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Pre-Paying For Your Gas -- A Moneysaver?

Saudi Arabia has called for a meeting of countries that produce and consume oil to discuss ways of dealing with high energy prices. What could this weekend's summit mean to American consumers at the gas pump? (Producer: TBD )
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From coast to coast, and every rest-stop in between, there's no escaping the numbers.

Gas prices are through the roof, seemingly ever headed-higher.

"Painful. Very painful," is how one motorist described the situation to CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella. "It just gets higher and higher and higher," says another. "I'm afraid it's going to be like six or seven dollars," says yet another.

But what if you could avoid higher prices by locking in your price NOW?

"I would, sure, if it all made sense and was on the up-and-up," that first motorist told Cobiella.

Steven Verona says he's found a way. He founded and heads MyGallons.com.

People join and pay an annual membership fee like they do for any other price club, and they can pre-purchase their gasoline at current prices, Cobiella explains. And, if and when gas prices rise, they use their MyGallons card to fill their car, thereby paying the old price, and not the new, higher one.

For $29.95 a year, you get a MyGallons gas card, which is accepted at any station that takes plastic, Cobiella continues. You buy your gallons online at a price determined by the average cost of regular unleaded in your home zip code. There's no limit on how much you buy, or how long you wait before you cash it in at the pump.

"Some of the members of the pilot program were saving about $1.20 a gallon," Verona says. "Back in April, gas was $3.10 or $3.20 a gallon."

My Gallons pays for the shortfall by making money with your money.

"We place over 80 percent in a protected escrow account," Verona says. "That money is then invested in money markets and U.S.-backed treasuries, so that we earn interest in that."

The rest is used to do what Southwest Airlines does - to try to secure lower prices.

"You're betting on where the price of gas is going," points out financial planner Todd Battaglia, who says that's FAR from a sure bet: While the average price of gas has gone up about three dollars over the past ten years, there've been a lot of rises and dips in-between.

Even the experts who deal in this stuff differ on where they think the prices of gas and oil are headed, Cobiella notes.

Battaglia advises starting slowly, with a few gallons at a time, and making sure you pay off your credit card every month, or the interest could outweigh the savings at the pump. And remember, you're entrusting your money to a new company.

"You have to wait for the price of gasoline to go up," Battaglia cautions, "so, if you wait six months to a year and this company is suddenly out of business, you have assets sitting out there somewhere that you may never be able to get back."

That's a risk a lot of people seem willing to take: MyGallons says that, in just six days, 6,000 people have signed up.

"They were looking for someone to solve the problem, and that's what we've done," asserts Verona.

And Cobiella stresses that you should make sure you know what you're getting into: There are overdraft fees just like with a bank card, so you could end up spending MORE instead of less.
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