Personal finance

How to Cut Costs at the Pump as Gas Prices Keep Rising

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  • The national average cost for a gallon of gas, now at $2.74, increased by about 18 cents over the last two weeks.
  • After plummeting at the start of the pandemic, demand is rising, which can contribute to prices continuing to go up.
  • There are some strategies you can use to save money on gas.

You may already have noticed that you're spending more to fill your car's gas tank.

Don't be surprised if the price keeps ticking higher.

The national average cost for a gallon of gas has increased by about 18 cents over the last two weeks, on the heels of reduced oil-refining capacity during the extreme cold in Texas, according to GasBuddy. Now, a big contributor will be rising demand amid lower oil production and elevated prices for crude — which accounts for more than half the price of gas.

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The current national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.74. That's $1 more than the $1.74 tallied in April 2020, when the pandemic first took hold and demand plummeted, GasBuddy data shows. The states with the lowest average prices include Mississippi ($2.35), Louisiana ($2.37) and Texas ($2.39), while those with the highest averages are California $(3.67), Hawaii ($3.41) and Washington ($3.08).

The cost per gallon also tends to rise in the spring as demand increases and stations switch to cleaner and more environmentally friendly gas for the summer.

There are ways to save money on gas — beyond things like sticking to the speed limit and avoiding aggressive driving — that could translate into hundreds of dollars per year.

For starters, shop around. Depending on where you live, there can be big price swings between gas stations. And even if the difference in price per gallon may only be a few pennies, it still adds up.

"Too many motorists just pull up to the closest pump and end up overpaying," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

There also can be stark differences in price from one state to the next. For example, one gas station in Arizona is $1 less than a competitor across the California state line, De Haan said. (California's tax applied per gallon is 82 cents and Arizona's is 37 cents.)

Additionally, there are apps — including GasBuddy, Gas Guru and AAA TripTik — you can use to find the best prices along your route. 

It's also worth looking into loyalty programs, which many major chains have. They generally are free and can offer cents-per-gallon discounts, De Haan said.

However, credit cards that offer discounts for gas purchases might not be the best option unless you routinely pay off the card's balance.

"If you're not paying off your bill, you end up giving the bank more money than the discount is worth," De Haan said. "The cards work if you're paying it off, but not if you carry the balance month to month."

Copyright CNBC
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