Doing This Will Save You Money on Gas Right Now, Experts Say
You'll want to take this advice on getting cheaper gas as prices continue to rise.
Drivers across the U.S. are trying to avoid a trip to the gas station right now, as prices are higher than ever. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the highest average for the cost of gas in the country was recorded on March 11 at $4.331, and it's still high at a current average of $4.274. Given these rising prices, it might feel as though there's nothing you can do to spare your wallet—aside from never getting behind the wheel at all. But experts say there is one easy way to save money while still getting gas. Read on to find out what you should consider the next time you have to refuel.
You can save on gas by filling up at warehouse clubs.
With gas prices surging so high, savings of just a few cents could make all the difference when you're refueling. Ted Rossman, a financial analyst with Bankrate.com, recently told News 12 in Long Island, New York, that where you choose to fill up your tank might help you in this case. According to Rossman, you can save money by filling up at warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's Club, or BJs.
"They often do seem to come in 10, 15, 20 cents below other stations," he explained to the news outlet. And consumers can also potentially get cash back too on top of saving money, Rossman added. For example, the financial analyst said that consumers who use the Costco Anywhere Visa card—a Citi credit card exclusive to members of the wholesale company—can get 4 percent cash back when they get gas at any station.
Some drivers have already started signing up for Costco memberships.
It appears that some drivers around the U.S. are already picking up on this perk. On March 17, Insider reported that dozens of consumers have taken to Twitter to reveal that they have signed up for a Costco membership recently just to save on soaring gas prices. "Messed around and bought a Costco membership just to save on gas," one Twitter used said on March 10.
Costco has not revealed yet whether it has seen an increase in membership sales in recent weeks. But anecdotally, members have reported long lines for gas at various wholesale companies' stores. Member Ram Rubitsky told Insider that when she went to a Sam's Club in Citrus Heights, California, this month at 5 a.m. local time, she found that there were at least five cars in line at each of the 10 pumps available at the store's station. And by the time she left, the line had grown even longer.
You should figure out if a warehouse club membership will actually save you money first.
Don't jump into a membership without doing your own research, even though warehouse clubs tend to "hold their prices down for longer" when gas prices rise nationally, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told Consumer Reports. According to the organization, all three of the warehouse clubs—Costco, Sam's Club, and BJs—charge annual membership fees that typically range from $45 to $120 year, depending on your choice of club and membership level.
And while the discounts you score on gas right now could end up exceeding the membership cost, your savings will depend on where you live and your car's mileage. Rossman told Consumer Reports that you should map out a warehouse's stores and figure out if you'll be able to realistically get gas regularly at one of the locations before purchasing a membership. And you'll also want to be aware of the likelihood of long lines, he added.
Costco could be raising its membership prices soon.
If you do choose to get a membership card and Costco is your warehouse club of choice, you should know that the company is potentially planning to hike its membership prices soon. The last time Costco raised the cost for members was in June of 2017, and based on the timing of the company's past increases, higher costs are likely this year.
"On average, they were done about every five—a little over every five and a half years, about five years and seven months," Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, said during an earnings call on March 3, The Street reports. "And five years from the anniversary of the June of '17 would be this June. So I think the question will continue to be asked until we do or don't do something."
Costco shoppers currently have the choice of two types of memberships: Gold Star for $60 a year and Executive for an annual rate of $120. Prices will likely rise by $5 for the lower membership to $65 and by $10 for the higher level for a new yearly fee of $130, John Heinbockel, an executive analyst with Guggenheim Securities, wrote in a research note, according to Yahoo Finance. But if Costco does raise prices in June, the company allows shoppers to cancel at any time and get a refund, just like the other two warehouse clubs, per Consumer Reports.