Though gas prices are no longer at record highs like earlier this summer, many Americans are still feeling the pressure at the pump and in their wallets.
But don’t let anxiety over gas prices throw a wet blanket on your long-awaited and well-deserved summer vacation or road trip. Instead, take action, cut costs and spend as little as humanly possible on gas when you get behind the wheel.
Hitting the road anytime soon? These tips can help you keep more of your money in your vacation budget where it belongs and out of the gas station cash register.
Use Cash Where It’s Cheaper
If the price at the pump doesn’t match the numbers on the sign at the gas station, it’s almost certainly because you swiped your credit card. Gas stations compensate for credit card transaction fees by charging a premium to customers who pay with plastic — although they pass it off as a “discount” for cash customers.
In the places that allow it, the cash price is advertised without making the distinction clear. Know the difference before you fill up and head to the pump with some old-fashioned paper money to cash in when this common gas discount presents itself.
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Sign Up for an Anywhere Gas Card
A good gas card can more than make up for the premium that credit card customers pay at the pump. The best cards, like the PenFed Platinum Rewards card, can deliver up to 5x points or 5% cash back no matter where you buy gas with no annual fee. They usually offer points in other categories, as well, but fuel perks should take top billing. The PenFed card, for example, gives 3x points on groceries in addition to the gas rewards.
Commit to One Chain
Another strategy is to pick one national chain that has gas stations everywhere, open a credit card with that brand specifically and make it your go-to service station — you can save much more this way.
Take the Shell Fuel Rewards card, for example. It gives Shell loyalists 30 cents off per gallon on their first five fill-ups, and then 10 cents off per gallon after that. It’s available as a Mastercard or simply as a store rewards card. The full-fledged credit card gets you 2% rebates on dining and groceries, as well as 1% on everything else. Many big chains have similar offerings.
Use a Gas App
GasBuddy is the oldest, biggest and best-known app for finding real-time prices at gas stations across the country, although it has evolved to do a lot more than that over the years. It might still be the only gas app you need, but it certainly has plenty of company. AAA has a mobile gas app, as do insurers like GEICO, GPS services like Waze and MapQuest, as well as GasBuddy competitors like Gas Guru.
Practice Good Auto Hygiene
The best way to save money on gas is to burn less of it, which you can do almost every time you drive with just a little basic maintenance and a few good driving habits.
According to FuelEconomy.gov, you should start by keeping your tires inflated to your manual’s specified pounds per square inch (psi) and use cruise control where you can. Also, avoid speeding, as your miles per gallon start dwindling rapidly around 50 mph. Every mile after that adds an average of $0.21 per gallon.
In addition, it doesn’t hurt to travel light. Excess weight diminishes fuel economy, as does hauling cargo on the roof, which kills your car’s aerodynamics. Use rear-mounted cargo boxes instead.
Most importantly, don’t drive aggressively. Speeding and rapid starting and stopping are almost as bad for gas mileage as they are for your safety.
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