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How to save a buck on gas prices

There’s no such thing as a sale on gasoline prices, but consumers can find other ways to save when those prices are at record highs.

Article by: John Ewoldt , Star Tribune

Updated: May 16, 2013 - 10:14 PM

 

With Minnesota gasoline prices surging to all-time highs, it’s only sensible for drivers to look for a break.

Fortunately for those who want to save a few dollars, there are options other than walking or riding a bike.

The state hit a record $3.99 for regular gas on Thursday, and petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan at GasBuddy.com suggests that it’s a good time to dust off the best discounts.

Credit cards that offer a rebate of 3 to 5 percent aren’t difficult to find. Some cards offer the extra percent as a teaser rate for six months but others, such as Costco’s American Express card, offer 3 percent indefinitely.

Credit.com recommends the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Card as a good all-around credit card. But if you’re carrying a balance month to month, the savings is lost, DeHaan said.

Another good idea is to fill up if you’re near Burnsville, Shakopee, Prior Lake, Fridley, Coon Rapids or Woodbury. Those areas consistently have lower prices, according to GasBuddy.com.

Often it’s Costco or Sam’s Club offering lower prices, according to TwinCitiesGasPrices.com, but other stations have offers to close the gap.

Rainbow dropped its coupon program with Shell, but existing gas coupons can still be used through June 30. Cub now has a fuel perks program offering cents off per gallon at Holiday. Clippers can find more coupons from Holiday and Kwik Trip in newspaper inserts and at www.holidaystationstores.com.

Local coupon bloggers note that SuperAmerica doubles coupons on Tuesdays, including competitors’ coupons.

Thursday’s average of $3.99 matched a record from July 2008, and the price is likely to keep rising. “We will break the record again on Friday,” said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs at AAA Minnesota/Iowa.

Consumer Reports says there are several gas-saving myths. Filling up in the mornings when the air temperature is cooler gives negligible, if any, savings because most stations store gasoline underground where the temperature has less fluctuation.

Driving with the windows up to reduce drag was also debunked. Driving at 65 mph with the air conditioning on reduced gas mileage by 3 percent, but the effect of opening the windows at 65 mph was not measurable, according to Consumer Reports.

DeHaan said one thing to keep in mind is that prices generally go up on the weekends. Monday mornings are typically the cheapest time to buy gas, before 9 or 10 a.m. to beat any increases that day.

After Monday morning, the best times for lower prices are Friday and then Tuesday. Prices often go up Wednesdays and Thursdays when the Department of Energy releases new petroleum status reports.

Unfortunately, that rule won’t apply in the near term. “It applies when gas prices are in limbo, not when wholesale prices are soaring,” said DeHaan.

At a SuperAmerica station on Lexington Parkway in St. Paul, just off Interstate 94, Loraine Schweich, 49, lamented the high price during Wednesday’s rush hour. She commutes two or three times a week from her home in Faribault to the St. Paul campus of Metro State University, where she’s studying gerontology and business.

“I’m not happy,” she said.

Schweich said rent, gas and food are her top expenses on a student’s budget. And while she’s grateful her old Geo Metro gets about 33 miles per gallon, Schweich said she just hopes it can hold out through the summer — and that she can afford to keep filling it.

On Wednesday, she decided to not fill it up because of the record prices.

 

Staff writer Joy Powell contributed to this report.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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