Avoiding Gasoline Gimmicks

Gas prices are rising fast, and most people are scrambling to find ways to save. Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, has some advice on gimmicks you should avoid.

With consumers worrying about prices at the pump, companies are doing everything they can to try to make some money. Beware that some gas gimmicks are schemes that may have you paying more in the long run than you would if you had just purchased the gasoline at normal price.

One scheme to watch out for are fuel-efficiency gadgets. These can be anything from a pill you put into your gas tank to a device you attach to your engine. The idea is that these gadgets increase your fuel efficiency. "If these actually worked, you wouldn't need to buy them from a sketchy website or from some email that showed up in your spam folder," says Grant.

The EPA has tested a great number of these products and have found that none of them actually increase your fuel efficiency substantially. "The really scary part is that they actually void your manufacturer's warranty," says Grant. If your car is damaged by these products, you'll have to foot the bill.

Another gimmick is fake gas coupons. Many people are selling them on ebay hoping to make a quick buck. Before you bid, contact the company that is supposedly honoring the free gas coupon. If they know nothing about redeeming it, then the coupon is fake.

Another sneaky way companies are charging you is by tacking on a surcharge to credit card transactions at gas stations. If you pay by credit, you may be charged up to an extra 50 cents per gallon. "You won't find out about the surcharges until you swipe your credit card," says Grant. The good news is that Visa and Mastercard don't allow any surcharges for purchases with their card, but other cardholders might not be so lucky. Your best bet is to complain to your card issuer - you may be reimbursed.

Also, if your credit card offers gas rewards for purchases, you may not be able to use them as many places as you think. Many gas rewards are restricted to stand-alone stations that don't include discount warehouses, pumps attached to mechanic garages, etc. Check the fine print so you know where you can - and cannot - use your reward points.

Watch your back online as well. Beware of any site that offers you a free gas gift card in exchange for doing things like filling our surveys or buying something through the site's sponsors," says Grant. "The process to get the card itself is very lengthy and often times you're going to be spending more than you would to buy the card outright."

For more tips on avoiding gas schemes, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun