Pump prices rise but you can still save -- Here's how


Pump prices may hit $4 a gallon by early May as U.S. supplies tightened after a series refinery outages reduced gasoline output this week.

 

The national average rose 2 cents today to about $3.91 for a gallon of regular, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's 6 cents more than it was a week ago and more than $1 higher than a year ago.

While gas may hit $4 a gallon across the country within a week or two, many analysts believe it will begin to fall, perhaps by Memorial Day, as more gas becomes available.

But you can take steps to stepmeasures to cona

SHOPPING TO SAVE

Kroger and Bi-Lo offer fuel rewards programs.

Kroger's fuel program lets customers get discounts on fuel at Kroger and participating Shell stations. For each increment of 100 points redeemed at the pump, shoppers get 10 cents off per gallon on a single fill-up.

When shopping with their Kroger Plus Card, customers can earn points three ways: grocery purchases ($100 in groceries equals 100 points), nonfederally funded prescriptions (two prescriptions equals 100 points) and double gift card points ($50 in gift cards equals 100 points), according to Kroger's Web site.

Through May 7, Kroger is offering a special promotion that allows customers purchasing $100 in qualifying gift cards to receive quadruple fuel points, said community affairs manager Glynn Jenkins.

Gift cards included in the promotion include Macy's, iTunes, T.G.I. Friday's, Spa Finder and Master Card. For instance, a customer that purchases a $100 Macy's gift card will receive 400 fuel points for this purchase.

For details about how Kroger's fuel rewards program works at Shell, visit www.kroger.com. Look under the "In Store" tab at the top and click on "Save on Fuel." Then, click on the name of the closest city on the right.

Bi-Lo customers can earn Fuelperks points by shopping with their Bi-Lo Bonuscard. For every $50 shoppers spend at Bi-Lo, they will save 5 cents per gallon for up to 20 gallons of gasoline. For purchases of $200, shoppers will receive 20 cents off per gallon, up to 20 gallons.

At Bi-Lo, rewards can only be redeemed at participating stations. For a complete list, visit bi-lo.com/fuelperks/redeem.

There are no limits to how many points can be earned at Kroger and Bi-Lo, but customers must redeem their points by a certain date. At Kroger, points earned in a given month are available for use through the end of the next month.

At Bi-Lo, rewards are redeemable for the entire month in which customers earn them, plus an additional three months. For example, if someone earns rewards on Oct. 1, the points are good through Jan. 31.

Earlier this year, Publix offered a coupon for a BP gas card valued at $50, available to customers for only $40, a savings of 20 percent.

The grocery store will continue to offer these periodically throughout the year, said Brenda Reid, media and community relations manager.

USE STATIONS' CARDS

Gas stations, such as Shell, have their own cards that allow customers to save. The Shell Drive for Five Card provides a discount at the pump.

Private label cards such as the Shell Saver Card, which acts like a debit card by linking directly to a checking account, lets cardholders save at the pump without incurring fees. Through Saturday, customers can earn 10 cents per gallon on every Shell fuel purchase with the Shell Saver Card. Starting Sunday, they will earn 2 cents per gallon on every fuel purchase at Shell, according to a release.

JOIN A CLUB, OR PAY CASH

At Sam's Club fuel stations, members can purchase fuel at 5 to 10 cents per gallon cheaper than other gas stations in a five-mile radius, said Emily Isaacs, membership manager in Augusta. The savings also apply to diesel fuel.

Consumers can also save at the pump with cash-versus-credit retailers, said Jessica Brady, the spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South.

"What we're seeing more and more of, at least here in Florida ... it's starting to pop up in different markets," she said.

When customers pay cash, the station saves money.

"Anytime you use a credit card to pay for gas, the retailers are charged up to a 7 to 9 percent fee," Brady said.

In some cases, customers with cash can save from 5 to 10 cents per gallon, Brady said.

HIGH-TECH APPS HELP

There are mobile apps to help consumers find the best gas prices. The AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone App provides a list of gas stations by proximity and gives their price for a gallon of gas. The free app can be downloaded at aaa.com/mobile, Brady said. The Android app should be available by mid-May. Other apps include:

- GasBuddy: For Android, iPhone and Windows. Relies on its 5 million users to post gas prices in their area.

- Gas Cubby: iPhone app alerts users of possible problems with a vehicle by analyzing its fuel economy.

- MapQuest: Android and iPhone app helps consumers avoid heavy traffic by giving them the option to see traffic conditions on their planned routes.

- Route4Me: iPhone app specializes in mapping out routes for multiple stops so consumers don't waste gas traveling across town.

- Waze: For select Windows, BlackBerries, Android, iPhone, Nokia. It collects traffic information through its users.

- Poynt: Free app uses phone's GPS and cell site location to know where you are. It directs consumers to the nearest and/or cheapest options to fuel up.

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