Tag Archives: gas card

PSA: More Gift Card Purchases Appearing as Cash Advances, No Deal!

Bad news… for the second time in a few months I’ve been hit with a cash advance charge on my credit card for purchases of discounted gas cards on eBay. That’s not good!

I love sharing tricks and advice on this site to help visitors save money on their travel, Motorsport volunteering, automotive needs, etc. I’ve spent years trying out different techniques out there and they’ve helped me tremendously to save money and travel on a shoestring budget in all the time I’ve been unemployed (or underemployed for that matter). But it absolutely sucks when I get burned and wanted to share this post with others to prevent them from experiencing similar setbacks.

It seems that recently another seller on eBay has changed the way they are seen by credit card companies and as a result purchases made from those sellers are no longer considered as purchases. Which typically helps you earn frequent flyer miles, if you’re like me using an airline branded credit card. But instead count as a cash advances which actually results in a steep fee for the privilege of doing the transaction ($10 in my case) plus a steep double-digit percentage % for each day that the cash advance sits on your account until it is paid in full… I think last time this happened, my card billed me something like 20% or so. Which absolutely sucks! So that $7 dollars I saved on a $100 gift card purchase, now actually costs me more than I saved, a lot more. That defeats the whole purpose of buying discounted gift cards. SVM claims it was a glitch by someone else, not them, but they haven’t done anything to fix the mistake, and I’m out of money. It is a dirty business practice for them to make more money than they already are making from this transaction. I didn’t expect this from SVM because they are the ones that actually handle all gift card production for big brands like BP, ExxonMobil and Sunoco… cards that I buy often!

So that’s the end of the road for me with SVM. I’d rather pay at the pump than be screwed online again. You should be careful too!

I’ve posted about purchasing discounted gift cards for a few years now because it was indeed an awesome deal. I remember shopping on eBay buying $100 BP cards for $90 bux. That was great. Often eBay had a promotion, like $15 off $75 which brought the price of a $100 gift card down to $75. Then eBay had their eBay Rewards program which typically gave you cash back of 2% on the purchase, which was another $1 or two. But often eBay rewards multiplied the reward back 2x or 4x or even 8x… so sometimes I got as much as $8 back in a form of eBay refund some months later. Meaning the $100 gift card cost less than $68 bux. There were times when you could buy other discounted gift cards that were redeemable for gas cards. For example, often I’ve bought $100 Target gift cards at 10% discount. Which I then used on Target to buy eBay gift cards at 10% discounts, and then I used those eBay gift cards to buy various gas cards at 10% discount. Those were the good old days… 20% off, 30% even 40% which was amazing… What did that translate to at the pump? Well, considering 20% average discount on a $100 gas card, that means 20 cents off for every dollar at the pump, which meant that each gallon at $2/gal rate actually cost $1.60/gal which is significant savings. On a tank of gas for the Ford Explorer that waas $8 bux of savings. For the Miata it was $4, which was awesome. And furthermore it was possible to use the gift cards at gas stations on other purchases besides fuel, in their convenience stores.

I’m going to miss these savings but fighting the credit card company over cash advance fees, which they refuse to budge on because that’s how they make their profits, is not my idea of fun. So… voila! It was fun while it lasted, I’ll continue shopping for gas the old fashion way, by using my Gas Buddy app to find the best deal out there, and just pay with whatever payment method that gives me the most discount.

Be careful out there folks!

PS. I’m sure someone is going to claim that by my shopping around big businesses were losing money. That I would strongly disagree with. By buying discounted gift cards from SVM on eBay, both SVM and eBay made money. SVM sold me a product (at a discount) which they made just a little less profit on than selling that item at full face value, and eBay got their cut for facilitating the exchange. PayPal made their cut by my paying using their service, and my credit card company made their cut by making sure I gave my money to eBay through my visa card. Even the gas station made money because I purchased $100 gift card from their brand which meant I could no longer spend that money on other competing brands… BP gas cards couldn’t be used at Sunoco or Exxon or Mobil, and vice versa. So everyone involved made some money, and I saved. Win win! But now the GREED of some companies will mean they lost the business I gave them in the past, way to go!

Prepping for a 3,000* mile Road Trip: New Jersey to the Gulf Coast of Florida

After two massive International MX-5 Miata Road Trips where my car sat in the driveway in New Jersey, covered in snow. I’m about to embark on my biggest Road Trip yet… actually driving the car. This trip will be about 3,000 miles down the Eastern Seaboard starting from Northern New Jersey just outside of NYC all the way down to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Destination St. Pete followed by Sebring.

Instead of taking the most direct route down, I plan to divert a little out of the way, for two reasons… both equally important to me:

  1. to avoid the pot holes and generally bad road conditions in the Northeast, including the Beltway around Washington DC
  2. to avoid all the tolls in the Northeast along i95 corridor, which based on my last trip to Northern Virginia were around $100! bux (round trip)

This post will also serve as a check list of sorts to help me prep for the trip. Considering how tiny the Miata is with luggage space I’ll really have to optimize the room I have to bring along all the necessities which include my camping gear for Sebring. It will likely take up the most space.

The easiest things to bring along is plastic! And as the photo above shows I did stock up on almost every possible fuel gift card/gas card available. I used eBay to buy discounted gift cards for brands I knew I would encounter along the way as well as those that I could finish using back home if I didn’t get use them up on the road. Frankly I hope I don’t use up all the value of the cards while travelling because theoretically there’s far more money than the amount of fuel I will need to purchase. (3,000 miles, 30 mpg, 300 miles on tank, 3 or 4 fill ups each way, plus about 2 tanks of local use, at $25 – $30 per fill up) The cards I chose are BP – my favorite option at home, also Shell, Sunoco, Exxon-Mobil and Speedway. In addition to the 5% discount eBay offered I used the discounted eBay gift cards to purchase these gas cards so the total discount was around 10%, which is much better than nothing. Additionally BP gives me 10 cents back per gallon for every $100 I spend on fuel to be used cumulatively for a one time fill of up to 20 gallons. And Shell has a new promotion where I’ll earn 25 cents off per gallon on one fill up of 8 gallons or more, purchase. Pretty significant savings even if the current price of fuel is relatively cheap.

One last comment on fuel. As a big endurance fan the ideal of fuel windows and conservation strategy is a big deal. The fuel window will really play an important role on my trip. Because I will be somewhat pressed for time to arrive in St. Petersburg, Florida before noon on Thursday, March 10, I have to make sure I don’t waste too much time looking for a gas station off the highway. The optimal solution would be to get fuel every 300 miles or so, since that’s what my highway fuel mileage should dictate. Of course it makes more sense to get fuel cheaply in Virginia than West Virginia or South Carolina vs. Georgia. So I’ll adjust the fuel strategy a little bit to make sure I get the minimal amount of stops with the most cost effective fuel options out there. Having some play with the choice of fuel from BP, Shell, Sunoco, Speedway or Exxon-Mobil should help with this strategy. I would like to try to avoid buying fuel from a no-brand name gas station. But we’ll see I guess.

Now to the check list. As mentioned earlier the tent and other camping gear will take up most of my free space. The trunk of the Miata is already full with the RX-8 spare which I’m hoping I will not have to use, but should something happen at least I’m prepared. I plan to take the bare minimum of clothes, maybe one backpack full, but I will bring a few pairs of shoes in case it rains in Florida which it most probably will. This way I’ll have something comfortable to change into. The one thing I normally take on my trips like to Upstate New York or New England, I plan not to bring at all: food. I will avoid taking more than what I need specifically for the drive down because I can easily stock up on food and water along the way or at the destination. I’m definitely not taking any gallon jugs of water or tea which I normally take, because it’s just dead weight.

Based on my calculations the optimal way to go will be via i78 into Pennsylvania where I’ll pick up i81 all the way down through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, then i77 from North Carolina into South Carolina where I will spend the night at a motel in Columbia after about 12 hours of driving. The final stint will be an easy 8 hour drive from South Carolina to Georgia via i26 and down i95 into Florida where I’ll probably take i20 just south of Jacksonville and i75 into the Tampa Bay area, depending on the local traffic at the time. If I leave early enough I just might make registration in time to be on track on the St. Pete GP street circuit to watch PWC GT cars practice. But IF I don’t, I will definitely arrive there in time to watch them practice as a spectator and maybe even take some pictures for the blog.

Concerns for the trip aren’t many other than worrying about any road debris hitting the car while driving. Stormy weather could be an issue especially up in the mountains. Pot holes of course. As well as parking safety when I leave the car overnight at the motel in SC or while at the events in Florida. But given that I don’t typically take out extra insurance coverage when I rent cars, I should be OKAY driving my personal car this distance. Should take it easy for the trip, avoid speeding and stick to driving during the day time so I can actually see the obstacles in front of me. Should be an awesome trip!

I am very excited!

Cheap Gas: Optimizing my Fuel Purchases

I like sharing good deals when I find them, and I’ve stumbled on to a great cheap gas deal that I wanted to share with the readers. I’m sure many have seen me talk about getting good gas mileage and gas prices have dropped to record lows in recent times, but to me it’s more about the challenge of finding a good deal than actually about the money. Although saving money obviously doesn’t hurt.

This information would only be useful to people living in the United States, and even then limited to those that can participate in the Rewards program of a gas station that isn’t available “everywhere”. But if you are like me, you’d feel pretty lucky taking advantage of the available offers.

So here it is… earlier this year I started buying discounted Gas Cards on eBay. I’ve purchased some from ExxonMobil, 76 and most frequently BP gas cards because they are often offered with a hefty discount, typically $95 for $100 card, or even $90 for $100 card. That’s 10% savings for buying something that you already use, I know I certainly do.

What I’ve discovered in addition to saving 10% for buying the gas card upfront, it also yields an $0.08 discount at the pump of my closest BP station. Now there are about six of them in the five mile radius of me, and only one offers this discount. And the discount is only offered on “Regular” or “87 octane” fuel, but still, it’s something that I use in the trucks in our household. (Miata uses 91 or 93 octane premium/super or BP terms: Ultimate fuel).

Recently, I discovered that BP has started offering a BP Rewards program, where for each dollar spent at the pump you earn a rebate which is used in lump sum at a fill up of your choice. The payment method doesn’t matter, you swipe your rewards card before fueling up, and you are free to use a credit card, a gift card like I do or just pay in cash. The transaction is recorded electronically and you are offered a discount at the next fill up. The current promotion running to the end of August is $0.25 per gallon for every $100 spent in purchases at BP. You have to decline the smaller discounts after each fill up until you accumulate the 25 cents, which could be a challenge because in New Jersey we do not pump our own gas and the gas station attendants either don’t understand or don’t listen to your requests, so I’ve started getting out of the car and doing my own selection before they pump my gas. It’s nice to get a discount. The $0.25 could be redeemed on a single fill up, so for me it wouldn’t make sense to use it for a Miata because of it’s 10 gallon tank when the trucks each could easily fit 18 gallons. The 25 cent discount could be compounded or stacked for each $100 spent, so the discount could be quite hefty. And considering I’ve spent over $900 this year already on buying gift cars (well with a 10% discount) that would have been a great tool to use had I realized it earlier. I’m already up to $0.17 closing in on my first $100 total.

The beauty of using a BP branded gas card at the gas stations in NJ is that you get the “cash” price for your fuel purchase vs. the “credit” price. These credit prices are often 5 to 10 cents higher than the cash price, so that’s a nice perk to have considering I buy my gas cards using a credit card and for each purchase I get frequent flyer miles which are very valuable to me to redeem for air travel. Since I make my gas card purchases on eBay I also participate in their eBay bucks / rewards program. Where I earn a small percentage back on qualifying purchases. BP gas cards qualify. And for each $90 I earn $1.80 back. So far I’ve redeemed $11+ back already towards the purchase of another BP gift card. Often I buy eBay electronic gift cards at $95 for $100 card, and use them towards the purchase of a BP gas card, which makes my $100 card only cost $85.

With all these savings I’m paying well under $2 a gallon for fuel!

How?

Well assuming fuel this week is $2.37 credit price:

$2.37 x 18 gallons = $42.66 for a full tank in the Explorer.

Now if I use the discounts, using gas card for cash price:

$2.29 cash price, $2.21 with 8 cent gas card discount, $1.96 with 25 cent BP rewards discount for the first $100 spent in purchases:

$1.96 x 18 = $35.28 for the same full tank in the Explorer.

Add this $7.38 in savings to the $16.80 I saved by buying $100 BP gas card through eBay (using $95 for $100 eBay gift card to purchase $90 for $100 BP card with $1.80 eBay rebate), that’s $24.18 in savings…  and at $2.61 for Ultimate fuel, I can fill up a tank in the Miata for that price, which would last me for two weeks use.

bp cheap gas

So the savings are pretty nice, and most importantly I love the challenge of getting the best deal available. Some may complain that this takes way more time than the money saved, but I disagree… Now if only I could find a similar scheme to get a better deal on some flights, I’ve yet to book my trips to Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, and if I could figure out a way of buying those tickets cheaper, I’d love it!