What is a fuel point worth?

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kroger_4x_fuelpoints_aug_2013

Several grocery store chains have rewards programs in which you can earn “fuel points.”  Fuel points are used to get a discount when filling up your car’s gas tank.  Kroger, for example, awards shoppers as follows:

  • Grocery purchases: 1 fuel point per dollar
  • Pharmacy Prescriptions: 50 fuel points
  • Gift Cards: 2 fuel points per dollar

Every 100 fuel points gives you 10 cents off per gallon for one fill-up at a Kroger gas station or a participating Shell station.  This can be a great way to save some money at the pump.

Calculating the value of a fuel point

Understanding the value of a fuel point is difficult because your savings are proportional to the number of gallons it takes to fill your tank.  Your points are worth more if you use them for larger fill-ups.  For example, if you redeem 100 points for a 10 gallon fill-up, you’ll save a total of $1 (10 gallons x 10 cents per gallon = $1).  However, if you pump 20 gallons into your car or truck, you’ll save $2 for those same 100 points.  In the former case, each point would be worth 1 cent, and in the latter case each point would be worth 2 cents.

So, the value you get from your points can be calculated easily by taking the number of gallons you pump and sticking a decimal point in the middle.  For example, if you pump 12 gallons, then each point is worth 1.2 cents.  For 15 gallons, each point is worth 1.5 cents.  And so on.

Calculating % rebate on grocery purchases

Now that we have a way to calculate the value of a fuel point, we can estimate the % savings this gives you from your grocery store purchases.  Let’s assume your average fill-up is 15 gallons.  This means that each point is worth 1.5 cents.  Now let’s go back to Kroger’s point earnings:

Assuming 15 gallon fill-ups:

  • Grocery purchases: 1 point per dollar = 1 x 1.5 = 1.5% savings
  • Pharmacy Prescriptions: 50 fuel points = 50 x 1.5 =  75 cents savings
  • Gift Cards: 2 points per dollar = 2 x 1.5 = 3% savings

If you average smaller or larger tank fill-ups, then adjust the above chart accordingly.  For example, suppose you average 20 gallons per fill-up:

Assuming 20 gallon fill-ups:

  • Grocery purchases: 1 point per dollar = 1 x 2.0 = 2% savings
  • Pharmacy Prescriptions: 50 fuel points = 50 x 2.0 = $1 savings
  • Gift Cards: 2 points per dollar = 2 x 2.0 = 4% savings

Stacking savings

Some people go to great lengths to ensure that they pump as much gas as possible with each fill-up as a way of maximizing their fuel points.  I’ll leave those tricks to your imagination.  However, it’s easy to stack savings at the grocery store:

Coupons: This is the obvious one.  Of course you can reduce your grocery bill by using coupons.

Credit card: Use the best credit card for earning points / cash back.  For example, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card offers 6% cash back at grocery stores.  Similarly, the American Express Hilton HHonors cards offer 6 points per dollar.  With the Fair Trading Price of Hilton points at .48 cents, I value this as roughly a 3% rebate.  Of course, you can also use a 5X everywhere trick to earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.  With the Fair Trading Price of Ultimate Rewards points at 1.31 cents, I value this as approximately a 6% rebate (after reducing the rebate % to account for the cost of reload cards).

Buy gift cards: Since gift card purchases give extra points, it’s worth finding gift cards that you’re sure to use at other merchants.  For example, buy Shell gift cards to maximize your credit card and fuel point savings before going to the pump.  An extra perk is that some gas stations which give discounts for paying in cash will give those same discounts for paying with a gift card!  Note that in some cases you will need to pay inside to get that cash-only discount.

Gift card promotions: Often grocery stores will run promotions in which gift cards earn 4X fuel points instead of 2X.  With 15 gallon fill-ups, this is like a 6% rebate when buying gift cards!  Or, they’ll run $5 off $50 for certain gift cards.  That may not sound like much, but it’s a 10% discount!  Load up on gift cards (that you’ll actually use) during these promotions.

Reader Experiences

Do you leverage fuel points?  What has your experience been?  How have you maximized savings?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I leveraged this recently during a 4x gift card deal. Bought $800 worth of best buy gift cards as i was planning a large purchase there. So i got $3.20 off per gallon on a 16 galon fill up. Felt pretty good. And i used an onine portal to earn points on the best buy purchase. Thanks for providing the inspiration to leverage such a deal.

  2. My best opportunity came when Freedom was providing the extra 5 pts at same time Kroger was giving 4 X fuel points on gift cards. I purchased quite a few Amazon cards.
    I wanted to caution that in terms of buying most of your groceries at these stores, you may find they charge more for the groceries you buy every day than other local grocers. The fuel points likely are not worth paying significantly more for your actual groceries. So, this can mean making two stops for grocery shopping–one to buy bulk of your groceries and one primarily to buy gift cards.

    I do know people who take multiple cars in and fill them all up in a single transaction off the same fuel point account/discount. And they fill up their gas can for lawnmower, too. Sounds pretty tricky. (I think they cannot let the pump click off between cars, or it counts as multiple sales.)

  3. You should factor in the fact that you are almost certainly not getting the lowest price on the gas, so your 10 cents per gallon discount might actually be zero.

  4. This may be off topic, but if you have a Walmart branded Discover, you can get $0.15 off every gallon of gas you purchase at Walmart Gas Stations through December 24, 2012. Last night, I purchased gas for $3.45 per gallon! The $0.15 is a cash back rebate on your monthly statement.

  5. The gotcha is that if you have a credit card that earns gas rewards, you will only earn the base rate and not the categorical rate if you fill up at a store gas station (such as Kroger), although standalone stations (Shell) should still be fine.

  6. My biggest saving so far has been 90 cents per gallon, and yesterday’s groceries earned me 60 cents off per gallon. I’m just annoyed that 5x Ultimate Rewards doesn’t allow for buying gasoline at supermarket gas stations.

  7. The catch is that their gas is MORE expensive than name brand gas. But you are only getting gas from 3rd parties/cheaper gas.

    Your much better off getting your gift cards at office depot and 5x on your bonus.

  8. My local kroger has low prices on gas, cheaper than most. Using Amex blue to buy GCs at 6 percent cash back and 4x gift card fuel points on special is what I always try to do. I fill up when really close to empty. I’ve gotten up to 2 bucks off per gallon although they normally max it out at 1 buck per gallon.

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  10. Kroger in the Atlanta area is always matching the lowest gas prices. It also happens to be close to my house!

    Lets not forget that they offer 3 cents off per gallon without using points. That usually makes them slightly cheaper.

    My fill ups are around 10 gallons so my savings is limited. Especially since I use about 2.5 tanks per month.

    Be sure to compare grocery prices. I’d rather pay a little more for gas since my volume of food consumption is much higher.

  11. I am planning to use safeway fuel points to knock off my Ink Plus spending requirement. During 4x points promotion, buy $500 TargetGC to earn 2000 points for $2 off per gallon gas. Fill max 25 gallons for $50 saving. Discount off higher gas price about 4c per gallon comparing to Costco, also minus possible 5% Freedom Card discount for 25GX$4.00GasPriceX5%=$5, the total saving is about $44. Resale GC to Cardpool at 8% off=$40. The final cash back is about $4.00 for each $500 spending. By refilling 2-3 times per month for 3 months (suppose 3 month 4x promotion), I can spend at least $3000 out of $10k Ink Plus requirment. Since it is 2x currently, I am buying Visa GC at 10% off per $100. Will use VGC to buy Target GC later on when 4x becomes available. Anyway, kind of complicated, not sure if I really want to spend my time for this. 🙂

  12. I always buy giftcards at my local Kroger for this reason. Until September 30, you can get up to $2 off per gallon. We take both of our cars to fill up at the same time for a total of nearly 38 gallons. Saves us $76! I doubt there is any cheaper gas around than that! Plus i get points for grocery store purchases!

  13. My Smith’s (Kroger) limits you to 35 gallons so I have two or three cars line up and fill them succesively until I hit the cap. That saves $70.00. Because I drive a natural gas car ($1.49 a gallon all day every day) it doesn’t help me directly but my extended family sure appreciates it.

  14. @lamonster: How are you getting $3.20 off per gallon? Does your gas place not put a cap on the amount you can get back per gallon? Kroger where I live normally puts a $1/gallon cap on their gas discounts, but as mentioned above there is a special limited time offer (that’s now been extended a couple times) that allows up to $2 off per gallon.

    @Jessica: Again, how are you able to buy 38 gallons with this discount as my Kroger’s caps the fuel purchase at 35 gallons, so the max discount you can get is $2 off of 35 gallons, or $70.

    Still, this fuel awards deal is very lucrative, as you get back $70 on a $500 gift card purchase during 4x fuel pts (and $2 per gallon cap promo), which is a 14% discount IF YOU ARE ABLE TO FILL YOUR TANK WITH 35 GALLONS (and I always go with both my car and the wife’s car empty and manage to fill ~33 gallons). Then another 3-6% back via credit card kickbacks. Very good deal. I actually overbought GCs last month during the 4x promo and now I have 10k fuel pts expiring 5 days from now. If any FTer wants 2k fuel pts (= $70 discount) for half price (=$35), shoot me a PM on FT and I can share with you……….the pts expire in 6 days though.

  15. I’m a big proponent of this, think I’ve mentioned it a few times in comments on prior articles. Glad that FM did this writeup.

    I normally wait for the 4X points to purchase gift cards that I need. Last season during the target TV clearance, I used 4X to get about $6k worth of Target gift cards for resale. That was a lot of gas.

    Always pull through two cars + the lawn mower gas can for 33-35 gallons per fillup. The reduced limit ($1 per gallon max) goes back into effect soon, pity.

    It’s nice to stack this with the Amex Blue Preferred (6%) CB for everyday purchases. Fees are 5.95 for $500 variable load Visa. You get back $35.7 and get $0.50 off gas (variable cards only count for 1X no matter the 4X promotion, fixed value cards e.g. $200 visa net you 2X points during the 4X promotion)- or another $15 for 30 gallons. So in all, that’s about 10% back.

    If you have charitable organization registered with Kroger’s and a store that allows, you can triple dip. My daughter’s school does a promotion where you can register your Kroger card and the school gets a percentage of sales. Buying straight up visa cards rarely works. But if you buy Kroger credit (gc’s or loaded), and then use that to buy visa cards, it seems to credit the school the majority of the time. Lot of ymmv here.

  16. All the bases seem to have been covered, but a couple of data points:
    (1) Smith’s here in ABQ does not give the 3-cent discount just for scanning your card. Gas prices are usally slightly higher than Sam’s, but Smith’s is our best option for regular groceries so it works for us.

    (2) Scanning my Smith’s card at the pump at a Kroger in Michigan did yield the 3-cent discount… but did NOT offer to use my 600 points, so they do differentiate to some degree. I didn’t notice if we accrued any points, but I’d guess not.

  17. Re: William’s comment, this is a YMMV as I did find purchases at Kroger Fuel earned the category bonus on my Freedom. A family member also gets gas category bonus points there on his rewards card, which is not a Freedom.

    And re the various comments that gas will cost more at these grocery fueling stations, that is another YMMV. There are 3 stations within a block of the Kroger fuel station closest to me, and they always keep their pricing in sync. But gas prices in my fairly small town do routinely vary from one side of town to another, with gas cheaper sometimes on one side of town than the “other” side of town.

    To maximize points while insuring I don’t overpay in the process, I just try to pay attention to how much my grocery stores and fuel stations are charging at any particular time. Because in my experience, it varies widely on which store or station has the lowest prices on any particular day.

  18. I got $2.00 off a gallon for 34 gallons. How? $500 in regular grocery shopping and $375 of gift cards when they were running a 4x grocery promotion. Bought some for places I was going to spend money: Target and Best Buy as well as a few other places that I was using as gifts. Then when I went to redeem my points, I made sure both my car and my wife’s car was low on fuel and we pulled up our car on each side of the pump. When i was done fueling my car, I pulled the hose out, crossed to the other side of the pump and then filled up her car. Not a bad haul for money I was going to spend anyways. We do this every month, but most of the time it is only $.40-$.50 off.

  19. Kroger here limits the discount to $1 per gallon, though they’ve been running an extended promo of up to $2 off.

    Giant Eagle, on the other hand, has no limit on the discount. You can get free gas up to 30 gallons and they encourage you to bring extra gas cans to get the full benefit.

    They prohibit double fueling cars, though. I always bring my bigger car and 3 five-gallon gas cans.

    I never use fuel points unless I have enough for free gas. Based on the recent prices for gas, I have saved between $92-120 on gas every time I have used them. In addition, Giant Eagle ( if you have them in your area) gives FOOD perks. For every 10 gallons of gas, you get 1% off food. You can accumulate up to 20% off and use it for a store purchase of $300 in food for $60 savings. I always maximize this is as well. So I get around $100 in free gas and $60 in free food regularly. They also do the gift card thing, but instead of “points” it’s a straight % off. 20 cents off per $50 in gift cards. Your receipt always shows the actual dollar value off per gallon of gas and the % off groceries you have earned.

  20. OMG thank you for posting this. Someone told me to buy visa gift cards to get my groceries from Walmart, but it just wasn’t adding up, but know I know that’s a waste of money unless I count what I’m saving in the groceries I buy!

    Activation fee 3.95 minus full savings 1.20 (or 3.50 max) equals 2.75 (or .45) I’m spending to save.

    The regular gift cards or shell cards are sweet!!!!

    Thanks again

  21. The best way to amass fuel points during 4 times FP is to buy the 100 dollar visa / master card / amex gcs first and then use that to buy the gift cards you were originally going to get anyways. That will get you 8 times FP minus a 6 dollar fee. Likewise, you can use these debit gcs to buy alcohol, tobacco,and other things that don’t yield any FP. Unfortunately, you no longer get FP on the variable load debit gcs…

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