The internet is filled with information on how to save cash money on basically everything. Some of this info is actually useful! The rest was written by some hack like me.

With a minimal amount of Google skillz and the patience to wade through the results, you’ll be saving hundreds of cents in no time! Maybe even thousands of cents or if you’re buying something really big, tens of thousands of cents.

It sounds so much more impressive when I do it in cents.

Saving money on just about anything isn’t hard. The default solution for a business looking to drum up a little extra traffic is to just sell stuff cheaper than the competition. That’s retailing 101, baby. And that’s why it’s a crummy business.

One part of the retail industry that has largely escaped this phenomenon is gasoline. Gas prices are pretty much the same from station to station. There might be a couple of cents difference, but it’s not much.

The only real way to get discount gas is to get a Costco membership and buy gas there. I always make sure to fill up whenever I go to my local(ish) Costco, because I am apparently an android programmed to give Costco all of my money.

The lineups are always huge, but it’s worth it to save 10 cents a liter. I’ll badly sing along to the radio for 10 minutes to save $5.00. That works out to a pretty decent hourly wage.

But I only rarely fill up at Costco. Most of the time I’m paying retail price. I cushion the blow by using my beloved Superbucks to get 3.5 cents off per liter, which is pretty decent. I have to use the rewards at a Loblaw store, but that’s not a big deal.

Ahyhoo, let’s take a look at a different way to get discount gas, using Petro-Canada gift cards.

Gift card arbitrage

I just love the way gift card arbitrage sounds. It makes it like I’ve got some intelligent scheme going on, instead of my usual tomfoolery.

Gift card arbitrage is simple. You buy gift cards at a discount and then bank the profits. Like with merger arbitrage, the returns aren’t worth getting excited about. You’ll get 5% or so, but the certainty of the exercise more than makes up for it.

Let’s look at my real-life example.

On the eBay, I can buy $200 worth of Petro-Canada gift cards for $195. That’s a guaranteed return of 2.5%, which is about as well as you’ll do on a GIC. It’s somewhat interesting, but not too exciting.

The fine folks at Petro-Canada apparently agreed, so they threw in a sweetener. They included a discount gas card that gives you $0.05 off per liter for 500 liters.

petrocan

Act fast kids, they’re almost gone.

Let’s crunch the numbers and see just how much discount gas you’ll get from this deal.

The numbers, bitches

My local Petro-Canada is selling gas for 91.9 cents per liter as I type this. We’ll use that as our price. I phoned over to confirm, and the guy got mad at me. He thought I was trolling him.

  • The first $200 in gift cards gets you 230.15 liters at $0.869, including the discount. This costs $195
  • You’ll pay $234.50 for the next 269.85 liters of gas at 0.869, including the discount. This is $234.50
  • That works out to $429.50 for 500 liters worth of gas, which comes out to $0.859 per liter

All-in, you’ll save about six cents a liter. Or to put it another way, it’s a 7% return on the invested capital. You spend $429.50 to save $30, a discount of 7%.

The sweetener

But wait! There’s more!

Really? Quoting the Shamwow guy?

He’s dead now, italics guy.

No he isn’t.

Whatever. There’s no time to research that.

Petro-Canada also offers Petro-Points, their in-house rewards program. You get 5 points for every liter of fuel you buy PLUS 2,500 bonus points for signing up. After buying 500 liters of fuel, you’d be up to 5,000 Petro Points, which sounds pretty impressive.

So what does that get me? A trip to Disneyland? 14 new iPods? MY OWN ISLAND?

Uh, no.

It doesn’t get you much of anything, actually. It costs 12,000 points to get a $10 gift card. The only thing worth getting for 5,000 points or less is spending 2,000 points on $1 off something inside the store. You’re looking at $2.50 in rewards for buying 500 liters of fuel there.

No, I didn’t forget a zero. It’s really that bad.

On its own, Petro Points would have me avoiding Petro-Canada with more gusto than your average neighborhood creep avoiding the elementary school. But after saving six cents a liter, getting a free pop or bag of chips is a nice bonus.

Should you do it?

Six cents a liter is a pretty serious gas discount. If I lived close to a Petro-Canada, I’d at least think about doing this.

Two things to keep in mind are the convenience factor and the price of gas at Petro-Canada versus the competition. If you’ve got to drive out of your way to get to a certain gas station, this isn’t worth it.

There’s also the price of gas at Petro-Canada. If it’s three cents a liter more expensive than your usual place, I’d probably just keep going there.

It’s next to impossible to save anything on gas. This is one of the few gas discount plans you can actually count on.

Tell everyone, yo!