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 weeks ago that it was brought to my attention and decided to give it a try.
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 on my recent trip from Missouri to Florida, 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 10¢ per gallon on your first fill-up and 5¢ per gallon after that. Alternatively, thanks to a new partnership with Sears, you can now 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.
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: Pay with GasBuddy’s site says you 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 really 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).
Finally, something I noticed when using Pay with GasBuddy is that, while some purchases showed up immediately, others took some time to reach both by 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
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.
Something else that should be noted is that I’ve been unable to find a way to go back to the regular Pay with GasBuddy savings scheme since “upgrading” to the Shop Your Way offer. That said, it’s possible there is a way to make that happen and I’ve reached out to GasBuddy for confirmation. Since this is still a relatively new partnership, I’ll give them a pass for not making it more obvious, but I do hope there is a way to toggle between the two.
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.
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 can honestly say I’ll be taking my Pay with GasBuddy card along with me for many future road trips.