
November 01, 2014 @ 4:49 pm
Dean's picture

For the last two years I have been using the Pivot Visa prepaid card from PetroCanada. For every dollar I load onto it, it gives a $0.05 off 1 L of gasoline at PetroCanada. An annual fee of $59.99 (or $5.95/month) might not make it worthwhile for people who don't need to buy too much gas, but at the 150L/month level, the return is just over 2%. Return is higher for those people who purchase even more gas in a month. The card itself can be used wherever Visa is accepted and not just on gasoline purchases. The details and costs are outlined on the PetroCanada site. My comment was rejected with the direct link embedded in the message.

July 13, 2016 @ 11:19 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks Dean. Might be a good option for people who have a business centered around driving. Although the 4% cash back from the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite would probably be less hassle and amount to more savings overall.

July 14, 2016 @ 12:17 pm
Judy blackman
Judy blackman's picture

May I have permission to reprint your article in the Ontario Numismatic Association's official publication The Ontario Numismatist.. One of our club members is the Canadian Tire Coupon Collectors Club (CTCCC) which has over 1,050 members, and they would very much enjoy your article "Don't Pump All Your Money Away".

thank you

April 22, 2018 @ 5:22 pm

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