We know a lot of you are pinching pennies these days, and we wanted to help. Summer travel season is just around the corner, so to help you save some dough while you’re making those plans, we crunched the numbers on two key factors: how to save money on gas and whether a hotel or a vacation rental is the right choice for your trip.
Here’s what we found…
Is a gas card worth it?
With gas prices still hovering near record highs, many people are looking for new ways to save. But is getting a gas credit card or joining a warehouse club worth it?
If you live in Florida or Georgia, you’re likely paying anywhere from $3+ to $4+ for a gallon of gas.
There are, of course, apps like GasBuddy, AAA, and Gas Guru to help you find the lowest prices in your area. But what about applying for a credit card issued by a gas station or oil company?
Many gas cards pay you back a few cents per gallon of gas, like 5 cents or 10 cents, rather than a percentage of your purchase. So, when gas prices are moving up from $3 to $4 or $5, that benefit is worth a lot less.
Instead, Consumer Reports says look for a credit card with no annual fee that offers rewards, like 5% cashback on gas purchases. And although many gas stations offer a lower price if you pay with cash instead of using a card, the card’s cashback reward could actually be a better deal.
One example is the Citi Custom Cash Card, which gives you 5% cashback on your top spending category each billing cycle— for up to $500 in purchases. That includes gas.
Other options are warehouse clubs, such as Sam’s Club or Costco, which offer their own credit cards that pay you back a percentage on your gas purchases.
If you do a lot of driving and think you’ll reach the card’s cap, consider using that card only when buying gas.
If you don’t belong to a warehouse club, now’s a good time to consider it. That’s because gas prices there are almost always lower than at traditional gas stations.
And those gas discounts alone may be worth the membership cost — though your savings will vary depending on your location and your mileage.
Consumer Reports says to max out your discounts try to combine them with other rewards programs whenever you can. Many gas brands have their own apps that offer a few cents off per gallon, and they don’t require a gas-branded credit card. So you can use your rewards credit card to pay for your gas instead.
Vacation rental or hotel?
There are pros and cons to whether you should book a vacation rental or hotel on your next vacation.
Keep these three things in mind when deciding: how many people you’re traveling with, where you’re going, and what you want out of a city.
If you’re traveling with a large group, think more than four people — vacation rentals through a site like Airbnb or Vrbo are almost always cheaper. You can find homes that fit 16-plus people. Plus, there’s usually room to spread around, including a living room and backyard.
How long you’re staying
For trips longer than a few days Airbnb will likely win out. Most Airbnb rentals charge a cleaning fee at the end of the stay, which can cost an extra $150, maybe not as worth it if you are just staying for a night or two.
Also, the convenience of using hotel shuttles and not needing to do a key exchange with the owner could make it more worth it for a hotel.
Almost all vacation rentals come with a kitchen or at least a kitchenette, which could save money for larger families. However, there is a convenience factor of not having to grocery shop if you stay at a hotel.
The hotel wins almost every time. Most hotels have a pool, fitness center, shuttle service, concierge, and in some cases free breakfasts.
With an Airbnb, you need to take into consideration service fees, cleaning fees, owner fees, and potentially even taxes if Airbnb made an agreement with that city’s government.
You can expect government and local taxes with all hotels but beware if a hotel has a resort fee.
One thing to consider though is loyalty programs. Many hotels have them and depending on the program you could be looking at free meals, free nights, or waived resort fees. And at the minimum, most hotels will offer loyalty members free WiFi.