Almost everyone needs to buy gas and I suspect most Canadians have participated in a rewards program affiliated with their favourite brand. But, are these rewards actually worthwhile? Are you getting a half decent return on your spending and, more importantly, do these rewards deserve your precious loyalty?

In fact, some of these programs DO provide half-decent value while others probably aren’t worth the time it takes to collect them. You’d be better off focusing on all the other ways to save on gas. I’ve done an analysis to separate the wheat from the chaff and the results are below ordered roughly form best to worst.

1) Grocery Store Gas Bars (Grocery Store Discount Coupons)

Typical Return: 2.7%

Max Return: 8.1% (select locations in Alberta and possibly elsewhere)

Several gas bars give you a discount at the grocery store when you fill up. In my region, Superstore affiliated stations (branded Refuel or At The Pumps) give you 3.5 cents/L off your next grocery store purchase. At today’s prices that’s a roughly 2.7% return on spending.

Sobeys also has their Fast Fuel locations with a similar 3.5¢/L rebate. In addition I’ve seen the same 3.5¢/L discount at Co-op but I’ve also seen them double it to 7.0¢/L, but not always.

In other parts of Canada where oil is justifiably cheaper, like Alberta, these rebates can be much higher. I’ve heard stories of discounts as high as 10.5¢/L by using your PC MasterCard and at Co-op in Calgary, which works out to an 8.1% return. In extremely rare cases coupon values can even soar as high as 15¢/L, but that isn’t obtainable for most people.

Check with grocery store affiliated gas bars in your area and see what kind of discount they offer you.

2) Canadian Tire Gas Bars (Canadian Tire Money)

Typical Return: 2.6% (with 10x multiplier coupon)

Max Return: 3.8% (with 15x multiplier coupon)

You can earn Canadian Tire Money (CTM) while pumping at one of their stations and although that might not sound very enticing at first to all except die hard Canadian Tire fans, it can pay off with it a little work.

To get an optimal return on your spending, here’s what you do:

  1. Buy a Canadian Tire gift card either online, in-store, or at the gas bar itself with your credit card to earn rewards or cash back. If you buy it at the gas bar, you should get the gas bonus on your credit card if it has one.
  2. Use the gift card to buy your fuel so that you qualify to earn CTM. Credit card purchases do not qualify for the phony money, but gift cards do.
  3. Pick up a multiplier coupon either in-store near the checkout or customer service, at the back of the flyer delivered to your home, or print it online.
  4. Pump your gas and collect your CTM when you pay with your gift card and give them your multiplier coupon.
  5. Once you’ve collected a reasonably large amount of CTM, take it in-store and use it to buy a gift card for the exact amount of CTM you have.
  6. Use the gift card purchased with your CTM to buy even more gasoline and collect more CTM.

How much is all this hassle worth?

Well, I’ll ignore the savings from your credit card because that depends on which card you have and it isn’t specific to Canadian Tire. I think the lowest multiplier coupon they offer is 6x and the highest is 15x but anything above 10x is pretty rare and frequently reserved for Canadian Tire Options MasterCard cardholders (not really a good credit card – don’t bother).

At 6x with a 60L fill up you will get $1.20 in rewards working out to a 1.5% return on spending at today’s gas prices. At 10x that increases to $2.00 and a 2.6% return, which we’ll call the average or typical expected return. If you’re lucky and score a 15x coupon, that works out to a 3.8% return. Not too shabby.

3) Esso (Esso Extra or Aeroplan)

Typical Return: 1.5% (regular fuel redeeming for car washes)

Max Return: 9% (supreme gas with 2x bonus applied)

Esso has some of the best rewards earning opportunities available and is the only gas station that I know of to offer 2 distinct rewards programs – you can choose to earn either Esso Extra points or Aeroplan miles. You will earn 1 esso extra point per 1L purchased or 1 Aeroplan mile for every 3L.

But how much is that worth?

Well, in my guide to Aeroplan, I have pegged the value of 1 Aeroplan mile at 2.8 cents which is the rough value you get when redeeming your miles for a flight coast to coast across Canada (25,000 miles for a $700 flight before taxes and fees). Comparatively, I value an Esso Extra point at about 2 cents which is the approximate value received when redeeming your points for a regular car wash (499 points for a $10 wash).

With some easy math, you can see that works out to 2 cents in rewards per litre purchased with Esso Extra and less than a cent for Aeroplan. Plus, it’s a lot easier to save up 499 points for a car wash than it is to save 25,000 miles for a free flight when buying gas. We have credit card sign up bonuses for that after all.

At today’s prices, that works out to about a 1.5% return on your spending.

If you’re buying premium, then that triples to a 4.5% return and if they are having a 2x points promo you can go as high as a 9% – not bad!

I’ve ranked Esso higher than some of the other options with a slightly better typical return because they have many stations nationwide, they offer flexibility in terms of rewards, and they have a high max return percentage.

4) 7-11 (Big Bucks)

Typical Return: 2.6%

Select 7-11 stores seem to have a rewards program that gives you $1 in 7-11 Big Bucks for every 30L of gas you buy. I don’t believe this is offered at every station though, so you’ll have to check with your local 7-11 and see if they have it.

Unfortunately, the $1 MUST be spent in a 7-11 so that really limits your reward opportunities. However, apparently some stores will let you buy prepaid credit cards with the big bucks allowing you to use them to buy things at any store. If you fill up in 30L increments, this works out to a 2.6% return on spending.

I’m ranking 7-11 below some other options because of limited availability and limited reward redemption options.

5) Husky (myHusky Rewards & CAA Dollars)

Typical Return: 2.4% (regular fuel, redeeming for car wash, including CAA dollars)

Max Return: 3.6% (supreme gas, redeeming for car washes, including CAA dollars)

Husky locations have the unique advantage that you can earn two types of rewards simultaneously on the same fill up. First, you can earn myHusky Rewards which accrue at 1 point/L on regular and 2 points/L on supreme. They can be redeemed for gasoline discounts, gift cards, coffees, car washes, and a whole host of other items through their online catalog.

The most typical reward would be to redeem for gas, which gives you a return on spending of 0.5% for regular and 1.0% on supreme. If you redeem for a regular car wash (approx $10 value), then your return on spending increases to 1.2% or 2.4%. It works out to about the same percentages if you use your rewards for coffee.

However, your value increases if you are a CAA member because you also earn up to 1.5¢/L in CAA dollars. You have to purchase 250L/month to qualify for the maximum accrual rate which is doable for many. You can then use your CAA dollars as a discount on your annual CAA membership among other things. That’s an additional 1.2% return on spending for a combined return on spending of roughly 2.4%.

6) Ultramar (Reveal-A-Deal and ValuMax)

Typical Return: 1.5% (Ultramax card in Atlantic Canada)

Max Return: 3.8% (Reveal-A-Deal mostly in Quebec)

Ultramar appears to have very region and time-specific promotions for their rewards. They have both the Reveal-A-Deal summer promotion (focused on Quebec but also available in ON, NB, NS, and PEI) and the ValuMax card only available in the atlantic provinces.

Reveal-A-Deal used to be a coupon book you would either get in the mail or order online through their website that would contain coupons of various values with a minimum 25L purchase of gasoline. Coupon values ranged from $1-$2 each with a total value per book of $8-$10. If you could get your hands on multiple books, you could always use the $2 coupons for maximum value.

In 2014, they changed it (at least in Quebec) so you would get an electronic card when shopping at Metro grocery stores that would randomly give you your discount when swiping your card while topping up at Ultramar. With this new system, it is no longer possible to choose which discount you get and ignore the smaller ones. You still get $10 in total value out of each card, but you can’t cherry pick your deal anymore. So if you always fill up in 25L increments to maximize value, you get a return on spending of 3.8%. However, since Reveal-A-Deal only happens seasonally, it’s hard to call this return “typical”.

Alternatively, the ValuMax card gives you a straight 2¢/L cents if you fill up with a minimum of 25L. Anything under that and it is 1¢/L. At today’s price that’s a return on spending of 1.5%.

7) Shell (Air Miles)

Typical Return: 0.4%

Max Return: 4.1% (supreme gas with 10x bonus applied)

Canadians love Air Miles and the fact that you earn them at Shell is a big draw to fuel up there – but is it actually worth it?

You earn 1 mile on your first $20 in purchases (including gas) and additional miles are earned at the rate of 1 mile for every $30 in purchases. Yup, that’s right, the earning potential gets worse the more you buy … bogus, I know. That alone annoys me so much I am loath to fill my tank there.

So if you buy $80 in gas and other stuff, that will net you 3 miles. How much is that worth? 33 whole cents (if you use Air Miles cash as your reward). WOW! CHA-CHING! That’s a whopping0.4% return on spending if you manage to pump exactly $80.

If it’s that pathetic then why would anyone bother? Well, fortunately, they redeem themselves by offering up to 10x the miles during bonus periods. In fact, there is one going on now on V-Power fuel. I buy supreme anyway for reasons I won’t get into here, so that ups the reward to $3.33 on $80 spent making it a respectable 4.1% return on spending.

8) Petro Canada (Petro Points)

Typical Return: 0.5%

Max Return: 3.1% (exactly 250L of supreme in 1 month combined with Petro Points MasterCard)

I tried collecting Petro Points for a while but I had to give up eventually because it took a crazy long time to earn enough for a reward. I think just saved enough points to get a $10 gas card and then I quit the program for good.

However, apparently there are some ways to maximize the program that improve it somewhat.

Here’s how you earn:

  • 5 points/L on Regular.
  • 7 points/L on Plus.
  • 10 points/L on Supreme/Ultra.
  • 20 points/L on car washes and in-store purchases.
  • 750 bonus points when you purchase 150-249L/month.
  • 1000 bonus points when you purchase 250+L/month.

The best value for redemption is a basic car wash, similar to Esso Extra. I’m valuing that at $10, but it could be higher or lower in some regions. So, at today’s prices that works out to a 0.5% return on spending. If you jump up to supreme, then you’re looking at a 1% return. If you qualify for the 1000 bonus points and you buy exactly 250L of gas, then your return would be 1.5%. If you use the no-fee Petro Points MasterCard on top of that you’re looking at a 3.1% discount.

One interesting redemption option for Petro Points that may result in higher returns is transferring them to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and then redeeming them for flights. If you have an Asia Miles airline that flies out of your airport, this might be something to consider.

9) Pioneer (Bonus Bucks)

Typical Return: 0.6%

Max Return: 1.8% (supreme)

Pioneer gas stations have a straightforward rewards program that gives you a certain amount of bonus bucks for every 10L in fuel you purchase. It works out to be slightly less than 1¢/L, which can be spent on future fill ups or anything in-store.

To calculate rewards return, I’ll use a typical 60L fill up of regular gas. That results in 50 cents in rewards on a $78 purchase, which is a return on spending of 0.6%. However, you get a 3x bonus on supreme/platinum jumping it up to a return of 1.8%.

10) Irving (Air Miles)

Typical Return: 0.4%

Max Return: 2.1% (with 5x bonus applied)

Irving, a big provider of oil and gas in Atlantic Canada, recently got into the Air Miles game and their standard earning rate is 1 mile per 20L pumped vs the 1 mile per $20-$30 spent at Shell.

However, I wouldn’t rank them as highly as Shell because at today’s prices their accrual rate is lower and gets even worse as the price of gas rises. They do have the rare 5x bonus miles promotion as well, but they are few and far between. Shell’s promotions are much more frequent.

At the regular accrual rate, that works out to roughly a 0.4% return on spending if fill up at 20L increments. At the 5x rate, it increases to 2.1%.

11) Chevron (More Rewards)

Typical Return: 0.23%

Max Return: 0.64% (redeeming for upgrading Big White gift cards)

Chevron is a More Rewards partner, the same rewards that are famously linked to Save On Foods grocery stores. You earn 1 More Rewards point for every $1 you spend at Chevron.

In my previous article about More Rewards you can see that 1 More Rewards point ranges in value from 0.07 cents to 0.83 cents. A fairly typical and obtainable value would be 0.3 cents, so I’ll use that for calculations. At today’s prices that works out to a return on spending of about 0.23%. The maximum return is upgrading Big White gift cards (ski hill), which gives a return of 0.64%.

Where Do You Buy Your Gas?

Everyone has their own reasons for fueling up at particular place, so what’s your reason for buying where you do? I’m sure I missed a few brands as well and I’d love to hear about those in the comments.

About the Author: Stephen Weyman is passionate about saving money and writes practical guides to help you save money on everything you buy and do over at HowToSaveMoney.ca.

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Rebekah
5 years ago

Oh my.

It took me ‘a minute’ but I managed to read all of the comments. I find it pretty humorous the mud-flinging that (Stephen) had been attempted, and even picked up by others for a bit. Bad form guys… Of course this SST person is all-kinds-of “spot on”, and if you don’t know it: well I guess you’re maybe the ones railing up with weird sentences like “this isn’t about investing,” “look at my other websites” ” and (that guy’s) “incoherent, not making any sense” and “why are you so aggressive to us?? WHY!??”

Hahaha, the back and forth is like slap-stick comedy to me. You have to go to the top and read it again, this time like you want to learn something.

Oh man. I’m just still sitting here wondering why Stephen would be so pissy with his keyboard-words, instead of just saying “Thank you.” You know, like a good Canadian. Because this Infiniti-driving-know-it-all SST guy you love to hate just educated /me/ *thinks for a second* about 3.5%~*10years MORE than any of the terrible, terrible(!!) website-links that I clicked on for Stephen’s uhhmm, financial articles? I’m so serious.

I get it, how some of the readers – most of the readers – want to know what’s the best rewards gas station and that’s it… But are you also saying that you *didn’t* want to know anything else of value? Because I’m happy knowing more. I’m always happier knowing more, as long as “more” is also “relevant” and “of value.” In this case it is.

So I owe somebody a: Thank You.

(and I think Somebody, owes Somebody Else an: Apologie?)

*And now I have to go do a malware/spyware scan on my computer, because those Stephen links looked totally ‘phishy’ if you know what I mean. :)

Keep it on cash,
Bexx

2. Incoherent? Is this about the premium gas thing, with the german car? I know… because I also have a german car, it’s a nice top of the line 2010 VW Tiguan. But why not just get regular gas at Top Tier gas stations now that the 2016 detergent gas thing is going on, eh? ….Although if this ‘coherency’ thing is about something else – theeeennn I am laughing at you. I thrive at having to write both coherently, and not, and SST re-reads before he posts. It’s obvious. Or he’s a magician, and he has MAGIC fix all his sentences into super-understandable.

Sukh
5 years ago

I have a PC financial MasterCard and I get 7 cents back on my fuel purchase and use them for groceries. Another day I got an email that I will get some extra cents for buying at ESSO with PC card.
Does it mean that we can get 7 plus 3.5 = 10.5 cents back per litre?

smayer97
2 years ago
Reply to  Sukh

@Sukh (and anyone else reading), PC pts do not stack with Esso pts…it’s an either/or. That said, with PC pts now being decreased at ESSO from the original offer, ESSO pts are better than PC pts, even with the PC World Elite MC.

Jeff
5 years ago

Personally, I live in Alberta and yes you are correct, the gas prices are usually quite competitive compared to the rest of Canada. I fill up at Superstore Gas Bar. I also have a PC Financial Elite Mastercard. You get 7.0 Cents per litre of gas back on groceries (which you can either get a ticket at the automated gas bar dispenser) or you can put them right onto your PC Points card. You take these points and spend them on groceries. Everyone needs groceries right? For the money that I save when buying groceries – I take this money and use it for whatever I want ! To add to this, sometimes I get lucky – there is a lot of people who do not collect superbucks at the gas bar. They will go and fill up and leave their receipt behind. So since I am a superbucks collector, if I see one left on the gas bar I will go over and take it – thank you very much ! This actually doubles my earnings on some occasions making it even more worthwhile.

I did the math as well when it comes to Costco Capital One Mastercard – even though it is also a good points card, I don’t believe it is better than PC Financial World Elite.

If you want the best bang for your buck, get the PC FInancial World Elite Mastercard. Fill up at their affiliated gas stations. Also, load your offers when you grocery shop. If you dont know what I mean, basically, superstore emails you “bonus offers” which will give you extra PC Points if you purchase any of those bonus offers items. This could be anything from Yogurt, meat, or even apparel. If you do this, you won’t believe how quickly your PC Points add up. It is better than any other card I have purchased.

V
6 years ago

SST – thank you!

SST
6 years ago

Esso has no stock; buy the parent company, Exxon (XOM) which pays a 3.5% dividend.

V
6 years ago

How does “buy Esso stock, get 3.5% dividend” work?

ShellBonusAirmilesOffers
6 years ago

During the Airmiles cash promotions, you can get 25 airmiles bonus for redeeming 95 airmiles = $10 worth of gas
25 airmiles = $2.63 ($10 / 95 x 25), so that’s like paying $7.36 for $10 worth of gas, it only makes sense if you have a nearby shell station or passing by a Shell station on your route to your destination, but sometimes if travelling across the city back and forth to my home, I will redeem this offer twice or more times to maximize the return/bonus. It does take a bit longer since you can only redeem airmiles cash inside the store and not at the pump, but still a good way to maximize the value of airmiles redemptions.

(apart from shell, I frequently use the superstore gas which usually has gas pump prices that are often between 1 to 3 cents per litre cheaper to begin with and which offers 4 pcpoints/liter when paying with the pcfinancial world mastercard which also gives an extra 2% return converted to pcpoints and with the new PCPlus card program at RCSS, it’s much easier now to save up enough Pcpoints to make redemptions on purchasing groceries, especially with the flyer price-matching offered at RCSS, sometimes you can get a sale price from another store’s flyer along with the PCPlus bonus points to get free groceries faster)

2 months ago, between October 15, 2014 and November 30, 2014, my Scotia American Express credit card was also offering a $15 credit/bonus if you spend $60 at select locations, which happened to include esso and petrocanada stations along with some other restaurants/gas/grocery stores I don’t use, although it was impossible for me to fill up my tank for $60 on regular gas (45L fuel tank), I used that bonus offer to fill up my tank with premium gas and buy a bunch of small items in-store during the checkout to get to that $60 minimum spend and get the most bang for my buck, since it would have cost me $45 or more anyways to fill up my tank.

I think it’s all about taking advantage of the gas station related offers that you’d be spending that money anyways and trying to stretch it / maximize what you get for spending those dollars / points / airmiles, etc. without having to go out of your way to do so. Finding what “fits” best for your unique situation based on where you live, what stores are located around you or along your normal travel patterns, and which rewards program(s) fits your lifestyle, how you normally spend your money anyways irregardless of the rewards/offers, etc.

John Power
6 years ago

canadian tire gas advantage
up to 10 cents off per liter, but, depend on the previous month purchase level.
just pay all your monthly fixed costs with it if you can.

Alex
7 years ago

This may be unpopular with the crowd here but I think SST was totally right in pointing out that the sole and only point of these “rewards” programs is to get you to buy at their gas stations instead of the one on the other side of the road or the one thats 500m down the street. They also give you “points” to spend on purchases of their choosing. Most if not all of which I would never buy unless that was the only stuff to spend points on and I had to spend them. Wait, thats how these actually work. I dont need a “platinum extra rewards super premium car wash” every month that I can get for just $10 plus 500 points. Ill take the $7.99 car wash every half year, thx. Notice all the platinum and extra special keywords in there to make you feel better?

If you’re lucky, as I am, you can just stop at the Kahnawake gas station on your way to work and get at least 5-10 cents less per liter regardless of what the price is in the city or your own sub urban home. Also, just buying Wed/Thu will get you about the same savings again vs buying Fri-Tue on average, overall deflationary tendencies like in the last few weeks notwithstanding.

SST
7 years ago

Now that I have a bit more time to add to this…

“I couldn’t have imagined this post would evoke such a passionate response from anyone.”

My unapologetic passion arises from information produced and touted as being for the benefit of “the entire Canadian population”, yet has barely been given a second thought past the advertisement. The entire Canadian population needs quality and correct financial information, not just a ‘Tip o’ the Day’ (e.g. buy premium gas with a credit card).

I will say this, my responses are not entirely personal, that is, I’m sure you are a good person, merely misguided. And you aren’t alone in the boat. Actual financial professionals (as opposed to pulpy personal finance bloggers) get my full attention too, with gems of advice such as “stay 100% fully invested in the stock market and then ‘double down’ during the crashes”.

But I digress.

re: “I write for the entire Canadian population…”

No, no you don’t. And here’s why:

“I know exactly how the credit card system works and I’d be fine abolishing it, but while it’s here I’m also fine maximizing it for myself and letting those that pay with cash and debit subsidize me and shoulder increased risk of fraud and theft. Not using a credit card to reap the rewards is like choosing to pay a higher price for everything you buy.”

The reason I am so brusque and pointed is to get through all the layers of coupons and fluff to reveal the true values and mindset behind personal finance advice. Let’s examine further (and we don’t have to go that far, either)…

“I know exactly how the credit card system works and I’d be fine abolishing it…”

Lies.
You are not, in fact, fine with abolishing the credit card system because you still very much utilize it, promote it, and sway others to do the same. If you truly did “write for the entire Canadian population” you would cease all credit card activity and educate on the non-usage of credit cards and their deeply ingrained detriments. But you don’t.

Your truth is this: “I’m also fine maximizing it for myself and letting those that pay with cash and debit subsidize me”.

Does the “those that pay with cash” include all the poor people in Canada who don’t use credit cards? Is this the “entire Canadian population” who you feel should subsidize your “luxury vacations” by shouldering “increased risk of fraud and theft”? What if a person has no choice but “to pay a higher price for everything” simply because they only have cash and you flog credit cards at every chance — forcing the burden of that higher price upon them? I know, blame the game, not the player, as long as you get yours. Reminds me of the Idiot Millionaire and his penchant for low-income government assistance. You are also eliminating the choice to use cash instead of a credit card by coercing a financial penalty. Just because doing heroin makes you feel good, doesn’t mean I should have to partake.

Truth is, you write for yourself and those like you, not the entire Canadian population, and certainly not Canadian SMEs. You are choosing convenience for yourself over lower, and real, prices for the entire Canadian population. Any other belief is delusional.

Here’s a very easy challenge for you (and everyone) — discontinue your credit card use and shop around (and ask!) for merchants who give discounts for cash-only purchases. Convictions will reveal themselves rather quickly. Other G8/20 countries do it, so can we.

Now back to the topic of gas “rewards”:

re: “I’ll keep taking luxury vacations and flying around the world for free…”

Do you really fly around the world for free on points gained from gas purchases? You need, what, 40-60,000 miles to go “global”. How exactly do you achieve that when you opt to redeem for car washes instead? And just how much of the “entire Canadian population” buys enough gas ($15,000?) to fuel a flight — for one — to Europe? But they’d be using credit cards on everything…again, forcing those who have no choice but to use cash to subsidize their luxury vacations.

As mentioned, ‘marketing’ makes up a slice of the pump price, so even though you perceive you are getting a “reward”, you are still very much paying for it somewhere. Remember, the more rewards a credit card offers, the more fees it charges the merchant, the more the merchant charges you. Free lunches do not exist. I’ll assume you also don’t invest in Visa (V) or MasterCard (MA). (FYI, MasterCard stock has risen ~40% annually, a great return for a company that does absolutely nothing. And gurus say gold is absurd…)

My path leads me in a different, and seemingly unpopular, direction than most who are enamored by coupons, “freebies”, and buying in bulk. Penny rich, pound poor.

Let me put it another way — you prefer to collect your savings from the the position of the consumer — “Are you getting a half decent return on your spending”; I prefer to collect profit from the position of the producer. Opposite ends of the pipeline, and the producer will always post gains over the consumer.

See ya at the finish line.

p.s. — the electric car is now passe. Better buy a hydrogen car! :)