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Rising gas prices hurting your wallet? Here's what you can do to save money at the pump

Select shares five tips consumers can use to save money on gas.

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We earn a commission from affiliate partners on many offers, but not all offers on Select are from affiliate partners.

In the past few weeks, Americans have experienced higher prices when filling up their tank at the gas station. Gas prices hit a record average high of $4.52 per gallon on May 15, according to AAA. In states like California, the average price of a gallon of gas is even higher, at more than $6

So why are gas prices skyrocketing? There are two important factors causing the spike in gas prices: The war in Ukraine and the decline in oil production during the pandemic.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russian oil in March, shutting down imports of oil, natural gas and coal from the country. Even though Russian oil only represents a small portion of the U.S.'s gas imports, the conflict in Ukraine and the U.S's decision to ban Russian oil led to a spike in gas prices in the global market. The U.S. imports around 8% of its oil from Russia, according to analysis conducted by NBC News.

Furthermore, during the pandemic, oil suppliers decreased production to meet reduced demand for gas. However, as lockdowns eased and people started traveling more, demand for gasoline surged, and oil companies couldn't keep up with increased demand which drove global gas prices up.

With gas prices currently at a peak, consumers may be feeling the impact of gas prices on their wallet. Below, Select looks at few ways that consumers can save money on gas.

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How to save money on gas

Use a gas rewards credit card

You might consider using a credit card to finance your gas expenses at the pump. Cards that offer big rewards on gas typically allow you to earn up to 5x points or 5% cash back on gas purchases. 

Select ranked the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card as the best gas reward credit card. The PenFed Platinum Rewards card offers 5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations and has no annual fee. In order to be a cardholder, you must be a member of the PenFed Credit Union which requires a $5 initial deposit. 

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

On PenFed's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations, 3X points on supermarket purchases, 1X point on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Promo APR

    0% promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months on transfers made from now until September 30, 2022.*

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 17.99% variable on purchases; 17.99% non-variable on balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

*After the promotional balance transfer period, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 17.99%. A 3% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer. This transaction is subject to credit approval. If you take advantage of this balance transfer, you will immediately be charged interest on all purchases made with your credit card unless you pay the entire account balance, including balance transfers, in full each month by the payment due date.

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card is another good choice for people who anticipate spending a lot on their gas purchases. Cardholders don't have to worry about manually activating spending categories. Instead, Citi will automatically determine your highest spending category (including gas) for the billing cycle and apply 5% cash back on up to $500 worth of purchases in that category. If you're a big spender on gas, you could earn up to $25 back per billing cycle.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on purchases in top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent (then 1%); unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 cash back after spending $750 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for first 15 months

  • Regular APR

    15.49% - 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent, Good

Terms apply.

If you're looking for a card that doesn't require credit union membership, you could opt for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express which offers 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. 

The Blue Cash Preferred has a slightly lower rewards rate than the PenFed Platinum but consumers will get high rewards rates on other categories: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening; N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.49% - 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

The PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® is a good option for cardholders looking for a card without an annual fee. The PNC Cash Rewards card offers 4% cash back at gas stations, 3% cash back on dining, and 2% cash back at grocery stores, for the first $8,000 in combined purchases in these categories per year.

PNC Cash Rewards® Visa®

Information about the PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back at gas stations, 3% cash back on dining, and 2% cash back at grocery stores, for the first $8,000 in combined purchases in these categories annually, 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 bonus after you make $1,000 or more in purchases during the first 3 billing cycles following account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    14.49% to 24.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum, within the first 90 days from account opening, then 4%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Use an app to find the cheapest gas and discounts

Apps like Gas Buddy and AAA (both are available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store) can help you hunt down the cheapest gas prices near you. 

With Gas Buddy, the app uses your location and shows you the price of a gallon of gas at stations in your vicinity. However, you shouldn't bother traveling too far for cheaper gas as the cost of driving there could erase any of the money you would be saving.

Gas buddy also offers the Pay with GasBuddy Card, a rewards card that offers cardholders up to $0.25 off per gallon. Pay with GasBuddy is not a credit card, does not require a credit check and is free to join.

Get Upside has an app that will help you find the cheapest gas stations in addition to offering extra discounts on gas. Get Upside is a rebate app, so users fill up their gas tank, paying with their credit or debit card, and then upload the receipt to the app in order to earn cash-back.

Join a gas loyalty program

If you find yourself visiting a specific gas station chain frequently, you might want to join a gas loyalty program to earn rewards on your regular fill-ups. Companies like BP, Shell and ExxonMobil all offer their own rewards programs.

BPme by BP is free to join and users get $0.05 off of every gallon of gas they purchase from a BP gas station within the first month of membership. Afterwards if users spend a minimum of $100 a month at BP they'll continue to receive $0.05 off per gallon. Users can then redeem their points for things like gift cards, bottles of wine or theme park attractions.

ExxonMobil Rewards+ is also free to join. Users receive $0.03 back for every gallon of gas they purchase at ExxonMobil gas stations and are then able to redeem their points for future gas purchases at ExxonMobil gas stations.

Don't use premium gas

If you've been opting for premium gasoline over regular gas even though your car doesn't technically need it, you may be needlessly spending extra money. Premium gas has a higher octane level than regular gas.

Your car's manual should specify whether your car requires premium gas or whether it's optional. If you're using lower octane gas on a car that requires premium gas, the car's engine may function more poorly than if you had used higher octane gas. However, if your car doesn't require premium gas, you likely won't get any added benefits.

"The noticeable difference [between premium and regular gas] is the price. If regular gas is recommended for your vehicle, that's all you need. Opting for premium [gas] when your car doesn't require it will only cost you money and doesn't improve fuel economy," says Andrew Gross, Public Relations Manager at AAA.

Don't drive too fast or be an aggressive driver

When you're driving on the highway you might consider slowing down, as driving above 50 mph may reduce fuel efficiency. According to a 2013 U.S. government study, you can assume that for every 5 mph you drive above 50 mph, you're paying an extra $0.30 per gallon of gas than you would if you were driving at 50 mph. 

Of course while driving at slower speeds can save you money, it may increase the length of your trip so consider how much longer you'll spend driving if you're cruising at 50 mph versus the speed limit on the highway. 

Additionally, speeding up quickly and braking suddenly can reduce fuel efficiency. Using cruise control can help improve fuel efficiency.

"The harder your engine works, the more gas it's going to take. Rapid acceleration and high-speed driving make your engine work harder, and therefore, it sucks up more gasoline," says Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.

Bottom line

While it's unclear how long high gas prices will stick around but getting a gas rewards credit card, enrolling in a gas loyalty program, hunting down cheap gas and making tweaks to how you drive could all help you save dollars when filling up your tank.

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For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.