Originally published October 28, 2015 on autoTRADER.ca

Everyone loves points, and wherever you buy almost anything, there’s some sort of points program waiting for your participation.

There are a few reasons why. Points programs inspire shopper loyalty, help build a positive brand reputation, and farm demographic information galore. Every time you swipe your points card, the retailer knows which sale offers you took advantage of, which secondary items you purchased, which items you frequently purchase together, and so on – as well as your age, income level, where you live, and more. Marketing folks love this sort of stuff, as it helps them better target you in future advertising endeavours.

Gas stations are big into reward points, so here’s a look at three major ones, a highlight of their rewards points programs, what they offer, and a few pro-tips. We’ll also look at a pretend average shopper, Maud, and how many points she’ll earn spending 250 dollars a month on fuel, and another 50 dollars a month in store on coffee, gum, lottery, and snacks.

Petro Canada (Petro Points)

Reward Points on Fuel: Petro Canada rewards drivers with 5 points per litre on regular fuel, 7 points per litre on mid-grade fuel, and 10 points per litre on high-octane fuels, and diesel.

Reward Points Rate on Retail: Buy qualifying convenience store items or car washes, and you’ll get 20 points per dollar added to your points balance.

Bonus Points and Perks: If you’re buying more than 150 litres of fuel a month, the Petro Points program offers up extra top-up points. Shoppers buying between 150 and 249 litres of fuel per month get an extra 750 point top-up, and that figure climbs to 1,000 top-up points if you buy 250 litres of fuel or more.

Partners include CAA, Discount Car and Truck Rentals, SPC Card and others, with each accepting or providing Petro Points to shoppers. New points accounts get a 2,500 Petro Point bonus when a valid email is provided, and a Petro-Points Mastercard lets shoppers earn extra points on everyday purchases paid for with it.

Finally, in-store offers jack up points earning rates on special promotional items, for instance, allowing you to earn an extra 300 points when purchasing a certain beverage or accessory.

Good Redemption Deals: Apply your points directly to a fuel purchase for $1 in gasoline in exchange for 2,000 points, or $5 worth of gasoline for 10,000 points. The standard fuel-savings card costs 12,000 points and saves 5 cents per litre on 200 litres of fuel. It’s worth 10 bucks, but only costs an extra 2,000 points.

The Best Gas Station Points Program

Other fuel-saving cards are available, with various redemption rates, so shop carefully if you’ll use your points for a fuel-savings card. Car washes are available from about 8,000 points, and if you’re planning to use your points to keep your ride glimmering and lustrous, a Wash & Go card is a slightly better value, offering a points discount on a five-wash card, and a free wash when you register online.

If you’ve got a purchase coming up at a retailer like Best Buy, be sure to check out how many points a gift card might cost you – as these can often make a better deal. A $10 Best Buy Gift Card costs 15,000 points, where $10 in free fuel (as a straight swap) will yank 20,000 points back off of your card.

Maud: Spending 250 a month on regular fuel for her Taurus (at $1 per litre) and 50 bucks more on convenience store purchases and car washes, our Maud would earn 3,250 points per month, monthly points top-up included. That’s enough for a few lottery tickets, or a few cups of coffee. If Maud saved her points for a year at this rate ( about 39,000 points after 12 months), she’d have enough for $30 dollars off of a vacation with iTravel2000, $20 worth of free fuel, or six free car washes with the Wash&Go Card (providing she turns over her email address).

Best For: With the monthly top-up feature and good points deals on car washes, Petro Points may prove ideal for someone using more than 150L per month in fuel, and who frequently uses gas-station car washes.

Pro Tip: Why not sign up for the Petro Mastercard, so you can earn extra Petro Points at Petro Canada, as well as on other purchases, even at competitor fueling stations? Swipe your Petro Mastercard at an Esso Station, and you’ll earn rewards points from both. Delicious double dipping!

Shell (Air Miles)

Reward Points Rate on Fuel: Gassing up your ride, you’ll earn 1 Air Mile on every purchase of 15 litres or more in a single transaction.

Reward Points Rate on Retail: Shop in the store, and you’ll get 1 Air Mile reward mile for every $10 purchased in-store before tax.

Bonus Points / Perks: If you’re a loyal Shell customer, you’ll get 10 bonus Air Miles if you purchase 225 litres or more of fuel each month, and 25 Air Miles if you purchase 500 litres or more. Reward miles are also earned on oil change services at Shell Stations with a service garage, with up to 5 miles for a pricier oil-change service. With the Air Miles program, participants can earn extra miles at numerous other locations and retailers, too. In store bonuses add even more when shoppers purchase certain quantities or combinations of products.

Shell & Air Miles

Good Redemption Deals: Standard redemption rates see 95 Air Miles worth $10 off at Shell. The Air Miles Cash program requires no gift cards, it simply turns 95 points into a $10 reduction in your total balance. Most redemptions come from outside the Shell retail environment, however. For instance, Air Miles can be converted to discounts at various grocery stores, pharmacies, home renovation centers and more. They can also be used for anything from discounts on flights or pizzas to new camera equipment to free movie tickets. Rewards are available from 800 to 900 points: an amount good for a blender, pet trimmer kit, or a luxury shower head.

Maud: As the reach of the Air Miles program extends far beyond Shell gas stations, Maud will do best to be collecting air miles when she does her groceries, Christmas shopping and home renovations, too. At Shell, spending $250 a month on regular fuel for her Taurus (at $1 per litre, and filling 30 litres at a time) and 50 bucks more on convenience store purchases and car washes, our Maud would earn about 13 air miles per month, before bonus offers.

Best For: Someone participating in a rewards program that extends far beyond their gas station. If you’re already an Air Miles collector, filling and shopping at Shell will add incrementally to your reward miles balance. Consider using Shell to bump your Air Miles points balance towards a discount on a big-ticket item you’ve got your eye on.

Esso (Esso Extra)

Reward Points Rate on Fuel: Esso Extra points accumulate in relation to every dollar spent on gasoline. You get one point per dollar spent on regular grade gas, two points per dollar on medium grade gas, and three points per dollar on high grade fuel.

Reward Points Rate on Retail: Though some exceptions apply, you’ll get one Esso Extra point for every dollar spent in store. No points are awarded on purchases of booze or smokes.

Bonus Points / Perks: Esso Extra offers a partnership with Visa, which allows shoppers to opt for an Esso Extra Visa Card. In addition to points bonuses on various items at the station, the Esso Visa card allows users to collect extra points on all purchases made using the card. Plus, there’s a monthly doubling of your Esso bonus points. So, collect 40 bonus points by buying higher-grade gas and in-store items, and your Esso Visa adds another 40 points at the end of each month.

Good Redemption Deals: Save ten cents per litre on 250 litres of fuel (value of $25) with a fuel savings card worth 4,100 points, or spend 5,000 points on a $30 free gas reward. Whether used for a fuel saving card, or a free gas card, the dollar value of Esso Extra points applied to fuel is virtually identical.

Redemption for lottery tickets worth the same amounts cost a few hundred points less than redemption for fuel, with $25 in lottery worth 4,000 points, and $25 in fuel worth 4,100 to 4,300. For most shoppers, the best value will be on free lottery and car washes, with the middle-of-the-line Full Wash relieving collectors of just 599 points (which, applied to free gas, is only worth about 3 bucks).

Esso Extra

Maud: With a standard Esso Extra card and her $250 a month in fuel spent towards regular-grade gas, and $50 more on qualifying in-store purchases, Maud would earn 300 Esso Extra points per month –enough for a bottle of water or a Gatorade, or a few bucks worth of lottery tickets. After a year, Maud’s 3,600 points could be used for a $20 gas card, six Full Wash car washes, or about $22 worth of free lotto.

Best For: Someone who wants to redeem points mostly for car washes and lottery, and especially someone willing to opt into an Esso-branded credit card for extra points earned on non gas-station purchases. If you feed your ride premium fuel, the extra points add up even faster.

ProTip: Gift Cards are available in exchange for points too, but be careful: at $25 in value, a Home Depot or Tim Hortons gift card is worth 4,500 points, though a $25 Esso Gift card is worth just 4,300. Then, that Esso Gift Card can be used to buy the higher-value gift cards for cash value. Do this, and you’ll save 200 points each time, which basically makes you a genius. Also, using your Esso Visa at a Shell or Petro station allows you to earn points from multiple programs at the same time.

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