Readers may be aware that Kroger, the grocery store chain, awards fuel points for purchases made by Kroger Plus members. Points are earned at a rate of 1 per dollar (with the program being free to join), and if 100 points or more are accumulated in a given month the customer earns discounts at Kroger fuel or participating Shell gas stations. By simply being a Kroger member, you get 3 cents off per gallon (and Kroger fuel is usually competitively priced to begin with – only beaten slightly by RaceTrac or Costco). For every 100 points earned in a given month, customers are awarded 10 cents off per gallon, up to a maximum of $1 off per gallon.

Currently, gift cards earn 2 points per dollar, so by buying gift cards and then using those gift cards to make their normal purchases, customers can double the amount of fuel points they earn. Additionally, by completing the survey which is listed at the bottom of the receipt (which takes less than 5 minutes), customers can earn an additional 50 fuel points – up to a maximum of 50 points per 7 days. So by strategically spacing your already planned Kroger purchases out every 7 days and using gift cards to make your purchases, Kroger customers can earn 20 cents per gallon off their fuel (50 points per survey and up to 4 surveys per month), plus double whatever dollar amount they spend at Kroger.

The other nice bonus of buying gift cards and using them to make purchases is that it allows you to gain 2 fuel points on purchases that are typically excluded (like alcohol), thus further increasing your rewards. Kroger limits the amount of gas you can purchase at the discounted rate to one purchase per month on up to 35 gallons, so if you spend a particularly large amount in a month, bring along and fill up some extra gas cans to ensure you receive the discount for as much fuel as needed for your consumption habits. For those who have substantial daily commutes, this can dramatically decrease costs associated with fuel.

One small additional benefit is that for every survey that you complete, you’re also entered into a drawing for one of 100 $100 gift cards and one $5,000 gift card. The odds of winning are probably low, but still worth mentioning as an additional perk. An important caveat: while Kroger allows you to take up to $1 off per gallon, Shell limits the discount to 10 cents. So the more dramatic savings are only available at Kroger fuel locations. This is because Kroger can recoup their losses via encouraging more purchases at Kroger; their fuel centers are not intended to be profitable, per se, but to increase revenue by incentivizing customers to do more of their shopping at Kroger. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start cutting your fuel costs!

Logan Hertz works as a business strategy consultant in Atlanta and freelances as a personal finance expert. If you are interested in clever, easy ways to increase your income and reduce your costs, email him.

© 2014 Logan Hertz – permission to reprint is gladly given, provided the author is given credit