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Recently, a blog post by yours truly caused a bit of an uproar in the blogosphere. Okay, it wasn’t really the whole blogosphere, it was only one blog. Well, actually it wasn’t even the whole blog. It was really only one person on that blog. Nonetheless, my post’s honor has been vandalized and I plan to reclaim its glory!
If you missed the original post, it’s basically a summary of the pros and cons of 22 different gas station rewards programs, as well as my rating of each. Sounds great right? I thought so. But one, Sir Matt, (“Sir” because I think he’s british and you know, knights and stuff…) decided that my post was an injustice to his beloved Plop & Slop, err Stop & Shop, so he wrote his own post rebuking mine. Now, it’s time to level the playing field.
So Matt, this post is dedicated to you.
Earning points at Stop & Shop is pretty straightforward. You earn 1 point per dollar spent and 100 points equates to $0.10 off per gallon. In addition to that, Stop & Shop runs promotions every week where you can earn additional points on the dollar for buying specific items. For example, this week you could earn an addition 300 points when you buy six specially marked items. If each of those items cost $1, you’d earn a total of 306 points or $0.306 off the gallon. Simple right?
Shell’s Fuel Rewards Network, on the other hand, is not quite as elementary. With Shell, you can earn gallon discounts in a number of ways.
First, you automatically earn $0.03 off the gallon just for using your FRN card (at least until 12/31/15). That being said, it only applies if you have less than $0.05 off the gallon in your account. Second, you can earn money off the gallon by taking advantage of specific promotions (e.g. Get $0.05 off for every $100 spent at X store). Third, you earn $0.03 off the gallon for every $100 you spend on groceries and $0.05 for every $50 you spend on dining. Fourth, you earn $0.05 (or more) off per gallon for every $50 you spend through they’re portal. Finally, you earn $0.05-$0.20 off the gallon for each referral you make.
They also run sign-up bonuses regularly where you can earn at least $0.20 off your second fill up. The current bonus is $0.20 off your second fill up of 8 gallons or more and another $0.20 off when you link a MasterCard to your account.
Earning points with FRN is a bit confusing, but the earning possibilities are great!
Interestingly enough, Stop & Shop rewards can be redeemed at both Stop & Shop and Shell. At either station you can redeem a maximum of $2.20 off per gallon (2,200 points) up to 35 gallons.
FRN rewards can only be redeemed at Shell stations. However, you can redeem any amount of rewards up to 20 gallons per fill up. The only caveat, is that you can’t lower the price per gallon to $0.00. The lowest is can go is $0.019, due to a glitch in the system. Apparently, Shell is working on fixing that, but as of this writing, that’s the case.
Each program has different merits, so it’s not exactly easy to compare them, but I’ll give it a try.
With Shell you get $0.03 off per gallon on every fill up (until 12/31/15). How much do you save at Stop & Shop on every fill up? Nothing, unless of course you have points already in your account. Shell only saves you $0.30 off a 10 gallon fill up, but after a year of weekly fill ups, that can add up to $15.60 (or a few free coffees).
In Matt’s original post, he mentions that Stop & Shop’s rewards program is primarily useful when they offer a multiplier on gift cards. See here:
I only use Stop and Shop for $2.20 off per gallon. I buy my giftcards when they come on bonus, and a $500 card gives me $2.00 to $2.50 per gallon (the cap is $2.20 per transaction, $0.30 cents carries forward) and that is up to 35 Gallons. One gift card = $77 in savings per fill up.
That’s a great deal and an easy way to save money on fuel, but Shell’s Fuel Rewards Network is still better. See here…
I just checked Stop & Shop’s circular and they are currently offering 4X points on store gift cards. If you bought $500 worth of gift cards, you would earn 2,000 points or $2.00 off the gallon (up to 35 gallons). If you maxed that out, you would save a total of $70. That’s a great deal of savings!
Now, let’s look at FRN where the current promotion is you get $0.20 back for every $100 you spend at participating stores. On the surface that deal looks pretty crappy compared to Stop & Shop’s, since with S&S, you get 400 points per $100 ($0.40 off). Here’s the kicker, though: With Stop & Shop, you can only buy store gift cards, but with FRN, you can buy anything… even $500 MasterCard, Visa, and Amex gift cards. See where I’m going with this?
Let’s “assume” that one of the participating FRN stores sold $500 gift cards. If you bought one of those and liquidated it with Serve, you’d have spent a total of $4.95 for at least 505 points and $1 off per gallon up to 20 gallons. That’s a savings of $20 assuming you use all 20 gallons and you redeem the points for a statement credit which basically cancels out the fee.
Not bad, but not near as good as Stop & Shop right? Wrong.
Using the same example as above, let’s say you bought $500 worth of gas gift cards at Stop & Shop since prepaid gift cards don’t count for the bonus. That earned you 2,000 points or $2.00 off the gallon up to 35 gallons. If you max that out, you’ll have saved $70, but you’ll still have $500 in gift cards to use.
For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say every fill up is 35 gallons at $2 per gallon or $70. That will take you a little more than 7 fill ups to use. If you bought one $500 GC with FRN at every one of those 7 fill ups (and used all 20 gallons), you’d have saved $160 (including the original one), instead of just $70. That’s double the savings! Even if you calculate the $4.95 fee for all 8 gift cards, you’d still save about $120.
Obviously, there are a lot of assumptions here and both methods are very scalable, but what I’m trying to get across is that with FRN you can save a heck of a lot more if you add MS into the mix. Just something to think about.
Realistically, if you’re in an area with both stations, you might as well join both of the programs. I’m not, so I stick with my [obviously superior] rewards program, FRN, because it’s earned me a lot of money off the gallon. That’s just my .02, though. What do you think?
In all seriousness, Matt runs a great blog network and forum over at Saverocity. If you haven’t checked it out, do.
Also, if you want to sign-up for FRN, there is a $0.20-$0.60 sign up bonus going on right now.