2020 Pay with GasBuddy Review: Yes, You Can Legitimately Save Money Every Time You Fill
I don’t remember what it was like to drive to new places before I had GPS on my phone — how did I get anywhere? Similarly, I don’t know how I survived road trips before I had GasBuddy to lead me to the best gas stations along the way. Given this reliance, you’d think I would have learned about their Pay with GasBuddy feature sooner. Alas, it was only a few months ago that it was brought to my attention.
Put simply, the value proposition of Pay with GasBuddy is that you can use a special card that’s accepted at most gas stations in order to save a few cents off of every gallon of gas you buy. That sounds good — almost too good, if you think like me. However, after getting a chance to test the service out, I can report that Pay with GasBuddy really does work and could be a great feature for some drivers.
With that background, let’s take a closer look at what Pay with GasBuddy is and how it could save you money on the road.
Signing Up for Pay with GasBuddy and How it Works
The first thing you should know about Pay with GasBuddy is that it is completely free to sign-up and start using the service. All you’ll need to do is either select the Pay with GasBuddy option in the app or go to their website to begin the process. On top of basic information like your name, address, and phone number, you’ll also be asked to link a checking account. Keep in mind that the account you select will be the one that’s charged whenever you use the service.
After you sign-up, a Pay with GasBuddy card will be shipped to (again — this is all free). To the untrained eye, these look like any regular credit or debit cards except that it lacks an EMV chip or Visa/Mastercard/etc. logo. Before using your new card, you’ll also be asked to create a Driver ID number, which will essentially function as a PIN.
Once your card is activated, you’re ready to go. You’ll be able to insert your card at the pump or most stations and automatically save 5¢ per gallon. Alternatively, thanks to a partnership with Sears, you can elect to earn Shop Your Way CASHBACK points instead, earning 30¢ per gallon in points for your first 60 days and 15¢ per gallon after that. These points can then be redeemed at Sears and K-Mart locations as well as online (which, to be honest, is probably about the only place most people will find them these days).
There is another way to save using Pay with GasBuddy and that is via their GasBack offers. Similar to how Rakuten (formerly Ebates) or Dosh offers result in cash back, taking advantage of deals offered by multiple online retailers in the “Savings” section of the app will deliver a percentage (or flat dollar amount) of your purchase in GasBack. For example, current offers include 4% GasBack from JCPenney online, 3% from Hotwire, $5 from SiriusXM, as well as many others.
To earn GasBack, you’ll want to shop at the participating retailers using the links found in the GasBuddy app. Also note the “Fine Print” for each offer that will list what types of items will be eligible, how long your GasBack will take to process, and more. Once you’ve received your GasBack, you’ll be able to spend it using your Pay with GasBuddy card. Plus, these savings come in addition to the 5¢ per gallon off you’d normally receive.
Personally I have yet to try out any GasBack offers but I will say that GasBuddy does seem to have a pretty decent line-up. Unfortunately, since you’ll need to use their link for purchases, these offers would have to take the place of those you’d get from Rakuten or others. That means GasBack is just one more thing to consider when you’re shopping for the best deals online.
Pay with GasBuddy Premium
While the regular Pay with GasBuddy product is free, there’s also a paid Pay with GasBuddy Premium product — sometimes referred to as GasBuddy Membership. The most notable perk here is that, instead of earning 5¢ off per gallon, you’ll get 20¢ off of your first 50 gallons each month (and then 5¢ per gallon after that). However, the other perks that come with Membership are more akin to what AAA or others might offer.
According to the site, Pay with GasBuddy Premium also includes Roadside Assistance (powered by Allstate), that offers:
- Free towing up to 10 miles
- Flat tire replacement
- Jump starts
- Fuel delivery of up to three gallons (you’ll need to pay for the fuel itself)
- Lockout service (at a fee of $60)
- And more
Currently, Pay with GasBuddy Premium comes at a cost of $9.99 per month or $99 a year if you pay upfront. Also notable is that the Roadside Assistance features are available for up to three events per year.
Personally, I haven’t signed up for GasBuddy Membership, so I can’t speak to the quality of their services. However, just looking at the list, I can see some pros and cons compared to AAA. First, depending on where you live, AAA membership may actually cost less. For example, my annual bill in Missouri is $61 — although some of the benefits do differ from GasBuddy’s.
On the other hand, the 20¢ off per gallon (up to 50 gallons) could change the math if you’re driving often. Not only would this rate best anything from my credit cards but might also help make up for that price difference with AAA. Therefore, if you’re not already a AAA member or are willing to try something else, this route might make sense.
Using Pay with GasBuddy
On their website, GasBuddy says that their service works at most gas stations — calling out a few where it doesn’t work while showcasing logos of a few that do. Since my local station was not explicitly listed, I was very skeptical when I went to insert my Pay with GasBuddy card for the first time.
To my surprise, after swiping my card, the pump prompted me to enter my Driver ID. Once that was done, I was good to select my fuel grade and start pumping. Admittedly, at this point, I still wasn’t 100% clear on how Pay with GasBuddy actually worked, so I printed my receipt to keep tabs on the whole process.
What I soon discovered was that the price listed on that receipt is not what would end up being debited from my account. Instead — with this being my first fill up — I saved 15¢ per gallon, with the net balance deducted from my checking account (note: at the time, Pay with GasBuddy’s site said I would get 10¢ per gallon off of your first fill-up, so I’m not clear on why mine was higher). It was like magic!
With my first fill-up behind me, I knew the ropes now — or so I thought. The next station also asked me for my Driver ID but then also asked for an odometer reading. Not wanting to take the time to look at the dead-on reading, I entered a nice, round number and that seemed to work just fine. Unfortunately this may have caused some issue down the literal and proverbial road (more on that later).
Since that time, I have noticed that stations that don’t support Pay with GasBuddy are actually noted in the app. For example, next to Sam’s Club, there’s a small icon of a card with a circle and slash through it next to the station’s address. For what it’s worth, Sam’s is one of only a handful of stations in my area that don’t accept the card.
Finally, something I noticed when using Pay with GasBuddy is that, while some purchases showed up immediately, others took some time to reach both my GasBuddy and bank account. This wasn’t really a problem but it’s something to be aware of (lest you think you made off with a free fill-up).
The Pros and Cons of Pay with GasBuddy (free version)
First, the biggest compliment I can give Pay with GasBuddy is that, to my surprise, it was accepted at every station I tried it at. That said I should note that the service is only intended to work at the pump itself and cannot be used inside (even if it is just to pre-pay for gas). As a result, if you only want to pump a certain dollar amount, you’ll have to do it manually.
Going back to the odometer reading, I later found out that this is a feature GasBuddy is testing in order to eventually be able to offer you tips for improving your gas mileage. That’s all well and good, but the problem I ran into was that, at the station I arrived at, I entered another fake number and was told to see an attendant. This may have been because I added an extra digit (oops) but, either way, I elected to just use another card. While this was a minor inconvenience, I also discovered you can just enter “99” to opt-out of this upcoming service and proceed without issue.
Another feature that’s both a pro and a con is the upgrade to earning Shop Your Way points. At 30¢ gallon back in your first 60 days, you can quickly rack up CASHBACK points on a road trip. Even at 15¢ per gallon, it’s still a pretty good deal. The problem is that these points don’t last forever and expire a couple months after they’re earned. Therefore, if you’re not a frequent Sears or K-Mart shopper, you’ll need to make an effort to use your points on time. Plus, given the chain’s much-publicized financial woes and the consistent closures of their brick-and-mortar locations, it’s understandable that some users might not be too interested in holding onto such currency.
When I originally reviewed Pay with GasBuddy, I noted that I was unable to find a clear way to switch back from the Shop Your Way option back to the regular 5¢ per gallon off scheme. Luckily, as some helpful readers have pointed out, the app has been updated to make this process quite simple. When in the “Savings” tab of the GasBuddy app, tap the gear icon in the upper right to access your Settings. From there, under “Account,” you’ll see a “Shop Your Way” option where you can unlink your account.
Lastly, I have seen some users question whether it makes sense to use Pay with GasBuddy at stations that charge extra for credit or debit cards. Put simply, the answer is “probably not” — after all, these stations typically tack on 10¢ per gallon whereas GasBuddy will only save you 5¢ (unless you subscribe to Pay with GasBuddy Premium, that is). However, while these heightened prices for credit/debit may be popular in some parts of the country, it’s not a nationwide standard. In my case, even though I saw stations all over California charging more for card transactions, I have yet to encounter one in my area of Missouri.
Also, this dilemma is only a factor if you actually have cash on you. If you do, it is probably a better idea to pay cash and get that discount. However, if you don’t, then I don’t see any harm in using your GasBuddy card instead.
Final Thoughts on Pay with GasBuddy
Overall, I was really surprised and impressed with the Pay with GasBuddy product. After all, it’s essentially giving users free money. Of course the big disadvantage for people like me is that I’d be missing out on credit card rewards by using this service instead. With one of my cards granting me 4% back on gas, that likely bests the 5¢ off GasBuddy offers after the initial fill-up. Again, the Sears Shop Your Way figure would actually exceed the credit card cash back offer, but I’d also have to redeem my points sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Premium option offers yet another set of factors to consider.
With all that said, if you don’t have a credit card that puts a premium on gas, Pay with GasBuddy could be a great option for saving at the pump. Given its wide acceptance, ease of use, and now two reward options, I’ll be taking my Pay with GasBuddy card along with me for many future road trips.
Originally published at https://dyernews.com on February 25, 2019.