2021 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 wasn’t that long 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. Plus, the offering has changed a bit since I first signed up. However, after getting a chance to test the service out, I can report that Pay with GasBuddy really does work (for the most part) 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, as well as less-common info such as your driver’s license number, you’ll also be asked to link a banking account. Keep in mind that the account you select will be the one that’s charged whenever you use the service. To verify this bank account, you can either select the Instant option via Plaid (where you’ll log into your account to securely link it) or you can opt to have micro deposits made to your account — which will take between one and six business days.
After you sign-up, a Pay with GasBuddy card will be shipped to you (again — this is all free). To the untrained eye, these look like any regular credit or debit card 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 a minimum of 2¢ per gallon. In theory, however, you could save up to 25¢ per gallon.
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, $3 from TurboTax, 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 per-gallon savings 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.
Before we get into this section, let me admit that I’m still a bit confused by the current version of Pay with GasBuddy. While the original version was straightforward and the updates made seemed worthwhile, my recent experience would suggest otherwise (but we’ll get to that below).
When you browse gas prices in the Find Gas tab of the app, you’ll likely see red-colored prices above black strikethrough prices. From my understanding, these lower red prices are what you’ll pay if you activate the applicable discount. By tapping the listing and then hitting “Activate Discount,” you should be able to unlock the stated savings when you use your Pay with GasBuddy card within the stated amount of time (typically four hours from when you activated the deal). While it seems like the standard Deal Alert is 5¢ off per gallon, I’ve seen some for as much as 10¢ per gallon.
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 you’ll get 20¢ off of your first 50 gallons each month (and then 5¢ per gallon after that) with the chance to apparently save up to 40¢ off per gallon. 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), which 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 a lot. 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 approximately 95% of 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, the savings were shown and net balance was deducted from my checking account. 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 issues 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.
As I alluded to in the Deal Alerts section, Pay with GasBuddy has changed a bit since I first started using it, so I decided to try out the updated service. The first time I tried the Deal Alert feature was at a local Kum & Go where I was supposed to save 5¢. However, even though I had activated the offer, I noticed that my savings were still only 3¢ per gallon. Part of me wondered if this may have been because the transaction showed as Krause and not Kum & Go… but I don’t see how that should matter since the app should know what station it really is.
In any case, I decided to try again at a Cenex — which also was supposed to be 5¢ off. This time around, I did see a Deal Alert bonus listed separately, but it amounted to an extra 1¢ per gallon. This then amounted to 4¢ per gallon in savings when combined with my Membership Savings.
Ultimately, while I don’t mind the new structure in theory, I really want to know what I’m doing wrong or what fine print I’m missing that is causing these issues. At least the 3¢ per gallon works but I’d hate to pull up to a station thinking I’m saving 10¢ a gallon when I’m not. So, I guess take these Deal Alerts with a grain of salt until I can find more info.
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.
In terms of cons, I still don’t quite know what to make of my limited experience with the Deal Alerts model. Although it seems that the result would mean bigger savings for users over the previous program, I can’t yet confirm that.
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 between 3¢ and 20¢ (if you have Premium). 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 when I first tried it. After all, it’s essentially giving users free money. That remains mostly true, although I’m a bit concerned and confused about my Deal Alert trials.
Of course, another 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 amount GasBuddy would offer for more fill-ups. 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 good option for saving at the pump given its wide acceptance, ease of use, and GasBack offers. Therefore, I’ll still be taking my Pay with GasBuddy card along with me for future road trips.
Originally published at Dyer News.